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Pakistan Press ( 18 Sept 2020, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Pakistan Press on Pakistan's Position on Rape Punishment and Afghan Peace Process: New Age Islam's Selection, 18 September 2020

By New Age Islam Edit Bureau

18 September 2020

• Zia’s Medicine in Imran’s Era

By Asha’ar Rehman

• The so-called war on terror has been both cause and consequence of further polarisation

By Aasim Sajjad Akhtar

• There are serious flaws in Pakistan's criminal justice system

By Syed Ali Zafar

• Predicament of Pakistani women: Patriarchal norms and governance issues

By Aimen Babur

• The myth and reality of Afghan-owned peace process

By Dr Moonis Ahmar



Zia’s Medicine In Imran’s Era

By Asha’ar Rehman

18 Sep 2020

A WHOLE jungle of wild voices have resulted from the horrors of the motorway incident. Some comments have had to be later clarified but no apology is expected, nor has one been sought from the maker of these remarks which have been quoted verbatim.

“I wish Imran Khan had mentioned about Pappu case in Zia-ul-Haque time ... the culprit was sentenced to death in a case of child rape and his body was publicly hanged at Chauburji Chowk, this served as a deterrent as many years. This is the solution to the problem in such cases.”

This is a veteran from the general’s stable speaking from his heart in the latest race to nail the guilty. His profound words are additionally inspired by the policy line given by Prime Minister Imran Khan on the horrifying crime that shook the country.

Prime Minister Khan favours public hanging of the highway rapists. He favours castrations as punishment so that no one can again think about committing the act. On cue, the prime minister’s team members — for instance, Senator Faisal Javed Khan — have made it quite clear. Ideally they would like a consensus for public execution post-conviction.

Zia’s urge to hold a whole party, actually an entire country, in awe of his menacing powers, must have been at its strongest.

The sentiment is echoed by many in this country. Inevitably, the one example that is cited in support of the demand is the sole public hanging staged in Pakistan more than four decades ago.

The Zia veteran quoted here is a ringside witness of many a champion who has ruled this country. He may have naturally been struck by the similarity in tone of our prime minister now and the general who was out to create fear of his writ under martial law then.

The hanging of those convicted of the rape and murder of Pappu in Lahore took place in the year 1978 — one day short of Pakistan Day in March, according to the peerless chronicler duo, Raziuddin Razi and Shakir Husain Shakir.

The message was sent across alright — but to whom is a point in contention. Less than a year into his ambitious rule, Zia needed to reinforce his position as a stern, no-nonsense dictator. This was not for the benefit of petty criminals. The urge to hold a whole party, actually an entire country, in awe of his menacing powers, must have been at its strongest.

It so happened that four days before young Pappu’s murderers were hanged in what is recalled by a witness 42 years later as an eerily quiet day in the city of the zinda dilan, the Lahore High Court had sentenced Zulfikar Ali Bhutto to death. Now while the fate of Pappu’s killers had been sealed the moment the gavel lent finality to the judge’s order for their extermination, the public hanging, the first and the only one in the history of the country, cast them in a role in a drama that had political ramifications.

The protests were on and PPP politicians were being rounded up. The mercy pleas by countries such as Iran and Qatar had just landed and there were reports of students at demonstrations falling to the Lahore police’s bullets. The Masawat newspaper was shut down. There was a reason for a public hanging now to clear the way for a secret execution of another, of a former prime minister, a year and two weeks later.

Through the next few years, intimidation and rule by fear were the main ploys employed by Gen Zia — although towards the latter half of his rule, he did find merit in flashing his human side before an appreciative audience. However, not even this trendsetter warrior on the right path could bring himself to take human lives publicly — notwithstanding the ghastly nature of the crime.

He may have had his reasons for not attempting to institutionalise public hangings, instead carrying out floggings to make an example. The debate on turning executions of capital convicts into terrifying spectacles of deterrence has gone on through all these years, albeit with a due amount of politics thrown in.

Perhaps it was not the smallest attempt at legerdemain to take the political context out of the public hanging of Pappu’s killers. You routinely run these days into a message pasted next to a smiling Gen Zia in which this model public hanging is said to have taken place in 1981 — at a sufficient distance from ZAB’s sentencing and his non-public and quite secret hanging and burial.

