Afghanistan’s chief executive boycotts Taliban peace talk meeting

Afghan Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah. (AP file photo)
Updated 14 April 2019

Afghanistan’s chief executive boycotts Taliban peace talk meeting

  • President wants meeting on how to make peace with Taliban
  • Divisions in Afghan unity government

KABUL: Afghanistan’s chief executive said Sunday he would boycott an assembly, or loya jirga, proposed by President Ashraf Ghani on how to make peace with the Taliban.

Dr. Abdullah Abdullah's decision is a further setback for Ghani, who has been excluded from all peace talks between the Taliban and US officials in recent months. The president had called for a jirga in order to lay the framework and conditions for talks with the insurgents.

But Abdullah said he and his party members had not been consulted by Ghani about the gathering, which will bring thousands of delegates and tribal chiefs from across Afghanistan on April 29 to advise the government on the negotiations.

Abdullah, whose ties with Ghani have been shaky since the creation of a power-sharing national unity government in 2014, said he did not see it “helpful to overcome the current challenges in the country.”

His boycott shows new divisions in the government, which was created in a US-brokered deal after 2014 polls.

“We in the Stability and Partnership team have not been involved in any consultation, neither at political party nor individual level, nor at the government level,” a statement cited Abdullah as saying.

“The Stability and Partnership team led by … Abdullah announces that members of the team will not attend the meeting named ‘Consultative Jirga on Peace.’”

Members of the team, which has fielded at least one nominee for September’s presidential race against Ghani, told Arab News they would not attend the jirga either.

Haroon Chakhansuri, a presidential spokesman, said the party led by Abdullah had not shared its concern with the president and that the two leaders would meet to discuss the issue.

Earlier Sunday, disagreements delayed once again a meeting of a newly established reconciliation council with the president for finalizing a delegation for the upcoming meeting with the Taliban in Qatar set for April 19.

The council was set up by Ghani and involves the country’s factions and civil society members. Ghani established it following repeated calls by US envoy Zalamy Khalilzad to form an inclusive team for talks with the Taliban, after Ghani came under fire for creating an earlier version that included his supporters and was not seen as inclusive.

Khalilzad has led almost all talks with the Taliban. These have mostly been held in Qatar. During the last round he discussed the pullout of US troops and a Taliban guarantee that Afghanistan would not pose a threat to any country or US interests when the troops left.

Some politicians said the government opposed the participation of its political rivals in Qatar.

“The government appoints those on the list who work in the government, but we the politicians suggest that there is a need for an Afghan delegation which could represent all of Afghanistan,” politician Ahmadullah Alizai told reporters.

Abdullah’s boycott and disagreement in the leadership council showed how complicated and difficult it was for Ghani “to bring everyone around the table to make the process possible,” Bilal Sarwary, a senior Afghan journalist, told Arab News.


Hague hearing offers ray of hope to Bangladesh’s Rohingya

Updated 10 December 2019

Hague hearing offers ray of hope to Bangladesh’s Rohingya

  • International Court of Justice seeks to address atrocities committed by Myanmar

DHAKA: Several members of the Rohingya community in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar expressed optimism on Monday that the International Court of Justice (ICJ) would rule in their favor once it began its three-day hearing against Myanmar on Tuesday.

The case was filed by Gambia on behalf of all Muslim nations from the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) with the ICJ over the alleged persecution of the Rohingya by the Myanmar military.

On Nov. 18, the court decided to hold the hearings from Dec.10 to 12. Gambia’s justice minister will lead his country during the hearings.

Both Canada and Bangladesh have been supporting Gambia by providing different data and information regarding the atrocities against the Rohingya.

Myanmar’s state councillor and its de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, has already reached  the Netherlands to lead the defense lawyers on behalf of her country at the ICJ.

Bangladesh Foreign Secretary Shahidul Haque will remain present at the courtroom to witness the process.

He will lead a 20-member team, comprising government officials and civil society representatives.

Rohingya at Cox’s Bazar are highly optimistic of securing justice at the ICJ.

“We think justice will be ensured because all international human rights groups, different UN organizations and the international community have got evidence of the persecution on the Rohingya. All of them have visited the refugee camps many times and listened to the plight of the Rohingya,” Sawyed Ullah, a community leader from Jamtoli, told Arab News.

“Also, we have strong evidences of atrocities committed by the Myanmar government to root out the Rohingya from their birth place, Rakhine,” Ullah added.

“Without ensuring accountability, there will not be any safety and justice in Rakhine. Once the accountability is restored,  all of us will be able to go back home.”

Ramjan Ali, another refugee from the Kutupalang camp, said: “Myanmar’s government has forcibly displaced the Rohingya from their own land and that compelled us to shelter here at the refugee camps. Isn’t it enough evidence to justify our allegations against the Myanmar government?”

Ramjan Ali added: “Still the situation in Rakhine is very bad as we receive information from our relatives over there. We need protection from the international forces before any repatriation, and the ICJ’s decision will be helpful for us in this regard.”

Rohingya human rights activist Nay San Lwin, co-founder of the German-based Free Rohingya Coalition described the ICJ’s move as historic.

“It is first ever since we are persecuted. We have been seeking for justice since very long time,” Lwin told Arab News, adding that “finally the case is now at the world court and although it will take several years we are now excited for provisional measures from the court.”

Lwin, along with some 200 Rohingya rights activists from around the world, is set to hold a protest rally at the Hague from Dec. 11 during the ICJ’s hearing.

“We are expecting very much from the ICJ. Regardless whether Myanmar follows the decisions of the court this will have a huge impact. There won’t be any other justice mechanisms if this international court of justice can’t ensure the justice for us,” added Lwin.

Expressing his frustration on the repatriation process, Lwin said that the Myanmar government still had a “genocidal policy” on the Rohingya.

“I don’t think repatriation of the Rohingya will take place soon unless the government is considering to fulfill our demands,” he said.

The ICJ’s final decision will hold strong significance as any decisions taken by the ICJ are binding on member states.

Both Gambia and Myanmar are signatories of the Genocide Convention.