Pashtun provinces in Afghanistan may go to Taliban if peace talks successful

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: Photo By News Lens Pakistan / Matiullah Achakzai
Pakistani paramilitary solider stand alert as the Afghan prisoners handing over to Afghan authorities by Pakistani authorities at Friendship gate on Pak-Afghan border Chaman. : Photo By News Lens Pakistan / Matiullah Achakzai

Bannu:  A diplomatic source inside the Afghan embassy at Peshawar has revealed  that  in its bid to restore peace in Afghanistan, the Afghan government was ready to give charge of six provinces to Taliban.

Requesting anonymity, the source who is an official in the Afghan government said that four provinces in the east and two provinces in southern Afghanistan would be given to Taliban.

“The Taliban would take over charge as governors of the proposed provinces after peace talks are successful,” said the source adding that it would happen immediately after the talks.

According to the source, the Pashtun dominated Paktia, Paktika, Khost and Gardez provinces in eastern Afghanistan and Qandahar and Kunar provinces in the south would go to the Taliban.

Following overtures by Afghan government in recent days to negotiate with Afghan Taliban, close associates of Mullah Omar have welcomed the initiative but said talks should not include the United States.

The Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has treated peace in Afghanistan as his government’s top priority since it came to power in 2014. In keeping with that focus, he has approached hardcore Taliban leadership to negotiate peace and stability in the war-torn country.

“If we have peace inside Afghanistan, we would have all other things,” Ghani told a  foreign TV channel recently. He said that the Afghan people had been suffered a lot for the last four decades and the unrest and bloodshed must come to a stop.

An ex-Taliban Shura member and a close comrade of Mullah Umar, Maulvi Abdul Wali Tabassum told News Lens that the Taliban were ready to hold talks with the Afghan government on the condition that it wouldn’t include America.

“No talks can take place in the presence of America,” said Tabassum.

The Afghan Taliban have already confirmed contacts with the Afghan government saying they were ready for peace provided their demands and conditions were met.

“We have nominated three people to conduct talks with the Afghan government representatives wherever they want,” said Tabassum. He said the Afghan government  seems serious about peace talks.

He said the identity of the Taliban negotiators was a secret yet. “I can only tell that they are neither Taliban nor are they in Afghanistan. They are in the gulf countries at present and will represent Afghan Taliban in the peace talks.”

He said the negotiators were authorized by the Taliban Shura of Elders to carry out negotiations.

Maulvi  Tabassum said the top Taliban leadership had accepted four conditions laid out by the Afghan government as a gesture of goodwill but refused to  disclose the details saying that it was too early for making them public.

“You will come to know about it soon,” said Tabassum. “Don’t push me to reveal details before time.”

Sources in the Afghan embassy also confirmed that Salahuddin Rabbani, son of former Afghan president Burhanudin Rabbani, was reportedly given the task to woo the hardcore Taliban leadership inside and outside Afghanistan.

“He completed talks with the Taliban leaders in gulf countries a month ago,” said the source at the embassy. “He is busy contacting Taliban leaders inside the country now.”

The source said Mullah Biradar, Mullah Abdul Wali, Rehmatullah Akazai and Maulvi Halim Khan Taniwal might be the future Taliban governors if talks are successful.

He said Salahuddin Rabbani was also in close contact with the Afghan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah and keeping him in the loop about the proposed peace talks.

Maulvi Tabassum said the Taliban would never agree to the division of Afghanistan at any cost.

“I declare that we would not sit on the negotiation table with US envoys and would never agree to the proposal of division of Afghanistan,” said Tabassum. “We can think about joining the Afghan government provided the US troops withdraw from Afghanistan.”

Asked if the peace talks would happen after withdrawal of the US troops from Afghanistan, he said the peace process was a long one. “It could take months, even years to complete,” he said, hinting that the talks might start in the first week of April this year. “It now depends upon the Afghan government how, when and where it provides a safe and healthy environment for the talks.”

Tabassum said if the peace talks succeeded and peace was established in the region, it would have far-reaching consequences for Pakistan.

“Peace in the two countries is closely related to each other,” he said.

He also hinted that  the success of proposed peace talks with the Afghan Taliban could influence Pakistani Taliban to put down their guns to restore peace and tranquility in the country.

Analysts said peace talks with the Afghan Taliban would have consequences for peace in Pakistan as almost all of the top leadership of militant groups active in Pakistan including the banned Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) were based in various parts of Afghanistan.

“The Afghan Taliban can compel Pakistan Taliban to surrender to the Pakistani government as some of the Afghan Taliban have great influence over the Pakistani militants,” said Rehmatullah Shabab, a Peshawar based expert on Afghan affairs.

He said peace in Afghanistan would help restore peaceful Pak-Afghan ties, in which case the Afghan government could ask the Pakistani militants to either establish peace or or leave the area.

“I hope there will be no way out for the fugitive Taliban leaders but surrender to the government of Pakistan,” said Shabab.

In recent months, Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah of Afghanistan has openly admitted conducting peace talks with the Afghan Taliban, a move that the Pakistan and US governments have welcomed.

Media reports have confirmed that the ISI Chief Gen. Rizwan Akhtar visited US  in February to discuss trilateral issues concerning the upcoming peace talks between the Afghan government and Taliban fighters.

An analyst and writer in  Kabul, the Afghan capital, confirmed contacts between Taliban and representatives of the Afghan government. “We have no statement as such from either the Taliban or the Afghan government,” said the analyst who didn’t want to be named. “It would be before time to draw a conclusion at this stage.”

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