One of the key back channel dialogue facilitators in Afghanistan, the Afghanistan wing of the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs has received a death warrant from the Islamic State in Kabul, a representative of the organisation has informed.
Pugwash which works at the intersection of science and peace has been active in facilitating dialogue among various sections of Afghan society including the Taliban even before the U.S. engaged the Taliban for the Doha accord.
"The Islamic State fighters have circulated a booklet against the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs and as a result lives of the entire team of workers consisting of at least six persons is in danger. IS accuses us of being supporters of the global Jewish lobby and says that we advanced foreign interests in Afghanistan," said Khalilullah Safi, the former Country Director of Pugwash in Afghanistan. The office of the Pugwash chapter in Kabul is now closed and the former staffers are at home without any security, he said.
Pugwash in Afghanistan organised a series of conferences on the civil war and the U.S. presence and gave the Taliban leaders a platform to articulate their political demands. The Afghanistan wing of Pugwash worked with civil society and human rights representatives and political representatives from the Taliban. Notable meetings organised by the group that laid the ground for engaging the Taliban took place in Dubai in 2012, in Jalalabad in 2016, in Kabul in 2016. In a conference organised by Pugwash, Sher Mohammed Stanekzai representated the Taliban in 2016.
Mr. Safi was evacuated to the Netherlands a few days after the fall of Kabul to Taliban because of growing threat from the Islamic State and says the Pugwash wing is now shut though the staffers continue to remain in Kabul as they were unable to leave the country. "There is an urgent need to evacuate them at the earliest," said Mr. Safi who lost his brother to an attack by the IS in Jalalabad in August.
The threat to the members and office staff of Pugwash in Afghanistan has drawn attention of the Indian wing of Pugwash - Indian Pugwash Society. "Pugwash works for science, reason and peace and outfits like the Islamic State and the Taliban are against these attributes of modern civilisation that threaten their worldview. This is the reason that they are trying to intimidate and punish those who worked for reason and dialogue in Afghanistan," said Dr. Rajiv Nayan, former interim convenor and a member of Indian Pugwash Society's Executive Council.