Only with the gap established, do supporters of public hanging hail it as an event which ensures there were no such crimes in the country for the next decade. God knows in which wonderland these angels of justice were distracted. For counting from 1981, the next 10 years would have included the two-and-a-half-year term of ZAB’s daughter, even if it is assumed that the little period of time in the decade when Mian Nawaz Sharif was at the helm was expected to follow the calm perfected by his mentor.

This veteran now prescribes Zia’s medicine in Imran’s era as a most loyal understudy. He was a vital part of the machinery then and is a handy part of the system now. His association with the origins is just too deep and long for him to come out of that age. The disappointing part is that others — not least of them our prime minister— have to begin this debate by taking extreme positions.

‘Castration’, ‘hanging’, ‘public hanging’ … these terms are certain to be repeated as the discussion on the issue at hand heats up further. An in-charge of an operation, where the government is unable to prevent a suspect from disappearing in the fields right before its eyes, will only be adding to the outrage and frustration by resorting to personally favouring punishments that, according to his own admission, have been replaced by other evolved substitutes.

To tell you the truth, pledging punishments and public hangings and then saying these may not be possible in the face of international pressure is in itself a withdrawal plus an unnecessary admission of foreign influence. Better avoid the company of apologists such as the opposition leader in the National Assembly and the CCPO Lahore.


Asha’ar Rehman is Dawn’s resident editor in Lahore.


The So-Called War On Terror Has Been Both Cause And Consequence Of Further Polarisation

By Aasim Sajjad Akhtar

18 Sep 2020

IT is telling that last week, 19 years to the day since the so-called ‘war on terror’ was initiated with the US invasion of Afghanistan, a massive rally was held in Karachi by religio-political parties of an explicitly sectarian nature, harkening to an era of hate-mongering that Pakistani officialdom insists is now in the past.

Since 2001, successive Pakistani governments have claimed that the state’s official policy vis-à-vis the religious right has changed definitively. Our current prime minister had himself said that Islamist militancy had its genesis in official state policy — from at least the 1970s, not to mention external patronage by the US, Saudi Arabia and other front-line anti-communist states. Over the past two decades, both the external patrons and our own strategic planners, we were assured, have changed tack.

In truth, the so-called war on terror has been both cause and consequence of further polarisation, the opaqueness of state policy at the heart of a crisis with deep historical roots. Seen through a comparative lens, the state here is not all that different from the rest of the world; its coercive and surveillance apparatuses have been empowered everywhere under the guise of containing terrorism that is nebulously defined.

While in Pakistan these apparatuses have used these enhanced powers to suppress progressives who have always been considered threats to ‘national security’, they have also targeted at least some former protégés on the right of the spectrum, predominantly of a religious ilk, but also, as in the case of the MQM, those of a more secular variety.

A small spark can spiral into a raging inferno.

What this suggests is that right-wing forces are not simply puppets that can be manipulated at whim. Nevertheless, the establishment continues to play a major role in shaping novel organisational and sectarian phenomena like the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan.

Put differently, the religious right has continued to survive, and in some cases, thrive, in part because of state patronage but also because it maintains organic linkages to young people in contemporary Pakistan, particularly amongst the toiling classes.

This is a lethal combination. Young people — of whom there are 150 million in Pakistan — want economic security and dignity. As the recent upsurge in sectarian mobilisation suggests, the way in which such aspirations are moulded by religio-political organisations is potentially devastating.

On an everyday basis, we hear regularly about religious functionaries abusing minors, girls and women being treated as barely human on account of supposedly religious mores, as well as accusations of apostasy and blasphemy against almost completely invisibilised religious communities.

Perhaps some amongst us don’t care about such matters. But how long can we turn a blind eye to rallies in which thousands come onto the streets of Karachi, or Islamabad, chanting slogans against the biggest non-Sunni sect in the country? Or the fact that leaders of various sects are employing strong-arm tactics to lodge cases against and incarcerate leaders of other sects?

Let us not forget that the so-called Afghan jihad against the Soviet Union in the 1980s also had a specifically regional context. The Iranian Revolution of 1979 triggered a chain reaction that weaponised both Shia and Sunni identities within Pakistan due to the competing strategic interests of Iranian and Saudi theocracies. Needless to say both states continue to exercise influence beyond their borders; Saudi Arabia in particular remains a kingmaker in Pakistan’s domestic politics. Even if one argues that Shia-Sunni sectarian violence that peaked in Pakistan in the 1990s subsided, a small spark can once again spiral into a raging inferno.

