Loya Jirga participants demand ceasefire as first step to peace

The Consultative Loya Jirga on Afghan Peace begin here on Monday (April 29, 2019) at the Loya Jirga Tent in Kabul with President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani and thousands of public figures in attendance.
About 3,200 representatives of different groups of people from across the country, 30 percent of them women, were attended the national event in Kabul.
The aim of the Loya Jirga was to reach consensus on a negotiation mechanism, identifying the basic points, peace constraints and a possible agreement with the Taliban.
The four-day Loya Jirga offered the opportunity for comprehensive discussions on peace negotiations with the Taliban, who launched their annual spring offensive earlier in the month.
Based on the agenda of the Loya Jirga, the huge gathering started with recitation of few verses of the Holy Quran and playing of the national anthem.
Later, Mohammad Omar Daudzai, the Consultative Loya Jirga Commission head, welcomed the participants and explained procedures for the event. High Peace Council (HPC) Secretary Mohammad Omar Daudzai on Monday called the latest Loya Jirga as largest in the contemporary history and thanked Taliban for not preventing participants from attending the event.
However, the Loya Jirga has been boycotted by former president Hamid Karzai, CE Abdullah, HPC head Mohammad Karim Khalili and member of HPC Haji Din Mohammad. Among the political leaders taking part in the event were Abdul Rab Rassoul Sayyaf, Abdul Hadi Arghandiwal, Zabihullah Mujaddedi, Qutbuddin Hilal and Qazi Mohammad Amin Waqad.
Daudzai said the jirga was all-inclusive and representatives of Afghan refugees in Iran, Pakistan and other countries also in attendance.
Meanwhile, President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani on Monday asked participants of the Consultative Peace Jirga in Kabul to chalk out a framework and set out government’s conditions for peace negotiations with the Taliban.
In his welcome address to the traditional gathering in Kabul, the president said it were the ordinary people who paid the price for peace not political elites. Thousands of tribal and community elders were taking part in the mammoth gathering that was kicked off amid tight security measures to discuss ways of reaching a lasting peace and end the country’s decades-old war.
“Your government would formulate the policy of peace talks on the basis of the views and suggestions from all you gathered here at this national gathering,” the president said.
He believed the Loya Jirga — a centuries old practice — would facilitate the voices of people and seek their views on issues of national interest. “I know this nation has no more patience for stability and defense of the country, but being a servant of the country, I also know the price the families involved in this fight have been paying.”
The president said peace had become a national debate during the past two years among the masses but this Jirga was an opportunity to bring public representatives under a single platform.
“We with unprecedented strategies referred to neighboring countries particularly Pakistan that violence was in the interest of no party and Afghanistan could become your good friend but would never enter an unequal partnership,” he said.
In the past four years, global view regarding peace and reconciliation had changed and for the first time the Imams of Mecca and Medina issued fatwas against violence and killings in Afghanistan and thus a political, regional and international consensus for peace was developed, the president continued.
He reiterated this Jirga would decide the framework and conditions for peace negotiations with the Taliban and the peace process would begin from this event.
Meanwhile, Abdul Rab Rassoul Sayyaf, chairman of the Consultative Loya Jirga that was introduced to the audience by the President, urged the Taliban not to reject the call for peace.
Sayyaf said: “We will hold consultations on reconciliation. We will bring peace to the country, despite opposition from certain circles.”
In his address, Sayyaf said the jirga would not draw red lines for the Taliban but would continue peace negotiations with them. He said: “We will not create hurdles to the jirga for peace but will provide facilities for lasting peace in the country.”
Sayyaf further added so far non-of the country leaders called Taliban as enemy might they were saying Taliban doing mistakes and door of the nation is open for Taliban, he said.
Sayyaf added those boycotting the Loya Jirga were not opposed to peace but there were some issues which would be resolved soon. Eelier, six presidential candidates and a number of political parties called the Loya Jirga an “election campaign” and refused to participate in it.
The Consultative Loya Jirga’s administrative board completed with the selection of five deputies and as many secretaries.
The event continued with committees selecting their head and secretary. Committees of the Consultative Loya Jirga had to answer four basic questions regarding peace. The questions pertain to convincing the Taliban into peace, preserving past achievements, composition of the government’s negotiating team and policy towards neighbors.
The committees discussed the following four questions:
Q 1: How can the Taliban be persuaded into face-to-face talks on ending the conflict and bringing peace to the country? In your opinion, what needs to be done that has not happened so far?
Q 2: In negotiations with Taliban, what the government should emphasise in terms of achievements and their importance? The committees will answer the question after discussions and in light of the views of members.
Q 3: In your opinion, what should be the composition of the negotiation team of the government and who should be part of it?
Q 4: What is the policy of the government towards neighbours, particularly the countries providing financial and military support to the Taliban? What are your expectations of foreign countries in an Afghan settlement?”
