By Khalid Zerai
JALALABAD -- More than 200 tribal elders and religious scholars in Wama District of Nuristan Province declared their support for ongoing peace efforts and the ceasefire offered by the government.
In a meeting held July 3, they called on Taliban militants to stop fighting or face a popular uprising.
"This fighting is not in favour of Afghans and Islam; [it] has to stop and Afghans should have a peaceful life," tribal elder Mohammad Madani told the participants of the gathering.
"We have no other option," he said. "We offered them peace a number of times. When they [refuse to] make peace, finally the nation's patience will be over, and we will stand against the militants."
"The Afghan nation has been suffering over the past 40 years and has not seen a single happy day," Lutfullah, a tribal chief who goes by one name, told the gathering. "We appreciate the words of the Imam-e-Kaaba who said that the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan has no Islamic cause; it's a domestic fight and cannot be called 'jihad'."
Sheikh Abdul Rahman al-Sudais, imam of the Grand Mosque in Makkah, in a Friday prayer sermon June 22 called on the Taliban to extend the ceasefire so the ground could be prepared for an inter-Afghan dialogue.
"We invite [the Taliban] to stop fighting," Lutfullah said. "We have to sit together and to live a life in peace and tranquility."
"Afghans need peace as much as a thirsty person needs water," religious scholar Ahmad Mohammadi said at the gathering. "Peace is a divine order, and Afghans want peace."
"We are tired of war and fratricide and no longer can bear war and pain, so both sides need to resolve the issues through talks instead of fighting each other," he said.
"Our people have decided that if the Taliban does not give a positive answer to the public and the government's peace efforts and still emphasise fighting, the public will rise against them," Abdul Latif Nuhzatyar, a representative of Nuristan Province in the Meshrano Jirga (upper house of parliament), said at the meeting.
"Based on the verse of the Holy Koran that says, 'If two groups of Muslims come to fight one another, promote peace between them. But if one side refuses to make peace, fight the aggressive party until it accepts peace'... the religious scholars also decided that if the militants refuse to make peace, all of us will pick up arms and stand against them," Nuhzatyar said.
How likely is it that the Taliban will fracture after the recent ceasefire exposed divisions in the group?