Policy convention deems Afghanistan key to regional peace
04 September, 2012
ISLAMABAD: Former Afghan leader in the Soviet war and esteemed intellectual Dr Ghulam Farouq Azam on Monday asserted that Afghanistan has immense potential to facilitate its neighbours, especially India and Pakistan, to shed differences and work together for a peaceful and prosperous future.
He was speaking at an interactive session held at Institute of Policy Studies, Islamabad, which was chaired by former ambassador and foreign secretary Tanveer Ahmed Khan.
Azam, also two times minister in the post-USSR withdrawal Afghan National Alliance government, said that the peace process should be initiated and led by Afghans. Azam said that Afghanistan's neighbours have legitimate interests in Afghanistan and vice versa. He was of the view that the United States could not win the war but that did not imply that the armed opposition or any of the neighbouring countries of Afghanistan could emerge as the winner.
Azam said that after the defeat of the USSR in Afghanistan and the subsequent withdrawal of its troops, the opposition forces did not emerge victorious either and were not able to form a strong, consensus government. The same situation may emerge again, he warned. Stressing the need for an Afghan-initiated and Afghan-led peace process, Azam revealed that he along with some other influential people of Afghanistan were working on a peace formula which would be honourable for all stakeholders. "The majority should be able to accept and support it and those who do not like it should not feel marginalised," he said.
Azam further said that he met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and other stakeholders in Afghanistan and presented to them his proposals for the peace process. He said that he has been assured of cooperation and support.
Participating in the discussion, Dr Ghairat Baheer, representative of Hizb-e-Islami, cited the 15-point peace proposal given by his party and opined that the ball was in US's court with regards to peace in Afghanistan. The opposition forces were eager to bring genuine peace in the region, however, he said, they would neither lay down arms nor accept the present Afghan constitution, the very two pre-conditions put forth by the US for it to hold talks with them. Baheer said that he met with Karzai several times and felt that negotiations with the Afghan government were futile as it was a powerless government in this regard.
Baheer said that he met with many US officials in Afghanistan and they have made clear that the US will not leave Afghanistan in the near future, reaffirmed by categorical statements such as, "We are not going to stay in Afghanistan permanently but we will remain there for a very long time," and, "We will leave Afghanistan by 2014 but we will leave behind a sizeable number of non-combatant contingents." Baheer further claimed that after the withdrawal of USSR, US did not want the opposition forces to take over Afghanistan and covertly connived with USSR to maintain Najeebullah as the president. US was also behind the Ojhri camp incident and the mysterious death of General Ziaul Haq.
Chairman of the session, Tanveer Ahmad Khan, said that the official policy of Pakistan, incidentally, was the same as proposed by Dr Ghulam Farouq Azam that wanted the Afghan peace process to be initiated and led by the Afghans. He urged the regional countries to review their policies vis-à-vis Afghanistan and allow it to become independent, sovereign and prosperous. He was of the view that India is an important regional player and its leaders should demonstrate true statesmanship in this context. Tanveer remarked that he does not envision any plans by Pakistan to make Afghanistan a subordinate entity, as an independent, prosperous and peaceful Afghanistan is in the best interest of Pakistan as well.
With regards to the role of US in Afghanistan he said that US has abandoned nation-building projects and is indifferent to the welfare of the people. Tanveer said that the US wants to intensify the north-south dispute in Afghanistan, however, due to the rich history of the Afghan nation, none of its ethnic groups will allow division on ethnic or linguistic grounds. Insitute of Policy Studies DG Khalid Rahman also spoke on the occasion and reiterated the institute's commitment to facilitate the Afghan peace process through applied research and meaningful dialogue.