Taliban Need to Initiate Intra-Afghan Dialogue

In his recent interview on December 27 with the Washington Post, former Afghan president Hamid Karzai demanded that the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) begin a national dialogue, which he described as ‘good’ for both Taliban and Afghanistan. Karzai’s demand has been voiced by many Afghans for some time now, to facilitate taking key decisions about relevant issues. However, it has been nearly one and a half years and the Taliban government continues to remain in international isolation. This situation has not only forced the Taliban government to face harsh challenges but has severely impacted the public in Afghanistan.

The country is being dragged deeper into the quagmire because of the economic recession, the absence of public services and working opportunities, the halt of community-based and sustainable development projects implemented by foreign countries and donor agencies, sanctions on the banking system, lack of interest from foreign investment and the fleeing of private enterprise from the country, not to mention the curbs on women banning them from education and work. The country is moving in an uncertain direction that the current authority of  the Taliban might not be able to manage properly or control in the near future. To that end, the Taliban is expected to revisit the policy they have maintained since the group takeover. A diversified policy can assist with regaining the trust-building process at both domestic and foreign levels.

Four Decades of Conflict

Looking back at the four-decade-long conflict, it is evident that none of the Afghan governments could manage to contain domestic political turmoil and each of the regimes was unsuccessful due to their self-assertive decisions in the political milieu. The civil war in the 1990s is a straightforward example: it took place between the Jihadi factions for acquiring power in Kabul when they first rejected the ‘national reconciliation’ policy of former president Dr. Najibullah Ahmadzai, the last president of the pro-Soviet Union government in Afghanistan. As a result, Kabul city became a battlefield, and thousands of innocent residents were killed through civil war between those (Mujahedeen) who fought with the USSR to defend Afghanistan.

In 1996, the sudden rise of the Taliban pushed the country to another scarring domestic conflict. Rather the Taliban and Northern Alliance waged wars against each other, they equally deprived the country of stability and development for five years. None of them attempted to seek a peaceful solution to the political polarization through national dialogue. Meanwhile, the US-Taliban Doha deal thoroughly marginalized the previous Afghan government and didn’t help to bring a permanent peace. Afghans are still experiencing tumult after the Taliban takeover in 2021.

Toward Peace and Stability

In this context, Afghanistan hasn’t yet enjoyed permanent peace and stability because of political schisms, public resentment, and security threats. Currently, it needs consistent, balanced, and unified steps that the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan should consider, learning lessons from the past before the situation gets worse. As Afghanistan is a country comprised of multi-ethnic groups and tribes, there is a need for representation from every walk of life and ethnicity. Therefore, making an inclusive government will address many issues plaguing the country currently. It would be an outstanding achievement on the part of the Taliban to show their goodwill in the political arena. Holding nationwide consultations with political parties, civil society, religious scholars, and ethnic leaders will build a foundation towards a new constitution, regime structure and any other future developments under the Taliban leadership.

Recent decisions by the Taliban to deny women university education and suspend local and foreign organizations triggered strong reactions at the domestic and global levels, giving rise to  despair even in the Islamic world. The latter was reflected in the statements of the Organization for Islamic Countries (OIC), Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UAE, Turkey, among others.Allowing girls to go to school, university and work are imperative for a country’s socio-economic and socio-political development, especially in this age of information and technology. In this context,, Afghanistan should not return to the catastrophic events of the 1990s to become a safe haven for terrorism, battlefield for proxies, and home to foreign interference. Thus, it would be great for the Taliban to evoke Ulema from all over the country for consultations to permit women’s education and work in line with Islamic culture. Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Indonesia and other Muslim countries in the world have provided proper environment in their respective territories for women based on the very foundations of Islam. It implies that education is for all, whether male or female in the Islamic world, and that there is no discrimination against women from getting education.

Way Forward

For the above-mentioned purpose, intra-Afghan dialogue is the only favourable approach to be created by the Taliban leadership. Taking important decisions through such an Afghan-owned process will allow for opening new doors to a stable Afghanistan. The beginning of a national dialogue will also pave the way to international recognition, and many unresolved issues will be taken into consideration under the national consensus, which will boost the image of the Taliban-led government and Afghanistan. This approach can remove the distance between the Taliban and the people of Afghanistan, and the Taliban and international community, as well as salvage the country from the ongoing recession.