Herat’s Ulema Council – an influential council of religious scholars – held a conference on Sunday in Herat city and issued a resolution urging the government and the Taliban to announce a limited-time ceasefire.
“The conflicting sides must announce a ceasefire for a specified period of time, or make a serious and decisive decision for a dramatic reduction of violence, to allow the negotiations to occur in a relatively peaceful environment,” the resolution said.
The conference was attended by religious scholars, elders, civil society activists, university lecturers and other local figures and resulted in a three-point statement focused on intra-Afghan talks, a ceasefire and a time table for the withdrawal of foreign troops.
“With the start of such a meeting and negotiations, the foreign troops’ withdrawal time table should be announced clearly with transparency and responsibility,” the statement read, adding: “With this action, they (the foreign troops) will assure the people of Afghanistan and the international community that they “really want to end the war in Afghanistan.”
The statement called for the government to consult with the Ulema and other elders in forming the delegation to represent the Afghan government in negotiations to “determine the fate of the country.”
The statement issued by the Ulema read: “We believe the intra-Afghan talks is the demand of Afghans…. And a delegation should represent all the ethnic groups of the nation.”
It also urged the government, US and Taliban to not ignore the people in the negotiations because “reaching an agreement without representatives of the people would not be possible.”
The statement said that the religious scholars believe that the people of Afghanistan have become tired of ongoing negotiations between the US and Taliban over the past year -- as the Ulema, elders and other figures have been absent in those negotiations.
The Ulema added that the US and foreign troops know that the people of Afghanistan want peace in the country and “they love their independence from the heart.”
“The peace should not be held hostage by a number of people who say they are politicians and inheritors of Afghanistan,” said Mawlawi Khudaidad Saleh, head of the Ulema council.
The parties and political movements at the Ulema held two meetings over appointing members of the delegation for the intra-Afghan talks, and asked the government to not be against these appointments.
“We demand that the government not be a barrier, but instead that it is cooperative and forms a delegate list that will be accepted by all sides,” said Asadullah Alizai, a relative to former president Hamid Karzai.
Durani Waziri, a deputy spokesman for the Presidential Palace, said: “if the Taliban renounces violence, cuts their relationship with terrorists’ groups and accept the ceasefire, it will pave the opportunity for the direct talks.”
Three Taliban delegates visited Pakistan and met with their leaders and agreed to a reduction of violence and ceasefire, some sources close to the Taliban said on Sunday.
This comes as sources say a delegation led by Mawlawi Shahabuddin Delawar, a Taliban senior leader based in Qatar, met with Taliban leaders in Pakistan and then agreed to a “short-term ceasefire” after an agreement is signed between the US and Taliban.
The US delegation in meetings with the Taliban in Qatar demanded a ceasefire and a reduction of violence before signing any agreement with the group.
“They went (to Pakistan) to consult with their elders about short-time ceasefire and it seems that the meeting was positive and overall it’s possible to announce a ceasefire,” said Sayed Akbar Agha, a former Taliban commander.
After a break was called for the current peace talks in Doha, Khalilzad visited Kabul and met Afghan leaders and politicians. Sources say that Khalilzad has returned to Qatar, but US officials have not confirmed the news.
Last week during a meeting in Kabul, Khalilzad in a tweet said: “We’re approaching an important stage in the Afghan peace process. Wrapped up two days of consultations in Kabul. Productive trip.”