At least 25 members of the People’s Peace Movement have been taken by the Taliban probably for talks about issues around the Afghan peace process, one member of the movement confirmed on Sunday.
The 50-member peace convoy began their journey to Taliban-influenced areas in southern Helmand province on Thursday, May 31.
According to one member of the movement, they will meet the Taliban in Musa Qala district – which has been under Taliban influence for the past four years.
Pacha Khan Mawladad, a member of the People’s Peace Movement, says Taliban has taken another 20 members of the movement at around 5pm on Monday. He says this is concerning and that they have no idea whether the Taliban has taken the activists for talks.
The four members who will talk with the Taliban are head of the movement Iqbal Khyber, spokesman of the movement Bismillah Watandost, and two senior members of the movement Ghulam Sarwar Ghafari and Haji Farhad Adil.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said they are not aware of the issue but they will comment on it after their assessments.
Members of the movement on Friday said that they will pass on the message of peace to the Taliban and will take the message of locals to the world.
“It will take six days to reach Musa Qala district and there we will meet with the residents and will listen to them and pass on their message to the world,” said Iqbal Khyber, head of the movement.
“So far, peace message was not delivered to areas under Taliban influence but now we want to do this,” said Ghulam Sarwar Ghafari, a member of the movement.
The Helmand Peace Convoy
The People’s Peace Movement, also called the Helmand Peace Convoy, initially started their activities when a group of at least a dozen activists staged a protest in Lashkargah City last year in March 2018 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.