Afghans have to define their interest: Peace negotiator

Create: 08/03/2015 - 13:21

KABUL (Pajhwok): Peace talks with the Taliban will end up in smoke if the Afghans themselves do not define their national interest, a presidential advisor and member of the government’s negotiating team warned on Monday.
In an exclusive interview with Pajhwok Afghan News, Haji Din Mohammad, who has actively pursued reconciliation efforts over the years, said the peace process had been a complicated issue with several dimensions.
Some countries, which have been engaged in the process over the past decade and a half, want their views to be given due consideration. Some of them argue they have invested a lot blood and treasure in Afghanistan and their demands be met.
The advisor, who attended the Pakistan-sponsored Murree meeting, also touched on foreign meddling and mentioned this famous anecdote: “A man caught fire, shouting for help. Another man asked him to let him light his cigarette before the fire is put out.”
He stressed the interest of the Afghans, whose country was in flames, must be prioritised. Din Mohammad referred to the multiplicity of suggestions, agendas and strategies for peace in the country. Many people are trying to get projects in the name of reconciliation, he said.
“To me, my brother and I are unhappy. We should reconcile, each forgiving the other. This is the most important strategy.” He claimed he and his relatives had been supportive of national reconciliation since the Soviet invasion and never took part in the civil strife.
When the Taliban emerged in Kandahar 20 years ago, Mohammad recalled, he had tried his level best along with some of his associates to bring about a patch-up between the fighters and Mujahideen leaders. In this regard, he had paid a flurry of visits to the southern province.
“When the Taliban captured Kabul, we continued our efforts and stayed in touch with militia leadership in the capital. We also contacted Prof. Abdur Rab Rasool Sayyaf and Ahmad Shah Massoud. Regrettably, our frenzied efforts yielded no significant result,” he said.
Even after the Taliban government’s ouster, the advisor said, they had pushed ahead with the reconciliation drive. A member of the joint Afghan-Pakistan Peace Jirga, he attended a number of conferences on the topic.
After being nominated as Nangarhar governor in the early years of Hamid Karzai’s rule, Mohammad underlined the imperative of peace at the inaugural ceremony for the Akhundzada Mosque in Hadda area of Jalalabad -- a call that drew criticism from some elements.
During a visit to the main provincial jail, the ex-governor once again reaffirmed his aversion to war and urged all sides to reach a negotiated settlement. “The militants are also Afghans. We will have to talk even after killing a hundred individuals.”
The peacenik has this message for opponents of dialogue: “We should go for parleys before we spill more blood. If we embrace our disgruntled brothers, the enemy will not get the chance to meddle in our affairs.”
About the creation of the High Peace Council, he said differences among members of a society were a natural phenomenon and there had to be some mechanism to resolve those disputes.
“At times, the differences lead to serious problems. In such a situation, someone has to work for reconciling the warring sides,” observed Mohammad, who had been promised appointment as chief negotiator by then president Hamid Karzai after his electoral victory.
But rifts emerged Prof. Burhanuddin Rabbani and Sibghatullah Mujaddedi when the High Peace Council was about to be set up, said the ex-governor. “As a result, I declined the slot to settle their row.”
He acknowledged criticism of HPC’s composition as valid, saying a peacemaker should be acceptable to both warring factions. But he said the situation in Afghanistan was different and the group that constantly fought against the Taliban had to lead the council.
About peace efforts on domestic and foreign fronts, Mohammad said: “I think all strategies and recommendations should be considered. We have to work with all those trying to achieve peace on how to make use of different views in this regard.”
Asked about Pakistan’s role, he said an individual asked Mullah Naseeruddin how long he would take reaching a certain village. Naseeruddin told him to go on. The question was thrice repeated and he came up with the same answer.
When the man resumed walking down the road, Naseeruddin told the man the approximate time he would take to reach the village. The man asked why he was required to thrice ask the same query. To this, Naseeruddin said: “I didn’t know much about your speed.”
“We can practically see how sincere Pakistan is in cooperating with the Afghan peace endeavours. But there is a dire need for cooperation from the neighbour,” he remarked, insisting there was no solution to the Afghan imbroglio other than peace. Before the Afghans lose control, they should arrive at some conclusion.