Thursday, June 24, 2010
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
Monday, June 14, 2010
Friday, June 11, 2010
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
The legacies of the Afghan Peace Jirga didn’t turn out to be peaceful. Just days after the Jirga Declaration, the Afghan government issued an abrupt decree to reopen and review the current Taliban prisoners cases of and its Minister of Interior and Chief of National Directorate of Security announced their resignations within the same day.
While both the officials explained the rationale for their resignation as dissatisfaction of the president on the lack of security arrangements during the Peace Jirga that allowed the militants to launch rocket attacks, and suicide bombing in close proximities of the Peace Jirga venue. But Afghan critics see the situation much more complex and different.
This is the first time in the past 9 years of the Afghan government to see such high profile officials resign over lack of effectiveness and responsiveness to the requirements of their jobs, especially when both men, are considered to be the most competent and qualified members of the cabinet. Even when the cabinet members were explicitly accused of corruption and misuse of their political influence and positions, none of them resigned.
Hanif Atmar, who has been the minister for Education, and twice the minister of Interior, with his NGO background, and a former military officer has been among the lead reformists in Afghanistan and his three times easy approvals in the parliament as well reflects his popularity among the Afghan parliament. Atmar has been seen as a potential rival to in the past years and a member of the cabinet said, the president needed the post of Minister of Interior at this point and in one shot, he killed two birds.
Similarly, Amrullah Saleh, the Chief of Intelligence has been one of the few Northern Alliance members within the government, who was CIA trained and his strong back up of the Northern Alliance leaders wouldn’t allow the President to sideline him in any other way. Saleh has been a critique of the current system and spoke about the lack of political will to trace the militants operations back to Pakistani soil in the Afghan parliament. His speeches that are recorded in the parliament sessions, reflect lack of trust of the president on the information and intelligence that NDS provided, because the president looks at Saleh as a Panjsheri,Northern Alliance member, not his government's Intelligence Chief.
While their resignation is seemingly premised on the failures of the security measures during the Peace Jirga, but such an explanation is difficult to believe, especially since this was not the first instance of their failures to ensure safety and security of such a big gathering. In 2007, during the celebrations of the victory of Mujahidin day, there was a similar bombing that killed MPs and Jihadi leaders just when President Karzai was giving his opening Speech. Therefore, the celebrations were cancelled.
Amrullah Saleh in a press conference on the day of his resignation in Kabul also said there are many other internal and external reasons for his resignation but he didn’t give any further details.
However, those close to him say that there are other reasons for his resignation.He apparently expressed dissent and concerns with President’s plan to release the or militants leaders and declared them extremely dangerous for the stability of Afghanistan.
It is also said that in the last meeting ,the president was unpleasantly dubious of the information of attacks during the Jirga's first day. President Karzai seems to think that the Jirga's first day attack was a conspiracy of one of the Western powers and not the Taliban. Critics also believe that sideling Amrullah Saleh, who has been a hard line interrogator of the Taliban and militants prisoners, would please the militants and Taliban further. Saleh is now replaced by another Intelligence Chief Ibrahim Spinzada, a Kandahari and believed to be among the supporters of the Taliban groups, he has been involved in negotiations of the Taliban militants from Guantanamo jail as well.
A similar concern could be drawn from Atmar’s press conference from his tone and address to the enemies of Afghanistan. He said: “My position on enemies is solid and clear. Your (enemies) predatory attacks wont affect our determinations and you wont succeed because you are not legitimate”. These statements undermine and question the impunity and legitimacy that were granted to the militants and Taliban by withdrawing their names from blacklists and releasing their prisoners, during the Peace Jirga. In fact, the Jirga covered up the criminal and terrorist aspects of these militants insurgency that was evident in Atmar’s press conference but the Jirga called them merely political “angry brothers”.
The sudden decision of the Afghan government to review the cases of the Taliban prisoners and release them alarms on the fragile nature of the judiciary system that is not technically well equipped to undertake such a crucial inquiry. If notorious militants are released, they will create more serious threats to Afghanistan and international community. After all Mullah Zakir Qayyum is a recent example of such a release who is now the Chief Operating Officer of insurgency in Afghanistan. It is also said that the inquiry Commission for the release of Prisoners did not include NDS, which is a very crucial institution to determine the status of the prisoners captured as militants.
