Despite disagreements and altercations, the grand consultative Loya Jirga for peace inaugurated last Monday on 29 April and lasted 5 five days. The purpose of the assembly was to define peace, determine limits for it and give important advices to the government. The government considers the inauguration of the Jirga as the opening point of intra-Afghan talks. Through this, the government strives to enter the peace process.
The Afghan government has a predetermined definition for peace and their peace has specific limits. But regarding the government’s definition of peace, there is not only absence of consensus, but has led to weak government’s role in the peace process and has sometimes pushed the government towards the edge of opposing the process. The public, political parties, civil activists, ex-president Hamid Karzai and some other influential personalities have criticized government’s stand regarding peace and has accused it of indolence. Moreover, Zalmai Khalilzad, special representative of the United States for Afghanistan has also repetitively criticized the government. Because of such reproaches, antagonisms, pressures and political isolation, Ashraf Ghani felt necessary to conduct the peace Jirga and strengthen his stand.
Head and Delegates’ election for the Jirga
The government announced that delegates for the Jirga will be partially elected. Among the 3200 participants, 1000 delegates will be from Kabul and the rest will be from other provinces. In provinces, a commission, which included the head of provincial counsil, director of women affairs, head of scholars’ council, and others, under the supervision of the governors, determined delegates for the Jirga.
Complaints regarding the delegates’ election process got published by the media. It was claimed that most of the delegates elected for the Jirga were either government officials or those who were favorites of the governor or the provincial council.
When the government decided to call up consultative Jirga, dissensions began since then. Political parties adjudicated the Jirga as Ashraf Ghani’s campaign for the upcoming elections, thus, boycotted the Jirga. Hamid Karzai although agreed with holding Peace Jirga at the beginning, but later, termed it unnecessary and suspected its results. Gulbudin Hekmatyar, the leader of Hezb-e-Islami also entitled the Jirga unnecessary and an obstacle for peace. Most importantly, Abdullah Abdullah, chief executive complained that he is not consulted regarding the peace Jirga, and thus, boycotted the Jirga.
Despite boycotts of prominent figures, Ghani was able to convince to accept the leadership of the Jirga. The person who still has a place among the Jihadi leaders and holds a spot among the political figures of the countries. He is a professor of Islamic sciences and has an influential verbal communication skills. These characteristics do not exist in Ashraf Ghani and any other assembled individuals. Sayyaf was therefore the savior of the legitimacy crisis of the Jirga.
Inside the Auditorium
The Auditorium of the Jirga had a special message and efforts were made to display the Jirga as a national assembly. Despite Abdullah Abdullah’s boycott, his picture was hanged near the stage. In addition, only the National Television of Afghanistan had the monopoly to broadcast the first day of the Jirga and other news agencies were not allowed to enter the auditorium and talk to the delegates. The organizers’ decision was to keep the activities of the committees and speeches of delegates behind closed doors. The logic was enable comfort for delegates to speak without any fear and worry. However, when the news reporters complained about the issue, some of the reporters were allowed to enter the auditorium and interview the participants. Despite the images and symbols in the auditorium, monopoly and restriction of news coverage indicated that the organizers wanted to comprehensively control the assembly and avoid unforeseen events.
Besides broadcast monopoly, the appointment of the head and attempt to appoint administrative board members indicate that the government strived the control the flow of the Jirga, and thus, control its results.
Questions for discussion
The government had pre-specified questions prepared for discussion. The questions which were represented to the participants for consultations and were arranged according to their importance, were mostly concentrated on issues about which, the government stressed during the last few months of peace negotiations.
The first and most important issue was how convince the Taliban for peace. Here, the purpose wasn’t to say that the Taliban do not want to make peace, but to know how to make the Taliban to negotiate. Thus far, the Taliban refused to negotiate with the government and considered it against the legitimacy of their war. The Taliban say that their negotiations will be with civilians and political parties, not with the government officials. While through the Jirga, the government strived to pressure the Taliban and the United States to initiate negotiations with the government, as a government entity.
Answers to the questions differed among the participants. However, some similar points included inauguration of the Taliban’s office in Afghanistan, scheduled pullout of the foreign forces, ceasefire, and releasing prisoners for eliminating trust issues.
The foreign forces pullout is not the authority of the government, but the U.S. has agreed to pullout if conditions are favorable. Releasing prisoners is a logical action, but it will not force the Taliban to negotiate with the government. Opening the Taliban’s office in Afghanistan was a demand of the government and the government has shown preparation for it. However, it is not applicable, as the Taliban will not be willing to negotiate peace under the shadow of the government.
The second issue was about securing values. Before the Jirga, the government has insisted on preservation of the constitution in the peace process. This stance of the government was implicitly by the U.S. and openly criticized by political parties and influential figures. The government tried to legitimatize their stand via the Jirga, and the resolution of the Jirga also supported the government’s stand. The consultative Jirga has mentioned about preservation of many other values, but the preservation of the constitution, elections and regime were something that government needed the most.
The fourth issue was about formation of negotiation team list for peace talks. The government felt necessity for this issue because last time’s altercations in intra-Afghan talks were due to the list of delegates for negotiations. The government strived to find a way out about the issue through the Jirga so that it can be represented and used as a national decision in the future. The Jirga had a common solution for the issue which was: the list should be all-inclusive, experts and delegates of the Jirga should be in included in the list and should short. The president had an appropriate response to the demand.
The fourth issue was about the government’s stand about the involved countries. This issue was above the authority and knowledge of the Jirga. The Jirga’s consultation was general and unrealistic due to lack of understanding of the current conditions.
Resolution and its effect on the peace process
After five days of consultations, the consultative Jirga published a resolution which had 23 articles. The Jirga requested a sustainable peace and foreign forces pullout should be scheduled based on agreement of all involved sides. The pullout issue was not discussed extensively before. The resolution emphasized on preservation of National establishments and regime. In addition, the constitution should be preserved and can reformed based on need. The Taliban and the government should facilitate to maintain human behavior and should exchange prisoners. The Jirga strictly requested stoppage of false propagandas and should urgently announce permanent ceasefire.
The Jirga also requested political parties, prominent figures and Afghan government to begin intra-Afghan negotiation as a national unit. Another request was to prepare a non- partisan list of Jihadi and national figures, experts, experience individuals and scholar for the intra-Afghan talks.
During the closing ceremony, Presidnet Ghani said he is ready to announce ceasefire. However, it needs to be mutual and Taliban should also step up. To respect the holy month of Ramadan, the government announced release of 175 prisoners of the Taliban.
undoubted, to overthrow the unity of the national unity government, it resolved the isolation that was about peace, and launched an initiative; the world and the Taliban made it clear that in Afghanistan it was impossible to achieve peace without a national unity government.
The Peace Consultative Meeting in Kabul ends when the United States, Russia and China tripartite meeting on peace in Afghanistan last week, a statement issued from the Russian Foreign Ministry’s address stating that the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan should be responsible and In order to achieve peace in Afghanistan as a first step, they have pledged to support the inclusion of all Afghans and Afghan leaders in peace efforts andWe are going to help kind with Afghans.And the Special Representative of the United States, Zalmay Khalilzad, praised the meeting and called it important Afghan peace accords that they agreed on a peace accord in Afghanistan, and the government of Afghanistan praised the efforts of the countries of America, Russia and China.