|Majority of the local Taliban in North Waziristan are united under the leadership of Hafiz Gul Bahadur, who is considered a prudent personality. It is feared that disputes between militant groups can lead to some big clash between militant groups. In fact members of the Hakimullah group are wanted by the Pakistani security forces. Therefore, the hideouts of this group can possibly be traced and targeted. However, it will not be a military operation but a rapid limited action conducted on the basis of intelligence information. And keeping in view the sensitivity of the situation, the government will take into confidence its local allies before any such action.
As far as the Haqqani group is concerned, all circles having knowledge of North Waziristan know well that ailing Jalaluddin Haqqani and all members of his family were shifted to Afghanistan a long time ago. The big madrasah and guest house of the Haqqani group in North Waziristan have become ghost houses and security forces have locked and sealed them for years. It is interesting that on the one hand the United States on the pretext of presence of the Haqqani group is exerting pressure on Pakistan for full-scale military operation while on the other there is credible evidence, which suggests that the United States itself is in contact with Haqqani network at some level and it wants to expand these contacts.
[Description of Source: Rawalpindi Nawa-e Waqt in Urdu -- Privately owned, widely read, conservative Islamic daily, with circulation around 125,000. Harshly critical of the US and India.]
Afghan High Peace Council Secretary Details Government Position on Taliban Talks
SAP20110612126001 Kabul Tolo News in Dari 1531 GMT 04 Jun 11
[Studio interview with High Peace Council Secretary Mohammad Masom Stanikzai by announcer Mujahid Kakar from the "Kankash (Exploration)" program -- live or recorded]
[Kakar] Mr Stanikzai, thank you for sparing your time.
[Stanikzai] Thank you, it is a pleasure.
[Kakar] Mr Stanikzai, I want to know from your perspective and from that of the Government of Afghanistan, is negotiation with the Taliban a tactical move that is being deployed, or is it a strategy of the Government of Afghanistan?
[Stanikzai] In the name of God, the most merciful and magnificent, this is a very good question. As you might remember, during the election campaigns for the presidential election, each presidential candidate provided their proposal for the people of Afghanistan on how to ensure the development and stability of the country. For his five -year presidential term, the president of Afghanistan also had his own proposals, which entailed five main components: one, the issue of security; two, the issue of peace; three, the issue of reconstruction; four, the issue of good governance; and, five, the issue of wide regional cooperation and close relations with the world. Thus, there is no place for doubt that the issue of negotiation and peace is a strategic position of this government, and it is not a tactical approach that aims to gain time. This is because all have reached the conclusion, as a result of a comprehensive and deep discussion both inside the Afghan society and between the political circles in Afghanistan and in the international community. This has been on whether the way forward is through war or if there is another way of providing peace that involves bringing the people and the regime closer so that we can reach a national consensus that will ensure the people of Afghanistan are not used as an instrument against their own country. Thus, the issue of peace and negotiation process has been chosen as a strategic principle and a national program.
[Kakar] Mr Stanikzai, the president went to the people of Afghanistan with this program to gain their vote and their confidence. Some argue that the program of Karzai managed to gain votes and the election is over now. However, now the issue is an official policy of the government, as you mentioned this yourself. Hence, if this is a strategy of the government why has this strategy of the government not been submitted to the parliament? The parliament of Afghanistan as an institution that has a duty to determine and ratify all the policies and strategy of the government. Why was this plan not submitted to the parliament?
[Stanikzai] You might remember this also that when the issue of the peace programs or strategic programs of the Government of Afghanistan came to the table, there were some consultations inside the country, as well as with the international community. Also, there was some discussion in the London Conference. Then, the National Peace Consultation Jirga was convened. In the National Peace Consultation Jirga all the members of the parliament, the members of both chambers, took part and discussions about this issue were its priority. Also in this Jirga members of the provincial councils and different strata of the society were present. One of the main pieces of advice that came out of the National Peace Consultation Jirga for the Government of Afghanistan was that, with the possibilities we have in our own society as well as those provided by the international community, a way should be used to find a way forward that can ensure long-term peace and stability in the country. Out of this Jirga there were three principles that came. The first was that regional cooperation should be stepped up and relations with neighbors should be improved. The second principle was to embrace our people, or elders, and our religious people based on the question of how we can emancipate those who are in the clutches of others so that they are not used against our own government and regime. This means that a way should be opened up for those who want to renounce violence and those who want to embrace a constructive and peaceful political process; they should be able to do so. Of course, there was some conditionality attached to these issues.
