karzai departing loya jirga

Afghanistan’s traditional Loya Jirga council can play a very important role in bringing peace to our country, and by some accounts the recent gathering in Kabul to discuss the security agreement beyond 2013 was a successful one.

The Loya Jirga in November was held to discuss the signing of the security agreement between Afghanistan and the United States—whether foreign troops will stay or leave. War has most often been imposed on Afghanistan from the outside and in response to our current conflict in December President Karzai handpicked influential and experienced members of parliament and government for the Loya Jirga to make a difficult decision to help improve the future security and well-being of our people as well as the economic success of our country.

There were no major attacks or major security problems during the event, so it is true the Loya Jirga itself was peaceful.

But one could argue that when President Karzai addressed the Loya Jirga and said “Peace is our precondition. America should bring us peace and then we will sign it,” he had no intention of signing the pact, thereby negating the results of the Loya Jirga before it even began. If he doesn’t sign, the Loya Jirga will be a big waste of money and time for Afghanistan.

The Loya Jirga was flawed from the beginning because its members were chosen by President Karzai, while Afghan law says: “The members of the Loya Jirga should be selected by the districts.” Most of the members this time were from parliament or the government. This suggests that the Loya Jirga was nothing but a formality. Karzai could have gotten the approval of Parliament members to sign the agreement. What was the need for a costly Loya Jirga in that case?

Eighty percent of those who took part in the Loya Jirga were elders. But participants are meant to include influential people selected from each district who know Afghanistan and can make decisions. An influential person does not mean only someone over the age of sixty. For such an important decision we should include new well educated politicians with fresh ideas. We should not be relying on the same group of warlords who contributed to the destruction of our country for many years. We have seen what their decisions have done to our country. We need new and innovative ideas to work towards a lasting, prosperous peace. It is a credit to the Afghan police that there were no attacks or bomb blasts during the Loya Jirga and we should all be proud of the police officers who risked their lives for the security of this Loya Jirga.

We should not, however, forget the three who died and others who were injured in the two days before the Loya Jirga. Nor should we ignore the lengths that the government and police went to ensure peace. The roads were blocked for three days so that no one could even get out of their houses. It may have been a holiday for rich people, but what about people who work in the streets every day to earn money and take food home to their children at night? It is hard to imagine an unsigned agreement was worth it for the families who lost their loved ones or workers who lost their livelihood because of this Loya Jirga.

This Loya Jirga had the potential to be an important step in ensuring a future Afghanistan where children in this country can go to school without any fear. In fact the Loya Jirga caused schools to close for the week. The first step towards a successful future is education in Afghanistan. We should not miss one single day of school, let alone a week. Putting whatever was spent on the Loya Jirga into the schools would have been a better investment.

I do agree that this Loya Jirga was important to maintain a relationship with the U.S., especially since the U.S. is one of Afghanistan’s biggest supporters. But since the agreement has not yet been signed, the benefit of this Loya Jirga is questionable.

I believe it’s time for Afghans to wake up and work harder in order to be independent. Even though foreign countries help Afghanistan, sooner or later they grow tired of doing so. Afghanistan should start to stand on its own feet without help of others.

Overall, this Loya Jirga was not as useful as it could have been. This Loya Jirga was a costly reminder that we should consider all of its disadvantages before deciding to go through with an actual Loya Jirga in the future.

By Hila G.

Photo: Afghan President Hamid Karzai departs on the last day of the Loya Jirga, Kabul, Nov. 24, 2013. Reuters.