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Even as officials continue to talk peace, violence has surged in Afghanistan.
Rohullah Nabizada, a 30-year old police officer and father of two, had returned to his duty in the provincial capital of Ghazni with the hope that peace talks between the United States and the Taliban would lead to the reduction of violence.
His hope was dashed by an explosive-laden Humvee military vehicle on May 22 this year. Nabizada became the first member of his family to lose his life to the ruthless war, already into its 18th year. Like thousands of others, Nabizada was sent back home to his mother in a wooden box.
Each morning, when the sunlight first hits remote Suka village in the Malistan district of Ghazni province, Khadija, Nabizada’s mother, cannot wash her face without crying. Her son is buried right in front of their house, on the top of a hill dedicated to fallen soldiers. The sorrow goes deep and she falls apart regularly.“They [the Taliban] are not forgivable,” said Basir Nabizada, father of Rohullah. “We do not forgive them and his mother does not forgive them.”
In July 2018, the United States opened direct talks with the Taliban with the goal of ending the war. But on the ground, the war continues, claiming the lives of members of government security forces and Taliban insurgents alike and deepening the country’s wounds. In late June and early July, violence surged across the country even as Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. special envoy on Afghan reconciliation, sat to talk with the Taliban delegation led by deputy chief Mullah Baradar in Doha, Qatar.
Dr. Orzala Ashraf Nemat, who directs Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unite, said that both the United States and the Taliban want to negotiate from a position of leverage. Thus, as Washington and the Taliban intensified their talks, they also intensified the ruthless combat across the country, Nemat explained.
Smoke rises from the car bomb detonated in Kabul on July 1, 2019. Photo by Ezzatullah Mehrdad.
On July 1, the third day of the seventh round of peace talks between U.S. diplomats and Taliban negotiators, Taliban fighters drove a car packed with explosive devices into a military installation in the capital, Kabul. The attack sent a tower of smoke into the Kabul sky and rocked the entire city.
Following the car bomb, five Taliban fighters exchanged bullets with security forces. The attack saw students of a nearby private school caught in the crossfire, with 52 of them wounded.
Conflicting reports suggested various causality tolls. The government confirmed 16 dead and 105 wounded, including media staff members of local TV channel Shamshahd, a leader in Pashto-language broadcasting. Unverifiable reports suggest the death toll reached as high as 40 people, including security forces and civilians.
On the same day as the Kabul bombing, U.S. senior diplomat Khalilzad announced an intra-Afghan dialogue scheduled for July 7-8.
After talks with the Taliban ended in Doha on July 6, Khalilzad paused negotiations so the intra-Afghan talks could take place. “The last 6 days of talks have been the most productive session to date,” said Khalilzad in a Twitter post.
But on the ground, the six days of talks coincided with bloodshed. Numerous attacks claimed the lives of scores of fighters from both sides. At least 264 pro-government forces and 58 civilians were killed in the country, the highest death toll of 2019, according to the New York Times.
On July 7, even as a select group of Afghan activists, civil society members, and Afghan politicians sat face-to-face with Taliban officials, Taliban fighters loaded a truck with explosives and drove to hit an office of Afghanistan’s intelligence service, the National Directorate of Security (NDS), in Ghazni city, the provincial capital of eastern Ghazni province.
The Taliban-claimed car bomb killed at least 14 people, including eight members of the security forces and six civilians. The attack wounded as many as 179 people, including civilians and schoolchildren attending a nearby school.
“They [U.S. officials] jump to peace,” said Daoud Naji, an independent political activist, who believes that previous peace talks failed because of the lack of a a ceasefire. “There is a fire that burns people. Are you ready to stop firing bullets for two years before any peace agreement?”
Naji called on the Taliban to come to Kabul and open an office to pursue their political interests: “Who knows, I may make a Talib [Taliban fighter] friend and they might see we are also Muslims in Kabul.”
But the Taliban group demands the full withdrawal of foreign troops before any agreeing to hold peace talks with the Afghan government or declare a ceasefire.
Still, many hoped that current peace talks would result in some kind of agreement between the United States and the Taliban. Without reaching any deal over a ceasefire, the Taliban could broker a deal with the United States based on U.S. troop withdrawal and Taliban assurances that Afghanistan’s soil will not be used by terrorist groups to attack the U.S. and its allies.
