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Editorial: Reactions to HCNR formation

Following the release of a list containing the members of the High Council for National Reconciliation (HCNR), mixed reactions have arisen from different quarters against the council. A presidential decree named 48 members, featuring key political and Jihadi figures, for the council that is mandated with taking peace talks ahead with the Taliban. However, Former President Hamid Karzai excused himself from being placed in the council. Hard on the heels of that, Salahuddin Rabbani, former minister of foreign affairs, who was also in the list, in a statement stated that he was not consulted about the inclusion of his name in advance and thus he revoked his membership.  Hizb-e-Islami Afghanistan (HIA) party, led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, called the membership of Mujahideen and political leaders in the council symbolic and ineffective. Meanwhile, the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission also voiced its concern and criticized the council for not having any woman in a leadership role. The current circumstances are indeed decisive for Afghanistan. Having the consent of all those who hold a stake in the peace process is crucial. It seems the government has put together a list of people who aren’t even consulted on their membership, something that makes the basis of this council precarious. This also reflects badly on the government and signifies the decision has been made hastily. For the intra-Afghan talks to succeed, the Afghan government should engage with a full hand and with possessing consensus from people belonging to all walks of life in Afghanistan. If the government wants to represent the people in entirety during the talks with the Taliban, the voices of each and every one of them should be heard. Otherwise, making claims that the government wants to represent Afghans is a futile and false practice. At this juncture, the public objections are undermining the effectiveness of the council. It seems the work of the council wouldn’t carry much weight if there is that much dissent in the Afghan society. However, it shouldn’t be so. This council needs to be inclusive because the 21-member negotiating team (appointed in last March) slated for the intra-Afghan talks is also accountable and answerable to this council, meaning its mandate is huge and requires proper heed. Therefore, this body should be empowered and made inclusive to an extent that the Afghan nation feels satisfied that they have an actual voice in the all-Afghan talks.

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