Civic campaigns are forming for peace in Afghanistan

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SHAFAQNA  ISIS violated the holiday ceasefire in Afghanistan and Taliban rejected government’s suggestion to extend the ceasefire. However, different kinds of civic campaigns are forming for peace in Afghanistan.

A suicide bomber has struck Afghanistan’s eastern city of Jalalabad, killing at least 19 people in the second attack in as many days targeting Taliban fighters, security forces and civilians celebrating a holiday ceasefire.

Najibullah Kamawal, director of the provincial health department, said another 60 people were wounded in the attack, which struck a crowd of people as they left the governor’s compound, according to ABC news.

Attahullah Khogyani, spokesman for the governor of Nangarhar province, said the attack took place near the governor’s compound, Independent reported.

The Afghan Taliban called last week for its fighters to observe a three-day truce – except against foreign forces – to coincide with a 10-day ceasefire declared by the Afghan government for Eid al-Fitr, the holiday marking the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, CNN reported.

The bomber on Saturday targeted a gathering of Taliban fighters who were celebrating a three-day truce coinciding with the Eid al-Fitr holiday.

ISIS claimed responsibility for the Saturday’s attack in a statement from Amaq News Agency, the terrorist group’s media wing.

“A suicide attack struck a gathering of Afghan forces and Taliban movement in the city of Jalal Abbad in Nangarhar,” the statement said.

After the attacks, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani announced a ten-day extension of the government ceasefire, in hopes that the Taliban would respond in kind.

But the Taliban announced that their ceasefire had ended and that they have no intention of extending it.

“The ceasefire was announced by the Taliban for just the three days of the Eid holidays which have come to an end this Sunday evening,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said.

Meanwhile different kinds of civic camps is forming for peace in Afghanistan. According to BBC, over the past four weeks, a small but growing band of ordinary Afghans have been marching from Helmand to Kabul to demand an end to 40 years of war and violence. The Hemland peace marchers was initially a group of just seven men who began their journey back in March in the regional capital Lashkar Gah.

Afghan journalists, students and diplomats have also all reported witnessing the unusual scenes of reconciliation via Twitter over the past two days. Photos and videos purported to show handshakes and hugs in many parts of the country.

Afghan diplomat Zardasht Shams on Friday tweeted, “Interesting images from across Afghanistan on the eve of Eid Day #ceasefire Afghan Army & Taliban hugging each other. May this ceasefire sustains forever.”

Abdulhaq Omeri, a correspondent with Afghanistan’s TOLO News, tweeted photos of what appeared to be Taliban fighters and security forces posing together.

For many Afghans these are extraordinary scenes. The two sides were fighting each other just a few days ago. The unprecedented development has raised hopes of permanent peace in the war ravaged country, BBC reported.

The chairman of the High Peace Council, a government body charged with negotiating an end to the nearly 17-year war, called on the Taliban to accept the extended armistice and join the peace process.

“We hope that the extension of the cease-fire will be announced by the leadership of the Taliban,” Mohammad Karim Khalili told a press conference in the capital, Kabul. He said there had been an “exchange of views” between the government and the Taliban over the past week, without elaborating.

CNN reported that Afghan President Ashraf Ghani tweeted last weekend that he was pleased the Taliban had accepted the ceasefire declaration for Eid.

“This is the first break in 23 years and we ask for your support to utilize the window for moving forward with intra-Afghan peace talks,” he said.

The Taliban have steadily expanded their presence in recent years, seizing a number of districts across the country and carrying out near-daily attacks on Afghan security forces.

But over the past two days, Taliban fighters could be seen celebrating the truce alongside Afghan troops and other people across the country.

Taliban militants waved flags as they travelled freely into cities across Afghanistan on Sunday.

However, critics raised questions about what happens should the hugs and selfies stop and the festive atmosphere and calls for peace turn sour. They said such overtures and concessions have allowed the Taliban to pour into cities unchecked and win the upper hand.

 

Read more from Shafaqna: 

AFGHANISTAN ANNOUNCED CEASE-FIRE WITH TALIBAN FOR RAMADAN 

ROUHANI: A SECURE AND STABLE AFGHANISTAN IS A MUST FOR REGIONAL SECURITY 

AFGHAN POLICE KILL WOULD-BE SUICIDE BOMBER IN KABUL         

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