Pakistanis across political spectrum express hope for peace in Afghanistan

By Ashfaq Yusufzai


Men and boys February 22 in Kandahar Province dance as they celebrate the first day of 'reduction in violence' agreed among the Taliban, US and Afghan forces. [Javed Tanveer/AFP]

PESHAWAR -- Political parties across Pakistan are welcoming the potential peace deal the United States and the Taliban announced last Friday and the week-long partial truce across Afghanistan that kicked off Saturday (February 22).

The Taliban, US and Afghan forces have all agreed to a "reduction in violence", marking only the second lull in fighting since 2001.

Both US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the Taliban issued statements saying they had agreed to sign the accord on February 29 in Doha, following the one-week partial truce.

The peace agreement, to be signed in Doha by US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad and Taliban representatives, will eventually lead to a permanent ceasefire, Pompeo said in a statement Friday.


Afghan refugees distribute sweets on February 22 in the Khurasan Refugee Camp in Peshawar after learning of a US-Taliban peace deal scheduled to be signed February 29. [Ashfaq Yusufzai]


Afghan refugees distribute sweets on February 22 in the Khurasan Refugee Camp in Peshawar after learning of a US-Taliban peace deal scheduled to be signed February 29. [Ashfaq Yusufzai]

"The United States and the Taliban have been engaged in extensive talks to facilitate a political settlement to end the war in Afghanistan, reduce United States and Allied Forces presence, and ensure that no terrorist group ever uses Afghan soil to threaten the United States or our allies," he said.

"Upon a successful implementation of this understanding, signing of the US-Taliban agreement is expected to move forward," Pompeo said.

"Intra-Afghan negotiations will start soon thereafter, and will build on this fundamental step to deliver a comprehensive and permanent ceasefire and the future political road map for Afghanistan," he said.

On the initial days, the truce appeared to be sticking, with only isolated attacks threatening to mar the process, AFP reported.

In the north, Taliban fighters attacked a district headquarters near the Balkh provincial capital of Mazar-e-Sharif, killing two Afghan soldiers, a local official told AFP. There were also reports of a separate incident in Uruzgan Province.

Highlighting the partial nature of the truce, Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid stressed it was "not a ceasefire".

"The reduction in violence covers provincial capitals, army HQs, divisions, battalion centres and foreign forces compounds," he said on Twitter.

Peace and development for entire region

This is the first time all three parties -- the United States, Taliban and Afghan government -- have expressed satisfaction with the terms of the potential peace deal, said Awami National Party President Asfandyar Wali Khan.

"[The peace deal] will have a lasting impact on Pakistan, which has suffered immensely from terrorism," he said. "I hope that soon this temporary truce will become a permanent ceasefire."

"Our party welcomes the announcement and will continue its efforts for the materialisation of the peace process in Afghanistan as it is in Pakistan's benefit to have peace in neighbouring Afghanistan," he said, adding that he hopes the agreement will usher in peace and development for the entire region.

"Thousands have been killed; millions have migrated and became homeless because of the endless terrorism in the region," Khan said. "But now, finally, sense has prevailed and we expect a complete peace as a result of the deal."

"We strongly support the peace overtures in the region and assure the United States, the Taliban and Afghan government of our co-operation to do away with all forms of terrorism and let civilians live peacefully," said Aftab Ahmad Khan Sherpao, chairman of the Qaumi Watan Party and former interior minister.

"Rampant terrorism has plunged Pakistan and Afghanistan into economic despair and residents of both countries lost their properties and businesses, which is why we all want an end to lawlessness," he said.

"The peace deal will not only benefit the Afghans but also the neighbouring countries that have become hostage to terrorism," Sherpao said.

Peace in Afghanistan means prosperity in the whole region, said Ajmal Khan Wazir, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf leader and adviser on tribal districts to the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) chief minister.

"Our tribal areas have been the worst affected by war in Afghanistan," he said. "Therefore, we are extremely happy over the announcement of a peace deal. We appeal to all the groups to sign the peace agreement and let the public live in a terror-free environment."

Joy among Afghan refugees

Following years of war, the potential peace agreement could pave the way for a pull-out of foreign troops from Afghanistan, which is a long-standing demand of the Afghan Taliban, said Prof. Abdul Jabbar, who taught at Kabul University until 2010 and now lives in Peshawar.

"We commend all the parties for showing decency that will benefit the public," said Prof. Abdul Jabbar, who taught at Kabul University until 2010 and now lives in Peshawar.

"The Taliban should keep in mind that civilians want an end to war," he said, adding that the US negotiators' role in making the deal is praiseworthy.

News of the peace deal sent a wave of joy among Afghan refugees, said Jabbar, who runs a tuition centre for Afghan students in Peshawar.

"It is the first time since the Afghan war that our people are confident of peace in their war-weary country," he said, referring to more than 40 years of warfare since the Soviet invasion in 1979. "Afghans are celebrating the announcement as it will bring a tangible improvement in their lives."

"The last few generations have grown up amid terrorism," Jabbar said. "Everyone has eyes on February 29 to start his [or her] life afresh."

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