World | Pakistan

Bilateral assembly of tribal elders could end up being a tame affair

The refusal of a significant number of tribal elders and parliamentarians nominated to Pakistan's delegation for the upcoming bilateral "peace jirga" in Kabul has thrown into disarray the government's preparations for the event and raised questions about the impact and credibility of the assembly.

  • By Rahimullah Yusufzai, Correspondent
  • Published: 23:03 August 6, 2007
  • Gulf News

Peshawar: The refusal of a significant number of tribal elders and parliamentarians nominated to Pakistan's delegation for the upcoming bilateral "peace jirga" in Kabul has thrown into disarray the government's preparations for the event and raised questions about the impact and credibility of the assembly.

The Pak-Afghan Peace Jirga will be held in Kabul from August 9-11. President Pervez Musharraf and his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai are scheduled to speak at the inaugural session on August 9.

The decision to hold the joint assembly was taken at a meeting hosted by President George W. Bush in the White House in Washington in September but setting up the event has been a taxing affair.

The Afghan government has been impatiently waiting for the jirga to convene because the proposal had come from President Karzai himself.

Consultative meetings

Kabul set up its jirga commission under the leadership of former mujahideen leader Pir Sayed Ahmad Gailani soon after the proposal was accepted and it has held more than 60 consultative meetings all over the country since its inception.

The same cannot be said about Pakistan's preparations for the jirga. To start with, it instituted its jirga commission quite late, with Interior Minister Aftab Sherpao at the helm.

The exercise to select jirga members was laborious but, even so, the final list has drawn strong criticism from political parties and civil society organisations.

Even more worrying for the government is the boycott of the Kabul jirga by a majority of parliamentarians hailing from Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) and more than 60 tribal elders and clerics selected as jirga members from North Waziristan and South Waziristan.

Boycott threat

There were reports that the remaining tribal parliamentarians too were considering boycotting the jirga in Kabul. Tribal elders and clerics from other agencies of Fata have been endorsing the stand of those who have decided to keep away.

Some members of the intelligentsia, including academics from the University of Peshawar, were pondering pulling out over security concerns among other matters.

The JUI-F and MMA leader Maulana Fazl ur Rahman is not attending the jirga. So are the six tribal MNAs and four Senators from his party elected from Fata. Other clerics affiliated to the JUI-F and MMA are also staying away from the Kabul jirga.

North Waziristan and South Waziristan nominees hinted they could not go to Kabul to help resolve the conflict in Afghanistan when their own house was on fire, with military operations underway in the two provinces.

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