After almost two days of debates, the different committees of the Peace Loya Jirga on Thursday recommended ceasefire, creation of a political office for Taliban in the country, protection of past achievements, intra-Afghan talks, protection of democratic system, women’s rights and withdrawal of foreign forces.
Stressing the need for peace, the panels in their mutually agreed points asked the government and the Taliban to show flexibility in their positions, called for general amnesty and release of politician prisoners.
The committees also recommended respect to the Constitution, implementation of Hudud, avoiding the broadcast of ‘disgraceful’ programs on television, excluding the names of Taliban from blacklist and dissolution of the High Peace Council.
The participants also called for trust building between the two warring sides, issuance of fatwa of the Islamic World against the ongoing fighting in Afghanistan and stressed the conduct of polls and peace talks the same time.
Cease fire:
Immediate ceasefire was the demand of all committees who submitted their working reports.
Ahmad Saeedi, head of the 42nd Committee said: “We want immediate ceasefire, those ignoring our this demand indeed have no respect for Islamic values.”
Shenkai Karokhel, head of the 28th Committee said: “We want unconditional ceasefire especially in the month of Ramadan.”
Ahamd Selab, head of the 47th committee while unable to control his tears, said: “Ramadan is the month of blessing, forgiveness and compassion, so announce ceasefire to pay respect to this holy month. For the sake of pleasing Allah, his Prophet and the mothers and sisters who lost their relatives, let’s stop fighting.”
He said he lost a number of his family members, including his mother and sister in the ongoing war.
Abdul Qader Qalatwal, head of the Committee number eight, said: “Hearing one another’s voices in the battle ground is not possible.” He demanded both the sides announce ceasefire.”
Creation of Political Office for Taliban:
A majority of the committees who submitted their reports demanded the creation of a political office for the Taliban inside the country.
Ahmad Saeedi, head of the Committee 42nd said the creation of a political office for the Taliban inside the country was direly needed. It would encourage the Taliban to talk with the government, he added.
He said an office for the Taliban inside the country would overcome the need for the office in Qatar and other places.
Shenkai Karokhel, head of the committee 28th, stressed upon the creation of a political office for the Taliban inside the country and said the move could be the beginning of intra-Afghan peace talks.
Ahmad Selab said a Taliban office should be opened inside the country as a gesture of good will.
Protection of achievements, negotiating team structure
Fakor Behishti, head of the first committee, said, “Protection of the Constitution, achievements of the last 18 years, civil rights and protection of Afghan army are the red lines of the Afghan people.”
He said the ground for direct intra-Afghan talks should be opened and the negotiating team should be formed of representatives of all 34 provinces of the country.
People in the government negotiating team should be neutral and acceptable to both the Taliban and the Afghan government, he said.
Prevention of vulgar programs
Masouda Yari, a member of the 21st committee, said vulgar and programs against the culture of Afghans should be stopped on TV channels and the Constitution with some amendments should be protected.
Mualvi Jamaluddin, head of the 14th committee, also said airing vulgar programs should be stopped on TV channels.
Release of inmates
Masuma, head of the third committee, said, “The conflict between the government and the Taliban should stop for starting peace talks, and the ground for releasing Taliban inmates should be also paved.” She said illegal armed people should be disarmed and infiltration of Taliban fighters into Afghan forces ranks to should be prevented.
Faizullah Jalal, head of the 45th committee, said, “America alone cannot ensure peace in Afghanistan, the UN Security Council, China, Russia and the UK should also engage in this process.” Sayed Ahmad Silab, head of the 47th committee of the Loya Jirga, said both warring sides should release inmates of each other in phases.
Withdrawal of foreign forces
Faizullah Jalal said the international community’s commitment to the peace process was important and the UN was able to prevent rivalries and proxy war in Afghanistan.
“US and NATO forces cannot leave Afghanistan simply, the US should use its position for ensuring peace and security in this country,” he said.
Abdul Qadir Qalatwal, head of the seventh committee, said foreign forces should gradually withdraw from Afghanistan. However, Surya Pakzada, head of the 41st committee said, “We want the government to provide a timeline for foreign forces withdrawal as soon as possible, foreign forces should leave Afghanistan.”
She said abusive language and propagandas against the Taliban that complicated the conflict should be stopped.
Mualvi Jamaluddin, head of the 14th committee, also said foreign forces should leave Afghanistan as soon as possible.
The Loya Jirga ended with reading the declaration of the national event on Friday at the Intercontinental hotel in Kabul. Loya Jirga is an ancient Afghan tradition that has been convened at times of national crisis or to settle major disputes. It plays a purely consultative role but usually carries much influence in Afghan society.
The most recent jirga was held in 2013, when the Afghan government endorsed a security agreement allowing U.S. troops to stay in Afghanistan beyond their planned withdrawal in 2014.
Suraya Raiszada

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