Nine of every 10 Afghans support peace with the Taliban and 68 percent want a ceasefire ahead of open-ended intra-Afghan talks.
The survey comes as US-Taliban peace talks have been going on for the last one year in Qatar. Despite breaks and pauses, some progress has been made in the peace negotiations, but final agreement is yet to be signed.
Support for peace with Taliban
Pajhwok launched the online survey to ascertain public opinion about peace. The survey reveals 93 percent of people want peace with the insurgent movement.
Zabihullah, one of the respondents, said: “Peace should be made with the Taliban, as they are Afghans, Muslims and an important party to the conflict. The war cannot be ended without reaching peace with the Taliban.”
Ahmad Saeedi, a political analyst, said peace was to Afghans what water was to life. Reconciliation should be achieved in whatever way possible, he stressed.
About differences on the issue, he said in addition to a peace deal between the Taliban and the government, leaders should also make peace.
Peace should also be made between the public and the government, as there is a visible distance between the two sides, according to the analyst.
Saeedi noted peace talks were mostly an issue in urban areas but it was not right and the government, together with people, should support negotiations on the topic.
Emphasis on Taliban-govt talks
Fifty-two percent of respondents supported peace talks between the government and the Taliban while 36 percent others insisted on talks should among all sides (government, Taliban, the US and other Afghan parties).
Ahmad Zia, a resident of Kabul, said: “Peace will continue to elude Afghanistan as long as the Taliban brand the government as a puppet and the government slams the Taliban as terrorists. Such labeling should end; all Afghans are Muslim and brothers. The government and the Taliban should talk and put an end to the tragedy.”
Tawfiqullah Khogyani, another respondent, urged peace talks among all sides. “We want peace with all, not only with the Taliban. We want peace with all.”
Noor Shah Noorani, a political analyst, asked the government and the Taliban to launch talks if they really wanted to end the war in Afghanistan.
He opined peace could not be established in the country if the government and the Taliban did not talk. The main party to the war was currently the Afghan people, he thought.
Role of various sections of society
Seventy-seven percent of people suggest women, civil society activists, journalists and other sections of society should take part in peace talks.
Noorani claimed the Afghans were largely unaware of ongoing peace negotiations between the Taliban and the US in Qatar. He said achieving lasting peace was impossible until an Afghan mechanism was created and all social and political groups included in the process.
Marhaba Hashimi, a participant of the survey, said: “National unity was more important than anything else. All sides should embrace each other with an open mind.”
Eighteen of every 23 participants said a ceasefire ahead of peace talks should be given priority while four others called for the withdrawal of foreign forces.
Political analyst Noorani said a ceasefire was important for building trust. He asked the Taliban, the US and the Afghan government to agree on a ceasefire before peace talks got under way.
The talks going on between the Taliban and the US were suspended several times due to incidents that happened during war, he added.
President Donald Trump cancelled peace talks with the Taliban on September 8, 2018 after an attack in Kabul that killed 12 people, including a US soldier.
Ahmad Saeedi said: “I don’t think the negotiations headed by Khalilzad will yield any results. Reduction of violence is meaningless, a ceasefire should be announced. If the Taliban don’t agree to a ceasefire, their negotiations with the US will be deadlocked.”
The US and Taliban representatives recently met in Qatar on decreasing violence in Afghanistan after President Donald Trump suspended talks with the Taliban.
Some respondents said the nature of the future government system and achievements of the country should not be ignored during peace talks.
Atlas Atif, one of the participants, commented: “We want peace that prioritises the Islamic Sharia. When the Sharia is enforced, political, economic, social, cultural and other problems will be resolved.”
Ahmad Hadi Darwesh, said: “We want peace that doesn’t not reverse our achievements of the last 18 years. Rights of orphans and widows should be ensured and sacrifices of women should not be compromised.
“Parties to a peace deal should refer to the Afghan people, not to political forces, because the nation, not politicians, has been the main victim,” he reasoned.
Conditions for peace talks:
Fifty-seven percent of survey participants said intra-Afghan peace talks should start without any preconditions while 43 percent say conditions should be considered before the process is set in motion.
Rafiullah, a resident of Kabul, said: “Warring sides should make their positions flexible for peace, prevention of bloodshed, and start parleys without any preconditions. They should accept each other and follow the Treaty of Hudaybiyah as a roadmap.”
Abdullah Khairkhwah, former chief for the Giro district of Ghazni province, asked the Taliban to talk directly to Afghans and dialogue should be without conditions if they really want peace in the country. “Taliban are Afghans and we too are Afghans. Let’s start peace talks inside Afghanistan,” he remarked.
Most people for talks inside Afghanistan
Seventy-six percent of respondents said peace talks must happen inside Afghanistan. Behind Afghanistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Norway and China were suggested as hosts to peace talks.
Ahmadzai, a resident of Kabul, alleged: “Afghanistan has destroyed by foreign interference. Peace in our country is possible only when foreign meddling stops and negotiations begin among Afghans inside our own country.”
Abdullah Khairkhwah said: “This is not our peace; this is not our war. Peace talks should start inside Afghanistan. If foreigners really wanted to rebuild our country, we would not have suffered 45 years of conflict.”
The Afghans desired durable peace; they did not want peace with certain groups and the conflict continued in the name of war on Al-Qaeda, he deplored.
About strengthening peace, Ahmad Saeedi said: “I think this war has implications for the Afghans, the region and beyond, In addition, this is a proxy war and involves rivalries. It is a show of military muscle among the US and Russia, India and Pakistan, and Iran and Saudi Arabia.”
He warned permanent peace would not come about unless underlying causes and solutions of the ongoing war were identified.
Pajhwok launched the online survey on peace in Pashto, Dari and English languages from January 6 to January 18. The survey covered 2,250 people, including 89 (four percent) were women and the rest men, eight of every 10 respondents were residents of urban stations while the rest hailed from rural regions.