Former militants looking for an incentive package
9 February 2010 - Five days into their journey on a completely different path, former members of the Taliban who renounced violence last week to join a peace initiative of the Government said they are looking forward to an incentive package.
“It’s obviously a very different environment,” said Qari Fazal Rahaman Faruqi, 32, a Taliban commander until last week.
Seated with five of his former Talib comrades in the office of the director of the Government’s peace and reconciliation programme for Nangarhar and Laghman provinces in Jalalabad, Mr. Faruqi said they joined the Government initiative thinking that it would lead to peace.
The Government of Afghanistan has been using Takhim-E-Solh -or the “Strengthening Peace Programme” (PTS) - for the past six years as a tool to encourage members of various militant groups to renounce violence.
The former commander, who originally hails from Batikot district of eastern Nangarhar province, seemed optimistic that the reconciliation process would work. But he urged the Government and the international community to demonstrate “honesty.”
“The most important thing is honesty. If the Government and the international community are honest, and if their actions and promises are consistent, the process can advance well,” said Mr. Faruqi.
His colleague, Qari Mohibullah, chipped in: “For this process to work, the Government should maintain good relations with Islamic Ulemas and real mullahs practicing in the mosques.”
Haji Sana Gul, PTS director for Nangarhar and Laghman provinces, said that about 1,100 members of anti-government elements (AGEs) have joined the social reintegration programme since its Jalalabad office was set up in 2005.
Another PTS office in Assadabad city leads similar efforts in two other provinces of the eastern Afghanistan – Kunar and Nuristan.
The Assadabad office has reintegrated about 850 AGEs (750 from Kunar and 100 from Nuristan) and collected 90 weapons since 2005, according to Haji Rozi Khan, 52, deputy Governor of Kunar, who also served in the past as the deputy minister of tribal affairs.
A PTS message to AGEs, written on a poster hanging on the wall of Mr Sana Gul, reads: “Dear Talib brothers, the Islamic scholars from all parts of the country would like to invite you to join the reconciliation programme and stop fighting against brothers. Don’t lose the chance, and contact PTS offices in your provinces.”
Mr. Sana Gul, himself a former Talib and a Jihadi commander during the Soviet occupation, said the Government should come up with a social reintegration package for those members of militant groups who are willing to lead a normal life.
“At the beginning, we asked for financial support (for those opting for social reintegration). Later on, they needed other support too. So, now we are asking for a rehabilitation package that also includes economic incentives,” he said.
The 56-year-old father of 22 children claimed that he is capable of bringing more AGEs into the social mainstream, if they are supported well.
Officials said that about 13 members of the Taliban in Shigal district and another group of about 50 in the Sarkano district of Kunar Province were ready to join PTS soon.
All together, 19 AGEs under the command of Mr Faruqi joined PTS as of last week. They also handed over 11 weapons, including an RPG, before being issued ID cards from the PTS.
One of the former Talibs reintegrated through PTS is Mohamad Kashmir Shariyatyar, 28, from Daulat Shah district, Laghman Province. Now a teacher of geography, history and Islamic sciences at a high school in Laghman, Mr Shariyatyar approached PTS three years ago and soon found himself home.
“This process (social reintegration) should work, and PTS is doing a good job,” said Mr. Shariyatyar, adding however that the Government has been “weak” in responding to needs of those coming into the mainstream.
“The Taliban joining this process need security, as well as economic incentives, like a plot of land,” he said.
Mr Faruqi, however, said he is looking for a “high-level” Government appointment.
Usually, PTS contacts members of AGEs and proposes reintegration. The PTS had contacted the group of Mr. Faruqi about six months ago, Mr. Sana Gul said, adding that “they also showed some interest, and this became possible.”
He feels that the social reintegration process should work given the success of the London Conference and the Government announcement that it would consider negotiating with moderate militants.
Asked what would be the next step should this process fail, Mr Sana Gul said, “There is no other way that’s workable. This (social reintegration) is the only way.”
By Tilak Pokharel and Shafiqullah Waak, UNAMA