Afghanistan remains a country in conflict even in the midst of the COVID-19 global pandemic. Most recently, there have been widespread calls from across the globe, including from the UN, the EU, regional partners and humanitarian organizations, for a humanitarian ceasefire as the country battles the novel coronavirus. Yet, these calls have been complicated by delays in the start of the peace process, and increasing violence by the militant groups, mainly Taliban.
Meanwhile, migration, urban density, poverty, and the ongoing conflict mean that Afghanistan is uniquely placed to experience potentially catastrophic numbers during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Lack of people’s cooperation and following of the health measures have further increase the positive cases of the novel virus and the death toll is increasing every day.
When Taliban declared a three day ceasefire during the Eid-ul-Fitr, the Afghan government, its international partners and the common masses welcomed the move in a bid to get rid of the violence as well as the virus in the war-torn country.
But the ceasefire didn’t last, and the militants continued their attacks on Afghan forces and people in major cities. Indeed, a ceasefire was necessary to give all Afghans the best possible chance of defeating their common enemy: COVID-19. Ceasefires could represent an emergency stop-gap in moving toward real, sustainable progress for either of the two greatest issues facing the country now: pandemic and peace.
Reports suggest that Taliban have time and again denied treatment of the COVID-19 patients in their control areas and the health organizations have remained unsure of the real cases in Taliban ranks and the people in their territory.
Despite of deal with US and pledges for reduction of violence, the Taliban have thus far ignored calls for a comprehensive humanitarian ceasefire, even as they seem to have grasped the potential for catastrophe. Sceptics of peace efforts have pointed to the group’s dismissal of these calls as further evidence that it is not serious about ending the war.
THE Taliban have never halted violence nationwide for the sake of humanitarian considerations, in spite of numerous reasons to do so in the past: annual flooding, harsh winter weather, devastating drought or displacement due to conflict. There is little reason to expect the group to change its calculus on violence and human suffering now.
In Afghanistan, it is right time that all countries support calls for a ceasefire and recognize that however important a cessation of violence it is, it is on its own an inadequate measure to address the challenges the country is about to face. Taliban should accept the calls and join hand with Afghan people in fight against the virus pandemic and development of the country.