A Peace Consultative Loya Jirga was conveyed in Afghanistan over the last three days. A Loya Jirga is a gathering of all sections of Afghan society- from politicians, tribal elders, teachers and civil society activists. It is conveyed since ancient times to decide issues of national importance and to arrive at a national consensus. The name consultative itself describes its scope- its decisions are not binding upon the President. The main agenda of the Loya Jirga was to decide upon the fate of the remaining 400 Talib(an) prisoners out of Taliban’s list of 5,000.
The Jirga was attended by about 3,400 people and 330 millions Afghanis were allocated for it. President Ghani has already released 4,600 Talib prisoners (and an additional 500 during Eid) and convened the Loya Jirga for the remaining 400 prisoners, saying that the release of these 400 Talib prisoners was beyond his authority and that he should allow the nation to decide. The Loya Jirga’s decision will also bring changes in the team which is going to Qatar to negotiate with Taliban. 23 categories of people from all parts of the society- women, businessmen, youth, etc. comprised the 50 committees of the Jirga. Dr. Abdullah, Chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation, was elected the headof the Consultative Loya Jirga.
Some participants in the Loya Jirga disagreed on releasing the Talib(an) prisoners. MP Bilquis Roshan was pushed out of the Loya Jirga for holding a banner against the release and raising slogans. This treatment meted out to Ms. Roshan heavily criticised by the gathering and former President Karzai. A representative from Nangarhar questioned the motive behind calling for the Loya Jirga itself and asked why there a Loya Jirga wasn't convened when Pakistan was fencing along the Durand Line, which Afghanistan doesn't recognise as a border.
The authors spoke to Prof. Marhoon of Literature and Linguistics Department at Kabul University. A writer of more than 100 books, he was the head of the 23rd committee. He says that it was a successful meeting of 3,400 people from 34 districts. All the 50 committees suggested to the President that the remaining 400 Talib(an) prisoners be released, but with conditions like that guarantees from the international community they shouldn’t return to the battlefield. Though the advice of the Loya Jirga isn’t binding on the President, Ghani agreed to go by their advice and release the 400 prisoners, some of whom are responsible for complex bombings. The negotiation team will leave for Qatar tomorrow and talks will start in 3-4 days. It was also decided that 1,500 former police and army personnel imprisoned for various crimes will be pardoned and will be released on the occasion of the 101st anniversary of the country’s independence.
Former President Karzai was present of the concluding day and he said in his speech: I thank President Ashraf Ghani for convening the Loya Jirga, I also thank all the participants of the Jirga for deciding that these 400 Talib prisoners should be released and President Ashraf Ghani will implement them.
God willing, in two or three days the team will be prepared under the leadership of Masoom Stanekzai a very knowledgeable and patriotic person, the team will travel to Qatar and start negotiations.
There is life in Peace, the rights of children and women will be further strengthened.
I call on the Taliban to stop fighting against the nation and government and to start negotiations, Loya Jirga solved all the political obstacles.”
Assessing President Ashraf Ghani’s actions and interest in the peace process, it seems that President Ashraf Ghani fears an interim-government and the Taliban’s role in the interim-government. Sometime back he had publicly drawn parallels between the talks now and those between the Mujahideen and Dr. Najibullah’s government. As such, it seems that Ghani is not very comfortable with the situation. Last year, NSA Mohib had a public outburst in front of the press in the US where he had questioned Khalilzad’s intentions. It is believed that he did it with Ghani’s full backing and was a way to reach American ears at a time when the Trump administration seemed certain to withdraw troops from Afghanistan.
The release of 5,000 prisoners in their list was set as a condition by the Taliban in their talks with the US to start the intra-Afghan talks. With this Ghani has left the ball in Taliban’s court. The Taliban hasn’t committed to a permanent ceasefire even after the release of all the 5,000 prisoners. The Loya Jirga has demanded the Taliban put in place a ceasefire during the duration of the intra-Afghan talks. The Loya Jirga in this way serves its intended purpose of putting pressure on the Taliban to at the least agree to a ceasefire.