Today as in the past, the establishment still perceives itself as the ultimate arbiter, able to unleash chaos upon society yet still manage it effectively enough to both ensure its monopoly over power and neuter any meaningful transformative impulses. It has certainly managed to weather any number of geopolitical storms in the past, and clearly believes it will be able to do so in the future.

Seen from the perspective of oppressed castes, genders, ethnic-nations and the working masses more generally, the weaponisation of religion has been an unending disaster that continues to have untold effects on our individual and collective genus. Crucially, however, some of the most exploited elements in our brutalised society seek mobility through religio-political movements, not to mention the promise of salvation in the afterlife.

The genie that was let out of the proverbial bottle more than four decades ago continues to haunt us till this day. We can continue to shout ourselves hoarse about it, screaming into the ears of strategic planners and religious leaders who will never listen. Or we can undertake the much more difficult task of building an alternative politics to transform state and society.


Aasim Sajjad Akhtar teaches at Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad.


There Are Serious Flaws In Pakistan's Criminal Justice System

By Syed Ali Zafar

September 18, 2020

In a recent tweet, I had said that in a civilized society protection to women is given outside the home, and this is called “successful policing”. If a woman’s honour is dependent upon time and situation, then there is no need for the writ of the state. Globally, women are going to space and here we are trying to keep them shrouded in darkness.

My tweet got a wide array of responses. Most people were of the view that rapists should be publicly hanged. Others have suggested that they should be castrated, physically or chemically. Still many said they should be stoned to death. Many were angry at the insensitive remarks of the CCPO Lahore and demanded his removal. One segment of the population even supported the CCPO’s statement in which he said that “women should refrain from traveling alone at night.” There were also others who have ideologically opposed the death penalty for the rapists.

Under Pakistani law, the penalty for rape is death or imprisonment for maximum twenty-five years. The tragic and horrific gang-rape of a mother in front of her children on the Lahore-Sialkot Motorway has shaken humanity and hence we see the demand that punishment should be made even more public and exemplary.

Each country has to evolve punishments according to its own peculiar situations. For example, many European countries as well as 10 states in the US punish rapists with chemical castration as punishment for repeat sexual offences. A few countries also give castration as punishment for rape, but this is not mandatory; it is imposed if the culprit voluntarily agrees to the procedure in return for a reduced sentence. Pakistani law could also certainly be amended to add this punishment as retribution to a heinous crime such as rape. Such a punishment in my view would not be in violation of our constitution.

The real question, however, is: can we, by increasing the severity of the punishment, deter criminals from committing crimes?

Research shows that the death penalty alone does not deter criminals but in fact feeds the fear of being caught in the rapist, thereby leading him to kill the victim to erase evidence. Notwithstanding this, in a society like Pakistan, where the death penalty is expected by public to be minimum punishment for such heinous offences, and the only way in which the family and the victim can be ‘compensated’ and obtain retribution, it is necessary. However, it is not just the severity of punishments but the high probability that the culprit will be caught, prosecuted and harsh punishment given which will actually discourage criminals from committing rapes.

A few years ago, a seven-year-old child Zainab was raped and murdered. This act of horror rightly generated hue and cry across Pakistan. It was said that this case would be made an example so that such crimes are not repeated. Yes, the culprit was caught and punished, but these crimes still go on. The Motorway gang-rape too, with all this media scrutiny and civil society in arms, will be successfully prosecuted, culprits caught and punished. However, it is only when culprits are given swift punishment in all other rape cases which do not make media headlines that true deterrence will be accomplished.

The problem is that there are serious flaws in our criminal justice system where culprits involved in violence against women are either not caught as assaults go unreported or, if caught, are not convicted. (The conviction rate in Pakistan for cases of violence against women is as low as 2.5 percent).

Take the example of one of the suspects in the Motorway case. Reportedly, he has already been tried for rape but got acquitted because there was a so-called ‘compromise’ between him and the survivor’s family. He went on to commit the same crime again. This is nothing new. Pakistan’s legal system is full of such instances. We have even seen prominent women being assaulted in their homes and then being forced to keep quiet. This is what creates a feeling of impunity amongst criminals.

