Bonn International Conference on Afghanistan

Afridi at Bonn Conference in Germany

By: Fazal ur Rehman Afridi

Bonn International Conference on Afghanistan can rightly be termed a milestone in the right direction in the recent history of Afghanistan. This mega-event will go a long way in the resolution of the long-standing problems of this war-torn country. Afghanistan is faced with Security, governance and economic deficit.

The Bonn conference was meant to give full assurance to the government of Afghanistan that the International Community particularly US and EU are standing firm behind it and will never leave it at the merci of some regional wolfs. Earlier, the same commitment was shown by the US and India by signing Strategic agreements with Afghanistan. Firm political, security and economic guarantees have been pledged beyond 2014, which will be further cemented in Tokyo conference. It will be a kind of Marshal Plan for Afghanistan which will go a long way in the development and prosperity of not only Afghanistan but the whole region. A roadmap was devised for beyond 2014 Afghanistan for a successful political, security and economic transition, good governance, peace and reconciliation. Besdies, plans were devised to effectively tackle the menace of corruption and drug trade, protect and preserve the Human rights of women and ensure the rule of law.

Karzai was never seen in such a confident mood as on that historical day. As despite a tiny criticism from some Tajik elements and Pakistani media, he was well supported by the international Community, partly due to the presence of well qualified and able people like Jaanan Musazai, Afghan spokesperson and director communications who welcomed and put forward the point of view of Afghanistan to the participants in a very convincing manner. Earlier, in May this year Karzai was a real punching bag at the International Conference on Afghanistan held at Paris, where one could not find a single person to defend him. Pakistani media in its blind opposition to Hamid Karzia was subjective, sans substance and unjust while trying to dub him and even the conference a failure. But, as a matter of fact, Karzai was the real winner and a hero. He received a hero like reception at Bonn and was listened to very attentively by the International Community. All the delegations from more the 90 countries were supporting him and were not happy with Pakistan for boycotting the Conference in protest against the recent death of 24 Pakistani military personnel in US air strikes on Pakistani military posts in the Mohmand agency of the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). Karzai was able to convince the International Community especially US and EU for long term commitments and guarantees for Afghanistan. His voice was well-heard when he said Afghanistan need them for the next 10 years.

The Pakistani Media team was the biggest in the conference, which amazed me in the sense that what they were intended to do at Bonn if their government had already boycotted the event. They were bigger in number but inefficient in their journalistic and professional domains. Most of the time they were seen in the media centre, just watching the events on the big screen there. While journalists from other countries were covering the event directly,  interviewing the members of the civil society of Afghanistan, foreign delegates and ministers. They were reporting the conference to be a flop just for the consumption of the local Pakistani audience. While the same Journalists and anchor-persons like Hamid Mir were telling the foreign media that Pakistan made a big mistake for not participating at the Bonn conference. He was interviewing only ISI agents from Pakistan and Afghanistan to support their point of view which does not mean that the reality could be changed by such talks. Besides, the conference organizers did not take them seriously. They seemed to be self-deceiving themselves and the Pakistan nation too. Just one journalist and anchor- person Saleem Safi was distinct in his well-balanced approach in discussions at the sidelines of the Conference. I was told by a Pakistani journalist one day ahead of the conference that Pakistan had agreed in Principle to send her Ambassador in Germany to attend the conference but could not do so due to objections raised by Afghanistan. It is naïve to hear from the Pakistan journalists that the conference is failure despite the fact that almost the whole international community supported the conference with the exception of Pakistan. Pakistan also conveyed its support, however behind the scene to the US and EU as described by the German Foreign Minister in his final press conference side by side with the Afghan Foreign Minister. So, it is advisable to these journalists to refrain from deceiving Pakistani public on the behest of Military Establishment.

In my interview with Dr Massouda Jalal, who is a former Afghan Minister of Women’s Affairs, head of the Jalal Foundation, and one of the leading voices for the empowerment of Afghan women, expressed her grave concern over the peace negociations with the Taliban, which she thought can be detrimental to the rights of women in Afghanistan. She said if Taliban are good then why the US bombed them ten years ago. She raised the valid question whether the policy of the West was wrong at that time or now? There are no good or moderateTaliban, she said. She also criticized the so-called civil society which was represented by certain blue-eyed  personalities and NGOs of Afghan government. She termed them just like rubber stamps, which are used by the government for its own political agenda. That is why these civil society activists are supporting the government on the reconciliation with the Taliban. Thinking about protecting the rights of women sans representation at high level talks like High Peace Council is just a day dreaming. She termed these talks just words without substance. Most of the women which participated at the conference were the daughters and relatives of War Lords and influential politicians, which lack vision for the development of women, she said. Budgeting the Taliban will further militarize them and they will further kill and torture Afghan people.
Dr. Massouda fully supported the declaration of the Coalition against Terrorim of French NGOs, locally known as Collectif Contre le Terrorisme (CCT), which says that CCT fully supports the just struggle of Afghan women who refuse to be sacrificed at the altar of a so-called “peace process” made with Taliban and other terrorists. “Instead of risking any agreement with so-called “moderate” Taliban, we insist that women’s rights be upheld and protected without making any compromise. A step in the right direction must be taken by giving them full participation at the Bonn Conference which is to decide on the future of Afghanistan – in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 1325, that calls for participation of women in discussions on conflict resolution, as well as the UN Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)!”, the communiqué said.

A welcome surprise at the conference was Munir Mengal, a young, energetic and bold Baloch leader, who graced the occasion by presenting the grievances of the Baloch people to German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Germany. He told the captivated German and Afghan audience along with the International media that Baloch are the victims of Pakistani State-sponsored religious terrorism since the inception of Pakistan and badly need the full political support of International Community for their independence.
Pakistan response to the conference was no different than its earlier position. Double timing the International Community by supporting the Bonn conference behind the scenes while contrary to official political overtures, embarking upon a new war in Afghanistan to further divide the Afghan nation. Two Suicide attacks targeting Shi’a Muslim minority community both at Kabul and Mazar-e-Sharif resulting in killing of  60 worshippers and injuring 200 by a Pakistani based anti-shia terrorist group LeJ-Almi raise fears that the Pakistani Military establishment is now bent upon creating sectarian rifts in Afghanistan to further destabilize it. Another bomb hit a Shi’a procession in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar but sans casualties. Even the Taliban condemned these attacks as barbaric. Similar attacks in different parts of Afghanistan targeting civilians make it amply clear that Pakistan has not learnt lessons and is bent upon its suicidal policy of self destruction without realizing that throwing snakes at the back yard of a neighbor can return to harm her too. It is a well known tactics used by ISI to target shia community in Pakistan.
To cut short, without any doubt the conference was a success as consensus was reached on the future roadmap for Afghanistan. But, a lot has to be done, as the German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said at his final press conference with his Afghan counterpart. The Afghans have to take the responsibility for their security and economic development in the days to come. The Afghan Army and Police has to be trained. The corruption and drug trafficking has to be tackled. Every step and measure has to be taken to herald a new dawn of peace and prosperity as the Afghan people deserve something better.

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