AFGHANISTAN: time for evaluation

Written by Kreshma Fakhri
Sunday, 25 September 2011 10:58

Time for evaluation

Killid has been investigating the progress made by the High Peace Council in the past year. The interviews were done before Rabbani’s assassination on Sep. 20.
For Mohammad Ismail Qasimyar, member and advisor on international relations in the High Peace Council (HPC) the opening of sub-offices in 30 provinces is one of the council’s biggest achievements.
But Abdul Salam Zaeef, former Taleban ambassador in Pakistan, believes the HPC does not even have a strategy for peace.
Depending on who you interview, the reactions are along expected lines.
Mohammad Akberi, MP and HPC member, claims they have made contact with armed groups – directly and indirectly.
“Work has been done with individuals, the leadership of Taleban and Haqqani, and Hezb-e-Islami led by Hekmatyar. Some senior members have been contacted too,” he says.
Taleban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid denies any contact with the council. “This council evades key and major issues of the country,” he said in a phone interview. Independent political expert, Wahid Mujda, thinks contact with the Taleban unlikely. The top Taleban leadership attach no importance to the council, he says.
“I also spoke with Taleban and they said that this council is no more than an instrument via which Karzai wants to say that I work for peace too, and US also assists him,” he adds.

Claiming success
HPC members point to other achievements: armed fighters have laid down their weapons to join the peace process, says Qasimyar. “To date, between 1,800 and 2,000 individuals have joined this process. Around 400 weapons have been laid down. Among the surrendered, around 150 have been team leaders and commanders.”
Recently, NATO, which has lent its support to President Hamid Karzai’s peace process, announced that 2,500 Taleban have surrendered their arms.
There is very little to show on the ground as results.
Mohammad Mohaqiq, MP and council member who was previously an outspoken critic of the council, and now a supporter has little to say about its achievements. “The High Peace Council has done its best, but I am not aware of its achievements.” He thinks the Taleban cannot be pushed to peace by peaceful means. “I personally don’t believe that Taleban would comply with peace negotiation. This idea of mine is very well known. I am of the opinion that Taliban would never accept peace.”
Taleban spokesman Mujahid says in defence, “We persist with the view that if they want peace and security in Afghanistan, they should regard their actions. This country belongs to the Afghans, and decision-making also belongs to the Afghans”.

Profiting from war
Meanwhile, Qasimyar thinks the peace process is being jeopardised by people who do not want peace. “A number of people are sabotaging peace. They gain millions in profits from the continuation of war. They have their contract with military officials for continuing military raids. As a result, one can say that in addition to illegal drugs, there is a war mafia also in Afghanistan working against peace building in Afghanistan. Their profit is in war not in peace”.
The HPC has to show that it is serious, says Shahzada Shahid, MP in Wolosi Jirga and a council member. “The meetings should be held more often. Right now there is no seriousness in this regard.”
Need for transparency
Wakil Ahmad Mutawakil, former Taleban foreign minister who now lives in Kabul, makes a similar point. “All 70 members have not met together even in one meeting,” he charges. Qasimyar says people would believe in the HPC if they were kept abreast about its activities. “Our people would be convinced once they see the result; they should be notified of progress”.
Meanwhile, Hizb-e-Islami seem far less negative about the council. Ghairat Bahir, a Hizb member, says: “I think the results have not been negative, neither have they been very eye catching. I think there is a lot to be done. Currently, they are at the primary stage”.
For any progress on the ground, foreign powers will have to be included, says Mutawakil. “(Contentious) issues in Afghanistan have three sides not two. Foreigners are also involved in these issues. As long as all three parties don’t make efforts this process would fail.” A US embassy spokesman said in a phone interview that Washington is involved in a series of wide-ranging efforts. There is foreign financial backing for the council: donors have pledged 141 million USD to the HPC.

 Time for evaluation

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