[Kakar] Mr Stanikzai, the specific question that looms is that, according to the laws of the country that has provided powers to it, the parliament is an institution that should receive the main framework of policies of the government so that it can confirm them. Why has this not happened to date?
[Stanikzai] The Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the National Security Council have formed a package. They have sent it to the parliament so that there should be some discussion about it.
[Kakar] Two years have lapsed since the start of the new term Karzai's government. How can the main framework of the policies of the government be acted on or put into practice without an authorization from the parliament of Afghanistan?
[Stanikzai] I mentioned a minute ago that the issue of negotiation has been discussed beyond the parliament in a comprehensive debate.
[Kakar] So far the main framework of the Government of Afghanistan has not been ratified by the parliament has it?
[Stanikzai] These issues can be asked of the relevant authorities. As a constructive process in which the views of the people have been taken, it reflects the views of the people, while the perspectives of both houses of parliament have been taken into account.
[Kakar] The parliament is the representative of the will of the people of Afghanistan. If this has not gone through the parliament, in your view the claim that you have resorted to the people's will is not founded, is it?
[Stanikzai] In my view, if you have a look a bit further into this issue, the Jirga is a gathering broader than the parliament, but it is right that they are the representatives of the people of the country. However, if we could bring in a little more people, more personalities, more representatives of the provincial councils, then it could make the legitimacy of this issue firmer and make it stronger and more credible, as well as it can muster more support from the people of the country behind this process.
[Kakar] However, the Constitution of Afghanistan foresees only one Jirga, which is the Grand Jirga of the Constitution [Loya Jirga], but the rest of the Jirgas are not at the level that they are above the legal institutions.
[Stanikzai] This is right that these Jirgas are not at the level of the Constitutional Jirga according to the law. This is because, according to the Constitution for the formation of the Grand Jirga [Loya Jirga], we should have the District Councils so that the Constitutional Jirga is formed. However, according to the Constitution, the president has the authority that he can resort to the will of the people by asking their representative to come to, as well as to consult with, the parliament. Also, the president can call upon a large number of people from all corners of the country, from different ethnic groups of the country, and different social personalities, including women and youths, in order to consult with them. What is illegal about this issue?
[Kakar] Mr Stanikzai, you said in part of your response that, based on the program that the president had during the presidential election and based on that strategy later, you decided to negotiate with those armed opposition forces who are prepared to lay down their arms and who want peace to be brought to Afghanistan. The problems that people have with this strategy is that they want to know whether you exactly know with whom you want to negotiate, if it is those who are laying down their arms and starting a peaceful life, who specifically these people are, and how you are going to negotiate with them.
[Stanikzai] Nothing can be done without a deep and comprehensive analysis; that is, if you do not define someone and do not know someone, how are you able to negotiate with them? Of course, we know this. Naturally, there has been some comprehensive discussion as well as some wide-ranging research. When you are in a situat ion of war with someone, before your negotiation can get to a concrete point, to a result, or before an environment of trust is formed between parties, how can you say that you are negotiating with this or that while the war is still ongoing? This issue has several stages; it is not only something that is going on in Afghanistan. In all wars of the world this process has been like this and this will continue the same way. The end of each war should be peace, but the main principle is how are we going to achieve peace? The people of Afghanistan demand a just peace in which the interest of all the people has been taken into account. We have to bring to an end the war and the bloodshed. We believe that we are facing a complex situation in this region. The war of Afghanistan does not only have an internal dimension, but it also has some regional dimensions to it too. There are some regional competitions in which the Afghans are the victims of these rivalries in the region.
[Kakar] Some people believe that the messages that the Government of Afghanistan and the international community are sending to the Taliban are generally not sufficiently clear. I will provide you with examples. There are some messages from the side of the president that state that there will be negotiations even with Mullah Omar and with all those groups that fight against the Government of Afghanistan. However, there is another message, mostly from the international community, which states that we are not going to negotiate with Mullah Omar and the Haqqani Network as they are on the list of terrorists. What do you think; how can the Taliban trust you?
