In a landmark development, Afghan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani on Sunday declared a conditional ceasefire against the Taliban ahead of Eid al-Adha, a Muslim festival, effective from Monday.
Addressing a ceremony to mark the 99th Independence Day of Afghanistan at the iconic Darul Aman palace in Kabul, Ghani said the ceasefire would last three months provided that the Taliban also respect it.
He said the decision has been made after extensive consultation with different segments of the Afghan society and Islamic scholars worldwide.
"As we approach Eid al-Adha, and to respect the wishes of different segments of Afghan society […] and to respect the wishes of the religious scholars of the Islamic world that were gathered in the holy mosques and to respect the wishes of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the custodians of the two-holy mosques, the King of Saudi Arabia, we announce a ceasefire that would take effect from tomorrow, Monday, the day of Arafat, till the day of the birth of the prophet i.e., Mawlid al-Nabi, (November 19) provided that the Taliban reciprocate”, the Afghan president said.
He went on to say the ceasefire can be extended for as long as the Taliban extend their ceasefire.
Ghani said the ceasefire provides Afghan government an opportunity to implement the development and reforms initiated by the late King Ghazi Shah Amanullah Khan.
The president called upon the leadership of the Taliban to welcome the wishes of Afghans for a long lasting and real peace, and to get ready for peace talks based on Islamic values and principles.
“The Afghan government has removed all obstacles for a long-lasting peace through these unprecedented steps,” he added.
Jens Stoltenberg, the secretary general of NATO, welcomed the move. “I encourage the Taliban to demonstrate their concern for Afghans by respecting it,” he tweeted.
Pakistan also welcomed the declaration of the ceasefire.
“Pakistan fully supports all such efforts that contribute to achieving durable stability and lasting peace in Afghanistan. The people of Afghanistan deserve it. Coinciding with the Independence Day of Afghanistan, the announcement has an even greater significance,” Pakistan’s Foreign Office said in a statement.
“We also call upon all parties that in defense to the holy tradition of sacrifice during Eid al-Adha to implement a ceasefire in hostilities - preferably for a more extended period of time,” the statement added.
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