Little Expected of Pak-Afghan Jirga

Amid little hopes of any substantial outcome, the much-publicized Jirga (grand assembly) of Pakistani and Afghan tribal leaders opened Thursday, August 9, in Kabul, without Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf.

Little Expected of Pak-Afghan Jirga
Amid little hopes of any substantial outcome, the much-publicized Jirga (grand assembly) of Pakistani and Afghan tribal leaders opened Thursday, August 9, in Kabul, without Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf.

"This will totally be a futile exercise without Taliban and other Mujaiddin leaders," Senator Maulana Sami-ul-Haq, one of scores of the appointed participants of the three-day Jirga, told

"The main players (Taliban) are either in caves or on the mountains," he added.

"That is why I opt for not to be the part of a futile exercise."

Expectations of any substantial outcome were further underlined by the absence of Musharraf who decided to dodge the meeting hours before its start.

The Pakistani leader is reportedly meeting top aide to decide whether to declare a state of emergency.

The three-day tribal council, agreed by Musharraf and Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Washington late last year, was brokered by US President George Bush to unite his two often-feuding allies against al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

The jirga has already suffered a setback following a decision by tribal parliamentarians and elders from the restive North and South Waziristan to stay away.

"I am hundred percent sure that this jirga will not yield any positive result due to absence of Taliban and other Mujahiddin leaders fighting the US forces there," said Senator Sami-ul-Haq.

Various Taliban leaders are believed to have been students of his madrasah in Akora Khattak, located some 50 Kilometers from Peshawar, in early 1990s.

A jirga is a centuries-old tradition involving Pashtun tribes that live on both sides of the border, where elders rule by consensus to try to settle disputes peacefully.

It is supposed to comprise neutral people, respected by and acceptable to all parties in a conflict, whose verdict is deemed final and binding.

The elders represent tribes whose territory straddles the remote and rugged border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

American Show

Opposition leader Maulana Fazl-ur Rehman, whose Jamiat Ulema Islam party is widely considered to wield much influence over the Taliban, is also boycotting the "America's show."

Senator Sami-ul-Haq agrees, citing the absence of tribal elders or MPs from North and South Waziristan.

"This is the gathering of US supporters, and nothing else," he contended.

"The Pakistani and Afghan governments are already supporting the US policies in Afghanistan and acting against Taliban. Will they persuade each other not to fight? If no, then who will they persuade for that?"

US officials says Al-Qaeda has re-established itself in the Pakistani tribal areas. It is widely believed that Osama bin Laden and his senior lieutenants are being sheltered by the local tribes.

Pashtun tribes have lived in the rugged mountain region, regardless of borders and invading armies, at least since the time of Alexander the Great in the third century BC.

The meeting, attended by nearly 700 delegates, is taking place amid strict security in a huge white tent that has been erected at a college in Kabul's west.

Some 2,500 police are guarding the jirga and NATO had armored vehicles stationed around the educational facility.

All roads in and out of the area were closed to traffic except for the buses ferrying delegates to the venue.

No Authority

Sabihuddin Ghousi, a senior defense and security analyst, shares the same optimism.

"I don't think that without Taliban, there will be any substantial outcome. Taliban are a reality whether I like them or not," he told IOL.

"The jirga may produce a non-binding resolution or a declaration but it may not be able to deliver a verdict that would be binding on all sides to the conflict."

Ghousi believes that the US will eventually have to set on the table with Taliban.

"America has to talk to Taliban sooner or later, which is the only solution to the issue. Carpet bombing is not the solution."

Ismail Khan, a Peshawar-based expert on Afghan affairs, is also doubtful of the jirga ability to made a difference.

"The main question before the hundreds of delegates from Pakistan and Afghanistan is whether they would be able to deliver on the hopes and aspirations of millions of people living on both sides of the border," he told IOL.

"From the Afghan perspective, they have done their homework and are obviously looking forward to an event that they believe could prove instrumental in restoring peace in their country ravaged by decades of war and internecine fighting," he added.

"There are also doubts about the effectiveness and influence of the jirga constituted by Pakistan in delivering on its stated goals."

Khan believes there are some critical questions that need to be explained.

"From pure tribal perspective: what would be the mandate of such an assembly? Will the jirga have the requisite authority to decide on matters between conflicting parties?" he asked.

"Will the jirga have the mandate to include or hold talks with the Afghan Taliban and whether it will have the authority to take decisions that would be acceptable to all sides, including Karzai's principal backers in Washington?"

The expert noted that Taliban have already announced their opposition to the jirga, questioning its representative status and its effectiveness in forming an independent opinion.

"I fear that the jirga runs the risk of turning into a road-show or a kind of a seminar that would generate debate and discussion but may produce little or no results to help restore peace to the war-torn Afghanistan."

Güncelleme Tarihi: 10 Ağustos 2007, 09:53