Loya Jirga the only way to defuse Afghan crisis

Create: 07/09/2015 - 13:21

Afghanistan is one of the few countries in the world which has been suffering from four decades of war and violence at the regional level and even wider conflicts. Millions of people have been killed, maimed or forced to flee. The war has cost the parties involved trillions of dollars. 
Since the inauguration of the national unity government in September 2014, the security, economic and political situation has further deteriorated. Corruption, drug addiction, poppy cultivation, illegal displacement, desertions, tensions, corruption and casualties from armed clashes have considerably escalated.
Lack of a unifying strategy at the governmental level and an absence of the defence ministry leadership have caused insecurity to spread from the south and east to the west and north of Afghanistan.
But government leaders are busy sharing power and national wealth instead of resolving core public issues. They are using all their energies to conceal stark realities -- a situation in which Afghans reserve the right to think about rescuing themselves and take a decision on how to come out of this predicament.
In addition to the Afghan Taliban and the Gulbadin Hekmatyar-led Hezb-i-Islami, Al-Qaeda, Daesh and Pakistani terrorists have intensified their operations in the country. Casualties among security forces have sharply increased, but the government is trying to keep the people and media in the dark.
On the other hand, the insurgents continue to ruthlessly massacre their countrymen at the instigation of Afghanistan’s enemies. Wielding guns, they keep up destroying their homeland to please their foreign props and outsiders.
The Islamic State and Taliban have a wide presence in major cities, even at gates to provincial capitals, with regional warlords and terrorist groups having set up parallel structures in remote areas. The fall of several districts in the north and east in recent weeks has fuelled concerns among the people.
Hundreds of families have subsequently been driven from their homes in the embattled areas and interference by Pakistani intelligence and military personnel in border provinces has inflicted casualties on the Afghan forces. Some government circles, in utter disregard of popular aspirations, continue to aid the Pakistani spies.
In these circumstances, the appalling intelligence-sharing agreement with Pakistan is a morale-buster for the Afghan security personnel, corroding the public confidence in their armed forces. Ironically, Pakistani spy services are still pressing on with funding and equipping the fighters against the Afghans.
The absence of a viable economic plan has landed Afghanistan into a grave financial crisis, compelling thousands of Afghans to leave their country. Investments, industry and exports have declined, as Afghanistan has virtually been turned into a country reliant on foreign assistance.
According to the Ministry of Counter-Narcotics, poppy cultivation and drug smuggling have alarmingly risen in Afghanistan. The bleak statistics reveal the current level of poppy cultivation is higher than it was even during the Taliban regime. Widespread graft, insecurity and economic stagnation are among the principal reasons for the hike.
In the latest university entrance test, more than 100,000 youth failed to find their way to higher education. The government has been unable to ensure higher education and jobs for them. Unemployment has alienated youth from the rulers. They have been pushed into drug addiction and swelling the ranks of militants.
Worse still, a foreign policy shifts and weak diplomacy have paved the ground for foreign meddling. Lack of coordination among key leaders over foreign policy objectives has turned Afghanistan into a happy hunting ground for international actors. The absence of a clear understanding between the unity government and its foreign allies has made the peace process a complex issue.
The government has been overestimating the influence of Pakistan while negotiating through wrong channels, by wrong mediators, with wrong actors in wrong places. It has no political will or strategy for lasting peace. As part of the September 2014 power-sharing deal, President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani and CEO Dr. Abdullah agreed on holding a Loya Jirga to amend the constitution to legalise their deal.
But the present dispensation is designed to be a highly centralised system. The conditions set by the government are not accepted by everyone. If the insurgents accept these terms, they would soon be known as peace-loving citizens and negotiations might not be needed. The so-called reconciliation talks thus amount to hoodwinking the masses.
To renounce violence, cut ties to Al-Qaeda and accept the Afghan constitution are the preconditions the government has set for talks with the militants. Insurgents’ terms include amendments to the constitution, holding a Loya Jirga (grand council or the highest decision-making body) and being an essential part of the decision-making process.
How can a government, which is not committed to peace and security, force its armed opposition to accept its conditions? Although the new administration considers constitutional amendments contrary to the national interest, the president and his CEO have agreed to change the basic law and convert the presidential system into a parliamentary one. But they have repeatedly rejected conditions for peace talks from the guerrilla group.
Now is the time for the insurgents to renounce spilling the blood of their compatriots and recognise their enemy. During the last 13 years, Afghans have paid a high price, with many thousands dead. The achievements of the last decade in the country are unprecedented and many Afghans appreciate the generous support of the US and its allies. These achievements are historic even if they came at a staggering cost. In order to protect the accomplishments, a long-lasting peace is a prerequisite.
For more than a decade, billions of dollars have been spent on security, reconstruction and peace in the country. And even though all parties agree that only a political solution can ensure sustainable peace, such agreement has not been successfully implemented yet. It is about time the Afghans started working to steer their country out of crisis. They have every right to change the system for the greater glory of the nation by arranging a real Loya Jirga.
The UN should shoulder responsibility for brokering an immediate cease-fire by all parties, holding an inclusive Loya Jirga in the presence of insurgents’ representativesand establishing a transitional authority to prepare the ground for a government acceptable to all sides. Any delay in this regard is detrimental to the national interest. A prolonged delay in forming a consensus set-up will turn out a misfortune for Afghanistan and trigger regional and global instability.
Mohammad Shafiq Hamdam is a social activist, political analyst and writer.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Pajhwok’s editorial policy.