Political Landscape

AAN Q&A: Between ‘Peace Talks’ and Elections – The 2019 Consultative Peace Loya Jirga


Delegates of the Consultative Loya Jirga, convened to scrutinise the Bilateral Security Agreement with the United States, leaving on the last day of the four-day long meeting held in Kabul, in November 2013. President Karzai ignored the jirga’s recommendations to sign the agreement. Photo: Massoud HOSSAINI/AFP

Delegates of the Consultative Loya Jirga, convened to scrutinise the Bilateral Security Agreement with the United States, leaving on the last day of the four-day long meeting held in Kabul, in November 2013. President Karzai ignored the jirga’s recommendations to sign the agreement. Photo: Massoud HOSSAINI/AFP

The four-day Consultative Peace Loya Jirga will commence on Monday, 29 April 2019. This assembly – the sixth loya jirga since 2001 – was convened by President Ghani with the aim of discussing the framework for negotiations with the Taleban. Originally scheduled to start on 17 March, it had to be delayed for organisational reasons. Like the three most recent of these loya jirgas, it has been labelled as consultative’, a qualification that changes this institutions constitutional definition as a decision-making body. In this dispatch, AANs Jelena Bjelica and Thomas Ruttig (with input from the AAN team) provide answers to six basic questions about the loya jirga.

1. What is a loya jirga?

The 2004 Afghan Constitution, echoing earlier constitutions, defined a loya jirga — Pashtu for grand assembly —as “the highest manifestation of the will of the people of Afghanistan.” A loya jirga is only convened during extraordinary circumstances. It has the power to amend the constitution, impeach the president and “decide on issues related to independence, national sovereignty, territorial integrity as well as supreme national interests.” In that sense, it is a quasi-parliamentarian constitutional consensus-building organ representing all ethnic and social groups of the country. Its decisions are binding.

The institution of the loya jirga draws upon the Pashtun tribal codex, the Pashtunwal(a)I, which includes jirgas on an intra- and inter-community level as a non-standing instrument to regulate local conflict (AAN background here). Although there is a strong myth around loya jirgas that project the institution back into Afghan history, it is a modern political invention. (1)

German Central Asia researcher Boris Buchholz described this process as follows (see his AAN guest dispatch here):

The loya jirga, today depicted as a centuries-old institution, was ‘invented’ less than a hundred years ago by King Amanullah (1919–29) [. . .] The loya jirgas became the king’s main instrument for settling potential conflicts face-to-face with the representatives of his people.

According to the current constitutional definition, it consists of all elected representatives of the country, ie the members of both houses of parliament (Wolesi and De Meshrano Jirgas, although the latter, also known as the Senate, includes members appointed by the president) and the chairpersons of the provincial as well as the district assemblies. The constitution stipulates that ministers, the chief justice and members of the Supreme Court as well as the attorney general “shall participate in the Loya Jirga sessions without voting rights.” Under this definition, a loya jirga is always convened by the president, except in the case of a president’s impeachment when it is convened by the Wolesi Jirga (Article 64, 7).

There is also confusion about the sub-category ‘constitutional loya jirga.’ There are two types of such. The 2003 Constitutional Loya Jirga (CLJ) was called so because it had to decide about a new constitution. Currently, however, the term is used for a loya jirga convened according to the stipulations of the constitution, ie with all elected representatives – which was not the case in the 2003 CLJ, simply because there was only a provisional constitution at that point of time, namely the 1964 constitution as re-instated by the 2001 Bonn Agreement, but minus the monarchy and the post of a prime minister.

The discussion is now whether there currently can be a loya jirga according to the requirements of the constitution as districts councils have still not been elected. District council elections have been scheduled and postponed various times. This has required what AAN has described in earlier dispatches as “innovative Jirga-ism,” ie a re-defining of the ‘historical’ term to meet political requirements of the day with the aim of legitimising the decisions of a body convened, but not in conformity with assumed ‘historical’ or constitutionally prescribed ways (see here and here). This led to a number of loya jirgas that were described with an additional adjective, such as ‘traditional’ or ‘consultative’ or without the term ‘loya’ at all (more about this below).

