The Helmand peace activists on Tuesday rejected Taliban’s allegations that the campaign is fabricated by the United States. The activists called on the Taliban to provide sufficient evidence to their allegations.
Head of the peace convoy, Iqbal Khyber, said they are ready to appear in the Taliban court if the group provides sufficient evidence that could prove the activists had the support of government or other countries.
Khyber pledged to come up with appropriate response to the allegations within the next five days.
“This movement is completely people-oriented and there are no foreign hands behind the initiative. Sixty percent of our journey lied in areas either under the control or influence of the Taliban and we met them (Taliban) during the march. If this movement was fabricated by the US, why you (Taliban) did not realize it before?” asked Khyber.
This comes two days after members of the Helmand peace convoy marched through the streets of Kabul as they made their way to the United Nations Assistance Mission for Afghanistan (UNAMA) compound in PD10 in Shar-e-Naw for a sit-in protest.
Khyber said that if the UN shows a serious commitment towards Afghanistan, peace and security will be restored in the near future in the country.
But the Taliban said in a statement it sees the Helmand peace march as a conspiracy which has been fabricated by the United States and implemented by the High Peace Council (HPC).
Majority of those rallying in the movement for peace are natives of Helmand in the southern Afghanistan and they have left all their work and daily business in search for peace and to persuade the warring factions to endorse peace talks.
Abdul Aziz, 70, is one of the activists who lost two members of his family during the war in Ghazni province. He joined the peace marchers of Helmand to raise his voice for peace.
“We will continue our movement until we reach to a conclusion, because we are tired of war,” he said.
Political commentators have said the initiative has been nourishing public awareness in various province about the need for giving an end to the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan. The Taliban however fear that such movement finally pose threats to their objectives.
The peace convoy is now expected to sit-in protest for three days in front of the US embassy in Kabul on Wednesday where they will stress the need for solid measures to be taken by the countries and parties involved in peace in Afghanistan.
Activists will then conduct similar protest in front of Iran, Pakistan and Russian embassies.
Initially they launched a sit-in protest in Lashkargah city after a suicide bombing outside a stadium. About a month later, a group of eight protestors left Helmand on foot for Kabul, all the while spreading messages of peace.
The activists walked through towns and villages, crossed provinces and met with residents along the way. And as they progressed, so their numbers grew.
About 700km later, the group of eight had grown to an estimated 100.
Finally arriving in Kabul last week, they handed over demands for a ceasefire and peace to both the Afghan government and the Taliban.
The group gave the Taliban three days in which to answer and said if they failed to do so, they would embark on sit in protests outside diplomatic offices and missions in the capital.
The Taliban’s deadline was Friday and after receiving no response from the insurgent group, the peace activists announced on Saturday they would embark on their sit in protest from Sunday – their first stop being the UNAMA compound.
The activists, whose ages range from 17 to 65, come from all walks of life and include students, athletes and farmers among others.