If we take a look the past two months Afghan politicians’ statements, we will easily get the real political picture of Afghanistan, which clearly shows a great deal of political rift and mistrust going between the Kabul government and the opposition leaders who represent non-Pashtuns in Afghanistan. The political strife rose to the extreme level, when the opposition leaders raised questions about the status of ongoing authoritative centralized government and demanded of Kabul government to bring political reforms in the country and further asked the government to incorporate them in the proposed talks with Taliban.
Karzai government instead of showing a political acumen used harsh language, by saying that Afghanistan is not a political laboratory for foreigners, just to show his absolute power to the opposition leaders bestowed to him by the present political system which seems to have caused a great political divide and disharmony in Afghanistan. Before making a harsh statement, Mr. Karzai should have been guided that it is the twenty-first century not the nineteenth or twentieth centuries, things have now changed a lot since then. Harsh statements resonate harshly. Anyhow, it echoed as it should have been beyond Karzai’s expectations.
Responding Mr. Karzai statement, Mr. Massoud, the chairman of the Afghanistan National front said, “Afghanistan had been a laboratory of authoritarian regimes in different periods and that the issue has to be addressed now.” He further stressed on the formation of a decentralized government system in Afghanistan.
Regarding talks with Taliban, Leader of the National Coalition, Abdullah Abdullah says that secret talks will not be welcomed by the Afghan people and underlined that the Afghan people must not be ignored and blamed Afghan government for not having a transparent program for peace talks. “If the Taliban are back in the political process, being imposed on us, the Afghan people will definitely resist, paving the way for another war to happen,” Zia Massoud told Reuters in an interview at his home in Kabul. Prominent Hazara leader Haji Mohammad Mohaqiq says “If the government is going to start a peace process, then we should also be in this process because we also represent part of the nation.”
Skeptical about the behavior of Taliban over holding talks, Haji Mohammad Mohaqiq says “I don’t believe in a miracle occurring, that the Taliban will change their way of thought, accept the Afghan constitution, believe in democracy and the vote of the people.”
“A peace that will destroy national unity and territorial integrity of Afghanistan is no peace. It is only a conspiracy and a disaster, which will make Afghan people suffer,” Mr Qanooni said. Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum, says peace talks will not have positive results as the ‘Taliban are not honest’.
The present political scenario reveals that how the leaders of Afghanistan have plummeted once again into an extreme political divide about the political reforms and talks with Taliban. It’s pity to say that the country has been suffering for the last nearly forty years due to political crises and lack of proper political system and wisdom. Following his predecessors, the powerful authoritative president seems not ready to understand the formidable ethno-political reality of the country, which will ultimately push this war-ravaged country into another political divide and disintegration, if the political situation is not handled wisely. A sound political judgment needs to be put in place to avoid further upcoming political disagreement and political segregation.
The controversial political system and so-called reconciliation process has widened the gap between the opposition leaders and the Kabul government. The political gap would get widened, had the present status quo prevails and not addressed immediately.
It is understandable as why U.S seems rushing to hold talks with Taliban as soon as possible to get the honorable exit from Afghanistan. However, U.S while rushing for holding talks should not ignore the Northern Alliance concerns, which helped U.S and allied forces to get the Taliban and Al-Qaida out of Afghanistan in 2001. Opposition leaders represent huge portion of Afghanistan’s population, should immediately be incorporated in holding talks with Taliban, who have been the most affected during Taliban regime and the real threat to Taliban existence in Afghanistan.
Economic meltdown and political preferences seem to be the most prominent reasons for U.S and allied forces to leave Afghanistan at earliest possible, however, putting Taliban forward and neglecting the real stakeholders of Afghanistan in bringing peace process in this region seems to be irrational.
A number of high-profile former Taliban officials like Mullah Fazl has been reported to be released, if the negotiating process with Taliban goes with success. Mullah Fazl is reported to have carried out systematic extermination of ethnic minorities especially Hazaras in Afghanistan.
The release of such criminal and murderer will send a negative message to all those people suffered by the Taliban, who have been part of the international alliance since the attack of US and international forces on Taliban in 2001.
