Karzai’s Loya Jirga and Obama’s Afghan Job

There are speculations that Afghanistan’s embattled President Hamid Karzai may convene a Loya Jirga before parliamentary elections in June. He had announced plans for such a Grand Council in his inauguration speech, delineating it as a measure to promote peace.

If one goes by juridical sense, then the “Loya Jirga”, as described in Article 110 (Chapter six) of the Afghan Constitution; “is the highest manifestation of the people of Afghanistan.” It comprises the members of the National Assembly and Chairpersons of the provincial and district councils. The ministers, Chief Justice and members of the Supreme Court may also participate in the sessions, but without the right to vote.  

Interestingly, in accordance with Article 111 of the Afghan Constitution, the Loya Jirga is called upon to take decision on the issues related to independence, national sovereignty, territorial integrity, and supreme interests of the country. It can also be convened in order to amend the Constitution or to prosecute the President as per the provisions of Article 69.

On an expected note of anticlimax though, Hamid Elmi, a spokesman for Karzai, said: “the assembly envisioned by the president would not be the ‘Constitutional Loya Jirga’ described formally under Afghan law but a ‘Traditional Loya Jirga,’ which could have a different make-up of notables.”

According to him, “The notables are not coming to talk about the cabinet and the administration. They are coming to bring security and peace.”

On Saturday (November 21), he said that “a decision on the participants would be in abeyance until a date is determined. The onset of winter makes it difficult to hold the Jirga soon, but the President would like to hold it before parliamentary elections in June.”

The spokesman further added that the government was considering the option of even calling the militants to participate.

In fact, just after being declared the President of Afghanistan for the second consecutive period, Karzai had rather amusingly offered a peace deal to his ‘Taliban brothers’. Was he acting on America’s behest?

It is an open secret that USA, as per the recommendations of General Stanley McChrystal (Commander of US Forces in Afghanistan); is trying to usher in an atmosphere of ‘assurance’ for the ordinary Afghan populace. Whether talking to the Taliban is a part of that agenda or not is still shrouded in mystery.

However, the legit question in this scenario is whether the Taliban would accede to the call of Karzai, whose government is encumbered with umpteen charges of corruption? An ablution of the present political dispensation is first necessary before Karzai could seek the assistance of all disparate forces in the country.

Furthermore, shall the core Taliban and Al Qaeda ever mellow down to the level of ‘talks’ with a government which is viewed as a handiwork of the Western powers?

Now on November 24, ending his ambivalence, President Obama has hinted at an escalation of American troops in Afghanistan, finally agreeing to the request of McChrystal. So, will the milieu in the immediate future be conducive enough for talks? And if a ‘Jirga’ indeed takes place, then will the militants ever be a party to it?
To make the political atmosphere rancorous; in a stern message on November 24, the one-eyed Taliban cleric Mullah Muhammad Omar ruled out any sort of negotiations with the ‘puppet administration’ of Hamid Karzai.

Hence skepticism prevails in the political circles of Afghanistan regarding the feasibility and consequent efficacy of the so-called “Loya Jirga”. This can also be deciphered from the language of Dr Abdullah, the closest competitor of Karzai, when he says: “formal Loya Jirga described in the constitution could not yet be held because the district officials who would attend it have not yet been elected. Karzai would have to spell out the aims if he wants support.”

Abdullah utters, “what’s the purpose of that Loya Jirga? What will be achieved in that Loya Jirga? These are big questions.”

Thus, it is crystal clear that if Karzai wants to muster support from all quarters so as to survive his entire term, then he first needs to behave as a martinet himself. Only
thereafter, he can suggest behavioral lessons to others. Obama and the US administration would surely keep a strict vigil on him.

And with the American President’s recent proclamation to ‘finish the Afghan job’, Karzai would have to answer probing questions of his countrymen: civilians and militants alike; regarding the future American role in their homeland.

Karzai’s call for the Loya Jirga can be interpreted as not only a mere rhetoric but also a step to hold onto the straw provided by the election victory. Well, it may also have an ethereal connection with Obama’s ‘Afghan job’.


More by :  Dr. Uddipan Mukherjee

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