Will there be Peace and Prosperity?

“Common Afghanistan may treat themselves most unfortunate people for, willy nilly, they are caught in the whirlpool of one war after another and battered by one drought after another and became the easy pawn in the chess game being played by countries, earlier the Soviet Union and now the Britain, and the USA”.

The new Constitution that came into force in 2003, paved the way of democratic government in the country and it was hoped that an atmosphere of peace, prosperity and security will prevail in the country.

Afghanistan reflects the most depressing social milieu. The social indicators present a barren picture with literacy rate 36% only and merely 13% of the population has access to safe drinking water. Merely 12% of the population has sanitation facilities, life expectancy just 43 years and child mortality rate is 25 of every 1000 children, the fourth highest in the world. The maternal mortality rate is the second highest in the world, 17 out of 1000 mothers die in child birth. Every year approximately 16000 mothers die as such. The level of malnutrition is as high as 70%. The women of Afghanistan form 60% of the population and acknowledged by the international community as the most depressed women in the world. The women have been the most harassed and victimized entity during the reign of Taliban.

Afghanistan has long been used as a battleground for strategic wars by larger external powers. This is in part due to its geographic position between the Middle East, Central Asia and South Asia. In addition, the fragmented and polarized nature of Afghan society, which is made up of many different ethnic groups, has led to its multiple internal struggles which have gained support from the different external powers. The almost continuous devastation caused to the country for over the past “three decades is a testimony to the strength and endurance of its people and the groups who work towards rebuilding their country.

On 2nd June, 2010, Afghanistan’s Peace Council – the National Consultative Peace Jirga or NCPJ – brought together 1600 delegates from across Afghanistan’s political and social spectrum to pave the road for integration and reconciliation. Three questions were posed at the NCPJ; which dictated the discussions and future objectives of the peace process. These were: how can we bring sustainable peace to Afghanistan, what kind of framework do we need to speak with our disaffected brothers and what kind of mechanism do we need for reconciliation.

Burhanuddin Rabbani, a former President of Afghanistan, was given the herculean task of seeking peace with the Taliban, but he was assassinated in Kabul on 20th September, 2011 by a suicide bomber wearing explosives in his turban. Rabbani was the head of Afghanistan’s High Peace Council, a 70-member body convened almost a year ago by President Hamid Karzai to pursue talks with the Taliban independently of the government.

At that point, choosing Rabbani seemed like a clever move on Karzai’s part, Rabbani was an ethnic Tajik, like most of the Northern Alliance. He wasn’t a military commander like Khan or Atta, however, but a theologian, having studied Islamic law in Kabul. He lived in Pakistan during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, where he procured weapons and funds for the Mujahedeen and became one of the ideological leaders of the resistance. After the communist regime collapsed, he became President of the Islamic State of Afghanistan, officially remaining head of state even as he fled from the Taliban to the North-Eastern province of Badakhshan. He turned the position over to Karzai in 2001. Both the US and Europe have increased their efforts to seek out contact with the Taliban, but see little point in holding talks without Afghan involvement. Rabbani, the Tajik leader, was well connected throughout Afghanistan’s many provinces.

Unrealistic Hopes  

But, was the hope that Karzai and the West placed in Rabbani and the High Peace Council ever a realistic one? The Taliban took Rabbani’s appointment as an insult, as they detested him — a fact that Karzai knew very well. The message the Taliban took away was that the peace council was a sham rather than a true attempt at reconciliation.

The fact that neither prominent former Taliban leaders nor members of the former royal family were represented in the newly appointed council, not even the influential brothers of Ahmad Shah Massoud, the Northern Alliance military commander killed 10 years ago, lent further credence to that interpretation. The 70-member High Peace Council, which had representatives of every stripe, had nucleus of people who were working hard to reach out to senior Taliban commanders in Pakistan and also to persuade low-level Taliban fighters to join the government. Mr. Rabbani had traveled all over the country, setting 4 reconciliation councils in every province, and had gone to neighbouring countries to push the project forward, impressing people with his dedication.

The Taliban has long since recognized that the Tajiks, who are heavily represented in Afghanistan’s new army, could once again become a threat to them. In the past months, they have eliminated the leaders of these former and
future enemies one after another, including three influential police chiefs. The victims were Tajiks and former Northern Alliance Commanders. The attacks show where the frontlines will be drawn as soon as the NATO wraps up its
operations in Afghanistan. Haroun Mir, a policy expert in Kabul, says Rabbani’s death will widen Afghanistan’s “ethnic and geographic divide between the Tajiks in the North and the Pashtuns in the South, the home territory of the Taliban.

The US has also shown that many of the attacks appear to have been carried out with the help from the Pakistani intelligence service ISI, which supports the Taliban. The ISI has done everything; they can to make sure the peace talks don’t succeed. The ethnic Tajiks who gathered in front of their murdered leader’s villa were serious about their intentions. “Our enemies must know, with the strength of our Mujahideen and soldiers of our martyred leader, we will take revenge,” Governor Atta promised. Amrullah Saleh, who served temporarily as head of intelligence services under Karzai, announced: “It is time for us to unite for change and for defeat of the Taliban.”

In Afghanistan, which has been the site of fighting for over 30 years, true peace doesn’t seem to be in sight. A move to establish peace in Afghanistan failed owning to the murder of Rabbani and the intentions of the enemies of peace prevailed in Afghanistan. No hope to maintain peace appears possible in near future.