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Editorial: HPC in the doldrums

President Ashraf Ghani’s administration always boasts of disbanding parallel and similar organizations in order to strengthen efficiency and cost-effectiveness when it comes to bureaucratic affairs. But the current dilemma of having two peace bodies with the same mission proves otherwise. While the High Peace Council (HPC) – which was established by former President Hamid Karzai in 2010 to negotiate with the Taliban following a conference with prominent politicians – was still in place, President Ghani appointed Abdul Salam Rahimy his special envoy for peace and state minister for peace affairs in June last year. This move alone boded ill for HPC’s future and it seemed natural and likely that this body’s mandate will be brought to end. It wasn’t longer than a month that a presidential decree dissolved HPC’s secretariat and the relevant authorities of the secretariat were thus handed over to the newly-established State Ministry for Peace (SMP). Similarly, despite some opposition in December last year, the Wolesi Jirga finally approved President Ghani’s decree to form SMP, legitimizing the ministry and simultaneously giving a mandate to a parallel organization. As soon as the SMP was approved, speculations about HPC being terminated made headlines, something that is proving to be true.

In a recent development, the establishment has purportedly canceled the budget of HPC, a move that has confronted the body with a serious predicament. As much as it seems rational to cancel the budget of an organization being wound down, the move signifies the government is not being open about it and is playing games with the council, which is seemingly being betrayed. It’s because if the government had the intention of forming SMP, then the HPC should have been the first choice to be promoted to that status. Moreover, the government shouldn’t have established the ministry in the first place while HPC holding the same mission still existed. It’s common knowledge now that the HPC is going to be dissolved in the near future but why Ghani isn’t stating it clearly and isn’t making a resolute decision about its fate. As things stand, the government should resolve this parallel organizations’ issue and decide HPC’s fate, which is in the doldrums. Cutting funds to the body is more like an unprofessional act and resembles ill will towards the body’s leadership. At this juncture, as the US-Taliban negotiations aimed at reaching an accord are ongoing, there needs to be a single authority to steer peace affairs. The dilemma of having two separate organizations tasked with running a single, specific mission will prove chaotic and will not yield any positive results in the quest for peace. The government needs to have a single address that relays its stand on peace negotiations and thus this uncertainty about HPC’s fate should be brought to an end as soon as possible.

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