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Volume 534: debated on Tuesday 25 October 2011

12. What recent assessment he has made of the Afghan High Peace Council’s role in the political process in that country. (76304)

The High Peace Council leads the Afghan Government’s reintegration and reconciliation efforts. Following the tragic assassination of former President and council chairman Rabbani, President Karzai has been reviewing the approach the High Peace Council takes to its work. We will continue to stand by his Government’s efforts to support Afghan-led reconciliation through the High Peace Council.

I am grateful to the Minister for his answer, but what is the UK’s latest assessment of the Afghan High Peace Council’s commitment to the inclusion of women in Afghanistan’s political process?

This issue is very important to the United Kingdom, and to the many Members who have written to me about it over the past few weeks. Women are represented on the High Peace Council; nine of its 70 members are women. They have also been represented in Parliament and in last year’s peace process. We continually stress to the Afghan Government that the commitment they have made to the equality of all their citizens and the inclusion of all in future processes must be met by action as well as words, and we will continue to take that forward as we look towards the Bonn summit.

I am encouraged by my hon. Friend’s reply. Will the Government do all they can to ensure that women attending the Bonn peace conference will be representative of the true aspirations of Afghan women, and will not just be placewomen put there for the benefit of the Afghan Government?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. I recently met Fawzia Koofi, an Afghan woman MP who was outspoken in her determination to ensure that she and others like her should be properly represented, both at the Bonn summit and in other aspects of life. She reminded all of us that Afghan women have traditionally taken part in a great deal of decision making at local and provincial level, and she was keen to ensure that the gains made over the past 10 years in women’s lives should not be lost. We should stand absolutely beside those who believe that.