ANKARA: A senior Afghan politician and peace activist has called on the international community and regional powers to give the Taliban a chance to run Afghanistan for the sake of peace and stability.
In an exclusive interview with Anadolu Agency, Fazl Hadi Wazin, who was a running mate of veteran Afghan Mujahideen leader Gulbadin Hekmatyar and contested election for vice president last year, said for the first time in months, there is a semblance of peace on the streets of the country ravaged by war and terrorist activity.
He warned that isolating the Taliban’s future government means ignoring a nation of 35 million people and “driving the country back into terrorism.”
Developments in the last few days indicate that Afghanistan is at a “crossroads,” with the possibility of restoring stability and ushering in a new era. “However, it all hinges on the Taliban and other actors’ cooperation,” he stated.
Wazin anticipates the Taliban will include individuals of diverse ethnic backgrounds in the government, however they will have a lion’s share of power and will retain control of major institutions. But warned, if they do not, it will be a “historical mistake.”
He remarked that the Doha peace process between Taliban and Kabul government that began last year, “is now dead after the Taliban came into power”.
Wazin, also a professor at Kabul University, argued that this new “Taliban 2.0” is a far cry from their earlier incarnation, which the world saw from 1996 to 2001.
He claimed that the Taliban’s political leadership has learned a lot in the last 20 years and has adapted to changes as Afghan society has evolved dramatically during the same time period.
“You had three or four universities in Afghanistan 20 years ago… now there are over 100 private universities and thousands of university graduates. There have been many positive changes in Afghanistan; the young generation in Afghanistan is using the internet and social media, so this generation is not the same as the previous generation,” he added, asserting that the Taliban must have taken these changes into account.
Wazin urged the international community to put the Taliban to the test rather than outright rejecting them, which would have disastrous consequences for the country, now attempting to breathe in a nascent peaceful environment.
He pointed out that unlike in 1996, the group’s attitude toward photography, video, and television seemed changed, and they are now absorbing criticism, which was previously regarded as forbidden and unwelcome.
Recognizing that the Taliban have also adopted a liberal attitude towards Afghan women, the senior Afghan politician and academic said they have promised to allow them to work, acquire education and participate in social activities.
He asserted that, at least in the last few days, they have been trying to demonstrate this new approach through actions rather than words.
He emphasized that the Taliban should not be judged only on their actions in the past two decades, citing their fight against the US and its NATO allies when their government was overthrown in Afghanistan in Nov. 2001.
After four decades of conflict and destruction, started from the Soviet Union invasion in 1979, “Afghanistan has a fair chance to go in the right direction and stabilize,” Wazin opined.
He warned that if the Taliban’s leadership, as well as leaders of political and jihadi organizations, civil society organizations, and academia, do not recognize their responsibilities for Afghanistan and insist on past mistakes, “I believe Afghanistan would end up in an unknown destination.” He added that “It may go in either direction.”
The senior politician blamed the US-backed Afghan government led by President Ashraf Ghani for corruption, which allowed the Taliban to quickly take over provincial capitals one by one, and then Kabul, surprising the world’s major powers.
He slammed Ghani’s government for not taking the intra-Afghan peace talks seriously. He attempted to postpone talks with the Taliban by pressuring the US to support his rule, which ultimately failed, he added.
Providing security for the Afghan nation, initiating a process of social reconciliation, paying attention to the country’s poor economic situation, normalizing relations with neighboring countries and the international community, and dealing with freedom of expression in the Afghan media are among the main challenges he identified for the future Taliban government.
“Fighting is one thing, but a ruling is quite another,” so they will need a lot of flexibility, intelligence, and self-control, he said.
The Taliban have rapidly taken over Afghanistan in a lightning offensive that blindsided Western powers, as government forces melted away.
The capital Kabul fell to the Taliban on Sunday after the Afghan government collapsed, with President Ashraf Ghani and other key officials fleeing the country.
On Monday, panic and chaos erupted at Kabul airport as desperate Afghans attempted to flee the war-torn country.-AA