Afghanistan has been amid a peace and reconciliation process for the past couple of years. To ensure its effectiveness the military surge has been complemented by various peace councils and civilian reconciliation efforts like women’s councils and councils for business entrepreneurs in the region. In order to ensure a well-rounded resolution to the Afghan war, Pakistan and its high leaders must be involved since they have historically been a crucial part of both the conflict and the solution.
A couple of days ago, members of Afghanistan’s High Peace Council, led by chairman Salahuddin Rabbani, arrived on a three-day visit to Pakistan, and held crucial talks with political leaders, including Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf and Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar amidst fresh tensions over a cross-border shelling incident.
According to sources, the meeting discussion included the release of certain Afghan Taliban commanders currently in Pakistani custody and establishing a comprehensive framework to provide safe passage to certain Taliban members. The Afghan side is believed to have shared its ‘roadmap’ envisaging steps it intends to take and a list of demands for Pakistan to help broker a peace deal.
The demands include the release of key Afghan commanders, including Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, who, according to the Karzai administration, can play a crucial role in bringing insurgents to the negotiating table. Baradar is ranked second in influence only to Taliban leader Mullah Muhammad Omar.
The effort to ensure reconciliation on behalf of both Pakistani and Afghan leaders is commendable. However, how is it possible that they can even begin to think this is an effective solution when the brokering, negotiating, and actual effort of reconciliation is only happening in top levels? Not to mention, any negotiations that include the release of Taliban leaders – the very reason why Afghanistan is in its current state of ruins – will make the people of Afghanistan feel like reconciliation is merely a mask and an effort to cover up the return of warlords from the 80’s as opposed to real justice.
Leaders from the Taliban have systematically targeted ethnic groups, they’ve attacked entire villages, subverted thousands of women and children and yet they continue to have free reign in the country.
Any effort of Afghan reconciliation is completely undermined by their consideration of Taliban leaders and by the neglect of civil society in this process. Afghanistan’s new government should look into a truth commission for 2014 and the international community – namely the ICC – should consider actively investigating Mullah Fazel Mohammad Mazloom (who is the alleged Chief of Staff of the Taliban) and Mullah Dadullah (current senior military commander of the Taliban). These are the people who are most likely giving the orders for attack, providing weapons, and actively stunting the peace and reconciliation process in Afghanistan. Failure to begin an investigation in Afghanistan may tag the ICC as selectively choosing their cases. This is a good opportunity for the ICC to show that they do not cover only cases in Africa and will, in fact, go where the victims need them.