“It is easy to deal with the U.S.,” said Nazar Mohammad Mutmeen, a political analyst in Kabul. “But making peace with each other in the country is much more complicated.”
The continuation of the simultaneous fight-and-talk policy between the Afghan government and the Taliban could lead to a further surge of violence across the country.
“There is a difference between the political peace process and the social peace process,” said Rahim Hamidi, a peace activist. “The more violence [there is], the less nonviolence works.”
The political peace process has limited the sphere for the social peace process to allow Afghans to come together to make peace with each other, as the intensifying war has only widened the gap between the Afghan government and the Taliban.
During the last two decades of insurgency, around 100,000 people were killed and tens of thousands were wounded. The scars of the war have reached almost every family in the country, making it harder to reconcile those who were fighting for the government and for the Taliban.
Mr. Mutmeen, who was a Taliban official during the group’s rule, said that the victims of the war from both sides want peace more than anybody. “The five members of the Taliban negotiation [team] were imprisoned by the U.S.,” Mutmeen emphasized. “Mullah Baradar [the political deputy chief of the Taliban] is a victim of the war — he was twice wounded in U.S. airstrikes, lost family members, and he was imprisoned for ten years in Pakistan.”
The victims of the war may want the end of the war, but the real reconciliation has remained far distant. Thousands have been killed by suicide bombings, airstrikes, and bullets. Wives lost husbands. Children were orphaned; parents lost their sons and daughters to the war. Sisters lost brothers and brothers lost sisters.
“The gap and wounds have widened too much,” said peace activist Hamidi, who directs a project called Mothers of Peace. “An ice mountain is between the groups involved in the war and it is going to take a great deal of work to bring people together.”
“The Afghan war has also rooted in the social structure of the country,” Hamidi continued. “The culture of revenge has driven this war so long. If you lose a family member to the violence, you seek revenge.”
For now, there is no mechanism to collect the demands of the victims and incorporate them into the peace talks, Hamidi added.
The war has dragged on for so long and caused so much pain that resolving the conflict is now far more complicated than a U.S. troop withdrawal or even an agreement between the Afghan government and the Taliban. The scars of the war remain on the hearts of thousands of countrymen.
In the case of the fallen Rohullah Nabizada, the entire family shows an intense hatred toward the Taliban insurgents. Not only his parents, brothers, and sisters but even his cousins and aunts cannot tolerate seeing the Taliban return to power.
Mohammad Zia Mohseni, a high-school student and cousin of Nabizada, woke up in the early morning to learn that Nabizada had been killed in a Taliban attack. For weeks, he could not believe his cousin was gone. He set a photo of Nabizada as the wallpaper of his smartphone.
“When I hear the name of Taliban, I feel hatred and recall the memories of my cousin,” said Mohseni. “Peace with a terrorist and barbaric group is meaningless. Living with the Taliban in the same city and neighborhood is not imaginable.”
The increasing spate of attacks in Afghanistan by the Taliban once again highlights the grim security situation and extremist group’s true intentions, amid the seventh round of peace talks between the United States and the Taliban in Qatar.
A powerful car bomb explosion by the Taliban on Monday (July 1) in the heart of Kabul city recalled the radical increase of bloodshed in both wars and everyday conflicts. The spiralling attacks in Afghanistan show that the density of everyday violence is proportional to the country’s quest for peace, fuelled by terrorism. Monday’s deadly explosion killing around 40 people and injuring more than 100, including women and children, spells the Taliban’s irrational thirst for a victorious war in Afghanistan.
The epidemic culture of violence in Afghanistan is reflected in the reports of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA). From January 1 to March 31, 2019, UNAMA documented 1,773 civilian casualties (581 deaths and 1,192 injured), including 582 child casualties (150 deaths and 432 injured).
The ravaged history of Afghanistan’s foreign invasions and external influences fuelling terrorism makes it difficult for the country to discover its national identity. Viewing the recent developments, the Taliban has come to the table to negotiate peace in Afghanistan without involving the Afghan government.
Peace and increasingly violent terror attacks by the Taliban are going hand in hand. Vicious extremist attacks, withdrawal of US troops, postponement of elections and inconclusive peace negotiations by the Taliban are subtle signals for Afghanistan in shifting the country’s agenda to an ‘Afghan-led Afghan-owned’ government.