[Stanikzai] These are very good and logical questions. If you remember, from the year 2003 to date, these issues have been discussed in the media. There were some voices that were saying that we are negotiating with all, but other voices from the international community that were saying we are not negotiating with anyone. These sporadic views were conveying confusing messages, both to the opposition as well as to the people of Afghanistan, and they were wondering whether or not we want peace. This is why when the National Consulting Council was convened, and later the High Peace Council was convened, one the aims of the High Peace Council was that we must have a specific strategy for negotiation and for the peace process. From where did the beginning of this come? It was thought that there might be some concerns inside the country and it came out that there were some concerns and still there are: whether this peace will not put in danger our past achievements; whether this will not mean that the rights of women will be brought into question; whether this will not mean that this bring the Taliban to power and create the same regime as there was before with the Emirate, and others will be pushed out from the political regime to the margins. These questions were looming domestically. The main debates that took place inside the country, and as a result the High Peace Council has defined its strategy based on them, is whether all Afghans in whatever part of this country want to take part in reconstruction of the country, want to renounce violence, and are prepared to take part in the process of peace so that the problems of all Afghan are solved and the bloodshed is avoided. Also, eventually, those brokers who have always traded in the blood of the martyrs and have made deals over it should be prevented from doing so.
[Kakar] Who are these brokers Mr Stanikzai?
[Stanikzai] Everyone in a way has misused these issues under different names, different reasons, and different motivations. However, one thing is very obvious. The continuation of the current situation in which killing and bloodshed is going on in Afghanistan is not in the interest of anyone, neither in the interest of people of Afghanistan, nor in the interest of the neighbors of Afghanistan, nor in the interest of the international community.
I want to come to answer the question you put to me initially. I want to say is that there is specific strategy occurring. Based on this, in different provinces some discussions have taken place with the elders of the tribes, with religious authorities, and with ordinary people. In the meantime, you are aware the Asian Foundation has conducted a survey and they have asked the people of Afghanistan in different corners of the country different questions. The result was that about 80 percent to 90 percent of the people Afghanistan have demanded a transparent process in which the bloodshed and killing can be prevented and Afghanistan can gain long-term stability. Also, these disagreements between Afghans should be solved between themselves. Also, another issue was that we should create a trust environment with the regional countries. The Government of Afghanistan should arrive at single position and they should have the same message that is clear.
[Kakar] Mr Stanikzai, I want you to clarify one issue; you said that the achievement that the people of Afghanistan and the Government of Afghanistan have arrived at should not be sacrificed. The concerns that practically exist among the people amount to two issues. People do not know exactly whether the process with the Taliban is peace or if is it a deal, and most of the people think that there is not an issue of peace but a deal is going to be struck.
[Stanikzai] Those who cannot see their interest in peace they believe that there is an issue of a deal there. There has not been a deal so far, nor is anyone thinking about it. From the beginning when the High Peace Council was established, it has been specified in their internal duties and procedure that what we do is initially we have to provide an environment of trust so that different Afghan groups can come to the negotiation table. A situation should be created that makes possible the process of negotiation. The second issue is how we can gain the trust of all the people of Afghanistan in a legal framework. When someone has a concern before a step has been taken, there is no negation of how many seats are provided to whom and so on. However, there have been three decisions; that is, first whoever enters the peace process should have their immunity guaranteed; you don't want one side to invite someone for negotiation but others arrest them. Second, when they are coming, mostly there are some local animosities and some disagreements and there should be some measures so that these should not provide any problems. Third, all Afghan should have the right to take part in the political process, regardless of whether they are Taliban or non-Taliban, or members of civil society, or so on. As Afghans, they should have equal rights and they should be able to take part in the political process. Eventually, the Afghans should be able to live in a national unity environment. There is no plan to make deals and the issue of deals is not even on the table. Regarding those who raise these issues, some political circles that are raising such issues are doing so to capitalize on some political gains by creating concerns. This is not a deal, because there is the support of the United Nation as well as the international community's support behind this issue. There a comprehensive consultation on this issue. Whatever is going to take place here will be based on the national interest Afghanistan and just on the interest of all the people of Afghanistan should it be secured.
[Kakar] The main problems of the people of Afghanistan lie in what you said that some circles raise this issue with concern. The national security adviser of the country calls the Taliban terrorists, and Haji Mohammad Mohaqiq, who is a high-ranking member of the High Peace Council, says that this procedure is process of a surrendering to the Taliban. Most of these voices are coming out of your own government. Why is that?
[Stanikzai] Everyone has his or her own view. This is the good nature of democracy that everyone can express their views. They have the choic e of not keeping their animosity in their heart, but they can express it.
[Kakar] Do you think this is an animosity?
[Stanikzai] I am not saying that this is animosity; I am saying that everyone has his or her own views and a personal understanding and they can express it. Yes we should say terrorist a terrorist, but when those who want to join a constructive peace, end the environment of war, and eventually bring all Afghans together, then we should have the tolerance to bring Afghans to a negotiation table so that they can speak to each other. In every society, without bringing a culture of tolerance, especially in Afghanistan, we cannot arrive at long-term stability without reducing the culture of violence. Do we still want the continuation of war to provide more youths into the hands of terrorist circles as tools, or do we want to provide a situation where Afghans are not suffering the plots of others.
