Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Monday, January 21st, 2019

Where Loya Jirga May Lead?


Where Loya Jirga May Lead?

As the countdown has started about the commencement of Loya Jirga, the Afghan traditional assembly, which is scheduled to be held on November 16, there are concerns and criticisms within the so-called intellectual (educated) layer of the society. But, it is noteworthy that there is not a united front against the notion, and critics have their own reasons of opposing it. How? Let's assess the issue a bit in detail.
During a year, this is the second time that Loya Jirga is called upon, to build a legal base for decisions that otherwise would or would not have the support of Afghan people.

I am one of those who strongly maintain that a door should remain always open towards insurgents that accept the constitution of Afghanistan and lay down arms and willingly join the peace process. And, perhaps, there are people who suffered terribly under the wheels of authoritarian regime of Taliban and have lost families and friends, but still, for sheer peace, stability and stoppage of violence, they are ready to forget all about the past and accept the presence of Taliban-led militants in the political establishment on condition of laying down arms and seek their political objectives through democratic processes.
I said these things to clarify doubts of those suspicious people who desperately struggle to reconcile with militants at any cost.

There is no doubt that large portion of Afghan people is tired of war and violence and calls for peace and security to end their woes and miseries. But it does not mean that they are ready to pay cost to the extent that ruins or threatens achievements made during past ten years with the help of international community and expenditure of billion of dollars. In everything there is a limit and the limitation for achieving peace is enforcement of all articles of constitutions; beyond that "sorry".

If it wasn't the case, Afghan people would not have welcomed the US-led military engagement in 2001 that ousted Taliban. They would have stood against it as the history denotes in the case of other military attacks and invasion.

So, opposing Loya Jirga necessarily does not mean opposing the issue which is about to be discussed there---the strategic cooperation with the US, but there are issues that should be noticed.
There were questions about the previous Loya Jirga that remained unanswered. The first question, "Were really participants the true representatives of Afghan people?" Critics maintain that participants were generally picked from amongst government supporters who did not oppose president's decisions.

Even assuming them as true representatives of Afghan people, the Jirga was directed and guided in a manner that any opposing voices were deemed against the general will and wisdom. No body dared to oppose the previously suggested policies and steps put by Mr. President and his supporters. Everyone interviewed right after the termination of the meeting was talking with great enthusiasm looked as if they really did something remarkable that can end to peace and stability.

But the peace process whose corner stone was based on the very decision of the Jirga showed how the main actors played in the assembly well and covered their actions with the garment of legality and legitimacy.
I strongly doubt that if the structure, combination of High Peace Council as well as the course of peace process were put in the previous Loya Jirga, participants would have called unanimously for their approval.

They would have opposed policies regarding peace process, which violated the very basic laws of diplomacy. Taliban were branded as "dissent brothers". Prisoners were discharged and there were serious efforts to bring out Taliban leaders out of the blacklist, which was realized partly. And some of the released Taliban prisoners have taken arms and fight Afghan and foreign security forces. Do not these blunders and gaffes prove that something went wrong in previous Loya Jirga?

If your answer is still "no"; then just painstakingly assess the outcomes.
When the so-called Afghan representatives were toiling to find way to bring back their dissent brother on negotiating table, a bomb went off nearby and caused participants to run away and save their lives.
Taliban from the very start of the concept of "Peace and Negotiation" have warned that they would not negotiate with Kabul government and would not join peace process. As their spokesman belittlingly voiced out that approved was a call for surrender not for negotiation.

He was some how right because from the very years after the collapse of Taliban regime, every single Talib was welcomed with visible zeal and eagerness to the government. There is not a single case showing a militant who was rejected if he had laid down arms and joint peace process. Instead each one was welcomed and provided with facilities that a common Afghan envies.

So, what was Loya Jirga about? The answer lied within the circle of President Karzia. That was nothing but a commencement of series of actions that participants might not have dreamed of.
According to declaration of the assembly, a council should have been established to lead the peace process with militants. It was kindly established by efforts of Mr. President, thanks to him. But to what extent the council could move ahead not only on the behalf of Kabul government but all Afghan people for which the Jirga was called? That remained vague and unclear. But the declaration of Loya Jirga provided the government to fill up bucket covered with ragged garment of its decision with whatever principle players feel necessary.

Just consider the faulty peace process showcased mostly right after the assassination of former President and Chief of High Peace Council. After the assassination of Mr. Rabbani, even Mr. President was shocked with emotion and indirectly approved the failure of his strategies. He called "talks should be held directly with Pakistan".

Anyhow, what should be noticed about the previous Loya Jirga and should not be repeated in the coming one was measures and policies branded with acceptance of participants, but indeed such things were out of discussions. In another word, government did something on the behalf of the so-called people's representatives that indeed they were against. Like that of peace process which benefited only militants----going out of prison and removing their names from blacklist.
So, what about the upcoming Loya Jirga, I will deal with the question in the next article.>

It has been months that Kabul government has started preparing to hold a new Loya Jirga for the so-called asking people's view about the strategic cooperation with Washington. The Polytechnic University where the assembly is about to be held was closed and a complete semester has been postponed due to security reason. Students went on strike when commanded to leave the hostel and accept monthly stipend in return. But ultimately students in hostel rejected the offer.

