Sitwat Bokhari & Saddam Hussein |
Afghanistan, for the first time in its almost 40 years’ long conflict, is perhaps seeing a silver lining in the cloud in terms of harnessing peace. There is a direct engagement between the Kabul government and the Taliban, implying that intra-Afghan dialogue is now becoming a reality. This development raises hopes for Afghans who have been longing for peace and prosperity for so long.
While the idea of absolute peace in the world that we live in today may be a utopian proposition, relative peace may be very possible soon depending on how well the Afghan political leadership responds to this window of opportunity which has emerged after decades.
Nasim Zehra enunciated that Pakistan and Afghanistan can live side by side peacefully.
Ms. Nasim Zehra, senior journalist and author, who shared these views, was speaking to youth from Afghanistan and Pakistan on the emerging dynamics of the Afghan peace process at Afghan Studies Center in Islamabad on Friday. Sharing her personal insights, she said that dialogue through backdoor channels on the Afghan peace process has been very much there for the past almost 10 years, though not acknowledged publicly.
The current breakthrough appears to be the outcome of these engagements for all those years between the Afghan government, Taliban, the US, Pakistan, China, Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the UAE at different times. On the contrary, despite all engagements, the Taliban played a zero-sum game, insisting on the complete exit of the US and NATO troops before any constructive peace talks could be held which would involve them on the table.
In this backdrop, US President Trump’s recent announcement signalling the draw-down of American troops may give an indication to the Taliban that the US is finally serious about a negotiated peace settlement in Afghanistan. It may also likely lead to a reduction in confrontational tactics used by both sides so far and perhaps a better chance for a workable exit strategy for the US.
Albeit, Trump’s decision carries different dimensions for different stakeholders involved in the conflict. Regarding the US’s responsibility, Nasim Zehra stated that it would be naive on the part of any American President or officials to infer that their disengagement from Afghanistan would be a “smooth affair”.
There is a direct engagement between the Kabul government and the Taliban, implying that intra-Afghan dialogue is now becoming a reality.
Let us hope that Washington does not repeat the mistakes of the early 90s when it abandoned Afghanistan soon after the Soviet withdrawal from the country, where the resultant bedlam in the country perpetuated the conflict. Moreover, the US withdrawal is a scenario which may spell disaster for Afghanistan if not handled with utmost care, she remarked.
Hence, it is the utmost responsibility of all stakeholders involved to ensure that a productive intra-Afghan peace dialogue progresses smoothly. Pakistan is desperate for peace now and is facilitating all it can in the Afghan peace process, engaging all regional stakeholders, she stated, remarking that the recent development in this regard precipitated through Pakistan’s diplomatic efforts.
Towards the end of the dialogue, in a message specifically to the youth attending the dialogue, Nasim Zehra enunciated that Pakistan and Afghanistan can live side by side peacefully. She recalled the interesting paradoxical relationship of both the nations in the 1950s and 1960s, where the two neighbours had reservations with each other, yet there was trust and goodwill shown in those times as well.
She advised the youth that it is time we leave what happened in the past and look towards the future now. In this age of information overload, citizen journalism, fake news, proxy wars and confusion, the role of the youth is of crucial importance where their role becomes decisive in nature. She concluded on the note that “the future of Pakistan and Afghanistan is so co-dependent that the two do not have any option but to cooperate and the youth has to play a critical role there”.
This was the 19th Pak-Afghan youth dialogue organized by Islamabad-based Afghan Studies Center – an initiative focused on imparting critical thinking amongst Pak-Afghan youth and encouraging youth diplomacy in Pak-Afghan relations through its various activities since April 2017.
Sitwat Waqar Bokhari and Saddam Hussein work as Program Manager and Program Officer respectively, at Afghan Studies Center, a sister organization of the Center for Research and Security Studies (CRSS), Islamabad. The views expressed in this article are author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.