Although it is the duty of the state to prosecute and convict rapists, a compromise usually takes place between the culprit and the victims or their families, through money, threat, influence or because of fear, frustration and delays or simply the lack of resources. Statements are then made by witnesses that the incident never took place. Courts are forced to acquit the accused.

Criminals know that the probability of them being caught and punished is extremely low either because they have themselves previously gotten away scot-free after committing a crime or are aware of people who have committed the crime and have not been convicted. This belief that they will not be punished nullifies the effect of any severe penalty.

The solution lies in increasing the rate of conviction. For this to happen, the government would have to work on two fronts. One is to reform the judicial system in which many measures need to be taken. Without an efficient justice system in the country, no severity of punishment will have much effect.

The second is to carry out massive police reforms which include increasing the capacity of the police and breaking the nexus between police and criminals. Our police system is still beholden to an archaic system where the SHO is investigating everything under the sun, from petty thefts to rape and murders.

The remarks of the CCPO show that the police still hold a mindset that indulges in victim shaming. This needs to be changed. I suggest that the police force should also have only one designated person to address the media, much like ISPR does, so that damage to the credibility of the police force caused by irresponsible statements can be avoided.

The third, and equally important change that is required, and that has to come from the civil society itself, is regarding the attitude about sexual assaults. It is common for women all over the world to avoid reporting sexual assaults because of fear of the shame it would bring to them and their families. The lack of reporting enables criminals to get away with their crimes. The state has to provide institutional mechanisms to support and protect victims and survivors and their families.

I am sure that the time has come for the government to, in light of its duty to protect the life and dignity of its citizens, start taking measures on at least these three fronts for sustained results.


Syed Ali Zaf is a Supreme Court advocate, former federal minister for law and former president of the SCBA.


Predicament of Pakistani Women: Patriarchal Norms And Governance Issues

By Aimen Babur

SEPTEMBER 18, 2020

The motorway incident has, yet again, exposed the facade of safe spaces for women in Pakistan.Women constitute about half of society, yet, they remain subjugated in many segments of life. The alarming increase in crimes against women has largely been normalized by the misogynist elements within society. The patriarchal norms at large either blame women themselves for the crimes perpetrated against them or term it as “western agenda” spread to sabotage our cultural values. The common woman keeps suffering while society keeps debating upon the legitimacy of basic rights being demanded by Aurat March.

Consequently, the feminists continue to face harassment from keyboard warriors while the situation of governance is deteriorating steadily. The deeply troubling aspect of the current rape episode was not the crime itself but the way it was portrayed by careless statements of officials involved. Women are facing genuine issues which are being side-lined in the name of social norms. The stigma faced by women is real, be it in the field of education, employment, access to justice or healthcare facilities. The global ranking places Pakistan as sixth most dangerous country for women, however, it is largely brushed under the carpet and termed as a misconception. This depicts an overall callous attitude towards well-being of women in society.

Illiteracy is one of the most troubling aspects hampering women empowerment in Pakistan. According to 2017 census statistics, the female literacy rate stands at a meagre 46.47%. As compared to that, male literacy rate is about 71.12%. This gross difference suggests that education of girls remains a tough nut to crack. Despite of several initiatives taken by successive governments and awareness campaigns launched by civil society, the local patriarchal structure maintains a toxic rigid approach on said matter. Although the situation is improving steadily, especially in urban areas and metropolitan cities, the problem is largely ignored in rural peripheries. The more troubling aspect of this disastrous situation is that the number of females opting for higher education drops down to a mere 8.32% across the country. Such horrible figures of UNESCO call for immediate attention of higher authorities.

The toxic and suffocating patriarchal norms form the basis of a society where women are considered inferior in every segment of life. Their narrative is largely ignored and their opinions remain overlooked

The rule of law remains a foundation of good governance in state institutions. However, in Pakistan, access to justice remains a problematic endeavour, especially for women. Although the constitution of Pakistan provides protection to women in both domestic and private sphere, yet lax implementation of law coupled with the tag of family honour generally dissuades them from perusing any legal case. The situation worsens with negligible presence of women in legal institutes. The first women police institution was inaugurated in 1994, yet, National Police Bureau’s report states that women constitute less than 2% of police force. This is one of the most significant factors which contribute towards underreporting of crimes, especially crimes related to sexual assault.

