A group of Herat residents, civil society activists, youths and religious scholars at a gathering titled “The Public Voice in the Peace Process” called on government and the international community to accelerate the peace efforts and said they support the talks but they should be led and owned by Afghans.
The event was divided into different working groups who collected their ideas and presented them under a united umbrella which all stressed on supporting the peace talks with the Taliban, who refuses to attend the negotiations table with the Afghan government.
“The peace efforts are ongoing for the past few months. The Afghan government, the foreign countries, the Taliban, and political parties from outside the Afghan government have their role in it, but the role of the Afghan people is missing,” said Fahim Dashti, an organizer of the event.
Members of Herat civil society said the Afghan citizens have the right to be aware of the details of the talks between the US and the Taliban negotiators.
“Lasting and sustainable peace is the demand of all Afghans,” said Ghulam Farooq Rasib, a civil society activist in Herat.
“Peace should be for the people at the end of the day. The voice of the people should be the main voice in peace talks, but the voice of the people is not heard at the moment,” said Mujib Khalwatgar, member of the Afghan Policy Group.
Attendants of the event, meanwhile, called on government to consider the views of all layers of the society in the peace talks.
“The demand of the people of Afghanistan should be prioritized in the peace talks,” said Abdul Hadi Wasiqi, a religious scholar.
“The freedom of the press, women’s rights, education, and other achievements should be preserved in the peace process,” said Khadija Rahimi, a Herat resident.
The fifth round of the talks between the US and Taliban negotiators in Qatar ended after 16 days on March 12 with agreement in draft between the two sides on some key issues under debate.
Hours after the news broke on Qatar talks, US Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad said in a tweet that he wrapped up a marathon round of talks with Taliban in Doha.
Khalilzad said peace requires agreement on four issues: counterterrorism assurances, troop withdrawal, intra-Afghan dialogue, and a comprehensive ceasefire.
“In January talks, we “agreed in principle” on these four elements. We’re now “agreed in draft” on the first two,” he said in a tweet.
He said the conditions for peace have improved and that it is clear all sides want to end the war. “Despite ups and downs, we kept things on track and made real strides,” he said.
Khalilzad said when the agreement in draft about a withdrawal timeline and effective counterterrorism measures is finalized, the Taliban and other Afghans, including the government, will begin intra-Afghan negotiations on a political settlement and comprehensive ceasefire.