It is believed that US authorities will have thought of the non-Pashtuns, who have shown great resistance to Taliban and will show resistance again, if they are not taken into the confidence in holding talks with Taliban or if Taliban is imposed on them. Most analysts believe that Kabul centralized government doesn’t have any problem in holding talks with Taliban as they themselves represent the same constituency and talking with Taliban doesn’t seem to be difficult to talk with. However, it is only the opposition leaders who have a great deal of political and cultural differences with Taliban to talk with.
Many believe that Taliban are not honest in holding talks with Afghan leaders as their higher commands have never been in talks and above all, they will never accept the present democratic setup going in Afghanistan. So what will likely happen, if Taliban doesn’t accept the present democratic system of Afghanistan and their front line leaders don’t show up for negotiations and if Taliban is imposed on Afghanistan?
President Karzai has blamed Pakistan playing delaying tactics, wait and see game and allegedly trying its best to not only deceive the international community but also Afghan government by not bringing the Taliban’s high command leaders for the negotiating process.
Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani’s last visit to Kabul was to collect information about the political situation of Afghanistan. In her talks to the leaders of the opposition parties, she was reported to have received a very clear message as if Taliban were imposed on the Afghanistan; the opposition leaders would show stiff resistance. The government of Pakistan needs to understand well that things have so far changed since 2001 and no use to create situation like 1996 for Taliban to get control of Afghanistan.
It would be a great political gamble for Pakistan, if Taliban were supported again to get hold of Afghanistan. The opposition leaders mainly Northern Alliance with the help of the international community especially US, India and Russia would strike Taliban hard and the possible future civil war would likely be between Pashtun and non-Pashtun, which might affect the integrity of Pakistan, if non-Pashtun split Afghanistan and declares a separate country after defeating the Taliban.
The supporting countries seems likely accept the new emerging country and the Pashtun along the Durand Line would likely come under severe political pressure to go for the independent Pashtunistan and Baloch are already fighting for the independence in Pakistan. Such kind of situation would create immense pressure on the elite class of Pakistan to get hold of the political situation, which would ultimately cause an irreparable damage to Pakistan. Moreover, if Baloch agenda goes ahead, it would have a very negative impact on Iran as well.
Pakistani elite needs to have a serious thinking about the possible defeat of the Taliban after 2014, who, I am sure they will, if they have got a little common sense. If Pakistan doesn’t stop relentless support to Taliban and doesn’t show respect to the robust political ethnic reality in Afghanistan, the end game in Afghanistan would reverse to Pakistan and would create political divide and chaos, then it would be very complicated to handle the situation for the state authorities. Pakistani elite knows well that the international community and neighboring countries are tired of Pakistan’s bullying attitude in the region.
Islamabad needs to understand that stable and democratic Afghanistan is very important for stable Pakistan and it also needs to understand that Afghanistan is a multilingual, multicultural and multiethnic country. Supporting only one ethnic group doesn’t serve Pakistan and the region. All the ethnic groups living in Afghanistan deserve respect from Pakistan. The present Afghan Parliament shows the ground ethnic diversity and political reality of the ethnic groups in Afghanistan, which cannot be denied.
In order to avoid further political divide, the Kabul government mustn’t widened the political crisis in the country and try its best to work on the devolution of power and empower local governments to promote political harmony in the great political interest of Afghanistan. The present Kabul government must include the opposition leaders in holding talks with the Taliban as they are the big stake holders of the country and it is not possible to bring sustainable peace and political harmony in the country without their political support. In the meantime, the US must adopt a long-range view of what a harmonious political outcome in Afghanistan may look like and support the political reforms.
Hopefully, The Afghan government would consider the suggestions of Ján Kubiš, special representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan who last Thursday urged the ongoing reconciliation and peace process be inclusive and further supported the views of the opposition parties to make the peace drive a success. And it is further hoped that the NATO leaders would review the political crisis of Afghanistan in the oncoming Chicago Summit and would emphasize on long-term cooperation and Afghanistan will not be left alone on the mercy of the terrorists in near future.
Originally published on Outlook Afghanistan newspaper on 6th of March 2012.