SOMETHING impossible appears to be becoming possible. Peace finally appears to be in sight in the conflict-ridden Afghanistan with the signing of peace deal between Afghan Taliban and the United States on Saturday after months of negotiations in Qatar’s capital Doha. Indeed both the sides deserve appreciation for showing the much needed flexibility to reach this accord which once again abundantly made it clear that it is only through negotiations that complex matters can be sorted out and that the war only brings sufferings to the civilians. Had this been realized much earlier, the people of Afghanistan had not suffered that much and the US would also not have to spend billions of dollars in its longest ever war.
The peace deal has basically four points: a timeline of 14 months for the withdrawal of all US and NATO troops from Afghanistan; a Taliban guarantee that Afghan soil will not be used as a launch-pad that would threaten the security of US; the launch of intra-Afghan negotiations by March 10 and a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire. One expects in the greater interest of the Afghan people that both the sides will stick to the points of the deal and avoid any sort of violence as doing so will lead to ground zero and amount to rubbing salt on the wounds of Afghan people. This deal has opened a window of opportunity and it is now up to the Afghan people especially its political leadership to seize this opportunity and take the country towards permanent peace which in fact will open doors of progress and prosperity for them. The history will never forgive them if they missed this opportunity that is now knocking at their door. There is an understanding that the intra-Afghan dialogue will be more complicated and that the path is not very easy one. What needs to be remembered by the Afghan government and the Taliban is that this war has not given anything to their people but miseries and backwardness. To reverse this, they will have to demonstrate greater maturity, farsightedness, compassion and elasticity whilst rising above their personal interests. It is only for the Afghans themselves which kind of future they map out for themselves but other countries especially the US, Pakistan, China, Iran, Russia and Qatar need to stay engaged with the Afghan government and the Taliban to make the intra-Afghan dialogue a success, especially their role will be more important in case of any impasse. They should use their influence in whatever way they could so that these negotiations do not hit any gridlock rather reach the conclusion at the earliest with a governance structure and power sharing formula acceptable for all. Spoilers which up till now are using Afghanistan as a proxy especially against Pakistan will make all out efforts to disrupt this process.
It is a matter of satisfaction that there is a growing realization about the danger which exists to derail the peace process. Whilst welcoming the peace deal, Prime Minister Imran Khan, whose point stand vindicated on the Afghan situation, very rightly and emphatically said that the stakeholders must ensure that spoilers are kept at bay. Under any circumstances, no incident should be allowed to undermine the process as the enemy of peace will definitely make last ditch efforts by resorting to violence and terrorist acts to create confusion and uncertainty. In fact, it will be a test case for Afghan government and the Taliban as to how much commitment they show to the dialogue and successfully foil their nefarious designs for a better future of their people which will ultimately also see the return of Afghan refugees to their homeland especially from Pakistan. Without much international support, Pakistan has generously hosted these Afghan refugees over the last many decades. Hosting refugees is a responsibility that has not been equitably shared. These were also the sentiments expressed by the UN Secretary General during a moot of refugees in Islamabad. Anyhow if the things go as planned for peace, the international community will also have to come forward in a big manner and extend full support to the Afghan government in the reconstruction phase in order to create a pull factor for the return of these millions of refugees to their homeland.