Political empowerment is another substantial milestone of women empowerment which remains a dream owing to male dominant dynastic local politics. Although 17% quota is reserved for women in provincial and federal legislature, the mechanism for filling these seats remains flawed. The women representatives are selected, rather than being elected, by the leadership of political parties. Additionally, local cultural norms bar political participation of women as voters which leads to exclusion of women from decision making bodies, thereby causing absence of women centric policies at national level. The figures released by ECP depict a voter gender gap of whooping 12.54 million in 2018 polls which has increased from 10.97 million in 2013 elections. Although both media and ECP are playing a significant role in providing a conductive political environment to women, the rigid patriarchal traditions are bent upon keeping women away from administrative legislative groups. The continuous upward trajectory of voter gap in official statistics suggest that serious efforts are required by government institutes to tackle with this issue.

The incidents of violence against women including sexual harassment, domestic abuse and rape are also on a rise. SSDO has reported a sharp spike in rape cases during February and March 2020. The police record suggests that during first 60 days of 2020, about 73 incidents of rape happened in Lahore alone which included 5 incidents of gang rape as well. Government officials also confirmed 25% increase in cases of domestic violence perpetuated against women between months of March and May. Additionally, official statistics reveal that more than 100 women were killed for honour in Sindh in 2019 alone.

Overall, these statistics paint a gory image of miserable conditions being faced by Pakistani women on daily basis. The male chauvinism prevalent within societal structure coupled with the apathy of governance institutions has only added fuel to the fire.Men and women are both essential pillars of a community and the absence of anyone of them could damage the roots of society. The plight of Pakistani women is real and their issues need to resolve the issues of women on priority basis.

Although many laws have been enacted in past as well for resolving women issues, however, they have not been effective owing to patriarchal mentality. The toxic and suffocating patriarchal norms form the basis of a society where women are considered inferior in every segment of life. Their narrative is largely ignored and their opinions remain overlooked. Until and unless some steps are taken to reform the patriarchal societal norms, any law passed would remain ineffective. Here, governance institutes could play a contributory role by increasing awareness on misogynistic norms and their contribution in increasing sexism. It is high time we need to take these issues seriously and work collectively for gender balance and gender equality within our society.


Aimen Babur is a Project Assistant SDPI


The Myth And Reality Of Afghan-Owned Peace Process

By Dr Moonis Ahmar

September 17, 2020

The so-called Afghan peace process has reached an interesting phase with the opening of the Doha talks between warring Afghan factions. Participated by the concerned stakeholders including the United States, Pakistan, China as well as representatives of the Taliban and the Afghan government, Doha talks focused on issues which, for decades, have been a cause of war, violence, terrorism and political polarisation in Afghanistan.

What is the Afghan-owned peace process and to what extent is it a myth or reality? How can the four-point peace proposal presented by Pakistan’s Foreign Minister help the process of peace and stability in Afghanistan? Why do the Taliban still insist on introducing their version of sharia and how is their non-compliance with democracy and political pluralism a non-starter of the peace process? These are questions which are raised in the context of the prevailing peace talks on Afghanistan.

The four-point peace plan presented by Pakistan addresses the core of conflicts in that unfortunate country which has been mired in violence, terrorism and political and socio-economic predicament since 1973. Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi has suggested that one should learn lessons from the bitterness of the past faced by Afghanistan. His last three points focused on economic engagement, reconstruction and a time-bound return of refugees. Taliban political office director Mullah Baradar called for an Islamic system in Afghanistan and assured the world of a peaceful and prosperous life for the Afghans while Abdullah Abdullah, the Afghan Peace Council chief, called for adhering to democracy, the Constitution, freedom of speech, rights of women and minorities, rule of law, and civil and political rights. He asserted, “We call for a humanitarian ceasefire. The declaration of humanitarian ceasefire will enable humanitarian aid and development programmes to reach all parts of Afghanistan and benefit our people.”

