Last week the Taliban rejected pleas by the government, Afghan elders and activists for an extension of the Eid ceasefire. But peace activists in Kabul are pleading with the stakeholders to end the conflict that has now lasted 40 years
Sceptics about peace talks have often argued that the Taliban will never come to any agreement with the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (GoIRA). However, the recent temporary ceasefire offered a different reality to that perception, stunning the national and international community. Shortly thereafter, the GoIRA extended the ceasefire.
Last week, on Tuesday, the Taliban rejected pleas by the government, Afghan elders and activists for an extension of the Eid ceasefire, despite observing and listening to their foot soldiers enjoying a peace celebration for the first time in two decades. In addition, the Taliban reacted harshly to their foot soldiers enjoying photo-ops with the Afghan National Defence Forces, by calling for extreme punishment for those who would be identified by any photos or videos via media or social media.
Meanwhile, a small group of peace activists, the Helmand Peace Marchers, is in Kabul, pleading with the stakeholders to end the conflict that has now lasted 40 years. The peace activists want the government to announce a yearlong ceasefire for talks. Once there is peace and stability, foreign troops, they say, should withdraw from Afghanistan. They have also called on the Taliban’s leader, Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada, with a similar demand, but he has not accepted their proposal. At a recent press conference, the marchers said the lack of a response from the Taliban leader only shows the movement’s incoherence and the involvement of foreign actors in the country’s politics.
In the past few weeks, strange things have been happening: a Facebook post on the National Security Adviser M Haneef Atmar’s recent visit to Pakistan went viral. The fake post, a screenshot purportedly from Dawn, claimed that Atmar met Pakistan Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa and accepted the Durand line as the official border between the two countries. The office of the National Security Council has clarified that no such meeting had taken place. Atmar, too, emphasised that the border issue can be decided only by the people of Afghanistan, and the government has no mandate to discuss it. The Dawn also clarified that the post was fake.
Such fake posts can affect national and regional security. Atmar has been involved in President Ghani’s peace initiatives in the past and the post was intended to defame the NSA and turn the opinion of a large majority of the people against him and the government’s peace efforts. This could have potentially provoked political opposition against Ghani, too.
While the attempt did not succeed, there is a lesson in this for the public and the government: Incidents such as these should be exposed by the public and the government. The people of Afghanistan want peace and will not allow anyone to manipulate us. The voice of peace will not go unheard. We will continue to demand a ceasefire. Hopefully one day, we will forget why we were fighting in the first place. I doubt anyone knows why we are fighting now. We, Afghans, want peace, not war.
Zaika Wardak is an activist and former chairperson of the Society of Afghan Women in engineering and Construction.