Pugwash conference on security in Afghanistan

Create: 05/31/2015 - 09:15

KABUL (Pajhwok): At the very outset, the two-day meeting in Qatar was clearly characterised as a non-official contact, where all participants were free to express their personal opinions on a non-attributive basis. It was repeatedly clarified the meeting was not supposed to be any sort of negotiation.
There were several presentations and interventions by people linked to the various parties and groups of Afghanistan, to civil society representatives, including a few women, and United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) officials.
Thus, the discussion represented a wide range of opinions, always keeping in mind the non-official character of the meeting. Everybody represented only him/herself and not any institution or group. Despite the differences of opinions, the climate of the meeting was cooperative, constructive and friendly.
Held behind closed doors in Doha, the Afghan Dialogue, was attended by 44 people including High Peace Council (HPC) officials and representatives of the Hekmatyar-led Hezb-i-Islami Afghanistan and Taliban.
From Kabul, the delegates included President Ashraf Ghani’s uncle Dr. Abdul Qayyum Kochi, Dr. Farooq Azam, Syed Ishaq Gilani, Haji Roohullah, Waheedullah Shahrani, Anwarul Haq Ahady, Maulvi Attaullah Ludin, Shahzada Shahid and HIA leaders Eng. Qutbuddin Hilal, Qaribur Rahman Saeed and Dr. Ghairat Baheer. 
Some important common points emerged and are reported below:
• 1. There was a general appreciation of the positive value of the meeting, and a widely-shared sense of gratitude towards Qatar for the hospitality and the assistance given to the participants.
• 2. The idea of bringing about peace in Afghanistan and ending the conflict was wholeheartedly supported by all participants.
• 3. The civilian casualties of the Afghan conflict have been lamented by everybody, even though differences may exist on who bears the main responsibility for these casualties. Protection of civilians is, as it should be, a priority for everybody.
• 4. The role of foreign forces that are or have been present in Afghanistan was evaluated in different ways -- also in relation to the civilian casualties. Everybody agreed foreign forces have to leave Afghanistan soon. Some expressed concern there should be an agreement among Afghan political forces before the departure of foreign forces.
• 5. Any political discrimination against any Afghan political party or group would be an obstacle to the peace process. In particular, the delisting of black-listed Taliban would facilitate the peace process. Political prisoners should be released.
• 6. Corruption and the production/sale of drugs are among the most serious problems of Afghanistan.
• 7. The value of education for both men and women was underlined by everybody. Economic development in Afghanistan will heavily depend on peace.
• 8. The structure of the political system (and the constitution of Afghanistan) should be discussed in detail, and, while different opinions may arise in this respect, there is a general agreement that no party should have a monopoly on power.
• 9. In any case, the government of Afghanistan will be an Islamic one. This does not mean that minorities of any sort should be discriminated against.
• 10. The model of the so-called Islamic State (Dayesh) is alien to the tradition and the desires of the Afghan people. This point was agreed upon by everybody.
• 11. Relations with neighboring countries should be kept amicable, and cooperation with such countries should be strengthened. This does not mean neighboring countries are welcome to interfere in Afghanistan’s internal affairs.
• 12. The meeting of May 2 -3 May should be followed up by other meetings to help sustain the peace process. It is vital that communication among different Afghan parties and groups is kept alive, even at an unofficial level. In general, the peace process should be sped up! Some would welcome the possibility of talks between the Taliban and the government.
• 13. The Taliban in Doha played an important role in the organisation of this meeting. The Taliban’s office should be opened to facilitate meetings and talks.
• 14. Qatar, UN and international NGOs such as Pugwash will hopefully continue to support the Afghan peace process.
• 15. The public interest and the well000-being of the Afghan people will be at the centre of the attention of the participants of this and forthcoming meetings.
Privy to the discussions, a civil society representative from Kabul said they held a productive meeting with the Taliban on the sidelines of the conference. Both sides openly conferred on women’s rights.
Diplomats from Sweden and Russia reportedly played a significant role in arranging the event. Surprisingly, Afghanistan’s neighbours Pakistan, China and Iran were not consulted in this regard.
A Nobel Award-winning Canadian NGO, Pugwash has been striving for promoting peace in different countries around the globe. The organisation, which has been operating in Afghanistan since 1995, arranged Afghan peace talks in Dubai in 2012.
Focused on removing impediments to peace, the NGO has also consulted different actors in Kabul and Balkh provinces on ways and means of restoring peace and promoting reconciliation in the war-ravaged country.
Over the past 13 years, a number of clandestine initiatives have failed to yield a ceasefire, much less end the conflict. One significant reconciliatory effort was the creation of the Taliban’s office in Qatar in 2013. However, that too fizzled out.
Pakistan had welcomed the latest reconciliation talks Qatar. "We support any formal or informal talks that lead to reconciliation in Afghanistan," Pakistan's Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhry said, adding Islamabad backs every gathering aimed at achieving the goal of peace in Afghanistan.