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, whose country has a key role in the Afghan peace process, is confident that following the February 29 agreement with the Taliban, the US will scale down its forces to 4,500 by October this year. Such a reduction will be in sharp contrast with the surge of American forces in Afghanistan which had totalled 100,000 in 2011. Yet, the US intends to maintain its strategic presence in Afghanistan despite considerable withdrawal of its forces unlike abandoning the country after the signing of the Geneva Accords on April 14, 1988.

The Doha talks on Afghanistan which were to commence in March were derailed because of a deadlock between the Afghan government and the Taliban on the release of thousands of Taliban prisoners. It was only after a breakthrough between the Taliban and the Kabul regime on that contentious issue that the intra-Afghan talks began on September 12. Since the withdrawal of Soviet forces from Afghanistan in February 1989, and the outbreak of civil war leading to the seizure of power by the Taliban in September 1996, the absence of an Afghan-owned peace process galvanised violence and bloodshed in the country.

The occupation of Afghanistan by US-led coalition forces in October 2001 and the transformation of the Afghan conflict reflected the failure of Afghan stakeholders to start the process of dialogue. Given the complicated geographical location of Afghanistan and the lack of ownership by Afghans, violence and terrorism continued which not only deepened conflict fatigue but also compelled the Taliban and the Afghan regime to unleash the process of dialogue.

There are three major requirements to bridge the gap in myth and reality of the Afghan-owned peace process.

First, despite assurances by the Afghan government and the Taliban about establishing peace in Afghanistan through dialogue, there still exists a huge trust deficit between the two major stakeholders. It is for the first time that there are direct talks engaging the Taliban and Afghan government representatives in Doha as since the induction of Hamid Karzai as Afghan president in December 2001 and the formation of the Kabul regime with the support of US-led coalition forces, the Taliban had refused to accept the Afghan regime’s legitimacy and had demanded its dismantling as a precondition for peace talks. Now, the Taliban have, after reaching a deal with the US in February, agreed to initiate dialogue with what they called the illegitimate Afghan regime. Unless the trust deficit is bridged between the Taliban and their Afghan counterparts, including the Afghan government, there cannot be any breakthrough in the Afghan peace process.

Second, the Afghan-owned peace process is still a myth because local stakeholders lack political will, determination, commitment and clarity to pull their country out of decades of civil war, violence and terrorism. Unless, those engaged in the intra-Afghan dialogue in Doha and elsewhere are professional in their approach in terms of reaching a durable ceasefire, demilitarisation, deweaponisation, rule of law, good governance and upholding democratic process, one cannot expect peace in Afghanistan. Unfortunately, the Taliban are unable to understand that their country cannot revert to the past, and governance based on a ruthless and suppressive order in which women and minorities live as sub-human creatures cannot work. The Taliban’s interpretation of sharia is a major problem in pulling Afghanistan from the web of social and economic backwardness.

Post-Taliban Afghanistan cannot impose a political order based on an orthodox and ultra-conservative way of life. A major requirement in the Afghan-owned peace process is tolerance, adherence to political pluralism, rule of law, good governance and justice. If the Taliban reject democracy as a mode of governance, it would prolong stagnation in the so-called peace process. Furthermore, if the Taliban want peace, stability and well-being of their people, they should cease violence and attacks on Afghan forces. There cannot be meaningful dialogue in Doha unless the Taliban agree to a permanent ceasefire and the Afghan government accept the Taliban as a major stakeholder for peace in their country.

Third, unless civil society groups, political parties and vulnerable segments of Afghan society are included in the peace process, one cannot expect any smooth sailing of Doha talks. An inclusive approach, instead of an exclusive one, needs to be pursued for accomplishing the goal of a comprehensive peace in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan, like other conflict zones, is at crossroads. In this scenario, Pakistan’s stakes are obvious because unless violence ceases in Afghanistan and the Afghan-owned peace process reaches its logical conclusion, refugees will not go back to their country and the security of Pakistan’s western border would remain an issue. Yet, Pakistan has, unlike three decades ago, marginal influence over the Taliban who are still a cause of violence and terrorism in Afghanistan.

Unless, the Afghan majority who resent the Taliban’s use of violence as a weapon for seeking power are united and isolate them, the situation in Afghanistan would remain chaotic. Ownership of the peace process by the Taliban and other Afghan stakeholders is the only way to give the people of Afghanistan a break from decades of bloodshed in their war-torn country.



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