Since 2001, five Loya Jirgas have been held (2):

1.  The Emergency Loya Jirga (ELJ) in April 2002, with around 1,600 delegates. Based on the 2001 Bonn Agreement, it elected a transitional administration that replaced the interim administration established in Bonn (both were headed by Hamed Karzai, who later became president) and was tasked with drafting a new constitution and preparing a constitutional loya jirga to pass the constitution. Delegates were elected by province, after a pre-selection process in each district (based on a previous survey) ensured that all relevant ethnic and social groups were represented. The ELJ delegates included 140 women (see AAN reports here and here).

2. The Constitutional Loya Jirga convened in late December 2003 and early January 2004 that passed the new constitution. It had 102 female (of which only eight were directly elected) and 400 male delegates. The remaining women were either appointed by President Hamed Karzai or elected on separate lists.

3. The Peace Loya Jirga in June 2010 with 1,600 delegates, of which many had been hand-picked by then-President Karzai (see detailed AAN reporting here and here for the communique). Some delegates then pointed out to AAN “the ambiguity of the gathering and the terminology used: traditionally a jirga would have binding decision-making power, but this one has been termed a ‘consultative’ one (mashwarati, which comes from the word shura).” A shura only gives advice to a leader – who having heard the advice has the authority to act as he sees fit.

4. The Traditional Loya Jirga in November 2011 with 2,000 delegates in attendance who spent two days discussing the draft Strategic Partnership Agreement (SPA) with the US and the peace process in 40 working groups (see AAN reporting by Kate Clark here, here and here). Like the 2010 peace jirga, the delegates for this loya jirga were hand-picked by Karzai, and like its predecessor jirga this one was also of a ‘consultative’ nature.

5. The Consultative Loya Jirga, convened to scrutinise the Bilateral Security Agreement with the United States, in November 2013, with 2,500 delegates divided into 28 working groups to give recommendations. As AAN reported then (here):

Jirga organisers told AAN that the jirga is a consultative body: “People are not supposed to vote for or against the BSA,” said one. “They are just supposed to give input.”

As AAN reported in 2013, “despite their [jirga representatives] almost unanimously expressed the desire for a speedy signing [of the BSA], [Karzai] left saying he would carry on negotiations with the US.” He did, in fact, overrule the jirga’s recommendation and did not sign the agreement.

A female delegate who tweeted about the proceedings in real time (she allowed her Twitter feed to be published by AAN, see here) reported, for example, that the delegates produced 200 recommendations but that dissenting voices were simply ignored. For example, there were demands not to negotiate with ‘terrorists’ – a definition still often used by the government for the Taleban – but this was not allowed to stand in the way of the dominating demand to hold negotiations. She also reported that the summaries given of the discussions in the working groups (only one was chaired by a woman) were often “speeches” that did not reflect the discussions but the personal opinion of the presenter.

2. What is the aim of the 2019 jirga, and why did President Ghani want to convene it?

The aim of this loya jirga is to produce another ‘peace road-map’, AAN was told by a source close to the organisation of the event. It will likely update an earlier version presented at the February 2018 Kabul Process meeting and updated once already for the international Geneva Conference on Afghanistan on 28 November 2018 (AAN background here). Essentially, the new road-map is supposed to include three phases: pre-negotiations, negotiations and a post-agreement phase of five years. It sets the elected Afghan government and the Taleban as the future key negotiators, supported by the US, the European Union and regional countries. Ghani’s February 2018 seven-point proposal had offered a “political framework” that included a “ceasefire,” the recognition of the Taleban as a political party (siasi gund), confidence-building measures and what he called free and fair elections (see this AAN analysis).

The new road-map (an organiser told AAN) would again reject much-discussed plans to establish a transitional or caretaker government that would negotiate with the Taleban. President Ghani (with support from sectors of the public) had reacted harshly to such an idea, saying they would never be implemented “not today, not tomorrow, not in a hundred years.” The idea had come up as the US-Taleban talks in Doha started to achieve results (read this AAN analysis) and was designed to avoid new elections – ostensibly to not preclude any decisions reached in talks with the Taleban.

In official language, as in Presidential Decree number 162, dated 26 February 2019, the aims of the coming Peace Loya Jirga are as follows: The Loya Jirga is organised with the purpose of [the following is an AAN working translation]:

. . . listening, effectively using and paying ultimate [sic] tribute to the advice, views and analysis of people’s representatives from all layers and strata of society on problems to seek solutions and accelerate the negotiation process . . .

