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New Body for Seeking Peace with Taliban

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Lawmakers in the Wolesi Jirga, the lower house of the parliament, agreed on Saturday to create a commission for seeking mechanisms of peace in the country. The lawmakers agreed to the establishment of the new peace commission after many of the MPs bitterly criticized the Afghan High Peace Council (HPC), calling its peace efforts as ineffective. The decision is considered as the first of its kind by the parliament, which would work on peace plan and ask the government support it and implement its plans. The commission is being formed as the HPC-led peace efforts have failed so far, making it increasingly hard for the peace body to convince the lawmakers and the public that its efforts would produce results.

The decision of the lawmakers for creation of a new peace body – to be tasked to seek peace with the insurgent groups – comes as a complete surprise to the High Peace Council and President Karzai as well. During the session, Maulvi Shehzad Shahid, the spokesman of the High Peace Council and also an MP, insisted the council had made many achievements since it was formed about three years ago. But the fact is that the High Peace Council has failed in its efforts for peace in the country. There may many causes for that such as Taliban’s unwillingness to renounce violence and the structure of the High Peace Commission.

The HPC is made up of government officials, political figures, former jihadi leaders and former Taliban members. Many of the members of the HPC have fought each other in the past and many of them have fought the Taliban as part of the northern anti-Taliban alliance before the US-led invasion in 2001. Many believe that the composition of the HPC made it very hard for it to effectively work on building confidence with the Taliban and Hekmatyar’s Hizb-e Islami faction. In fact, the Taliban is supposed to talk to its former foes in the High Peace Council. Given the bitter and implacable enmity between the Taliban and the former of the Northern Alliance, it would be very hard to expect any progress in HPC’s efforts.

On the other hand, as another peace body is formed, the prospect for the peace negotiations with the Taliban is even more uncertain. The Taliban and other insurgent groups under its umbrella group is determined not to come to peace talks with the government of Afghanistan. The questions about the peace process may remain unanswered for many years to come.

Given the different parties – including former jihadi leaders – involved in secret contacts with Taliban, there would be less and even no coordination between the different players on the side of the Afghan government seeking peace negotiations with the Taliban. Parallel peace institutions and their activities would not be effective in pursuing peace and the efforts to bring the militant groups to the negotiation table. In the very beginning, it is not clear what would be Karzai’s reaction to the new peace commission formed by the parliament. President Karzai has had high expectations from the HPC, which was formed by direct support of the president.

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