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    Senators blast High Peace Council’s performance

    KABUL (PAN): Meshrano Jirga (upper house of Parliament) members, criticising the performance of the High Peace Council, on Sunday summoned the council secretariat chief and spokesman.

    Senator Ali Akbar Jamshedi claimed the council had been unable to achieve any breakthrough in talks with the rebels. He linked the failure to the absence of a clear reconciliation policy.

    The reconciliation programme was acceptable to the nation only when all its aspects were known and the process led by the Afghans, the lawmaker said.

    Last month, the militants agreed to open a political office in Qatar for possible talks with the United States, a move supported by the Afghan government after a brief silence.

    Amid ongoing unilateral contacts between the Americans and the rebels, the Karzai government and US officials say the peace process should be Afghan-led,.

    Senate’s Defence Commission head, Abdul Wahab Irfan, alleged that sidelining the Afghan government on real issues and neighbours’ efforts to destablise Afghanistan hampered durable peace.

    Another parliamentarian, Najiba Hussaini, faulted the current composition and mandate of the council. She said the peace body did not have the authority to take important decisions.

    Insisting on an Afghan-led reconciliation drive, she claimed the peace body had internal weaknesses as it had so far been unable to choose a new leader after the death of Burhanuddin Rabbani on September 20, 2011.

    The 70-member council was set up in October 2010 by President Karzai to broker peace with the insurgents. It includes former jihadi leaders, legislators, ex-Taliban and government officials.

    Without giving details, Senator Hafiz Abdul Qayyum suggested the council should have a clear policy on peace talks.

    Although reports say 3,000 militants have joined the reconciliation programme over the past year as a result of efforts by the council, Qayyum said the surrendering individuals were not Taliban.

    High peace council members could not be reached for comments on the senators’ criticism.

    Qayyum believed the peace talks would succeed only when Muslim country, especially Saudi Arabia, mediated between the two sides.

    Some members said support from Pakistan and Iran was crucial to the success of efforts at brining stability to Afghanistan. The Afghan government also prefers Saudi Arabia and Turkey as preferred venues for talks with the Taliban.

    The upper house decided to summon the council secretariat chief and spokesman to appear before the house on February 28.

    According to Finance Minister Omar Zakhilwal, $157 million has been provided to the council by aid-giving countries since its inception.

    ma/mud



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