The decree added that the Loya Jirga will be “a big, national opportunity for people’s representatives from across the country and refugees to discuss substantial issues in a free and friendly atmosphere.” It said that the two key issues to be discussed are:

  1. the definition of and modalities of achieving peace
  2. limits and a framework for negotiations with the Taleban movement

The decree then says:

In light of the views of the people’s representatives, the leadership of the Afghan Government will draft and complete the peace and negotiation strategy and will strive to utilise all national and state resources for its implementation.

On 11 March 2019, President Ghani appointed the head of the High Peace Council’s secretariat and Ghani’s special representative on “regional affairs for consensus on peace,” former interior minister Omar Daudzai, as the head of the secretariat of the loya jirga commission. (3) Daudzai had published two discussion papers on peace and reconciliation and a future political settlement in Afghanistan on his webpage in May 2018. Ghani’s decision to appoint Daudzai was probably informed by the latter’s vision of a future political settlement in Afghanistan that is very close to his own. Although both papers were very critical of Ghani’s personality, (4) Daudzai supported Ghani’s idea of having confidence-building measures with the Taleban and elections first, before negotiations.

In his first paper, entitled “A Way out of Quagmire,” in a section titled “Election-first [sic], must be the way forward,” he wrote:

they [the Taleban] know that they can disrupt elections and ultimately defeat constitutional democracy. [. . .] Afghan government with the help of the international community must make sure all elections are held within the constitutional timeframe.

(This, since 2001, has only happened once and will not happen again in 2019, as the presidential election has already been postponed twice. See AAN background about the first delay here and a media report about the second one here.)

Daudzai also proposed that a High State Council for Peace, with a much wider range of powers and responsibilities, replace the High Peace Council in the peace process and negotiations. Even more significantly, he suggested creating a powerful new religious council (5) to accommodate the Taleban in some future political set-up.

So when Ghani announced the jirga in February 2019, just after the end of another round of US-Taleban talks in Doha, he wanted wide support and backing for his vision of the peace process (which naturally included a place for the government  at the Doha negotiating table) before even more progress was made while his government was still not at the table. The US and the Taleban then announced that they already had reached a ‘framework’ for an agreement that would facilitate the withdrawal of the US and other foreign troops from Afghanistan, adding impetus for the Afghan government to influence the sequencing of the elements of the peace process.

The jirga and the – now cancelled (or at least delayed) – ‘intra-Afghan dialogue’ meeting in Doha originally scheduled for 19–21 April were expected to build momentum for the necessary dialogue among Afghan actors about how the peace process should continue and about a possible post-negotiations political system. The jirga would build an ‘in-country’ consensus, ie among the non-insurgent actors. (6) The Doha meeting is now in question. The Taleban also declined Daudzai’s invitation to attend the peace jirga, calling it a “fake jirga.”

3. Who will attend the jirga – and who wont, and why?

According to the Afghan Constitution, the Loya Jirga consists of the elected representatives of the people, ie parliamentarians as well as the elected heads of the 34 provincial and 387 district councils. This specific provision seems to be the ‘catch-22’ for this jirga. First of all, the results for parliamentary elections held on 20 and 21 October 2018 have not been officially announced yet. It has been announced now, however, that the new parliament will be inaugurated on Saturday 27 April, conveniently just a couple of days before the Jirga. This will happen, however, without the new representatives for Ghazni province (where elections were not held; see this AAN analysis) and Kabul province (for which the results were disputed and declared void by the Electoral Complaint Commission; see this AAN analysis).

Second, district council elections have never been held (see this AAN analysis), so there are no elected heads of those councils. For previous post-2001 loya jirgas, district representatives were chosen from among the provincial council members (which include district representatives).

To compensate for this lack, this time a solution has been found in using a revamped version of the 2002 Emergency Loya Jirga (ELJ) district representatives’ election guidelines. The guidelines were approved by the Jirga Commission just two days after the commission was appointed, and its implementation was entrusted to the provincial councils. This included their responsibility to hold elections in both district and provincial centres.

