Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Afghan Peace Jirga: Another political drama

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 Taliban 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.

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