It seems that the Afghan government leadership has decided to come to terms with its armed militants at any cost. However, there is a growing fear and contention in Kabul, that such decisions to turn the government into a Taliban-friendly organization, will further antagonize the rest of the society against the government and increases the chances of another civil unrest among various ethnicities in the country. It is worth mentioning that it was only to topple down the Taliban government that the joined hands with theOperation Enduring Freedom in October 2001, particularly after the assassination of theNorthern Alliance leader, Ahmad Shah Masood. The challenge for the Afghan government in the coming months and year is in reconciling these two opposing forces under its National Peace and Re-integration Program Plan without further diss-agregation of non-Taliban groups, that might ignite rifts and potential violence.
Paradoxically, while the international community is fighting a lethal war in Afghanistan and embarking on a furious operation in Kandahar, its partner, the Afghan government muddling along an internal political and governance crisis. Half of the cabinet’s fate is unknown for almost 7 months now and the parliament term is over in a month or so. In such a crisis, the president’s priorities seem to be pleasing the “angry brothers” whose own minister calls them as “enemies” but the larger brunt remains on the effectiveness of the ongoing counter-insurgency.
Monday, June 7, 2010
Civil society activist Wazhma Frogh reports on the outcome of the jirga and what this means for the men and women of Afghanistan, and for the prospects of peace and justice.
If there was a nationwide consultation in Afghanistan, there would not be anyone opposing the concept of Peace. Therefore, the main discussion is not about whether consensus was reached on peace in general, but on how to come to terms with peace and how to achieve it. The orchestrated show of this jirga was a way to legitimize the unjust means towards what is being claimed as peace.
On Wednesday when the Peace Jirga begun, there were mixed messages in the President’s opening speech and his words seemed more an advocacy campaign. His message to the 1600 delegates from 34 provinces of Afghanistan was full of emotional appeal. But in the evening of Friday, the president had a full plate of legitimacy, support and back up from some of the most powerful men in Afghanistan and that made him very confident. He didn’t see the need to lobby for more endorsement, so he remained very short in his concluding remarks and used the opportunity to once again call on the “angry brothers” to join the peace process, but this time with the voices of 1600 people who represented the entire country.
Maybe that was the invisible primary goal of this Peace Jirga, that was supported by the international allies of Afghanistan as well. An analysis of the men that ran the show during the past three days, represent a very familiar process that didn’t bring durable peace for Afghanistan. That process was the Bonn agreement and almost all the main actors of the Peace Jirga were present in that process with some major exceptions like Dr Abdullah Abdullah, General Rashid Dostum, Mohammad Mohaqiq and some others. That process failed because it didn’t include the Taliban and today’s Peace Jirga too excluded the current Taliban leaders, the former Taliban officials like Mullah Salaam, Mullah Zayeef, Mawlai Muttawakil and others. There were also concerns about the lack of participation of other ethnicities like Hazara’s and Uzbeks that constitute a fairly large segment of the population. Their involvement in peace processes becomes more pivotal as insurgency makes it way to the northern region.
If such a Jirga can be considered crucial in defining a national identity for Afghanistan and foundation for nation building, the excluded actors can present serious threats to the national unity of Afghanistan. In addition, the Peace Jirga went against the known practices of any traditional Jirga. In a typical Jirga, you find at least two opposing parties present, while in this Peace Jirga there was no opposition party to question or challenge what was being suggested and decided.
The patriarchal practices disarrayed the young population as well. During the working groups, they were either the note takers or were influenced under the tumultuous presence of the powerful men. This despite the fact that the youth constitute more than 50 % of our population and are actively involved in the insurgency activities, as a means of income or revenge for social injustices, or indoctrinated by hard-core insurgent ideologies.
