KABUL -- The Taliban's refusal to take part in an upcoming consultative Loya Jirga on peace reflects the militants' desire to continue their campaign of violence against the Afghan people, organisers and citizens say.
The Taliban on April 10 declined to attend the event, which is set to convene on April 29 in Kabul with more than 2,500 participants from across the country.
"The purpose behind convening the consultative Loya Jirga for peace is to have Afghans from across the country get together to advise the Afghan government on the peace process, the format of peace talks with the Taliban and how Afghanistan can reach a fair and sustainable peace," Sayed Ali Kazemi, a spokesman for the Loya Jirga organising committee, told Salaam Times.
"In this jirga, the government will collect advice, views and suggestions from civil society activists, religious scholars, women, youths, representatives of political parties and tribal elders," he said.
Then the government "will proceed with peace talks based on these [pieces of advice]. By creating the supreme council of reconciliation, the government be able to reach a consensus on peace negotiations and the format of talks with the Taliban," he said.
"We are hopeful that the Taliban will change their position [and attend the jirga] as we get closer to the jirga," he added.
"We have spoken with security agencies and the government, and they have promised that they would guarantee security for the members of the Taliban participating in the jirga," Kazemi insisted.
"The people's representatives from across the country and even from areas under the Taliban's control have prepared to participate in the jirga," he added.
Afghans condemn the Taliban's decision
Political analysts and residents of Kabul condemned the Taliban's decision to boycott the consultative Loya Jirga, adding that they consider the militants' position a reflection of their enmity toward the Afghan people and their propensity to fight rather than seek peace.
"The jirga has a historic place in the Afghan constitution and culture," Aminullah Shariq, a political analyst in Kabul, told Salaam Times. "In jirgas, ordinary citizens or their representatives get together to implement national goals, and the consultative Loya Jirga for peace, in which Afghans from all over the country will participate, is key to the Afghan peace process."
"I believe that the consultative Loya Jirga will create an opportunity for ensuring peace and putting an end to the 40-year-old war," Shariq said.
"As the Taliban have said that they won't participate in this jirga, it proves once again to the Afghan public that the Taliban are not determined to stop the bloodshed and conflict in the country," he said.
"The Taliban's strict position regarding the consultative Loya Jirga implies that they want to continue the war, and they have no respect for the will of the majority of Afghans," he added. "I am condemning this [disregard], and this view [of the Taliban] is not acceptable to any Afghan."
"The Taliban should not defame the consultative Loya Jirga for peace, which is a national process with the goal to ensure peace and stability in the country," Shariq said.
The time is right for the Taliban to join the peace process, said Muhammad Naweed Rasuli, 24, a Kabul resident and political science student at Kabul University.
"The long war has made both the civilians and the Taliban fighters tired, and if the Taliban participate in this jirga, it's in their favour," he told Salaam Times.
"They can put their demands and views in front of the public so that a logical solution can be sought to end the war. The Taliban still have the opportunity to change their position and take part in the jirga," he said.
"Although civilians don't like the Taliban, they are ready to overlook all their crimes and talk with them if it can help bring peace and put an end to the war," Rasuli said. "If the Taliban stick to war this time too, Afghans will never forgive this group."
Missing a 'historic opportunity'
The Taliban risk missing a "historic opportunity" to bring about peace in the country, said Kabul political activist Jawed Faisal.
"The Taliban fought for 18 years, and they have achieved nothing but killing Afghans, destroying Afghanistan and losing their leaders and fighters," he told Salaam Times. "They cannot achieve their goals with war and violence."
"The Taliban's refusal to participate in face-to-face talks with the Afghan public at the consultative Loya Jirga means that they have negatively responded to the calls of Afghans for peace," Faisal added.
"This is how they will lose a historic opportunity, and, after this, they will be solely responsible for any bloodshed, destruction and violence," he said.
The Taliban are ignoring the will of the Afghan public, which wants only peace and an end to the war, said Zainullah, 26, a storekeeper in Kart-e-Char, Kabul city.
"All Afghans say that they want peace, and Islam also invites Muslims to peace and brotherhood," he told Salaam Times.
"But unfortunately, the Taliban, who call themselves Afghans and Muslims, act contrary to the public will and say that they are not interested in the jirga and that they do not want to make peace but will continue to fight," he said.
"This act of the Taliban shows their enmity toward Afghan society, peace and Islam."