Afghan president proposes constitution review and truce as part of peace bid with Taliban

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani proposed a ceasefire and a release of prisoners, saying he would be ready to accept a review of the constitution as part of a pact with the Taliban. (Reuters)
Updated 28 February 2018

Afghan president proposes constitution review and truce as part of peace bid with Taliban

KABUL: Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani on Wednesday declared his readiness to review the constitution and enforce a cease-fire as part of his much-touted peace deal with the Taliban to end the Afghan war.

But Ghani reiterated his long stance that the group must “respect the law” and “recognize” the national unity government that came to power more than three years ago following a deal brokered by the US.

“The national unity government seeks to strike a truthful and sustainable peace deal with conciliatory Taliban,” Ghani said during the launch of a regional conference in Kabul, designed to set up the framework for peace talks.

Based on the offer, Ghani said he would recognize the Taliban as a political group that can take part in the elections, free its inmates following the completion of legal procedures and seek international aid for finding jobs for Taliban combatants following the creation of a “legal framework for peace.”

Ghani preferred Kabul to be the venue for the talks, but said the Taliban could choose any Islamic country. He said Kabul would try to remove sanctions against the Taliban and facilitate its visas and passports to enable its emissaries to participate in the negotiations.

His offer is similar to a peace deal he struck with fugitive Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who abandoned the insurgency after more than four decades of war and joined the government last year.

The Taliban militants could not be reached immediately for comment.

The movement has in the past repeatedly said it is ready to hold talks with Washington, but not with the Afghan government.

Ghani’s offer comes a day after the Taliban said it was ready to speak with Washington to find a peaceful solution.

The Taliban proposal is the second one in two weeks.

Despite a surge of attacks under the new administration in Washington in recent years, the Taliban is able to conduct brazen attacks in urban areas.

Waheed Mozhdah, a political analyst who has taken part in past indirect talks with the Taliban and knows many of the group’s leaders, said he found nothing new in Ghani’s offer that would persuade the Taliban to join the peace process.

“I carefully listened to the speech and found nothing interesting or new which the Taliban will welcome,” he told Arab News.

“It was just a repeat of what has been said in the past under the name of a new peace plan. When the government says the Taliban needs to recognize the government, that itself is a precondition for the talks.”

Najib Mahmoud, a political science professor in Kabul, believes that the president in his speech was trying to keep a balance between war and peace, but the unity within the national unity government is more important at this stage as “the Taliban are stronger when the government is divided.”

He said: “First the president needs to make peace with regional figures in the north and south who are part of the government and then, from a position of strength, start talks with the Taliban.

“What he said today is nothing new and important, and nothing that would result in peace any time soon as the Taliban are stronger.”

India might resort to covert operations: Pakistan FM

Updated 17 August 2019

India might resort to covert operations: Pakistan FM

  • Qureshi praised the Security Council’s call to all parties to refrain from action that could aggravate the situation

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi warned that India might resort to a “false flag operation” to divert attention from Jammu and Kashmir following a UN Security Council meeting on Friday to discuss the issue.

“To divert international attention, most probably India will resort to some false flag operation. We want to tell the international community that we have doubts about India’s intentions. We know their plans and the nation is ready for it,” he said.

In a letter to the Security Council on Aug. 13, Qureshi asked for an urgent meeting on Jammu and Kashmir after its special autonomous status was revoked by India. Indian-administered Kashmir has remained under lockdown, with phone and internet services suspended since the decision on Aug. 5.

Following the Security Council meeting Qureshi addressed a joint press conference with Pakistan army spokesman Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor, who said that Islamabad was ready to “defend any misadventures on the part of India.”

Pakistan’s Foreign Office had formed a special committee to discuss future action on the issue, Qureshi said.

Kashmir desks will be established at various Pakistani embassies around the world “in order to carry out effective communication on the matter,” he said.

“The committee on Kashmir has members from all concerned parties, including members of opposition parties.” 

Qureshi praised the Security Council’s call to all parties to refrain from action that could aggravate the situation.

“We achieved a milestone yesterday, which shocked India. The Kashmir issue was raised at a platform which is responsible for resolving the dispute,” he said.

The foreign minister commended the “indomitable and unbroken spirit” of residents in Indian-administered Kashmir, saying that despite the curfew Kashmiris came out of their houses on Friday to offer special prayers.

“It was a glimpse into their emotions, into what it will be like after the curfew lifts,” he said.

Qureshi said that world bodies have responded positively to Pakistan’s call to discuss the issue. “The Organization of Islamic Cooperation has called for an immediate end to the curfew,” he said.

Discussing India’s move to revoke Article 370 of the constitution, Qureshi said: “Pakistan does not recognize Article 370 of the Indian constitution, it is not our concern. Our concern is with the forceful change in Kashmir’s demographic and violation of the rights of the people of Kashmir.”

Meanwhile, Ghafoor said that the Pakistan army will respond to any act of aggression by India.

“Pakistan is a responsible state, but India has always threatened us. We are planning how to manage the threats from India,” he said.

“At present, the biggest issue in Jammu and Kashmir is human rights violations. The entire region has been turned into a prison,” Ghafoor said.

A former Pakistani ambassador to India, Abdul Basit, backed the foreign minister’s covert operation claim, saying that amid growing international pressure a staged terrorist attack by India could be used to divert attention from Jammu and Kashmir.

He said any direct attack on Pakistan by India would be a huge mistake. “They (India) might have worked out their strategies, but when the situation is so tense, it would not be wise to open another front. The situation will be clearer after the curfew is lifted, but I don’t see direct conflict anytime soon.”

Basit urged Pakistan to arrange an OIC foreign ministers summit in Islamabad as quickly as possible.

“Along with the summit, Pakistan should also hold a convention of Kashmiri diaspora in London or somewhere that can come up with a resolution. Pakistan should also deploy a special envoy on Kashmir,” he said.