Taliban not for monopoly of power, says peace activist

Taliban controls more than half of Afghanistan and is willing to share power with other domestic stakeholders in Kabul, a leading peace activist has said. Khalilullah Shafi, a founder-member of the Afghan Peace Studies Organisation (APSO), said on Sunday that the militant group had indicated that it wants to reach out to the wider world and that it did not have a policy of not having a dialogue with India.

“Taliban don’t want monopoly on power which means they want power sharing so, they have to talk and reach on a peace agreement with the Afghan government and other Afghan political groups,” Mr. Shafi said, indicating that the process however depends on the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan.

Mr. Shafi’s observation comes in the wake of a series of recent discussions regarding talks with the group that is waging a war against the government of President Ashraf Ghani in Kabul. Last week, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif suggested that Taliban should be involved in talks. India, however, maintained a cautious position saying it supports “Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled” peace talks. India’s main concern is Pakistan’s role in supporting Taliban.

The peace activist said the Pakistani state and Taliban are not always on the same page on all issues, saying, “Pakistan and Taliban have some common goals and some separate goals in Afghanistan. They will not sacrifice their goals for each other’s benefit until both achieve at least some of their strategic goals.” He believes that the group does not want to be isolated internationally and wants to have dialogue with multiple countries.

“Taliban does not have a policy which stops it from talking to India,” said Mr. Shafi, who pointed out that Russia, China and Iran did not have positive ties with the group earlier but have come around to engage it now.

Mr. Shafi’s group APSO has been active in building communication between Taliban and the Afghan civil society, the United Nations agencies for the protection of civilians and women. He and APSO organised several back channel talks with Taliban between May 2015 and November 2017. UNICEF, WHO WFP, OCHAA and UNAMA are various organisations that used APSO for ensuring humanitarian support for Taliban.