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Peace won’t be found in silence or fear, says AIHRC chair 

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(Last Updated On: February 28, 2021)

One year ago today – February 28 – Afghans were buoyed by the signing of the US-Taliban agreement in Doha, which they hoped would bring peace. Instead, today, a year later, targeted killings have spiked leaving thousands of civil society activists, government officials, journalists and even doctors fearing for their lives. 

Shaharzad Akbar, the chair of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC), wrote in an op-ed piece, published in the Washington Post, that “every night, I lie awake wondering who will be next. I think of a colleague whose teenage son checks his car every morning for magnetic bombs. A husband saying goodbye to his wife as she leaves for work, wondering if today will be the day she is killed on her way to the office.”

She said that a year after the deal was signed, instead of ushering in peace “one of the most tangible changes has been an increase in targeted killings, mostly unclaimed, that have created an environment of terror and fear. 

“There were nearly three times the number of such attacks in 2020 compared with 2019; the casualties include the deaths of 11 human rights defenders and media workers in the past five months,” she wrote. 

Akbar pointed out that some of Afghanistan’s most important gains, its activists, community leaders and scholars, are being silenced at a time when, after the US-Taliban deal, Afghans had hoped for a reduction in violence and for inclusive intra-Afghan negotiations.

“While the Taliban denies involvement in most targeted attacks, it benefits from the environment of fear and hopelessness around the peace process and the lack of critical voices demanding an inclusive peace. 

“This reign of terror for Afghan civilians must end in order for a real peace process to begin,” Akbar wrote. 

She also pointed out that as the United States reviews its Afghanistan policy, it still has leverage — including the existing UN sanctions on the Taliban, the Taliban’s desire for international recognition and legitimacy, and the presence of international forces in Afghanistan — to help stop these attacks and encourage a ceasefire and an inclusive peace process.

She stated that her AIHRC colleagues know what it is to feel terror as the organization has lost three of its staff members in the past 18 months.

Akbar pointed out that these high levels of violence are forcing families to flee the country. 

“Every day I hear of another friend, journalist, academic, women’s rights activist or businessperson leaving the country. Their departures are creating an absence that will take another generation to fill. Those who can’t leave feel silenced by fear and have little chance of influencing the peace process,” she wrote.

Akbar also noted that it has been years since the last mass demonstration by Afghans – “for fear of attacks”. 

She also said that following the recent wave of assassinations, public debate has closed down, even in the virtual sphere. “This is even more true beyond Kabul, in rural areas where conflict has been the most savage.”

Akbar stated that while US President Joe Biden’s team has signaled that it will withdraw its last troops as per the agreement with the Taliban, if the group reduces violence. she said: “This is welcome but not enough. Even with overall violence levels down, targeted killings are silencing the voices needed to build pressure for peace.”

“The United States does not want Afghanistan to collapse into a catastrophic civil war as soon as it withdraws, after 20 years of assistance. But the narrow focus of the US-Taliban deal ignored the wider needs of the peace process, including the importance of civic space and the protection of civilians. This approach should be urgently reconsidered in Biden’s review,” she said.

Akbar stated that public participation is not a bonus that is “nice to have” but rather an inclusive process that builds momentum for peace and boosts the credibility of the process. 

Bringing traditional and nontraditional civil society voices to the table from across Afghanistan will bring a sense of urgency and bottom-up pressure on the parties.

She also stated that public participation can best be guaranteed through a ceasefire and that the US and its allies should utilize their leverage with both sides and the region to continue to push for an interim and immediate ceasefire that will create an opportunity for national engagement. 

“An immediate end to targeted killings, a ceasefire and the restoration of civic space will allow for broader inclusion in the talks, reviving hope and confidence in the process,” she said.

Akbar stated that the US can encourage the Taliban and the Afghan government to create this enabling environment for peace. Afghans could then force hope back onto the table.

“We will not find peace in silence and fear,” Akbar stated.

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Wang Yi meets Pakistan’s FM, calls for inclusive political system in Afghanistan

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(Last Updated On: May 23, 2022)

China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi met with his Pakistani counterpart Bilawal Bhutto Zardari on Sunday in Beijing to discuss the situation in Afghanistan.

