Abdullah Haiwad, Afghanistan Governors’ Assembly chief, says peace in Afghan is related to peace in India.
NEW DELHI: The Sunday Guardian spoke to Dr Abdullah Haiwad, President of the Afghanistan Governors’ Assembly (ASA), a prominent Kabul-based body of 66 former and present governors of the country. Haiwad, who was the Governor of Ghor province in Afghanistan, spoke about why India needs to be involved in the Afghanistan peace process and why Taliban does Pakistan’s bidding. Excerpts:
Q: How would you describe the present situation in Afghanistan?
A: Afghanistan is currently going through a tough time. The current political and security situation is worrying as the elections results are still unknown. We had hoped that things will change for better after the elections are held, but due to Pakistan’s interference in our internal and security affairs, it has caused a lot of concern among the general public.
Q: There is a lot of speculation regarding why the US-Taliban talks failed at the last moment. What is your understanding of the issue?
A:We hoped that the talks would end Afghan miseries as we were very close to getting results of the peace talks after 40 years of war. However, with a single tweet from President Donald Trump, everything fell apart. The peace process was based on a four-point strategy made by the US government: 1. US government direct talks with Taliban; 2. US forces’ withdrawal from Afghanistan; 3. Intra Afghan dialogue between the Afghan government, politicians and Taliban; and 4. Promise of ceasefire under which the Taliban had to stop attacks on the Afghan government and the Afghan government had to stop attacks on Taliban until a peace plan was drafted.
As far as we know, Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad (US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation) had accepted “Emirates government of Taliban” (Taliban wanted Afghanistan to be recognised as “Emirates of Afghanistan” as Afghanistan was called when Taliban was in power in 2000) and not Islamic republic of Afghanistan as it is called currently. However, this was not acceptable to the Afghan government.
Khalilzad also prioritised peace over elections, something which President Ghani was against. The increase in pressure by Taliban (like the attacks on US and Afghan security forces) to get a bigger share in the peace talks and hence force the US to accept more of its demands, pushed the US government towards ending the peace talks in order to bring some sense into the Taliban.
Q: The Taliban, repeatedly and at various forums, have said that they do not take any instructions from Pakistan. How would you respond to this?
A: Pakistan created Taliban and issues regular instructions to Taliban ever since they were created. Taliban doesn’t have the financial resource to sustain itself and they rely fully on Pakistan’s ISI and military for weapons, cash to pay its foot soldiers and also for other expenses.
This amount runs into hundreds of millions of US dollars and Pakistan keeps paying it because they use the Taliban to keep a weak neighbour (Afghanistan) on one side of their border, while they use terror groups to keep pressure on India on Kashmir on the other side of its border.
Q: Recently, three top ranking Taliban leaders—one of them related to the Haqqani network—was released in a prisoner swap. How do you see this development?
A: The Haqqani network is a chain of commands whose control lies with a heavily armed terrorist organisation which has killed Afghans by the thousands. It is utterly disgusting that to get the US’ and Pakistan’s favour for election results, President Ghani chose to release these die-hard terrorists.
Q: Have the US forces weakened the Haqqani network?
A: The Haqqani network is a subsidiary of Pakistani, a terrorist organisation that is supported by the ISI. Any action against the Haqqani network is a direct threat to Pakistan’s ISI and its international operations.
The US government never took any action against the Haqqani network, but abandoned check posts which were controlled by them on the imaginary Durand line to the Pakistani forces as a result of which Haqqani and other terrorist organisations now freely operate against Afghanistan and also move towards central Asia and Russia. A simple example of this is the recent attack on a post on the Tajikistan side.
Q: On Twitter, you have spoken about Afghanistan supporting a separate Balochistan. Is this just rhetoric or a part of Afghanistan’s national policy?
A: When I speak of free Balochistan, it is not as if we are opening a new chapter of armed struggle or we are encouraging war in this region.
Before India and Pakistan got freedom from British colonialism, on 11 August 1947, Balochistan was given freedom and it had its own flag, Lower and Upper Houses of Parliament, Amir, or President as you call it, but in 1948, on 27 March, Balochistan was unlawfully occupied by the Pakistanis and ever since, the Balochis have been actively seeking freedom.
When Mohammed Daud Khan presided as the first president of Afghanistan, he encouraged Balochis to seek their freedom. In 1973, an armed struggle was waged against Pakistan for a free Balochistan, but soon, with the help of Iran and its French Mirage jets, the voice of the Baloch was killed.
When Dr Najibullah took over as President of Afghanistan, he tried to help the Baloch get their freedom from the Pakistanis, but every time the Afghans try to help the Baloch, some misfortune happens.
As I am not in the government, I am unable to comment on if the Afghanistan government is helping the Balochis or not, but it should be the prime objective of Afghan governments to help the Balochis get their freedom if they want Afghanistan to be free of terrorism. All terrorist bases supported by Pakistan’s ISI, are based either in Pashtunistan or in Balochistan; Shoraye in Quetta is a better example.
Q: Observers believe that India should have been made a party to the peace talks happening in Afghanistan because of the goodwill it enjoys among the common people of the country and the development and infrastructure work it has been carrying out there. How would you respond to this?
A: India has been the most favoured nation for the people of Afghanistan ever since Afghanistan’s independence, be it trade, commerce or bilateral relations.
It is extremely essential for India to get involved in Afghan peace as our peace is directly related to peace in India. On many occasions, we have urged the Indian embassy in Kabul to get involved in peace talks and/or organise events to involve various stakeholders on Afghan peace.
However, so far, they are only supporting the Afghan government’s peace initiative and even Indian NGOs do not get involved in Afghan peace dialogues or Intra-Afghan peace talks.
I believe Indian government can play a vital role in intra Afghan peace talks and dialogues, but so far we haven’t heard any of this happening.
Q: How important is the Afghanistan Governors’ Assembly in bringing peace in Afghanistan?
A: The Afghanistan Governors’ Assembly is one of the most important non-government body which has a wide experience in provinces and it can act as a bridge to mend strained relations between various stakeholders in intra Afghan peace talks.
We (the members) have been governors in provinces and we are still in contact with the Taliban who fight against us; we are in contact with warlords and community elders, Ulema and many other contributors to peace.
The Afghanistan Governors’ Assembly should be involved directly to establish pockets of peace in provinces as we have more than 66 governors (current and former) who can play a very important role in bringing peace in Afghanistan.
Special Thnx to
Abhinandan Mishra & The Sunday Guardian