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Taliban Peace Talks: First Empower the Minorities

By Shuja Rabbani

03 Feb 2016

At least 20 people were reportedly killed and 25 wounded in Tuesday's suicide bombing outside a police station in Kabul, for which the Taliban claimed responsibility.

Over the past eight months in Afghanistan, it seems as though that every time there has been mention of peace talks, there has been an attack of some sort carried out by the Taliban. These attacks continuously remind us that we are extending our hands in peace to people who do not understand - and are not interested in - peace.

With the consistent drive for fruitless diplomacy, it is worth questioning who stands to gain from peace talks with one of the most brutal terrorist regimes known to the world. It is certainly not Afghanistan - after all, it is Afghans who suffer the wrath of this terrorist franchise, created by foreign powers and used as a business to profit from wars in economically paralysed nations such as Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq.

Powers Aim to Draw Taliban into Afghan Peace Talks

When in power from 1996-2001, the Taliban's policies and atrocities were no less brutal than those of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group in Syria and Iraq today. Unfortunately, the memory of Taliban brutalities is downplayed by the global media, Western governments and other Muslim countries, which have a stake in the resurrection of the Taliban for their own geopolitical interests.

Soft Language

When it comes to Afghanistan, we have to question who is gaining the most from the peace talks with the Taliban within our country. It is certainly not the ethnic or religious minorities - whether the Tajik, the Uzbek or the Hazara - who suffered ethnic cleansing under Taliban rule.

Indeed, it would be highly unlikely to hear anyone from any of the minority groups calling the Taliban their "brothers".

The use of soft language, such as "brothers", is akin to charming a venomous snake. This approach did not work for the administration of former President Hamid Karzai, but neither has the approach taken by the current Ashraf Ghani administration.

Ghani refrains from calling them 'brothers' but he allows people in his administration to sideline minorities by pushing for diplomacy with the Taliban and legitimise them in Afghan politics.

Ghani refrains from calling them "brothers" but he allows people in his administration to sideline minorities by pushing for diplomacy with the Taliban and legitimising them in Afghan politics.

All the while, the Taliban continues to terrorise Afghanistan. From the latter half of 2015, we have faced a string of unprecedented, back-to-back attacks under the National Unity Government - some aimed specifically at killing Shia Hazaras - leading to the biggest protest the country had seen in decades.

It is fair to ask: Are peace talks with the Taliban a national agenda or a nationalist agenda for the Afghan government? Undoubtedly, there are nationalist Afghans who are pro-Taliban sitting in the West and lobbying for "peace talks".

These Afghans are nothing but Taliban apologists who think along narrow ethnic lines. By pushing for peace talks, their endgame is to maintain their ethnic dominance in Afghanistan's future politics - even at the cost of choosing a brutal Islamic regime to rule over the rest of the country.

Racism and Ethnic Divisions

As an Afghan writer coming from a minority ethnic group, I take enormous risks in raising the subject of racism and ethnic divisions that have existed in Afghanistan historically.

Most people are afraid to talk about racism in Afghanistan openly because of the threats and risks to personal safety that come from the pro-Taliban nationalist elements within the country.

Gone are the days when leadership of Afghan politics was determined by an assumed majority ethnic group without any statistical evidence. For example, during my work at the United Nations in Kabul, the most educated group of Afghans were the Hazaras - yet, we do not see parity in their ethnic representation when it comes leadership positions in ministries.

Even today, the subject of ethnic divisions remains highly contentious. Peace talks with the Taliban will not bring the nation closer to a lasting peace, especially at a time when new forces of terror are emerging across the country, notably groups claiming allegiance to ISIL in northern areas.

Cleansing the bloody hand of a terrorist group through peace talks while the other hand is drenched in the blood of Afghan civilians does not mean that Afghanistan should turn a blind eye to their atrocities - even if pushed by the West or by other Muslim countries to do so.

From where we stand today, the upcoming quadrilateral peace talks with the Taliban seem more of a declaration of defeat in the "war on terrorism" by the West and a compromise by the Afghan government, where the only winner is terrorism and anyone who supports it through proxy channels.

The solution is to empower the minorities and other victims of radical groups. Ethnic Hazaras and Afghan women, for instance, should be among those at the forefront of the negotiation process as they have the most at stake.

Shuja Rabbani is an analyst of Afghan affairs currently based in Dubai. He is the son of the late former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani.