Dr. Massouda Jalal, a senior Afghan Politician in an Exclusive Article to “The Citizen”

KABUL: The Peace and Reintegration Program (PRP) that Hamid Karzai launched in 2011 has already brought back 8,551 Taliban fighters and released 65 prisoners whose crimes include assassination and bombing that killed countless civilians. While we are forced to live with these dangerous criminals in our communities, their colleagues and leaders are busy staging terroristic attacks and taking over governments in various parts of the country. This is a violation of our right to security and we want change!

Today, we raise our voice together as we ask the world and our incoming President to hear our sentiment. Every Afghan citizen had tasted the brutal and inhuman rule of the Taliban. All of us have a relative or friend who lost their lives, honor and resources because of Taliban barbarism and atrocities. The wounds of our suffering are still fresh; the pains never leave us even when we are asleep; and no justice has ever been served. But our previous government asked us to forgive and embrace the Taliban as our “brothers”, as if the nightmarish ordeal with them never happened. This is not democracy, this is not justice, and this is not our idea of peace. Our hearts will not have peace unless there is justice.

First, we reject the two-pronged strategy of (i) bringing back the so-called moderate Talibans into the mainstream of democratic life, and (ii) granting political concessions to their leaders. We believe that talibanism and democracy are antithetical concepts that cannot co-exist without breaking the fragile foundations of peace and democracy in our country. We believe that there is no such thing as “moderate” talibans and it is unwise to assume that they will embrace peace and democracy when they return to mainstream life. To ask Afghans to welcome back Taliban is like asking the world to welcome Al Qaeda into their neighborhood.

Second, as long as Taliban does not agree to a cessation of armed hostilities, we will never believe that they will embrace democracy, human rights and peace. It is time for all Afghans to wake up and ask the question, “What is the Taliban truly fighting for?”. The Taliban is not fighting for us, or for the salvation of our souls. They are fighting to quench their thirst for power, personal aggrandizement, and collective greed. They are a bunch of blasphemous, irreverent thugs who use Islam to justify their diabolical cause of putting the rights and lives of Afghans under their feet. How can people, who knew nothing but kill, ever govern or help in our transition towards progress and peace?

Third, we feel betrayed by our past government for being too incompetent to negotiate with the Taliban from a position of strength. The peace process should have not started unless the Taliban committed to stop or reduce its armed attacks; or at least declared certain provinces and places, like schools, markets, mosques and other public places as “zones of peace”. Let it be put on record, as well, that we are collectively dishonored by the shameless acts of corruption of our previous government which earned for our country the stigma of being among the most corrupt countries of the world. We can never continue living with such shame under the new government!

Fourth, our women, youth, disabled, ethnic groups and other dis-privileged sectors had been systematically marginalized in many strategic negotiations, including in the peace process. It is unfortunate that our former government failed to understand the political underpinnings of the Taliban’s obsession to oppress women – that denying women of their rights is a political strategy of the Taliban to ensure inter-generational assimilation of beliefs and practices that sustain its ideologies. Violence at home, denial of freedoms, fear of authority, submission to power, ignorance, and deprivation are ideologies that they want our children to assimilate so that they may grow up as replenishment to Taliban fighters. The Taliban’s agenda on women is not just oppression of women per se, but ensuring the entrenchment of their mangled values that will make Talibanism sustainable.

In view of the above, we call upon our new President to include the following in the National Unity Agenda:

(a) Renegotiation of the terms of the peace process with the Taliban – Our government should demand that: (i) within the first two months of agreement and thereafter, public places are designated as “zones of peace”, including schools, markets, mosques, parks, airports, and places for peoples’ assemblies; and (ii) within the first four months of agreement, a moratorium on armed attacks throughout the country is declared. We need peace to make peace! Every moment of complete freedom from hostilities is a space to negotiate and enjoy a life without violence.

(b) Adoption of a “zero tolerance to corruption” strategy – More than ever, we need to optimize our resources for the furtherance of development and peace. Our police and soldiers need resources to eliminate the enemies of the people. Massive corruption undermines their ability to defend and protect our people. Thus, our resources must be protected from greed! The government must adopt a policy that would enable people to watch and undertake “citizen’s arrest” of public officials who rob our coffers of the resources we need to fuel progress. We wish to see action on this within the first 100 days of our new government. Only then can we redeem ourselves from the dishonor that our previous government left as one of the most corrupt governments of the world.

(c) Adoption of a de-radicalization strategy for the Talibans who have returned to their communities - Our people should be provided with tools and resources to monitor the impacts of the Talibans’ return to their families and communities. Likewise, our widows, orphans, physically impaired should be provided with a chance to benefit as well from the reintegration projects that are now being implemented in 25 provinces. It is immoral to reward Talibans with economic opportunities while the people they victimized continue to live in deprivation and misery. More importantly, our new government should implement a de-radicalization program and make it mandatory for returned Talibans to go through a process of unlearning violence and embracing the values of democracy.

(d) Holding of peoples’ assemblies - Within the first 100 days of the new government, we ask our new President and his Cabinet to hold consultations with the most marginalized sectors of our society to discuss five priority outcomes that his administration would deliver to them in the first year of his incumbency. The most marginalized sectors of society have been suffering and left out for so long. The new President should ensure that they are represented in the civil service and other machineries of government.

Likewise, we urge people in the media to be more truthful and unforgiving in reporting the misdeeds of public officials and all enemies of human rights, democracy and peace. The Afghan people are behind you, and it is your moral obligation to keep our citizens well-informed so that they may be able to actively participate in bringing about good governance in the country.

Lastly, we request the international community to link their funding assistance with a commitment from our new government to include women in the highest levels of decision making and show results in the implementation of its commitments on women’s rights. A 30 percent representation of women in the Cabinet, civil service, local governments, business establishments, etc. has been a shortfall of the past administration. We request the international community to urge our new government to fulfill this commitment before 2018. Also, please help us fight for a six- year moratorium on the amendment of existing gender equality provisions in the Constitution, laws, and policies and a ban on the introduction of new laws that are inconsistent with the current policy frameworks on gender equality.

Afghanistan is the only country we will ever have as Afghans. Our heroes had done their part to secure a better life for us today. It is now our turn to light the fire of heroism in the hearts of everyone - to fight the enemies of the people, to help our new government serve us well, and show to the world that we are worthy of support and respect as a nation.