According to the guidelines, each province was given a number of loya jirga delegates that is seven times the number of their MPs in the Wolesi Jirga. This was later interpreted as including their Wolesi Jirga MPs plus six times their number of new delegates. For example, Panjshir province, which has two Wolesi Jirga seats, will send those two to the loya jirga, plus twelve more elected delegates. Kabul province, on the other extreme with its 33 seats in the WJ, will elect 198 district representatives for this loya jirga. This may seem an irrelevant technical point, but it shows that even during the preparation phase of this loya jirga, the government has been interpreting and bending its own rules to polish the hasty preparations.

The guidelines also state:

  • Members of the peace consultative Loya Jirga in district and provincial centres are elected based on elites’ consensus including Ulema, influential persons [mutanafezin, an often-used term in the Afghan context], university professors, merchants/entrepreneurs, local development councils, district/area representative, youth, women and representatives of civil society.
  • Election of at least one representative per district is mandatory.

It also stipulated a gender quota:

  • Taking in view the progress made in last 17 years, [the] women’s quota is at least 30 per cent of all the members of the Loya Jirga.

In total, Daudzai announced, around 3,000 people will attend this jirga: 1,500  individuals from provinces (including representatives of Kuchis, Sikhs and Hindus), 250 members of parliament, 750 people from different ethnicities and 423 from the provincial councils.

As important as who will attend the Jirga is who will not, and why. The list of boycotters includes seven competitors to President Ghani in the next election, scheduled for October 2019: Chief Executive Abdullah, Hanif Atmar, Rahmatullah Nabil, Nur ul-Haq Ulumi, Ahmad Wali Massud and Faramarz Tamanna. Abdullah stated that the members of his election team were not consulted about the meeting, there were no convincing reasons for holding the jirga and it would not help resolve existing problems in Afghanistan. Additionally, eleven political parties decided to boycott the loya jirga. The boycotters are almost entirely part of the anti-Ghani opposition, so that the loya jirga has become entangled with what already amounts to the election campaign.

4. How were the delegates elected?

The election guidelines for the Consultative Peace Loya Jirga also detail the method for holding the elections (entekhabat) of the delegates and foresee various roles for different ministries and parts of Afghan society in collaboration with the provincial councils. For example, the department of Hajj and Religious Affairs, the Ministry of Information and Culture, the municipalities, civil society and local media were tasked with conducting public awareness programmes on the importance of the loya jirga. Citizen Charter Councils, civil society organisations, youth and other existing councils at the district and provincial levels were to invite influential representatives of people from different walks of life to assigned locations on election day for the selection of district representatives. Given the diversity, for example, of civil society, it is unclear whether and how full inclusion has been ensured.

The guidelines also set the prerequisites for voters and candidates. To be a voter, a person must have Afghan nationality, should be a minimum of 18 years old and should be present at the election site on election day. A person who wants to nominate himself or herself as a candidate should be an Afghan national of the minimum age of 23 years and should be present at the election site on election day (ie, no one can be elected in absentia).

A jirga secretariat member told AAN that the elections had already been held in all 34 provinces between 10 and 12 April (as per the guidelines they should have been held between 6 and 9 April). In some provinces, the deadline was extended for three days. No election results have been published so far. The jirga’s Facebook page only contains short news from different provinces that delegates had been elected, but not who was elected.

In many provinces, the election for the loya jirga had to be held in the provincial centres, because the security situation (read the control of the district) did not allow for elections in district centres. For example, the elections for Andar district, which is fully controlled by the Taleban, were held in Ghazni city, and the two elected representatives but do not live in the district any longer. The Taleban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahed, said that the Taleban will not participate “in such fake Jirgas,” the Afghanistan Times reported. This statement came despite Daudzai’s repeated public invitations via media to the Taleban to take part in the jirga and here).

From Herat, Hasht-e Sobh daily newspaper reported that 3,000 to 3,500 people came to determine the 26 representatives of the city for the jirga. “The provincial council was tasked by Kabul to administer the election process without clarifying a procedure on how to do it in advance,” the newspaper reported, adding:

The election process was chaotic. No candidates stood up to speak on why they were running. People rushed to cast their votes, and this turned into a kind of stampede and the anti-riot police intervened to calm down the situation. The women who had come to vote were particularly worried about this disorderly organisation and many left and went back to their houses to stay safe.