The participants shaped the outcomes of the Conference, but many also questioned the process of the selection of the Leadership that took the charge of the Jirga for three days and that had the final say in drafting the declaration. They had been pre- selected by the Jirga Commission and included a woman as the administrative deputy.
The politics of inclusion and exclusion seemed very critical to the outcome of the Jirga. If opposition political leaders, parties and hard line activists had participated in the Jirga, the outcomes would have been much more diverse. In the second day of the Jirga, a colleague had a quick run through at least 15 working groups and his immediate response was “shocked”. He said “I have never seen such an unanimous agreement among Afghans in the past, but when I tried to find out who was speaking, it was only the powerful, either a governor, a government high official, a government-supporting MP, or a pro-government entrepreneur. And the rest listened.”
Same was the story for the last day of the Peace Jirga. After the presentations of all 28 working groups, which were uniquely similar to each other, the tent witnessed the same powerful men taking the stage and continuing their speeches. It would have seemed less dramatic, if at least one of speakers had been from the opposition.
The third day of the Jirga, once again rehashed the memories of the macabre violence of civil war in 1990s. The same faction leaders, who were fighting each other in close proximities in Kabul, were once again given the central command. The last day of the Jirga the speaking powers were granted to Jihadi leaders like Professor Burhanuddin Rabani and Professor Abdul Rab Rasool Sayaaf, who spoke about the glorious achievements of Jihad as the end of Communism in the world and also called on the government to restore the image of Jihadi leaders in Afghanistan.
The process shaped the outcomes. The 28 working committees came up with a 16-article declaration. A brief overview:
- The Peace Consultative Jirga concluded that Peace is the only remedy for the current crisis of Afghanistan and the Peace Jirga supports and appreciates the government’s initiatives in this regard. The Peace Jirga asks the government to create a comprehensive framework for re-integration and negotiations with the angry brothers.
- The government should establish a high Commission/Council for Peace to implement its Re-integration and Peace Plan with the composition of the same delegates that came to the Peace Jirga.
- The Peace Jirga called on the government and the international community to remove the names of Taliban leaders from the blacklists and urged the government and international community to release the Taliban and other militant prisoners who are held in Afghanistan or Guantanamo jails. However, the Jirga did note that those who are affiliated with the Al-Qaida network and are not Afghans are excluded from this peace process.
The Taliban has declared in many instances that they will not embark on peace talks if the international forces do not leave Afghanistan. This precondition was rejected by the President during the first day of the Jirga. He emphasized that they would not let the international forces to leave Afghanistan as long as the Taliban do not embrace peace processes. The Jirga endorsed the role and involvement of international community in Afghanistan and each of the working groups asked for the continuation of their support.
It was also interesting that the Peace Jirga bestowed decisive authorities to the government of Afghanistan. While, it was expected that the Jirga would create a framework for peace talks, the Jirga instead decided that the government should create and define such a framework for the re-integration and reconciliation with the militants and the Taliban.
New terminologies were coined. The Jirga in many instances noted that militants and the Taliban should not be called or referred to as Terrorists, but rather as the angry brothers of Afghans. Such blanket impunity will further add to what is being claimed as the legitimate allegiances of the armed militants: even though the militants continue to spread terror and kill Afghans, they will be still forgiven because they are the angry brothers. The Jirga also created an entirely political identity for the militants and the Taliban and ignored the criminal aspects of the ongoing insurgency.
The women of Afghanistan, who have more to lose than anyone in any of these unjust settings, were manipulated by giving them more seats to occupy in the Jirga. However, among the 28 committees, only one of them was led by a prominent woman MP, the rest of the committees had women as the note takers and deputies. During the three days, no plenary speech opportunity was offered to any woman to express women’s concerns and perspectives on what could happen if Taliban militants were incorporated in the government or on other social and political processes. However, at the end of the Jirga, a recommendation came from the leadership of the Jirga to send a group of Afghan women to the Taliban, as mothers and sister, to plea for the purposes of peace as part of the historical Pashtun practice called Nanawati. If these women are killed or harmed by the Taliban, then maybe that is only a small price of the unjust means towards what is being called as Peace. A woman among the delegates, who yelled many times before the President’s concluding remarks, was not allowed to speak, while the powerful men occupied the plenary speeches and were reading poems and giving Islamic law lectures.