There are many signs of the Taliban’s unwillingness to restore peace in Afghanistan, with its aggressive attitude not fine-tuned with the interests of the people of the country, highlighting political contradictions.
The Taliban’s preconditions involve the withdrawal of U.S and NATO forces, an interim government and setting aside democratic law, clearly indicating that it is bargaining for peace for lethal motives and not actually for the sovereignty of Afghanistan.
The Taliban suicide bombers’ attack in Maroof district in southern Kandahar province on June 29 killed 19 government officials, including Independent Election Commission staff, who were deployed to register voters for the upcoming presidential elections on September 28. The security issue is raised at every stage, with catastrophic conditions created by Taliban factions while negotiating peace.
It is important to understand who are the major players in destabilising Afghanistan. The Taliban insurgents have been receiving external support from other countries and one among them is Pakistan, which involves the re-emergence of the Pakistan-Taliban.
Pakistan, which has been on the back foot after the Balakot attack, now wants to assert itself in the region. With the regressive Pakistani policy on Afghanistan, a variety of terrorism rears its head time and again, interfering in the political and economic integration of the South Asian region.
Pakistan’s destructive potential for state sponsorship of terrorism in Afghanistan is apparent from it giving refuge to Taliban leaders in Pakistan, the deportation of Afghan Taliban leaders and the supply of arms and ammunition to the Taliban in Afghanistan. The blurring of lines between war and peace is currently drifting in the wrong direction.
The United States’ role to end the 18 years of bloodshed in Afghanistan must bring a constructive outcome while negotiating with the Taliban. They cannot decide or completely rely on irrational ideologies of the Taliban for an absolute ceasefire. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s peace proposal at the Kabul Conference last year outlined a peace deal titled ‘Offering Peace: Framing the Kabul Conference,’ with a clear, altruistic motive catering for the welfare of the country and people of Afghanistan.
Ghani’s offer of a peace deal with the Taliban included (a) constitutional rights of all citizens (especially women) being ensured (b) Constitutional reforms being undertaken through constitutional provisions (c) defence and security forces and civil services functioning according to the law and (d) no armed groups with ties to transnational criminal organisations, or with state/non-state actors, seeking influence in Afghanistan, to be allowed.
A peace deal, and peace in Afghanistan, would be a distant dream if the Taliban do not give up violence. The Taliban’s intention is to re-establish their regime with the support of Pakistan and other external terrorist factions. The Taliban has to come to meaningful terms with the government through a democratic process in Afghanistan.
An IMF report said without bold reforms, Pakistan’s economy will remain critical given its largely unaddressed weak tax administration and tough business environment.
Pakistan is facing “significant economic challenges” due to a weak and unbalanced growth and that its economy is at a critical juncture where it needs an ambitious and bold set of reforms, the IMF has said.
Cash-strapped Pakistan, which currently has a currency reserve of less than USD 8 billion — enough to cover only 1.7 months of imports — approached the Washington-based International Monetary Fund (IMF) in August 2018 for a bailout package after the Imran Khan government took over.
The global lender last week formally approved the USD 6 billion loan to Pakistan, which is facing “significant” economic challenges on the back of “large” fiscal and financial needs and “weak and unbalanced” growth.
“Pakistan is facing significant economic challenges on the back of large fiscal and financial needs and weak and unbalanced growth,” David Lipton, First Deputy Managing Director and Acting Chair of the IMF Executive Board said.
Last week, the IMF approved the 13th bailout package for Pakistan since the late 1980s.
The latest bailout package is worth USD 6 billion, of which USD 1 billion is to be disbursed immediately and the rest in the next three years.
A decisive fiscal consolidation is key to reducing the large public debt and building resilience, and the adoption of the fiscal year 2020 budget is an important initial step, Lipton said.
Achieving the fiscal objectives will require a multi-year revenue mobilisation strategy to broaden the tax base and raise tax revenue in a well-balanced and equitable manner, he said.
It will also require a strong commitment by the provinces to support the consolidation effort and effective public financial management to improve the quality and efficiency of public spending, he said.
Observing that protecting the most vulnerable from the impact of adjustment policies will be an important priority, Lipton said that this will be achieved by a significant increase in resources allocated to key social assistance programmes, supporting measures for the economic empowerment of women and investment in areas where poverty is high.
