The scenario is starkly different from Doha to Kabul. The primary goalpost of the peace talks in Qatar’s capital between the US and Taliban was in tatters on Wednesday on the eve of what has been orchestrated by both sides as a historic pact for American troops to withdraw, in exchange for a Taliban pledge that Afghanistan would not be used as a base from which to plot terrorist attacks.

This is presumptuous on both counts. The partial pullout of NATO forces in 2014 has exacerbated the situation further still. Whatever the upshot of the meeting, that pledge was broken by the extremists themselves with a car bomb explosion outside a police station in Kabul, killing no fewer than 14 people and wounding 145 more ~ predominantly civilians, including women and children. It was an attack on the entity that sustains the security network. The Taliban has claimed responsibility for what it said was a suicide attack.

Ergo, the intriguing aspect of the Afghan scenario at this juncture must be that the militants have struck in parallel to the peace talks. The “historic pact”, as proposed, is unlikely to readily inspire optimism in an increasingly volatile swathe of the subcontinent. The Taliban has said a “recruitment centre” had been attacked by one of their suicide bombers. “A large number of soldiers and police were killed or wounded,” the perpetrators claimed. While discussions on peace and a total pullout continue at the high table, the security forces have conducted raids in several parts of Kabul overnight and have destroyed a major militant hideout. The irony is ever so bitter.

Still more grim must be the outlook overall and not the least in the context of the Taliban’s denunciation of next month’s presidential election as a “sham”. More than a month before the first vote is cast on September 28, the extremists would appear to have ratcheted up the pressure; the footsoldiers have let it be known that Taliban fighters would do everything they could to block the polls.

The populace has been asked to stay away from political rallies that could be attacked. “This election process is nothing more than a ploy to deceive the common people,” the Taliban has warned in an indirect hint that there would be no let-up in its murderous offensives.

In the aftermath of the latest mayhem, the Taliban has made its position clear, urging foreign powers to persuade the US to end the occupation of embattled Afghanistan. Implicitly, the Taliban has signalled its intent to violate the certitudes of democracy. Which explains the caveat of President Ashraf Ghani, who has asserted that the people have the right to choose their leader and that the government was ready to hold a transparent election across the country. “They should show peace through their actions and not threaten people.” That fervent appeal was violated by the Taliban with hideous effect on Wednesday.