October 23, 2014

Afghan Peace Process and Minorities’ Concerns

By Khaama Press - Tue Mar 05 2013, 9:11 am

By Mohammad Rasouli

Mazar-e-Sharif, AfghanistanAfghanistan, a country with a weak central government, rampant corruption, deep ethnic divisions within its society, has been trying to break the peace stalemate since the start of the second term presidency of president Karzai in 2009. Since its beginning, it has been a challenging process and all parties involved are getting more and more concerned about the future, especially minorities (Tajik, Hazara, Uzbek, and the other groups of minorities) who are kept in the dark by both the government and the international community.

Since the last decade, the minorities have gained some of their denied rights, which would have been impossible without support of the international community. For example, in 2004, the constitution recognized both Shia and Sunni sects as equal. The constitution grants “the Followers of other religions are free to exercise their faith and perform their religious rites within the limits of the provisions of law”. Also, Dari and Uzbeki languages are now considered as national languages in the constitution. Minorities sacrificed a lot to meet this. But the withdrawal of coalition forces, in 2014, has brought fears of losing these achievements.

However, according to the ministry of defense of the United States “NATO Allies are discussing keeping a training force of between 8,000 and 12,000 troops in Afghanistan after most foreign soldiers leave in 2014”. But the minorities are concerning the government and the international community will sacrifice their Rights just to make a peace settlement. If we look back to the background of the insurgence groups, particularly the Taliban, we’ll see that their policies have completely been against Minorities Rights and Women Rights.

Since the Taliban and the other insurgence groups haven’t mentioned anything about their past policies and their future polices if they join the government. This concerns the minorities and particularly women, who have experienced decades of suppression.

One of the key factors that make the peace process very difficult is the insurgence groups’ unwillingness to accept the current constitution. They insist that the constitution is against Islam and their beliefs. They say it is unacceptable for them but they don’t say specifically which part of the constitution is against their beliefs. Experts believe the insurgence groups are against Minorities Rights in the constitution.

There is very little transparency around the status of the peace process with neither parts talking honestly about their stance on the issues. The government and the international community are being lenient towards the insurgence groups in order to convince them to join the current government, while insurgence groups don’t show any interest in this process even after the opening of a political office in Qatar which gave them more legitimacy. It seems like they are just passing time.

Some experts claim the Taliban with the support of Pakistan and its other supporters in Arab countries are waiting for the withdrawal of coalition forces in 2014. At this time they expect to have more bargaining power.

After more than 10 years, there is a little hope that minorities’ demands are falling on receptive ears ever since the Paris Conference held by the Paris-based Foundation for Strategic Research (FRS). The Paris conference was the first Intra-Afghan meeting held with presence of Hazara, Uzbek, Tajik, and Women Rights representatives also with representatives from the Islamic party and the Taliban. However, the meeting was just an introductory meeting rather than a negotiation, and no joint statement was issued. It was only the beginning of a long process.

In a government that has only recently been diversified by the presence of some minorities in positions of power, there is concerning that if the insurgence groups join the incurrent government, in 2014, they will take revenge against minorities, because the minorities are supporting a government that is fighting with them.

In closing, the Afghan government and the international community should consider the minorities’ concerns and approach involvement in the peace process with greater caution. This otherwise makes losing the achievements that came at the cost of money and the blood of both Afghans and members of the international community.

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