The Possible Causes of Stalled Negotiations in Doha

Since the start of direct talks between Taliban and Afghanistan Government delegations in September last year, very little or no progress has been made and the parties looks still very much far apart from achieving tangible results any time soon while the innocent people of Afghanistan are paying high price on daily bases.

Before discussing some of the possible causes of its failure, let’s try and understand, what is required from us as Muslims in such a situation that we make peace between two opposing persons, parties or communities for that matter?

“The believers are nothing but brothers, so make peace between your two brothers and beware of Allah that perhaps you may be shown mercy”. (Al- Hujarat: 10).

And, noble and rewarding indeed is the act of making peace and reconciling between two warring parties. In fact, the act of making peace is superior to voluntary fasting and Sunnah and Nafil prayer.

The noble Prophet (S.A.W.) said:

“Shall I not tell you of something that is better than fasting, prayer and charity?” They said yes. He said” reconciling between two people, for the corruption of that which is between the hearts is the shaver(destroyer), it is the shaver, and I do not say that it shaves hair, rather that it shaves religious commitments”.(Al-Tirmidhi-hasan).

Subhanallah, reconciling is better than fasting, prayer and charity! That just goes to show how important is for us to reconcile between people. In fact it is so important, although lying is haram in itself; yet, Allah has permitted even lying in order to reconcile between people and to remove discord and conflict. This is because of the negative consequences conflicts and arguments have, on the religious commitments of individuals as well as communities.

However, while making peace between disputing parties, one has to remember that, Islam has a particular methodology and approach to this issue. It is not a matter of simple ‘conflict resolution’. We cannot simply negotiate and compromise until we reach something agreeable to both of them, because it may very well be unjust or not in accordance to Islamic principles. As Muslims, we include Allah into the equation.

Instead of elevating the two parties in relation to each other, we have to examine each of them in relation to what pleases Allah (S.W.T.). For, it is quite possible for two Muslims to be in dispute with each other and yet, neither of their positions is acceptable according to Sharia, even if the other side were to accept it. So when two Muslims or two groups of Muslims disagree or fight, it is upon us the, Ummah, to call all of them to what Allah (S.W.T.) said:

If two groups of believers get into a fight then make good that which is between them. Then, if one side transgresses against the other, fight the transgressors until they turn to the order of Allah. If they so return, then make good that which is between them with justice and be equitable. Surely, Allah loves those who are equitable”. (Al-Hujarat: 9).

With the above back ground in mind, one cannot dispute the fact that, there is not only a need, but necessary to have mediators in order to assist and guide the conflicting parties through the process of peace making and reconciliation.

In my humble opinion, some of the shortcomings and possible causes of failure or stalled negotiations between warring parties in Doha are as follows:

  • The absence of credible, honest and neutral mediator/s, experts in sharia law, and acceptable to all sides and neutral venue. I believe our country is very rich and have many great personalities who are experts both in Sharia and traditional Afghan cultural and traditional means of conflict resolutions. As far as the venue is concerned, experience from many other parts of the World have shown that, negotiating inside own country have produced better results than those which has been conducted outside the country. One of the reasons, I suppose, is that negotiating inside the country will limit the external influence on the negotiating teams. Besides, it will provide a better opportunity for members of negotiating teams to look to issues at hand in the context in which our people find themselves. This will, I believe, in many ways assist to see the urgency for peace and speed up the process.
  • Beside Taliban and Afghanistan government, there are many other groups and formations of Afghan society, the silent majority, who are sidelined and not represented at the negotiating table.
  • Although both sides agree on the Islamic government system for future in Afghanistan, but there are many terms and terminology that need to be clearly defined by both sides and details shared with broader society. For example, Islamic Emirate, Islamic republic its nature and system, the role of Parliament, judiciary, independent institutions, elections or selections, presidential or Parliamentary system etc. I suggest the issue of choosing name for the future government should be left for the majority of Afghans to decide and must not be imposed on general public by negotiating parties.
  • The absence of clarity and transparency regarding these important issues of type of government, transfer of power to transitional authority to prepare the ground for free and fair elections, terms and conditions and the life span of transitional government and most importantly, the issue of ceasefire which is very important and close to the hearts of our people are evidence, at least for some, that both sides are not genuinely committed or seeking a negotiated settlement for the future of Afghanistan.
  • Many analysts and members of society believe and the perception has been created, whether true or false is not the subject of our discussion for now, that, the negotiating parties in Doha lack independence. The parties have to try and proof in action, their independence beyond reasonable doubt and demonstrate that, it is Afghan owned and Afghan driven process.
  • Many Afghans are beginning to think that, the warring factions are giving preference to party political interest and power over peace, unity, reconciliation and national interest. The new additional dimension of “popular uprising” in some parts of the country against Taliban, justifiable or otherwise, is surely going to prolong the conflict and drag the country to a civil war. More so it is going to delegitimize the reasons for which the parties are basing their argument for armed struggle against each other.
  • One of the most important causes of stalled negotiations, many experts will agree, is the lack of any meaningful gesture of goodwill from those who are directly involved in negotiations and many others who are outside this process and jostling to secure some privileges for themselves or their political parties in the future dispensations or, perhaps, serving their masters as some of them has done in the past.

In conclusion, one can say that, in the absence of experts’ mediators and neutral venue, participation of the ‘silent majority’ representatives, the lack of clarity and definitions of certain terms and concepts, lack of real commitment from all involved to peace and peaceful transition. Most importantly without reaching a ceasefire in order to gain the trust of each other and the people of Afghanistan for whom they are claiming to be fighting, I’m afraid one cannot expect any tangible outcome from such negotiations any time soon. Sadly, from whatever angle one look at this devastating conflict, the victims are men, women and children of our country and those who are fueling the conflict are mostly safe with their families.

Therefore, we would like to appeal to all involved to work hard towards reaching a ceasefire first , giving our war torn country and its people a real hope for peace. Refer all unresolved issues to Quran and Sunnah. No one can reach a peaceful settlement under the barrel of a gun but in the light of Quranic and Prophetic teachings. Let us learn from failed and disturbing events of our resent past and place our trust in Allah the Almighty so that we can gain once again our past glory as a proud and peace-loving nation in the World. Our brothers on both sides should cease this golden opportunity to achieve peace so that Allah have mercy on all of us Insha Allah. Otherwise we will be responsible for the suffering of our people to Allah and the history will judge us very harshly.

May Allah the Almighty guide and protect the negotiating teams and soften their hearts to reach a peaceful outcome. May Allah the Almighty have mercy on our beloved country Afghanistan and its wonderful people?

By: Ubaidullah Safi

Director of Eng. Jan Muhammad Sadiq Foundation for Peace, Justice and Reconciliation- Afghanistan

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