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After many delays and rescheduling, finally the Afghan Peace Consultative Jirga convened in Kabul today with around 16oo of representatives from across the country. They included government officials, religious leaders, civil society groups, women activists, the Jihadi faction leaders and members of the diplomatic enclave from neighboring and members of the international community. Representatives from Iran and Pakistan too were invited to participate in a three-day Jirga to shape the government's policy pertaining to the talks with the Taliban and other militants.
The Jirga had just began, and President Karzai was in the preliminary stages of his speech, that the sound of bombings and rockets created fear and terror among the participants. When the second rocket was heard, which was quiet near the tent, many of the participants stood up and wanted to flee, but the humourous motivations of the President, encouraged them to stay and continue. Some main points from the president's speech were:
President Hamid Karzai first established a more positive outlook of the Afghanistan's current situation and indicated the achievements in girls education, roads, economic gains specifically the Afghani currency's value in comparison to neighbors and the global presence of Afghanistan through its embassies, while there were only 3 during the Taliban regime.
He then brought up the most serious issues that according to him have implicated the peace processes and reconstruction of Afghanistan since 2001. He said that the approach of some of his government officials, and international forces rejauvenated the Taliban momentum. The unjust torture of Afghans under the names of Taliban and alqaida made the defeated Taliban pick up arms again and fight the government and its allies. He also quoted an interesting story of how the Taliban had presented him their submission/surrender letter just before the Bonn conference when he was in Shahwali Kott of Kandahar and how he returned the letter back to them.
The president called on the Taliban as " Urora, Aziza, Talib jana" ( brother, my dear, Talibjan) to accept the peace offer and lay down their arms and end the ongoing violence. In terms of the Taliban's precondition of the foreign troops withdrawal, he said for the past 30 years we had the presence of foreign forces in one or another form and we will not let them leave us until we dont stand on our own feet. He joked that maybe the Taliban and the international forces have something in common because we wont leave the international community before the Taliban join the government peace process. He was apologetic and very humble while calling on the Taliban to join the peace processes, called them 'naraz' and angry brothers. He concluded with the remarks that no matter what we decide at the end of this Jirga, we shouldnt forget the importance of our friendship with the international community and stressed on their role as well.
After President's Speech, the chief convenor of the Jirga, Dr Farooq Wardak invited Sebghatullah Mojadidi to take up the responsibility of leading the Jirga proceedings. Mojadidi too had a speech and during his speech there were sounds of firing and bombings nearby. But he too didnt take it seriously and laughed that 'we are used to this situation so we are not scared of it anymore'. His speech was about the role of Pakistan government in creation of the insurgency and insecurity in Afghanistan. He condemned killings of the international troops and even called it 'haram' and said that they are here to help us and we need to be hospitable towards them and protect them. He denied taking up the responsibility of leadership and simultaneously invited Professor Burhanuddin Rabbani to take up the lead of the Jirga. Then Farooq Wardak, again came and said that considering the shortage of time, we can not do any elections for the leadership members of the Jirga, so we selected them. They are Professor Rabbani as the Chief head, assisted by Qeyamuddin Kashaf ( deputy of Ulema Council) , Abdul Sattar Darzabi ( Jawzjan MP) and Jafar Mahdawi ( I guess to please the Hazara/shia sect) as well. Later on in their press conference, also announced Ms Najia Zewari to represent the women groups but as the administrative incharge of the leadership team.
After hours of lunch and prayer break, the participants resumed at 3 pm and started with the speech by Abdul Rab Rasool Sayaf, a current MP and a famous Jihadi leader. He spoke about the importance of Jirga from an Islamic perspective. Another speech before the working groups was by the appointed Chief of the leadership of the Jirga.Then the delegates started mobilizing in 28 working groups, around 50-60 people in each working groups. There were facilitators and team leaders for each working group already assigned by the Jirga Convening Commission, who almost shaped the working group discussions.
At 5 pm, the leadership members spoke to journalists in a press conference and they seemed quiet scattered on the overall aim and objective of the Jirga and focused on the themes of national unity instead of peace talks.
So the first day started with speeches, interrupted by rockets, resumed back with speeches and ended with speeches. Some notable men were missing from the luxurious front rows including Dr Abdullah Abdullah, the leader of the Opposition, Mohmmad Mohaqiq the Hizb-e-Wahdat leader and a fade presence of some regional powers like Noor Mohammad Atta, the Balkh governor.
On a funnier note, the men who exploded themselves outside the Jirga, were dressed in women's Burka. Maybe this is when we start asking for a national ban on the Burka, for the security reasons.