Kabul Process: An endeavour for peace
Twenty eight countries and organisations participated in the Kabul Process summit, June 6, yet another opportunity to find the way to peace in Afghanistan.
In his opening speech President Ashraf Ghani said, "We're fighting 20 transnational terrorist groups on your behalf. What we need is an agreement on regional security."
The president identified the Taleban as pivotal to the summit. He expressed willingness to help open a political office for the Taleban in Kabul or any other country providing the armed fighters commit to a peace agreement.
He warned the Taleban, who were not represented at the meeting, that this was the "last chance" for peace.
In the presence of Pakistan's foreign secretary Tehmina Janjua who represented her government President Ghani said Afghanistan has tried several times through agreements to cooperate with Pakistan but the efforts have not borne fruit. He said it was "terrorism supported by Taleban" that brings terrorists violence to both Pakistan and Afghanistan.
According to him, the Ministry of Interior Affairs is launching reforms. "We will face resistance but we have the will to implement them (reforms)." The president was willing to admit in public that there are "internal problems" that have had a "role" in the continuation of war.
What was different about the Kabul Process?
Afghan commentators have called it an initiative led by "Afghan leadership". Mohammad Qarabaghi, analyst and writer believes, "Earlier initiatives were hosted by foreigners and mediated by non-Afghans."
Yusuf Pashtoon, political analyst and one of the advisers to the president describes the Kabul Process as "different" and a "golden opportunity for the Afghan government", which he was hopeful would "produce results".
But there are also critics. Anwarulhaq Ahadi, head of the New Front of Afghanistan, thinks the summit had no agenda. "The Afghan government hurriedly took steps to hold the Kabul Process and did not have a particular plan for peace and negotiation," he says.
Shadow of internal strife
The summit was held against the backdrop of deadly violence and protests in the Afghan capital. On May 31, a bomb-packed truck detonated in the diplomatic quarter of Kabul. The death toll has climbed to 150 with more than 300 wounded, President Ghani told participants of the meeting.
Police fired on protests that erupted in Kabul demanding the resignation of key government officials for failing to prevent the suicide attack. Nine people were killed, and many injured in a city already reeling from the aftershock of the suicide blast the previous day.
On June 6, the government declared a national holiday to clear the streets. As the conference opened, jets and fighter helicopters circled to ensure no breach in security. But rockets landed on the tennis court of the Indian ambassador's house in Kabul, and in Herat, there was a deadly bombing outside the main mosque. At least eight people were killed and more than a dozen injured when a remote controlled bomb strapped on a motorcycle was detonated.
The government response has deepened political divisions. Foreign minister, Salahuddin Rabbani, whose Jamaat-e-Islami party last week demanded the resignation of the national security adviser Hanif Atmar, stayed away from the Kabul Process summit.
Political observer Fazlullah Wahidi who was a governor under the Hamid Karzai government fears the Ghani government lacks leadership. "Holding summits like the Kabul Process are a waste of time," he says.
But Haji Ahmad Shah, a Kabul resident says, "If the stakeholders have a strong and firm will the result will be positive otherwise we would witness no change from even bigger conferences than the Kabul Process."