In Kabul province, re-elections had to be held for the capital city after, as a member of the secretariat told AAN, “they did not do so well” number-wise in the first attempt.

About the election in Shakardara district of Kabul province, a resident told AAN:

The local people got together and they introduced five people: Commander Matan, Sayed Anis, Malim Yunes, a person from the People’s Council (shura-ye mardomi) and a person from the Citizens’ Charter, but they did not reach an agreement and there were lots of disagreements and they left the decision to be taken another time. There are always people getting together but there are powerful people who manipulate and influence and introduce their own people.

Proceedings were even worse in Takhar province, where an angry mob destroyed ballot boxes for the district representatives’ election, Tolo reported). Elsewhere, a youth representative and elected member of the jirga from eastern Laghman province was killed by unknown assailants on 13 April 2019, Pajhwok reported.

A person who was invited to facilitate and moderate one of the sessions during the loya jirga told AAN that when he went to register at the loya jirga tent, he found that his name was misspelt. He did not receive an agenda and only very little information and prep-talk on what was expected from him at the session he was to moderate.

The mentioned cases of shortcoming might easily represent only the tip of the iceberg. They signal that the elections had been held in a hasty and ill-prepared manner. It remains to be seen whether the loya jirga organisers will handle the jirga with less confusion and problems.

5. What will the delegates do and how?

Apart from the two general questions mentioned above (about definitions, modalities, red lines and the general framework for peace and negotiations), it seems the loya jirga delegates will be expected to answer 25 detailed questions prepared by the organisers. But this questionnaire has not been published yet.

The jirga delegates will discuss these two issues in 50 working groups and they will put forward recommendations to the government. Each group will have a rapporteur and a secretary who will report back on behalf of the group, similar to the 2013 jirga. The recommendations, in the form of a communiqué, will be shared with the public on 2 May, on the last day of the jirga. This means there will not be much time to compile and reconcile possibly contradictory input from the working groups on issues that are not only essential for the country’s future but possibly controversial. It is obvious that, for example, not everyone agrees that there should be peace talks with the Taleban. Some of the public reject such an idea, as a recent Afghan think tank paper showed. Various politicians, such as Ghani’s running mate in the September elections, Amrullah Saleh, have made it clear that he does not favour talking to ‘terrorists’ – at least before he joined the president’s election ticket (see his statement during a podium discussion in Kabul in this video, starting at 30:20 minutes). In addition, opposition politicians question whether the current government possesses the legitimacy to represent the country in such negotiations (see above about the intra-Afghan dialogue which includes actors who question the legitimacy of the government, some having announced their boycott of the Jirga).

The jirga will not have an official website. Already, all communication is social media-based, with a Facebook page and Twitter account. This limits accessibility to those with internet access, which is more widespread – but still far from all-encompassing – in the cities than in the countryside (see a critique of the similar approach used during the preparatory women’s ‘consensus gathering’ (ejma) here).

6. Can the jirga achieve its goals?

Judging from previous loya jirgas, and also from the preparatory women’s ejma, achieving the jirga’s goals is possible. Historically, loya jirgas have usually come up with what the respective government wanted, as the government – as is currently the case – had control over who was invited and the proceedings of the gathering. This was also the case in the women’s ejma earlier in 2019, a preparatory event for this jirga.

When delegates deviated from the government’s wish, as in 2013 when the bilateral security agreement with the US was the subject, the president (then Karzai) simply ignored the jirga’s decision. He was formally able to, as the jirga had been declared ‘consultative’ only (terminology does matter) and politically, as those who opposed him had no legal or institutional means (and possibly not sufficient willingness) to stop him. They also knew he would be out after the 2014 presidential election in which he was constitutionally unable to run.

It can also be expected that the government – or better, the president’s apparatus, as the other part of the National Unity Government, the chief executive, has pulled out of the event – has prepared documents that will reflect its main demands on the ‘modalities’ of and the ‘framework’ for peace talks: namely that the elected government be included in the on-going peace negotiations that, so far, are between the US and the Taleban only. The red lines for such negotiations (or the “limits” as they are called in the context of this jirga) are less controversial and might represent the only real existing consensus among all non-Taleban players, at least rhetorically. These are that no rights and freedoms enshrined in the current constitution will be sacrificed and the Islamic republican character of the state be preserved.

