By: Khan Mohammad Stanikzai
Prague – A she-dog accompanying a peace caravan of civil society activists walking from capital Kabul to the northern Balkh province was hit by car on the way and got injured.
Around 50 members of People’s Peace Movement originally coming from the southern war-torn province of Helmand, left Kabul for Balkh province on August 10 who were joined by a stray dog in the outskirts of capital Kabul. So far, the dog has walked more than 260 km with the caravan.
Zmaray Zaland a member of the People’s Peace Movement said, by the time they were leaving capital for Balkh, on the way the she-dog started to join the peace caravan, but her fellow black male dog was against her decision and was asking her not to go with them; however, she continued to join the caravan.
Originally, members of Peoples’ Peace Movement left Lashkargah, provincial capital of the southern Helmand province for Kabul, capital of the nation, on May 13 following 40 days long sit-ling in Lashkargah. The protest has started around 40 days before their departure where they sat together in a tent following a suicide attack on March 23 in front of a stadium in Laskhargah.
The suicide car bomb attack in front of Ghazi Ayub Khan stadium killed 13 and injured 45 others mostly youth who attended a cricket match. However, no one took responsibility of the attack, but residents said that Taliban were involved in similar previous attacks.
The following day, civil society activists of the city erected a tent and launched a protest, they preached about peace and reconciliation, and at a time the protest’s participants launched hunger strike which resulted on hospitalizing of a number of them.
The protestors wanted to go to Sangin district of the province in 80 km from the provincial capital, where provincial leaders of Taliban are said to be settled to ask them for making peace; however, Taliban warned that they are in fighting and they cannot guarantee their safety on the way to Sangin. Taliban said that peace is abducted by Americans and that they should go to the US embassy in Kabul and seek peace from them.
Later, they decided to walk from Helmand to capital Kabul, and they started their walking. Up on reaching in Kandahar province, they were joined by 5 other activists, who headed together toward Zabul province and then to Ghazni province, to Maidan Wardak and after more than 50 days walk, on 18 of June they completed the approximately 700 km way and arrived in capital Kabul.
On their way from Helmand to Kabul and in capital Kabul they were praised by other activists and officials of European Union mission in Kabul who presented them with flowers, gifts and moral support.
They were carrying the message of peace and reconciliation, and in Kabul President Ghani went to greet them in the park where they were settled following that, they refused his offer to visit the presidential palace.
President Ghani promised them that he is ready to hold peace talks with Taliban wherever and whenever they want, and he is ready to recognize them as a political party and to declare an indefinite ceasefire with them; however, Taliban’s message to People’s Peace Movement was that they will continue their fighting as long as foreign occupation is not ended.
Later, during their stay in capital Kabul, the peace activists launched peaceful protests and sit-lings in front of foreign missions considered to be involved in the Afghan dispute.
They launched their sit-lings in front of the US embassy, United Kingdom’s embassy, Russian embassy, Iranian embassy, United Nations’ office and surrendered their protests in letters to them, and then they submitted a letter soaked with blood to the Pakistani embassy who are said to be supporting and harboring Taliban and other militants on their soil, and training them against the Afghan forces and civilians.
Following their protests in Kabul and visits of the authorities from their tent, on August 10, members of People’s Peace Movement departed for the northern province of Balkh located in around 430 km in the northern part of the country.
Balkh is governed by a former warlord, Atta Mohammad Noor, since the last 14 years. However, he was forced to step down from power in March after around 4 months of quarrel with the presidential palace, but it is said that he still owns the main political power there as he has ties in various establishments there.
It is said that, Mr. Noor has looted thousands of millions of US dollar from the government wealth and the foreign aid during his work as provincial governor of Balkh province, and his political rivals say that, he has own Taliban groups that he uses to destroy security of the areas he wants and then get advantage of the fighting; however, he refuses the allegations.
In Afghanistan, beside the militants, a number of the former warlords who apparently show their support from the political process are said to be involved in continuing war and creating obstacles on the way of peace process.
The caravan who has gone through Mir Bacha Kot, Pol-e-Khomri, Baghlan and arrived on August 31 in Kunduz is accompanied by Carana and Hekmatullah, 9, the youngest member of the caravan who has lost his family members in fighting and both of them joined the peace caravan in Kabul and paved around 300 km way by foot to Kunduz province, and will head to Balkh in the near future.
The report is written by Khan Mohammad Stanikzai. Mr. Stanikzai is a freelance journalist and translator based in Prague, Czech Republic. Contact: [email protected]