The Greater Interest

A decades-long war, nonstop militancy, recurrent phases of civil strife, foreign invasion, deep-seated hunger, socio-economic devastation. Everything happens in Afghanistan other than peace. At times when the chances of peace arise, some hidden hands come into play to sabotage any probability of peace taking place in the region. A little while ago, for instance, a much-hyped peace deal between the Taliban and the United States was sealed in Doha to pave the way for a full withdrawal of U.S. forces from the country and to finally end the 18-year war in Afghanistan. However, the so-called peace deal appeared to be in trouble on the very next day of the agreement. Afghanistan again began to sink in a political crisis with President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah squaring off over presidential election results and Ghani refusing to fulfil his part of a promise made in the US-Taliban deal to free 5,000 Taliban prisoners. Within days of the signing of the peace deal, Afghanistan, a country with two presidents at that time, was back to the days of chaos and disorder and the war-torn country was once again rocked by bomb blasts, gun

battles, attacks on security forces and a litany of similar events that put the peace process on the back burner. However, some unexpected developments took place in the second week of May when Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah signed a power-sharing deal to maintain the balance of power, ending months of political uncertainty that could yield an all-out civil war on ethnic and tribal lines. As per the deal, President Ashraf Ghani will stay on as the country’s president while both Ghani and Abdullah will choose an equal number of ministers. Abdullah Abdullah will become the President of the High Council and will lead the intra-Afghan dialogue with the Taliban, should they get underway. Meanwhile, another important but curious development took place recently when Zalmay Khalilzad, US Special Representative for Afghanistan, publicly suggested an engagement between India and the Taliban for the Afghan reconciliation process. However, the Taliban categorically refused to engage with India as they said the country had been playing a negative role in Afghanistan for the past 40 years. Sher Muhammad Abbas Stanikzai, the Taliban’s chief negotiator, asked India to reconsider its policy on Afghanistan if the country was really interested to see stability return to Afghanistan.

Calling things by their right name, the Taliban’s denial to formally engage with India as well as the signing of the power-sharing deal between President Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah is indeed a welcome development for Afghanistan. Keeping the country’s political track record in mind, however, it would be naïve to assume that the power-sharing deal will finally lead to a smoothly functioning dispensation in Kabul. The recent move does raise some hopes that both statesmen will be able to maintain a good working relationship to deliver good governance for their people and will move beyond their personal differences for the greater interest of the Afghan nation.

Syed Jawaid Iqbal
President & Editor in Chief