Presently, Police rangers have surrounded the area as the administration has decided to seal off any possible penetration for Taliban and Al Qaeda's sneakers and avoid repeating previous mistake.

The first Loya Jirga held earlier this year was disturbed when a bomb went off nearby and followed firings by Taliban elements. Since then, what have happened and likely put the strength as well as the capacity of Afghan security forces under scrutiny of military experts and political officials is its unilateral operation.

The security responsibilities of Kabul were delivered to Afghan security forces in first phase of security transition. Though, since the transition, several lethal attacks have quaked the city, for instance, attack on Kabul continental Hotel, US embassy, assassination of former President Mr. Burhanuddin Rabbani, which have shaken the confidence of civilians on the capability of security forces to deal with security challenges and protect them against increasing Taliban-led militants violence, but the upcoming gathering where more than 2000 influential people will participate and decide about the strategic cooperation with Washington is highly important for government to acquire enough reputation to bargain with international allies in the second Bon Conference, which is about to be held next month. In another word, holding Loya Jirga without any security incident would be viewed as political win for Kabul officials.

Anyhow, back to Loya Jirga. Recently I hear murmurings from part of political activists against the Loya Jirga and its much expected outcome of approving a long term strategic cooperation with the United States. And also some domestic newspapers highlight statements of scholars who criticize the presence of US from religious point of view and stunningly issue freaking Fatwa. As for example, US permanent presence was against Islam. And it was like surrendering to infidels which is 'Haram'.

There are two things that must be differentiated: Loya Jirga and Strategic Cooperation contract (declaration). Unfortunately, those who oppose Loya Jirga, advertently or inadvertently, go against the likely strategic cooperation with Washington.

There are individuals and groups who try to fool common people, saying the presence of US permanent military bases were against Islam and Afghan culture. In order to strengthen their baseless hullabaloos resorting to neighbors' concerns, arguing that regional insecurity and instability would be intensified as neighbors would not tolerate US military bases.

In one of my article I dealt with the issue and painstakingly questioned the intention of neighbors towards Afghanistan. (If neighboring countries truly wish for an independent and stable Afghanistan, they have to support the likely contract. And, if they want to maintain their previous approach, why we Afghan people be so worried about their national interest?)

Regarding to contradiction between US permanent military bases and Islamic Sharia, sincerely speaking, I have nothing to say because the presence of any western country in Afghanistan is a nightmare for the so-called religious leaders. A TV show, for instance, is a nightmare for our religious scholars, but stoning to death of women is not. The US presence is against Islam, but sealing all doors towards women participation in the society is not, and etc. this freaking Fatwas (religious commands) have sent millions of Afghans into graveyards and left thousands of widows and orphans only on Kabul streets miserably begging every pedestrians for an Afghani coin.

What sets me on the rollercoaster of astonishment is criticism put by people wearing blue and red ties!
The problem lies here that this sort of people actually does not care much about Afghanistan and Afghans. Perhaps, they have earned enough to live a prosperous life out of the country and let poor civilians burn. Their problem with the Loya Jirga and Strategic cooperation is not from point of view of national interest, but political controversy with government, exclusively with President Karzia. So, in order to empower their position, they are indirectly allied with those who are ideological differences. Perhaps, they desire for strategic cooperation with Washington, but because it is linked to upcoming Jirga, they have started opposing it.

Here is something that should be noticed by these respected gentlemen. The strategic cooperation has nothing to do with Loya Jirga. Officials clearly understand that Afghanistan is in need of a powerful ally to provide a security shield against its powerful neighbors who have always looked towards the country as a piece of cake to chase whenever get hungry. So, though some MPs voiced out criticism against it, they would ultimately approve the contract. In other word, their criticisms are linked largely to sparked showdown with executive branch of government over MPs recently disqualification by Election Commission, which also caused a stark division in the parliament. Thus, in order to revenge Mr. President some of them started striking everything held by Hamid Karzia.

What many others, including myself, have problem with is the Loya Jirga itself. Though it has legitimacy according to constitution, there are serious efforts going on by circles within and out of political establishment to introduce it beside legislation as a new source of law.

It is the second time just in a year that Loya Jirga is called upon; and participants are generally picked from among government supporters.
This is the problem. If the process goes like this, it will deal terrible blows to naive democratic institutions. And whenever the president did not like something or something goes against him, he would call Loya Jirga and earn the required legal justification to push for the cause.

In such circumstance, some grand change would occur and the role of lower house of the parliament and other legal institution will be further marginalized. This is the red line that our experts must highlight and alarm Afghan people of, because in such a political scenario, the organizers of Loya Jirga can play quiet well and cover, otherwise, illegal activities with soft veil of law.

writer of the Daily Outlook Afghanistan. He can be reached at jawad_rahmani2001@yahoo.com

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