The Lahore Process Challenges and Opportunities



The Lahore Process Challenges and Opportunities 

The first round of the Lahore Process was held on June 22, 2019, at Bhurban, Murree in which heads of various Afghan political parties participated. The participants of the conference discussed the internal challenges to the restoration of peace in Afghanistan. It was followed by a roundtable conference in Serena Hotel, Islamabad on January 14, 2020. A 13-member delegation of Afghan parliamentarians, which was headed by Muhammad Muhaqqiq, head of Hizb-e-Wahdat-e-Mardam Afghanistan, participated. Eleven delegates shared their thoughts regarding the ongoing peace talks with the Taliban. A handful of experts of Afghan affairs and ex-diplomats from Pakistan were also present. They discussed various issues and suggested ways for increasing people-to-people contacts with Afghans.

The Lahore Peace Process aims to identify the internal challenges to the peace talks. It offers opportunities to the Afghans to share their perspectives, and to find out practicable ways for attaining long-lasting peace in Afghanistan. Although there have been many processes, e.g. Istanbul Process, Kabul Process, Moscow Process, Murree Peace Talks, Quadrilateral Coordination Group, the ongoing Khalilzad’s mission and many other informal discussions in Riyadh, Oslo and Urumqi, yet the Lahore Process seems to be different in nature and, owing to its way of perceiving the issue, it may prove to be more effective than earlier processes.PAKISTAN-AFGHANISTAN-POLITICS

The Afghan enigma has become a protracted issue of human rights in the present-day civilized world. The lives and fundamental rights of Afghans are at risk due to persistent war and militancy. Article 4 of the constitution of Afghanistan recognizes 14 ethnicities in Afghanistan—Pashtun, Tajik, Hazara, Uzbek, Turkman, Baluch, Pachaie, Nuristani, Aymaq, Arab, Qirghiz, Qizilbash, Gujur, Brahwui and other tribes. Each ethnic group has its own distinct culture, history and approach towards governance structure in Afghanistan. Although peace dialogue with the Afghan Taliban is on the way, the ethnic groups not mentioned in the said article feel themselves sidelined and ignored and it may pose serious challenges to the success of these talks. These ethnicities have a considerable say in Afghan politics since Karzai era, and they demand a dignified space in the future political structure of their country. There are some who have serious concerns over the peace dialogue only with the Taliban; they are of the opinion that the principles of coexistence should also be stressed along with political and cultural activities.1st-Intra-Afghan-Roundtable-Islamabad-gallery-6

Moreover, there are different sectarian divisions inside the Afghan society, and adopting the notion of religious pluralism may also be a tool to strengthen the bond. Along with religious pluralism, political pluralism and inclusiveness in the process may be another way to fortify the process. Acknowledgement of each other’s status will further strengthen the process that would help in reaching a practicable conclusion in this regard.

Manipulation and change in mindset is need of the hour for success of Afghan peace process. The history of Afghanistan suggests that war during the last 30 years has been fought to gain control over the affairs of the state of Afghanistan. Each Afghan ethnic group has its own stance and no one can dare to show oneself as the sole representative of Afghanistan, even the elected president Ashraf Ghani may not be recognized by Afghans as their sole representative. For the restoration of long-lasting peace, justice should be done to each ethnic group. Based on their population, they should enjoy their liberty and freedom of thought, expression and representation in the national fora.1st-Intra-Afghan-Roundtable-Islamabad-gallery-2

Another important internal challenge to the Afghan peace process is the continuation of war on Afghan land. Many Afghan stakeholders believe that for success of peace talks, the first step is the ceasefire which was also demanded by the Americans several times. Furthermore, civil society has deepened its roots in Afghanistan and, Afghan women now demand their fundamental rights and due status in national state of affairs—and it may be a rewarding step for boosting Afghanistan’s national image.

Regarding the role of Pakistan in bringing peace to Afghanistan, there were many who blamed Pakistan of supporting Afghan Taliban and trying to control Afghanistan. However, owing to persistent facilitation and support for an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process, those very people are now asking Pakistan to play its pivotal role in restoring peace and stability in Afghanistan. They are now thankful for Pakistan’s support against the aggression of USSR and for liberating Afghanistan from the Soviet atrocities and granting refuge to more than four million Afghans for more than four decades. Pakistan and Afghanistan have cultural similarities, societal cohesion and religious bonds and, perhaps most importantly, the geographical connectivity, thus providing former the prime importance for its decisive role in the peace dialogue. Pakistan’s Afghan policy has traditionally been driven by the concept of non-interference and inclusiveness of all Afghans, and the country is still committed to the cause. A peaceful Afghanistan is the most earnest desire of Pakistan and it has sincere motivation and credentials to facilitate, support and enhance the peace initiatives at all levels.1st-Intra-Afghan-Roundtable-Islamabad-gallery-4

In future, the Lahore Process may have to face many challenges, and explore numerous opportunities, regarding the success of Afghan peace process. There are some forces that will definitely try to derail the process as was the case with Murree Peace Talks; however, vigilance and commitment on the part of Pakistan can defeat the evil eyes. We have seen that Afghans pledged in Haram Shareef and took oath on Holy Quran to not fight against each other but fighting and bloodshed continued. Nevertheless, the time has changed, and the priorities have also been transformed. The new generation of Afghans has the responsibility to take the lead and avoid the mistakes their forefathers made.

The author teaches at

University of Malakand, Chakdara.

He can be reached at

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