[Kakar] Mr Stanikzai, when you discuss among yourselves, and if the government cannot arrive at a common viewpoint, how can the government go to the opposition or the Taliban and ask them to negotiate? Would they trust you?
[Stanikzai] When we mentioned this issue, Mr Spanta, as a national security adviser, has always supported this process, a process that can get Afghans to a long-term peace and stability; he always will seriously support it. On the one hand we have actions, while the other hand we have debates with different personalities. Any action that causes the death of civilians, everyone will condemn it. However, when we talk about what has caused some to become the opposition to the regime, then perhaps there are some reasons for this too. There might be two reasons that can be misappropriated. The first issue is that, yes in Afghanistan there were there some terrorists and there were some through whom terrorism was supported. As a result, there was a crisis in governance, administration, and the concerns of the world so that the international community came to this country.
Thus there are some circles both inside and outside the country who try to use the presence of the foreign forces in the country as a pretext and the reason for the continuation of war. On the other hand, there are those who say that there are still some terrorists in Afghanistan and they want to grant legitimacy to the continuation of war in the country. What I want to say, what the peace process says, and what the Government of Afghanistan says, is that we should move toward national sovereignty through a process of transition. The Afghans should have their fate in their hands. The world should help us to be able to take responsibility for security and civil services, economics, and development. In the meantime, this pretext should be removed and Afghanistan should not be used against the interest of other states as a [terrorist] base.
Afghans should be able to live with each other, as well as with their neighbors in peace. Also, there should be some opportunities provided, and as was decided at the Lisbon Conference, responsibility should be transferred to the Government of Afghanistan. We should not think that all the responsibility is on the shoulders of the government; everyone has a responsibility, including the society of Afghanistan, and the people of Afghanistan regardless of whether they are the opposition or not. If we want to untie a knot, it should be done by hand, not with teeth. Coming together for national aims, regardless of whether they are the opposition, in the government, or outside the government, we should think that there are four or five fundamental issues that are part of the red line of the national interest. Peace is a red line without which you cannot provide social justice in Afghanistan; national sovereignty in Afghanistan is a red line for which we have to work jointly; social justice is a red line for which we have to work in a united manner; the preservation of territorial integrity is a red line for which we have to work together. That is why we have to be careful; it is right to have a critical attitude, but we should not reject things with a broad brush under the name of being in opposition. However, when we are part of the government, then we say that everything is going well, but when we lose our government position, then we say everything is going badly.
[Kakar] People believe that the ambiguity in this process has mostly been produced by the government itself. To date, the government does not have a clear and transparent idea about the procedure for peace and the principles that have been envisaged for peace. It has not been provided to the people. As a result, the people do not know what the manifesto of the High Peace Council is, with which Taliban it wants to negotiate, and under which conditions. Whenever the authorities of the peace process have spoken, they have said new things. Do you not think that you have created the confusion in the minds of the people?
[Stanikzai] I think it is the contrary; to some extent the media has created this ambiguity. If the analysts who do not have precise information about a process talk about it, then it is not correct. When you go to the localities and ask people who has said this or that, they say that they have heard it from the media.
[Kakar] The things that I have just said are based on the words of a member of the High Peace Council who says that this process is cowardice and nothing else. When the national security adviser of Afghanistan says that the Taliban are terrorists and we should call them terrorists, then what can the media do about it.
[Stanikzai] I mentioned a little while ago that these views are the personal views of some individuals.
[Kakar] But they are talking on behalf of the Government of Afghanistan.
[Stanikzai] That is right, it is on behalf of our government. I mentioned a little while ago that Mr Spanta had a major role to play in convening the situation and the principles of the High Peace Council under which the situation of peace should be established. These issues have been openly debated. I will repeat it again that the framework on which this government functions is not under any question. The Constitution of Afghanistan is an issue that has been decided by the people of Afghanistan; no one can deal on the constitution. If someone wants to bring about any change in the Constitution of Afghanistan, it has to be done properly in the way it has been envisaged by the Constitution itself, not by backdoor deals and then they say the next day they have changed the law. About the rights of the people, this is part of the process. About the achievements to date, these achievements should be further enforced and preserved, so that we should not regress. That is why these issues have been debated, in civil society, in parliament, and inside the government.