A SCREENSHOT from the webinar.—White Star
A SCREENSHOT from the webinar.—White Star

KARACHI: Global and regional dimensions of the Afghan conflict were discussed by the esteemed panel of speakers and experts on regional studies and Afghanistan during a webinar organised by the Pakistan Institute of International Affairs here on Saturday.

Giving his perspective about the Doha peace talks, political and security analyst Rahimullah Yousafzai said that the reduction in violence by the Taliban was a good thing. Giving credit to Russia for its efforts in bringing peace to Afghanistan even though it was the country that initially triggered the conflict by invading Afghanistan more than four decades ago, he said that the US role in bringing peace to Afghanistan is also required.

“But US President Joe Biden would like to delay recall of all their forces from Afghanistan. He still intends to keep an antiterrorism force there because the Taliban and USA still don’t see eye to eye,” he said.

Al Qaeda, he pointed out, is struggling now. “They have not launched any attack on the US from Afghan soil after 9/11,” he said.

Afghan women want guarantees from international community that peace will mean democracy, protection of their rights

‘Taliban need to form political party’

He also said that President Ashraf Ghani was opposed to a transitional government. And the Taliban have also rejected Ghani’s proposal to hold elections.

“The Taliban, who have a political wing, now also need to form a proper political party,” he said. “Then there is the four billion dollars needed to sustain Afghan forces. The army would collapse without financial assistance,” he said.

“So the road to peace is still long and difficult. But the talks are to continue through the hurdles,” he said.

Former Pakistan ambassador to Kabul Rustam Shah Mohmand, who is an expert on Afghanistan, said that things were not going to be easy in getting peace to Afghanistan. “An endgame doesn’t seem to be in sight despite hectic diplomacy,” he said.

“First of all, there is China, which has investments in Afghanistan in oil and gas, and copper mines. China would also like to add Afghanistan in the Belt and Road Initiative. And it is convinced that only a Taliban government will work there. That is also why it is reaching out to the Taliban. More Taliban delegates are also visiting China,” he said.

“Also, the Taliban are seen as better in effectively dealing with Iran and Daesh [the Arabic acronym of militant Islamic State group]. And the Taliban have no ambition beyond the borders of Afghanistan. A Taliban government, therefore, can bring peace and stability not only to Afghanistan but also to its borders. China also shares its border with Afghanistan,” he said.

“But it is also known that India is the fifth biggest donor in Afghanistan. India [has] also invested in Chabahar. The country doesn’t want to invest in a destabilised country. A stable Afghanistan also opens doors to free trade with Central Asia for India. But Pakistan has a problem with India in Afghanistan. So any government in Afghanistan will need to ensure that Afghan land is not used against Pakistan by India,” he pointed out.

He also said that post-interim government, the Taliban would need to have their political party. “They already control most of the territory in Afghanistan and even collect taxes,” he observed.

Afghan women fighting for their rights

Joining the conversation from Afghanistan and speaking in Dari, Roshan Sirran, one of the leading voices for Afghan women’s rights, spoke on the role of Afghan women in all this.

“The Afghan war has never left the country for four decades now. It has become part of our history from which our generations have learned how to face challenges. Our women have also become resilient. And now, when the Afghan nation is turning a new page, our women are even more active in fighting for their rights. During the peace talks for Afghanistan’s future they have to spread awareness among more women of the country so they can also struggle for their rights,” she said.

“Because durable peace needs complete steps,” she added.

“Our women want guarantees from the international community that peace in Afghanistan will mean democracy, freedom of speech, protection of rights of the people including women. Also, we cannot have peace without international support. Our neighbouring countries also need to play a role in bringing peace to Afghanistan because peace in Afghanistan will bring a positive change in the entire region,” she pointed out.

“We also need to be strong to participate in the peace process,” she said. “And we don’t want closed-door meetings. We want the Afghan people, especially our women, to also be involved.”

Published in Dawn, March 28th, 2021

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