Members of the People’s Peace Movement, also called the Helmand peace convoy, joined by Nangarhar residents attended a peaceful rally in Jalalabad city on Saturday where they criticized the Afghan government and the Taliban for announcing “spring operations” and said the “offensives” must stop to move forward towards an intra-Afghan dialogue.
Taliban announced their spring offensive called “Alfatha” on April 12 and declared that it was in response to the Afghan government’s operation announcement.
The Afghan government announced a security plan, called Khalid Operation, on March 13 and according to a Presidential Palace statement, the announcement is not a barrier on the way of peace, rather it provides the ground for moving forward the peace process.
The activists said Afghans are the main victims in the ongoing war.
“I call on the Taliban to agree on a ceasefire. We have no sin. We call on the government as well to stop the war. We are scared at our homes. I have not visited my hometown for four years due to insecurity,” said Nasir Khan, member of the peace movement.
“We reject both the Khalid operation and the Alfatha offensive. Afghans are killed on both sides. There is no place for more ‘genocide’,” said Attaullah, a tribal elder from Nangarhar.
Other speakers of the event said a ceasefire should be announced until peace efforts reach a considerable outcome.
“We call on the upcoming peace Jirga to consider the national interests and propose a draft to the Afghan government and to the armed opposition to provide the ground for sustainable peace in the country,” said Zar Ali Maroof, a Nangarhar resident.
“We call for an immediate ceasefire. We are not accepting Afghans’ killing anymore. The intra-Afghan dialogue should start as soon as possible,” said Qariburrahman, member of the peace movement.
Members of the movement said they will travel to villages as part of their campaign for peace.
The Helmand Peace Convoy
They got the name when a group of at least a dozen activists staged a protest in Lashkargah City last year in March against an attack that killed around 16 people that month. About a month later, the activists left Helmand on foot for Kabul.
The activists walked through towns and villages, crossed provinces and met with local residents along the way. For 38 days, they walked and as they progressed, so their numbers grew.
About 700kms later, the group of eight had grown to an estimated 100. They arrived in Kabul on June 18 and handed over demands for a ceasefire and peace to both the Afghan government and the Taliban.
During their stay in Kabul, they held sit-in protests outside diplomatic offices in Kabul. They also met with President Ghani on a Kabul street where they asked him to accelerate the peace efforts.
The activists, whose ages ranged from 17 to 65, came from all walks of life and include students, athletes and farmers among others. It was these and other activists that then extended their walk from Kabul to Balkh.
The activists are now in Nangarhar where they will continue their campaign for peace. Last month, they met with US Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad and asked him to expedite the peace efforts. Their main demand is an immediate ceasefire between the warring parties.