The recent peace deal signed by the National Unity Government (NUG) and Hizb-e-Islami Afghanistan (HIA) - the second largest insurgent group in Afghanistan - is a significant achievement. The Afghan leadership has brought about a deal that takes Afghanistan one-step closer to lasting peace, that demonstrates Afghans are able to take control of our own destiny, and that security is the number one priority of the NUG. The deal binds both parties to the principles of Islam, the rule of law, and the democratic process.
The most significant success of the deal, ratified 29th September by President Ghani and the HIA leader Hekmatyar, is that it is an inta-Afghan process. This deal successfully concluded after a series of hard Afghan led and Afghan owned negotiations for the past two years. After fourteen years of total reliance on the International Community, this process has shown the strength of the Afghan people and the NUG to stand on our own feet. The NUG and delegates from HIA have carried out these talks without the intervention of international partners. Given that 90% of world-wide conflicts in the 1990s were internal wars, and almost none of these conflicts were resolved without some form of international intervention, we can be proud of our achievements. We have proved that as a nation we can build peace through consent, and the NUG has shown that it is committed to improving the security for the people of Afghanistan. It might not always be obvious, but the work required to broker this deal has been painstaking and laborious. In many ways this peace deal demonstrates the nature of the NUG. It is committed to delivering lasting results that will secure a peaceful future for our nation, rather than grabbing the easy and sensationalist headlines.
Despite the obvious need for peace and security, organisations such as Human Rights Watch and other International Non-Governmental Organisations have criticised the deal. They claim that the agreement proliferates a ‘culture of impunity’ for former warlords. Such concerns are understandable; however the argument is unhelpful in our current situation. If we denied such groups the chance to move forward without fear of recrimination, or banned them from holding political office, we would never see the blessing of peace. Furthermore, we would be betraying the Islamic, democratic, and lawful foundations of our nation. Why would any group lay down their arms, cut their insurgent ties, and make concessions to their former enemies if their voice was not going to be heard? Afghans who are willing to accept peace must be given a stake in our future.
Peace deals all over the world require forgiveness, humility, and desire to leave the past behind. Even in Western countries such as the United Kingdom, concessions had to be made by both the British Government and the Irish Republican Army to ensure the success of the ‘Good Friday Agreement’. Insurgents who had conducted bombing attacks against civilians were released from prison as part of the process of decommissioning the Provisional Irish Republican Army. The desire for peace and normalcy in Northern Ireland won over, and the insurgent’s political wing entered the democratic process as they realised that they would not achieve their goals through violence.
Understandably, the families of the dead may harbour resentment to this deal. They might feel their loved ones have been forgotten and that injustices are going unanswered. But we must ask our selves, which is greater, the cost of peace or the cost of continued war? It will be difficult to forgive, but surely the best way to honour the dead is by ensuring that these tragedies of the past are not repeated in the future through continued conflict. And we should remember that the release of political prisoners does not mean that HIA will be able to act with impunity; they will still be subject to the rule of law. This deal by no mean will undermine rule of law, currently enforced laws, and criminal prosecution of anyone committing crimes. This deal will only pave the way for HIA leader and members to reintegrate into Afghan society and live peacefully with their Afghan fellow citizens and pursue their goals through political means.
This peace deal demonstrates the ability of Afghans to find solutions to our own problems and the power of the NUG’s active diplomacy. Building on the successes of deals with our regional partners, the NUG has convinced the United Nations, the United States, and the wider International community to begin the process of removing HIA from their list of terrorist organisations and bring an end to sanctions. It is this kind of cooperation and diplomatic effort that will secure Afghanistan the future that it deserves.
This deal sends the message that the NUG will make accommodations for peace, contrary to what our neighbours may claim. Elements within Pakistan have told insurgent groups that the NUG is unwilling to seek peace and that any deals made will be false. This agreement highlights the falsehoods spread by Pakistan, and the NUG is committed to finding peace.
This agreement is not a panacea, but it is a significant success. It should be seen as a milestone and an indication of progress for Afghanistan. We should be proud of our accomplishments, our sacrifice, and our patience. And to those who continue to use violence to solve political differences, the NUG has shown that it is willing to reconcile with any armed groups willing to denounce war, cut ties with terrorist groups and seek peaceful living. There is a way to honourably re-joining your families, and that the peace process is open to all. It is also worth mentioning that Afghan National Defence and Security Forces are determined to protect the Afghan people, Afghan territorial integrity and sovereignty by all means and ready to make any sacrifices in this way.