Afghans deserve peace – Abdul Sattar

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The barbaric attack on a girls’ school in Kabul has shocked millions of conscientious people across the world. The brutal onslaught of the militants also indicates what awaits the war-torn country that has witnessed nothing but death and destruction in the last four decades.

The terrorist incident has not only killed over 70 innocent girls but also put a question mark on the conscience of the international community that seems to be ignoring the plight of Afghan people for the sake of pretty geopolitical, economic and financial interests; the hapless Hazara community in the meanwhile are still in danger.

The grief-stricken faces of Hazara men, women and the elderly do not depict only the plight of the Afghan people but they also reflect the deep wound that has been inflicted on the soul of a nation that has been sandwiched between regional rivals, neighbouring states and international geopolitics masters. The attack clearly indicates that the country is likely to plunge into a terrible crisis that will have far-reaching consequences for the region, especially its neighbouring states.

The situation makes it very clear that the country is not only brimming with ethnic fault lines but sectarian ones as well. It is not the first time that sectarian terror has knocked on the door of the Afghans; during the decade of the 1990s, the country also witnessed massacres in the name of sects and creeds. The brutal capture of Bamiyan during the decade is still fresh in the memories of those who were traumatized by the onslaught of the Afghan Taliban.

Their sectarian approach to the conflict also emboldened Pakistani sectarian organisations, prompting them to unleash a reign of terror inside the country. A number of doctors, engineers and other professionals also fell prey to this senseless killing spree. Thousands of such professionals were forced to migrate to different countries to avoid target killings, depriving the country of their skills and talent. Some of the top sectarian terrorists sought refuge inside Afghanistan and the theocratic state refused to hand them over to Islamabad despite repeated appeals by Pakistani governments.

There was a time when the Pakistani state was supportive of the Taliban’s rule. Some even went to the extent of predicting that the cloistered group would trigger the Muslim renaissance, which would challenge the might of the ‘infidels’ and break their global hegemony. But the rule of the Taliban created more conflicts. In Pakistan it not only sharpened the Shia-Sunni divide but also revitalized old disputes between Barelvis and Deobandis.

After the fall of the Taliban, they were forced to revisit their sectarian approach. The emergence of Isis prompted them to be more tolerant towards sectarian minorities. Most of the attacks on the Shia community in Afghanistan were carried out by Isis which also openly claimed responsibility for such activities. The Taliban distanced themselves from such terrorist activities. But it seems that the approach that the Taliban had adopted in the decade of 1990s boomeranged on them.

Sectarian terrorists are not only targeting the Shia community but also attacking the soldiers of Mullah Omar. There are conflicting reports about the rise of Isis in Afghanistan with a section of the Afghan ruling elite lumping them together with the Taliban, describing them as the same and declaring them the proxies of Islamabad. The Afghan Taliban, on the other hand, say that Isis has been created by Afghan intelligence and foreign powers to undermine the Taliban.

Many believe that the emergence of such groups will continue taking place until peace is completely restored inside the war-torn country. Afghanistan is not the first country to have witnessed multiple warring factions and warlords; other parts of the world have also experienced the mushrooming of various militant outfits during a state of anarchy.

Violence breeds violence and conflicts beget more conflicts. It is the situation on the ground that needs to be changed. It is the much-needed peace that needs to be restored. Therefore, if the Afghan Taliban and other stakeholders really want the elimination of such blood-thirsty sectarian groups then they must come up with a solution to end one of the longest conflicts in the world. The Americans and the West, whose intervention has only added to the woes of the Afghan people, should also play their role in stabilizing the country. A massive financial package for the country that was destroyed by the occupation is the need of the hour.

Afghanistan is a multi-ethnic country with deep sectarian fault lines. The foreign occupation of the country had deprived the Afghans of the opportunity to sort out their differences and come up with a viable solution for a durable peace. With the pull-out of American troops, history will once again provide an opportunity to the people to forge unity in their ranks and devise a mechanism that can pave the way for peace and stability. Since regional countries suffered a lot in the past because of anarchy and instability in Afghanistan, they should also stop meddling in the country’s affairs.

The ordinary Afghan paid the highest price during this long and unrelenting turmoil. Between 1979 and 2001, more than 1.8 million Afghan perished in wars and conflicts and 1.5 million were disabled. The period also witnessed a massive exodus of Afghan people, with over 7.8 million people fleeing the country after the destruction of more than 14000 villages. The current conflict has killed more than 200,000 people. The Afghans have suffered a lot and deserve peace and stability which is not possible without the cooperation of regional countries, the Afghan ruling elite and leaders of various ethnic and religious groups.

The writer is a freelance journalist.