Prospects Of Afghan Peace Process Are Gloomy At Best

There are no two opinions about the horrific lot dealt to Afghanistan for four decades in the form of unceasing violence. Beginning with the Soviet invasion in 1979, the tragedy reached its worst when US-led troops ousted the Taliban in 2001, by launching airstrikes on their settlements, leading to the Taliban insurgency.

After an insulting defeat, and a loss of a number of American military personnel’s lives and over two trillion dollars in the "war against terrorism" in Afghanistan, the US government led by Donald Trump is now all set to withdraw its forces by November 2020. Still, it may be remembered that the casualties on the Taliban side far outnumber those of the US forces, reaching nearly 35000.

Following so much destruction and terror, and much to the world’s consternation, the intra-Afghan peace talks have finally begun in Doha. The primary agenda on the table seems to be the formation of an all-inclusive government.

Still, it’s hard to see how this will come about, as the Taliban leadership seems unwilling to compromise on its hard held beliefs. Mullah Baradar Akhund demands the setting up of an “Islamic” government in Afghanistan. This is a worrying proposition for no lack of reasons.

The condition of women's rights in Afghanistan is a greatly troubling topic. The Taliban position notwithstanding, even the locals seem to agree that the existing liberties for women in Afghanistan are “enough” – as evidenced by a recent survey. This is despite the fact that women, albeit being constitutionally guaranteed the right to work in public places, constitute only about 20 percent of the workforce in Afghanistan. In the parliament, their presence is little over 28 percent.

These are all indications that the stakes for women in Afghanistan are high. What’s so much more troubling is that women who raise their voice in the face of these facts have to pay a heavy price.

Only a month ago, Saba Sahar – actor, director and film producer – was shot multiple times outside her house, along with her bodyguards.

Fawzia Koofi – a vocal activist for women rights and a member of the Afghan government’s negotiating team – was shot while returning to Kabul last month. Thankfully she survived the attack. In a statement she gave after the incident, she asserted that such cowardly tactics could not deter her from raising her voice for the rights of women in Afghanistan, adding that it had only given her more strength. One shudders to recall the situation of women rights under the Taliban rule in 1990s when girls were not even allowed to attend schools.

Nevertheless, it is probably plain that Kabul government will have to sacrifice a plethora of its demands at the altar of peace. Caving in to the demands of the Taliban, the Afghan government had already begun to set free up to 400 Taliban prisoners, starting from the month of August this year. The group of released prisoners includes Muhammad Dawood, a former police officer who joined the Taliban and who opened fire on two US Marines and put both of them to death in 2011, on the pretext that he mistook them for Jews. The talks in Doha began only after Dawood along with many other Taliban prisoners had been released. So much for US personnel killed in combat.

On the peripheries of the Afghan-Taliban conclave, one of the members of the Afghan negotiating team said that it was disturbing to shake hands with the killers of their relations but that they did it for the sake of securing the future of their posterity. Such are the sentiments abounding in the peace process.

One hopes that peace can be had but the task seems truly herculean. Al-Qaeda is still a player in the entire process, although one is given to understand that the Taliban have Al-Qaeda’s green signal in going ahead with the peace process, and that Al-Qaeda will not go against the terms agreed upon by Taliban in the peace process.

Still, one feels the best course of action for anyone to take is to take the backseat and pray that more ill fate does not come to visit upon the wretched populace of this war-ravaged region.