Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Quick Justice: Peace Jirga and political settlements in Afghanistan

The Afghan Peace Jirga convened a 16-article declaration at the end of the three-days consultation on the Afghanistan's Peace and Re-integration Program Plan. One of the recommendations from the declaration was :

“We ask the Afghan state and the international forces present in Afghanistan to, for the purpose of showing goodwill, take immediate and serious action in terms of releasing all those who serve in different jails based on unreliable reports and unproved accusations.”

And for the first time in its 10 years history, the Afghan government took immediate action as requested. The President issued a decree on June 5, 2010 and castigated a Commission to review the cases of the prisoners who were held under the national security threats law and based on the reports from local media, so far at least 15 men have been already released from Parwan ( formerly known as Bagram) and another detention center of the foreign forces in Darulaman of Kabul province.

While this gesture of good will might be appreciated by some of the prisoners who are innocent and are held on flawed assumptions of terror and insurgency, the same Commission lacks any objective and legal process to investigate the cases further and prevent any mishaps of justice that would eventually result in more instability for Afghanistan, if wrong people are released. According to the National television (RTA)report last week, the trial that set 5 men free in the Parwan jail last week lasted for only 4 hours. Critics say that more than a trial, it was a political deal.

Critics are also skeptical that the prospect of such a government Commission would be to implement the government approach of reconciliation and re-integration that only considers the insurgents as " angry brothers" and overlooks the criminal aspects of their insurgency.Particularly, after the sidelining of the Director of National Security and Minister of Interior on the rationale of opposing the government's neglecting strategy on the parts of the criminal militants, the government Commission is more political than legal. Although, the President has used his powers to pardon prisoners as we witnessed in the past and militants like Qayum Zakir, Rauf Khadem and Akbar Agha have been released in the past and they re-joined the insurgency. It is also a matter of concern that amidst of corruption and growing nepotism, how can such a Commission be just and transparent? This matter has been echoed in the interviews of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commissioners as well. The other question remains on the lack of security experts particularly from National Directorate of Security (NDS) on this Commission, as they have the primary determining factors of detaining the prisoners in the first place. The Chief of NDS has expressed his concerns over the quick releases of militants in the past few years and in his last speech in the parliament, he calls the Pul e Charkhi central Prison as a "terror camp" that militants and terrorists come and easily freed and go back.

This approach is not only a concern for justice but will also pave the opportunities for more corruption and nepotism going on by and large within the Afghan government. But the overarching concern and dilemma would be the impact and consequences of such a strategy in the short and long run. If dangerous criminal militants are easily freed, what does this mean for the societal welfare and security in the first place and then questions the overall "Counter-insurgency" operations going on at the cost of millions of dollars and lives of the national and international forces. As the Chief of ANDS has said in his latest Tolo tv interview, " The government is no more serious about its national security" so how can this government bring security to Afghanistan and compliment the international community's efforts in the region, remains an important question.

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