According to a statement issued by China’s Foreign Ministry, the two sides stressed the need to establish a comprehensive political structure and protect the rights of women and children in Afghanistan.

Pakistan media reported they agreed that peace and stability in Afghanistan is vital for regional development and prosperity.

They called upon the Afghan interim government to develop a broad-based and inclusive political structure, adopt moderate and sound internal and external policies, and protect the rights of women and children.

The statement meanwhile noted they also called on the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) to prevent Afghanistan from posing a threat to its neighboring countries.

Meanwhile, the IEA stated that it has all the conditions of global legitimacy and governs the entire country. It called on neighboring countries, the region and the world to expand their interactions and cooperation with the new Afghan government instead of worrying about the situation in Afghanistan.

“In our country, a system has been established that supports all the people of the country and provides security, and has completed all the international standards that are necessary for legitimacy, and now it is time for all countries in the region and the world to come forward and start formal interactions and make progress on political, economic and humanitarian issues,” an IEA official said.

Both sides meanwhile called on the international community to help avert a humanitarian crisis and to honor the pledges it made on Afghanistan’s economic reconstruction and future development.

“We must build our government in such a way that the same pressure and punishments on the Afghan people and the attack on the Afghan people and the Afghan land are eliminated and the Afghan people live their lives with dignity with other countries of the world,” said Sayed Ishaq Gailani, leader of the Afghanistan Solidarity Movement.

The Chinese and Pakistani foreign ministers also agreed to expand the China-Pakistan economic corridor (CPEC) to Afghanistan in consultation with the IEA.

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India shouldn’t retain ties with Afghanistan’s previous rulers, says IEA

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(Last Updated On: May 23, 2022)

India should sever all ties with the former Ashraf Ghani government and establish ties with Afghanistan based on national and mutual interests, said Suhail Shaheen, head of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’s (IEA) political office in Doha.

In an exclusive interview with India’s ThePrint news organization, Shaheen said India should seek to have deeper ties with the people of Afghanistan and should reopen its embassy in Kabul.

He said that the IEA was committed to providing full security to Indian diplomats.

“We have announced time and again that it is our commitment to provide security to all diplomats working in Kabul. It is our responsibility and we have proved that. There are many embassies working in Kabul and we have provided full security to them. That also includes India if they want to open their embassy”, Shaheen told ThePrint.

He also said India is welcome to complete projects in Afghanistan or initiate new ones.

However, he said India should “not have relations and base all their relations on the individual lens of those officials of the former Kabul administration who are now in western countries living along with their families.”

India shut down its embassy in Kabul in August 2021 when the IEA took over Kabul. Prior to that, India had also closed down its consulates in Mazar-i-Sharif, Kandahar, Herat, and Jalalabad.

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A number of exiled politicians show interest in IEA’s contact commission

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(Last Updated On: May 23, 2022)

A day after the official launch and announcement of planned talks with exiled politicians and military personnel, a number of well-known figures from the previous government say they are ready to sit at the negotiating table, but before that the IEA must make sure that all tribes of Afghanistan are included in the country’s future system.

The presence of men and women from all ethnic groups in Afghanistan in the future political system is one of the basic conditions of these exiled politicians.

“We are ready for negotiations. I cannot say everything on TV, but whatever the result is of negotiations and the understanding, we will be committed to it, but one thing is to accept the general principle. We have to take into account the vote of the people, whether men or women, and all the tribes and all ethnicities and religions present in Afghanistan should consider themselves the owners of this country,” said Muhammad Mohaqiq, leader of the People’s Islamic Unity Party of Afghanistan.

Experts also say however that a number of politicians will not accept the plan that was prepared for the return of these personalities.

According to them, the work of the commission will be difficult without the presence of people outside the IEA.

“People in this commission, other than the Taliban (IEA ) should be included in this commission in order to gain the trust of the people. It’s one-sided, people no longer believe in the commission, and it cuts political participation to the farthest, which is not a good result,” said Moien Gul Samkanai, chairman of Rights and Justice Party.

The plan, which was unveiled on Saturday by the IEA’s contact commission, does not say whether it will provide the opportunity for political figures to return to politics or participate in government, but only that their lives and property will be safe, and their legitimate demands will to be accepted.

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