An activist working for govt-Taliban mediation

Create: 05/11/2015 - 12:13

KABUL (Pajhwok): The Afghanistan Peaceful Transition Society head Dr. Farooq Azam has been pleading with all concerned for peace in the country. His message is loud and clear: The Afghan conundrum cannot be resolved militarily.
A resident of southern Kandahar province, Dr. Farooq Azam attended a mosque school before getting enrolled in a government-run school. Apart from getting contemporary education, he went to the Al- Azhar University in Egypt for higher religious studies.
A graduate from the Economic Faculty of Kabul University, he holds a Master’s in Agriculture from the American University in Beirut. He did a doctorate in water sources from the London University. Before migrating to Pakistan in the wake of the Soviet invasion, he had been advisor to the Ministry of Water and Energy. 
He has been the deputy head of the Islamic Front before joining the Mujahideen government as agriculture minister. Later, he also served as minister of refugee affairs. The former jihadi leader says after an end to Mujahideen’s rule, he has held no government position. His sole objective is bringing peace to the country.
When US President Barack Obama announced deploying an additional 30,000 troops to end the conflict in Afghanistan, Dr. Azam feared the surge would lead to intensification of hostilities and more casualties among the Afghans.
After setting up the Afghanistan Peaceful Transition Society, he has been endeavouring for the country’s stability. “I decided to visit remote villages, to serve my homeland and share my experiences with the people,” he says. His message to the Afghans and foreigners: No one can win this war.
About activities of the society he has set up, the untiring activist remarks: “We had provided ex-president Hamid Karzai a detailed mechanism for peace. Unfortunately, he failed to do anything.”
He recalled sharing similar plans with Prof. Burhanuddin Rabbani, then chairman of the High Peace Council. He also held detailed discussions with incumbent President Ashraf Ghani. As part of the society’s initiative to strengthen peace, he has travelled to neighbouring countries and the US.
Azam, who had worked for mediation between the Taliban and Saudi Arabia during the militia’s rule, believes his organisation -- having rich experience -- is the only forum that should meet the warring parties in Afghanistan. 
Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates were the three countries that recognised the Taliban regime. But the Taliban’s ties with Saudi Arabia deteriorated when the former refused to hand over Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden to the United States.
He said: “The Saudi government had then urged me to push mediation talks with the Taliban. In this regard, I visited Kandahar -- the Taliban’s birthplace – but could not succeed in my mission.”
Led by Azam, the society has opened offices in different provinces such as Laghman, Nangarhar, Kunar, Kandahar, Baghlan and Sar-i-Pul. The organisation has more than 3,700 members, taking the peace message to the masses. Even in provinces where the society has not yet set up branches, its members are active.
“Our colleagues are making efforts to convince the people that this country can’t be reconstructed as long as war continues. Restoration of peace is an absolute imperative,” he insists, explaining they are reliant on membership fees and support from philanthropists.
Azam was asked if his society was working in tandem and coordination with the High Peace Council. He replied the council was a government-controlled entity, funded by the government and foreign donors.
He accused the council of seeking to create differences among the Taliban. On the other hand, he claimed, the society had a clear policy and did not want to encourage divisions in any group. “Considering the views of both sides, we desire just peace between the fighters and the government.”
In an attempt to end the ongoing conflict, the society has presented parties to the war with a written strategy. However, Azam refused to be drawn into the details of the strategy. He said that mediation was a long process and they had not been offered the opportunity to mediate between the two sides.