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    30-member Kandahar peace council set up

    KANDAHAR CITY (PAN): A 30-member peace council, with three working committees, was established on Tuesday for talks with the Taliban fighters and paving the ground for the development of southern Kandahar province, a senior official said.

    "The council's committees are tasked with restoring peace, ensuring security and carrying forward development projects," Governor Toryalai Weesa told Pajhwok Afghan News.

    The governor told a gathering of about 300 tribal elders, civil society representatives, security officials and provincial council members in Kandahar City to introduce sincere people as members of the council.

    The council members should have the potential to play a key role in convincing the Taliban to come to the negotiation table, he said. "Their selection should be driven by their spirit to bring back peace."

    He insisted that the Taliban's reintegration into the mainstream society should not be based on financial benefits. "If one thinks that they will get cash and other facilities in return for joining the government, it will not be good idea"

    Speaking on the occasion, provincial council chief, Muhammad Wali Karzai, said that the government had been exploring all possible ways of restoring peace, but the opposition's response remained lukewarm.

    He linked the response from militants to foreign interference, a reference to Pakistan. "When an opposition figure is ready to join the peace campaign, he is either killed or detained."

    Key Pashtun tribal elders were being killed on a daily basis on the both sides of the border, Karzai said, questioning the silence of Pakistanis and Afghans on the situation. He linked the ongoing conflict to Afghanistan's enormous mineral wealth.

    Peace would be brought about only when the government's writ was established at the district level, said the deputy chief of the provincial council, Agha Lalai Dastgiri. The global fraternity could play a crucial role in this regard, he believed.

    By using their influence, tribal elders could convince their relatives and community people to stay away from "this proxy war", said the Kandahar intelligence chief, Gen Mohammad Naeem Momin.

    Police were duty-bound to provide security for all those who wanted to join the peace process, said the deputy police chief, Col. Fazal Ahmad Sherzad. He promised jobs in the police force and local militias for the militants who renounced violence.

    ma/mud