As expected, the most important casualty of this traditional and patriarchal practice of Jirga was justice. Justice not in its abstract form that everyone read poems about, but justice in practical terms. There was no mention of the war crimes during the civil war, nor the injustices and violence inflicted on Afghan nation in the past 9 years.
PEACE JIRGA (GUEST) BLOG 7: The first day of the peace jirga
Chevening Scholar (International Development Law and Human Rights) and civil society activist, Wazhma Frogh, reports on the first day of the Afghanistan Peace Jirga.
Many women among some 400, who constitute around 21 % of the Jirga participants, were enraged over the selection of these men to lead the Jirga and over the overall lack of active participation of women in the agenda and scope of the gathering. Although civil society groups and women's rights activists have been lobbying for inclusion of women's concerns and perspectives in the scope and agenda of the Jirga, today's proceedings didnt reflect women's concerns. The opening session was entirely occupied by men's speeches and there was almost no mention of the importance to secure women's achievements in the speeches of the leadership of the Jirga. The working groups were almost all led by men team leaders with women as administrative deputees.
Participation is not just about filling the empty seats, but also about being able to shape the discussions and agenda according to the needs and concerns of the Afghan women.
Wednesday, June 2, 2010
While millions of Afghans are starving of chronic food insecurity, thousands of children sleeping on the streets of Kabul every night, and millions living with the terror of insurgency and corruption, the Peace consultative Jirga will take place this week at the cost of millions of dollars aimed at improving the living conditions of Afghans. Around 1600 delegates arrived in the spacious Grand Assembly tent in Kabul and with over 300 women representatives. The Afghan government aims to solicit national support for its mysterious Re-integration and Reconciliation Plan introduced at the Afghanistan London Conference earlier this year. While the Jirga seeks national consensus and support from the Afghans, many on the streets see it as a ‘drama and show off’ only.
As the new elected government is in its 6th month, the fate of half of its cabinet is unknown. Or better to say that half of the government structure is dysfunctional. The concept of service provision has turned into merely a political agenda for the government. For example, when 100s of girls are poisoned in only three weeks in relatively calm provinces in their schools, the Education Ministry is busy in convening the political Peace Jirga as the Education Minister is the head of Jirga Commission.
The powerful men who have adequate contribution in the devastation of the country and are expected to provide solutions will lead the Jirga. The absence of the members and representatives resemble their absence from the Bonn process that created a flawed foundation for the interim government of Afghanistan. One of the female representatives from a northern province that arrived yesterday for the Jirga said, “ We are here to listen to the speeches and poems of older men and maybe a few well connected women. It’s a nice change to come to Kabul and enjoy the free rich food of the event for some days at least”.
However, the overarching question is about the outcomes of such a Jirga. If we are fighting a 21st century non-state enemy, can these traditional and patriarchal practices bring any hope? Particularly, when the Taliban movement is highly amalgamated with the external forces and al-Qaida.
Many Afghan critics believe that the event was delayed deliberately to occur at a time when sparks of unrest has broken out throughout the country. The event is to divert attention from those issues. One of those critical incidents have been the lethal dispute between the Kuchi’s (nomads) and villagers of two districts from Wardak province, that took lives of both sides and the unrest has turned into a long-term enmity among two ethnicities as the politicians have argued. An MP from Hazara ethnicity spoke on the condition of anonymity that Kuchi’s were paid dollars in cash to leave the area for the time being and come back after the Peace Jirga is over. If this is true, the next battle is going to be more furious as more weapons can be acquired with those dollars paid to the Kuchi’s.
Until and unless we do not have a strong and responsive central government in Afghanistan, such Jirga’s only remain an event to enjoy food and utopian speeches, at the expense of foreign taxpayers dollars. It would have been more useful if Afghanistan adapts a more cohesive and strategic regional diplomacy with its neighbors that are being accused of contributing to the insurgency and militancy, as claimed by General MacCrystal as well.