A flexible market-determined exchange rate and an adequately tight monetary policy will be key to correcting imbalances, rebuilding reserves and keeping inflation low, he said, adding that an ambitious agenda to strengthen institutions and remove impediments to growth will allow Pakistan to reach its full economic potential.
In an accompanying report, the IMF said that Pakistan’s economy is at a critical juncture.
The legacy of misaligned economic policies, including large fiscal deficits, loose monetary policy and defence of an overvalued exchange rate, fuelled consumption and short-term growth in recent years, but steadily eroded macroeconomic buffers, increased external and public debt, and depleted international reserves.
Structural weaknesses remained largely unaddressed, including a chronically weak tax administration, a difficult business environment, inefficient and loss making state-owned enterprises, amid a large informal economy.
“Without urgent policy action, economic and financial stability could be at risk, and growth prospects will be insufficient to meet the needs of a rapidly growing population,” the IMF said.
The Fund-supported programme is expected to coalesce broader support from multilateral and bilateral creditors in excess of USD 38 billion, which is crucial for Pakistan to meet its large financing needs in the coming years, it added.
Pakistan has so far received billions in financial aid packages from friendly countries like China, Saudi Arabia and the UAE during the current fiscal year.
Amid reports in Pakistani media that Prime Minister Imran Khan has been invited for the Eastern Economic Forum (EEF) to be held in Vladivostok, Russia from September 4 to 6, Moscow has put out a statement to clarify that he is not on the guest list
A statement issued by the Information and Press Department of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said, We drew attention to the publications in a number of South Asian media that the Prime Minister of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan Imran Khan was invited to the events of the Eastern Economic Forum (WEF-5) in Vladivostok (September 4-6, this year) as the guest of honour. We would like to give some explanations in this regard...
The statement comes at a time when Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been invited as the guest of honour’ to EEF 2019.
This year, a representative delegation of India will take part in the Forum’s events led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, said Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of India to the Russian Federation Venkatesh Varma.
Listing out those world leaders who have been invited, the statement released on Monday said, We expect that the President of Mongolia H Battulga, the Prime Minister of India N.Modi, the Prime Minister of Malaysia M. Mohammad and the Prime Minister of Japan S Abe will arrive in the capital of Primorye.
Sources tell India Today TV the same has been conveyed by Moscow to New Delhi. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been invited
Advisor to the President of the Russian Federation Anton Kobyakov and Indian ambassador to Russia Venkatesh Varma met in Moscow where the two sides discussed preparations for the participation of the Indian delegation.
The meeting noted that Russian-Indian strategic cooperation is a unique example of trust relations between the two powers, read a statement from Moscow.
I am confident that the participation of prime minister is to bring the level of trade and investment cooperation between our countries in the Far Eastern region to a whole new level. India’s extensive and representative participation in the work of the forum will contribute to closer cooperation between our countries, not only in the economic but also in the humanitarian area, said Anton Kobyakov after the meeting with the Indian envoy.
To prepare for the participation in the EEF 2019 and to enhance Russian-Indian cooperation, Narendra Modi commissioned several business missions to the Far East consisting of Indian business and regional representatives. Up to five Indian state governors are to participate in the missions, a statement from the organiser of the forum, said. Roscongress Foundation,
Further, the parties discussed the preparation of the 20th annual RussiaIndia summit.
Pakistan People's Party (PPP) Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said Tuesday the attacks on Parliament were being carried out from inside the Parliament itself.
The law does not permit suspending the standing committees' sessions, Bilawal noted.
A day prior, a notification from the National Assembly Secretariat had stated that Speaker Asad Qaiser suspended the standing committees' meetings and advised that they be called during the NA sessions.
The NA Secretariat notification had cited austerity as the reason behind its move. Sources, on the other hand, revealed that the suspension was announced due to the members of the National Assembly (MNAs) in custody as they attended standing committees' sessions on the basis of production orders.
The PPP chair strongly criticised the decision of Qaiser, the NA speaker, and said the government needed to understand that running the Parliament was not at all similar to playing a cricket match.
If the Parliament was run in a manner similar to how it is at the moment, the Opposition would soon be out of options, Bilawal warned. The speaker needs to immediately rescind his order.