The more important question, however, is whether the jirga can bring the peace process forward and even strengthen the position of the government in it. Questions persist, linked – as during the women’s ejma– with the lack of transparency again shrouding the jirga’s preparations. Terminology about how delegates were determined is blurred. The guidelines called the process an ‘election’ but actually what happened amounted to a selection. (The 2002 Emergency Loya Jirga, which served as an example for the current jirga, had a second election by secret ballot at the provincial level.) There are still no lists of s/elected delegates (although the government says the elections have already been held); only a few days before the jirga is to start, there is no agenda or instructions for facilitators and only social media-based communication. This could indicate that recommendations are already prepared and the delegates’ discussions might change little.

The loya jirga also convenes in a time of shifting political context and has become part of the pre-election campaigning. This subordinated the long-term goal (to end the war and build a post-war Afghanistan) to elections-related short-term goals, in effect, limiting the space for genuine debate. In contrast to earlier loya jirgas, an organised opposition exists that is not ready to play along and that even includes people (such as Hekmatyar) who are usually seen as allies of the president. It boycotts the jirga as such and puts into question whether any outcome really represents a national consensus. It is too strong to be marginalised and ignored (as was the opposition to some chapters of the constitution during the 2003/04 CLJ), not least because there are presidential elections this year in which the incumbent is running while his victory is far from assured; he will be facing an at least three-horse race, with his erstwhile (but uneasy) partner, NUG Chief Executive Dr Abdullah, as one of his challengers and his former National Security Advisor Hanif Atmar another. (There are other candidates such as Nabil, Hekmatyar and Rasul who will nibble at his constituency in the first round of the election if they cannot be brought back on board.)

Another problem in the 2019 jirga is that even if the delegates and the president concur about the main goals and if there were no opposition, any outcome remains worthless as long as the Taleban do not give up their opposition to a government’s role at the real negotiating table and the US proves unable to persuade them that this would be beneficial. The planned but postponed intra-Afghan dialogue, even if it gets on the agenda again, is no substitute for negotiations. And there is even doubt over when this dialogue will have a chance to be reset. The failure to agree on a delegation from Kabul for the meeting (or such a large one that it was easy for the host, Qatar, and/or the Taleban to reject it as unpractical), has highlighted the lack of consensus among the elites that constitute the current Afghan political system.

Under such circumstances, the jirga will hardly enhance the legitimacy of the Afghan government, and the Taleban will find it easy to continue dismissing both as irrelevant. (This does not mean, of course, that their current position is beneficial for peace in Afghanistan.) A possible silver lining is on the horizon: if the next president – whoever this will be – is elected in a more acceptable and accepted fashion than in 2014, he and his government might legitimately draw on whatever the jirga delegates agree upon. However, given the many open questions related to the 2019 election (see an AAN dossier here), even this must remain doubtful.

 

Edited by Christian Bleuer and Thomas Ruttig

 

(1) Afghan mythology says that “the historical roots of Jirga can be traced from the times of the ancient Arians and Kanishka the Great” (as quoted from the 2011 Traditional Loya Jirga website, which is not active anymore, but an excerpt is available in this AAN report). The jirgas that made Mir Wais Hotak (1709) and Ahmad Shah Durrani (1747) Afghan kings in Kandahar are described by some Afghan historians and in the public discourse as loya jirgas, but they looked different from what has been enshrined in Afghan constitutions since 1923. They were much smaller bodies of tribal leaders (see an AAN historical outline here).

(2) Additionally, the first (and so far only) joint Afghanistan-Pakistan Peace Jirga was held in Kabul in August 2007 after relations between the neighbours became strained. This was not a loya jirga, because as per constitutional definition loya jirgas cannot have non-Afghan participation. As AAN’s Martine van Bijlert reported:

The Joint Peace Jirga in 2007 had a difficult run-up, as relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan were tense and cooperation was reluctant, but in the end, neither side wanted to be blamed for sabotaging the effort and the meeting did take place. The four-day gathering was attended by the top leadership of both sides, the discussions energized the participants – many of whom had been skeptical about the whole affair – controversy was largely avoided and the meeting ended on a high note with agreements for a follow-up jirga process. But although committees were appointed and some meetings took place, the initiative ultimately petered out.

