By Chayanika Saxena*
In the background of flaring violence and spiralling insecurity, peace in Afghanistan continues to be an elusive desire. However far it might appear from the reach of a country that has been at the centre of imperialist (Tsarist Russia and Imperial Britain), ideological (Communist USSR and Capitalist US) and regional (India, Pakistan, Russia, Iran and China) ‘great games’, peace is a desire harboured by the common man and woman in Afghanistan nevertheless.
The recent signing of the peace deal between the National Unity Government of Afghanistan and the militant organization, Hezb-e-Islami (Gulbuddin Hekmatyar) (HIG) has been touted as country’s first step towards peace. However, many would like to disagree with the ring that has been given to this deal by the government and its (increasingly weary) international patrons. The people of Afghanistan have registered their protest against the deal which the government and the country stand to gain less from. Instead, it is being seen as a ‘sellout’; one that has given exceedingly high privileges (and amnesty) to ‘the butcher of Kabul’ and his coterie. Yes, that is what Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the leader of HIG is called. Or, as the alternative goes, ‘Rocketyaar’ for the sheer number of rockets he had sent raining down on Kabul in the bid to capture it between 1992 and 1996.
The deal is being addressed as a ‘precedent setter’, however exactly what kind of ‘precedent’ it is supposed to set is yet to become clear. It needs to be considered that HIG was (is?) a relatively small militant organization, incomparable to the resources, strength and even the might Taliban enjoys. In this light, a peace deal with HIG might not create the desired domino effect. On the contrary, it has managed to miff the Taliban further which has declared the peace deal an ‘act of treachery’ to the ‘cause of jihad’. An unwanted precedent it has set, at least according to the people of Afghanistan, is that even the most heinous of atrocities and their perpetrators can be let off the hook.
The peace deal has also underscored ethnic divisions that are rife in Afghanistan. The peace deal with Hekmatyar, a Pashtun, has been defended by those largely identifying with this ethnicity by pointing out that the hands of other leaders are no less smeared in blood. Communities other those above-mentioned have revolted against the deal for the targeted discrimination HIG had perpetrated during, and even after the civil war.
The question facing peace in Afghanistan is not to sift the less butchers from the greater butchers; it is to ensure that those who were maimed at the altar of political and other interests are given due justice. Peace attained at the cost of justice has not and cannot last long.
*Chayanika Saxena is a researcher on Afghanistan, specializing in its domestic politics. She can be contacted at: [email protected]