(3) Other appointments were

* Najib Amin, head of the board of the appointments of the Independent Administrative Reform and Civil Service Commission and who has also been involved in policy coordination of all jirgas in the past ten years, as administrative and financial deputy of the secretariat of the Loya Jirga commission;

* Naheed Sarabi, deputy minister of finance, as deputy for policy affairs of the secretariat of the Loya Jirga commission and

* Shoaib Rahim, acting mayor of Kabul city, as coordinating deputy of this commission.

The secretariat does all of the work related to the organisation of the Loya Jirga. However, it has been a tradition in all previous loya jirgas since 2001 that a commission is established to oversee not just the preparations but the entire process. The commission also acts as an advisory board to the secretariat. Members of the Commission for the Consultative Peace Loya Jirga were appointed on 4 April 2019 at a meeting chaired by Omar Daudzai.

The 19-member commission includes Fazel Karim Fazel, owner of Shamshad TV and President Ghani’s advisor on peace; Abdul Wahab Erfan, a former senator from Takhar province; former MP Abbas Noyan; Abdul Haq Shafaq, former governor of Faryab and Samangan provinces; Mohammad Ayoub Rafiqi, presidential advisor and former executive secretary of HPC; Abdul Rashid Ayoubi, senior advisor to President Ghani; Daud Kalakani, former MP from Kabul; Mohammad Seddiq Patman, member of the New National Front led by Anwarul Haq Ahadi; Khan Jan Alakozay, deputy head of Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Industry; Jamahir Anwary, ex-minister of refugees and repatriation; Fawzia Aral, advisor to the minister of finance, Humayun Qayoumi, former journalist with Radio Azadi; Malalai Shinwari, advisor to President Ghani on youth affairs; Sayed Ali Kazimi , former MP from Kabul; Aminuddin Muzafari, former senator from Kapisa province; Nasrin Oryakhail, former minister of labour and social affairs; Ziaulhaq Amarkhail, senior advisor to the president and former IEC CEO; Nilofar Ibrahimi, former MP from Badakhshan; Sarir Ahmad Barmak, senior advisor to President Ghani on electoral affairs and former IEC commissioner; and Rohullah Niazi, deputyhead of Administration Department at IDLG.

The commissioners all seem to be from the Ghani camp. It is also interesting that the former minister of refugees and repatriation, Jamahir Anwary, is among the commissioners. His ministerial tenure (from June 2010 to December 2014) will mainly be remembered for the accusations of corruption, nepotism and embezzlement of government and international aid agencies’ funds. Anwary was called in by both houses of parliament (Wolesi Jirga and Meshrano Jirga) for questioning. Among other things, the Afghan media reported that Anwary was summoned over allegations of graft, including embezzlement of funds, failure to clear the ministry’s power bills, anomalies in recruitment and the ministry’s overall failure to address the plight of refugees (see this AAN report).

(4) In “A Way out of Quagmire,” Daudzai wrote:

President Ghani often gets it wrong. He doesn’t consult, and when he consults, he does it with the wrong people in the wrong manner. For him consultation is a one-way traffic. He explains and people must listen and understand it. I often give the example that: “he is trying to open the door with a screw driver while he has the key in his pocket.”

(5) On this, Daudzai wrote:

At present, we have an informal organization called the Council of Clerics. It is ethnically and geographically inclusive but they are seen as a tool at the president’s hand. Their status is not reflected in the constitution. If this council is more formalized and reflected in the constitution and is led by the title of Mufti Azam (highest official of religious law), the Taliban and their followers would have achieved what they wanted since they would be able to see a place for themselves within the Council of Clerics. The authority and the limits to the scope of the council’s work shall be reflected in the constitution and the relevant laws of the country.

(6)There were disagreements between the Afghan government, the Taleban and the Qatari hosts over who should participate from the Afghan side. The Afghan government had announced a ‘final’ list of 250 delegates on 16 April that included politicians and civil society representatives from across Afghanistan, both from the government and the opposition, but the Taleban objected to it and said that the peace talks are “not an invitation to some wedding or other party at a hotel in Kabul.” Also, the Qatari government seems to have objected to the unusually large delegation.

 

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Thematic Category: Political Landscape, War & Peace