Thursday, August 09, 2007

Pakistan-Afghan Jirga Is a Farce, Says Our Man on The Ground

Dear John E. Carey
Peace and Freedom

Dear Sir,

Thank you very much for the messages of goodwill and prayers for the recovery of my ailing son. Now he has been recovering. I have already told that all my miseries is due to fear and terror in our areas. Some dreaded terrorists of international fame have been hiding in the areas. They have been planning and organising terrorist attacks in the tribal areas and other parts of the world.

I shall repeat my words that some officials of the Pakistan government have been providing active support to the terrorists. You may be knowing that a grand tribal jirga is being held in Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan. It is ironic that Pakistan this time also ignored the genuine tribal leaders. They have sent those people to the jirga who have no influence in the areas.

Pakistan has been trying to fail the jirga. I do not know why?

Here I shall produce the editorial of a leading Pakistani newspaper which shows the mind of Pakistani officials and rulers. It stated that the three-day joint Pak-Afghan jirga, opening today, is sure to make shipwreck amid sweet nothings. President Pervez Musharraf has pulled out at the last minute and is sending the prime minister, Shaukat Aziz, instead.

The joint statement at the end of it will be meaningless. Messrs Hamid Karzai and Shaukat Aziz will be present and have discussions with their fingers crossed behind their backs.

Each side will field 350 members handpicked for backing their own official line, and a meaningless farce will be choreographed by two states suffering from a solid erosion of their writs in their territories.

On the Afghan side, the jirga as a concept is in the Constitution, and Loya Jirga is actually a parliament elected at the district level. In Pakistan, the jirga inhabits the shady tribal administrative system based on a draconian Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) run by a political agent. Since 2001, the system in Pakistan has collapsed and the political agent has been ousted by the frontal conflict between the Pakistan army and Al Qaeda.

The 350 men for the Pakistani side had to come from the Tribal Areas abutting on Afghanistan and it is not clear how many will actually make it. Of course the jirgas in Pakistan have taken a beating along with the office of the political agent. Elders thought to be favouring Islamabad have been beheaded by the Pakistani Taliban on the payroll of Al Qaeda.

The jirga is a collection of confused pale-turbaned individuals not sure if they will live to see another day after toeing the government line. The jirgas from North and South Waziristan — the two agencies most involved in terrorist infiltration into Afghanistan — have refused to go to Kabul. Why? They have refused because the Pakistan army has moved into the agencies after the two “deals” it made with them fell apart.

The latest news is that army, using helicopters and artillery, has attacked the terrorist compounds in North Waziristan and killed 10 terrorists. In the Zhob district in Balochistan, abutting on the Tribal Areas, 14 Taliban have been arrested although it is inexplicable why they were called Taliban and not Al Qaeda if 10 of them were Uzbeks and Tajiks.

The only political party with influence in Waziristan, the JUI, refused to take part in the jirga when its chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman declined to go to Kabul.

Funnily, the 350 men chosen to represent Pakistani tribes are divided into groups, each headed by people belonging to the establishment, including governors from the NWFP and Balochistan, related federal ministers and other “experts” favoured by the government. This means the jirga has been brainwashed so well that hardly any brains are left in it.

On the Afghan side, people chosen to represent those most affected by the cross-border raids by the Taliban have been handpicked by President Karzai who wants to show Pakistan that he can give as good as he takes. Kabul already fears the hand of Pakistani intelligence in the structuring and brainwashing of the Pakistani jirga.

Understandably, the Pakistani side is fearful of a biased Afghan jirga composed of ethnic representatives most hit by the Taliban strikes and therefore most virulently opposed to Pakistan. Judging by the general uninformed opinion in Pakistan, the jirga is going to tell the Afghans to start talking to the Taliban to achieve peace in the country. That will mean talking to Mullah Umar and, finally, to Ayman al Zawahiri of Al Qaeda.

But there are other characteristics of the two jirgas that must also be noted. The two jirgas of course hate each other for backing the wrong party at home. The Pakistani jirga considers President Karzai a stooge of the Americans and a renegade Pushtun; the Afghan jirga equally considers President Musharraf a stooge of the Americans and considers Pakistan a trespassing state whose hunger is not appeased by occupying a swathe of territory they think belongs to Afghanistan.

In fact Pushtun nationalism in Afghanistan is based on the repossession of these territories after undoing the Durand Line. No matter who comes to power in Kabul the first thing he rejects is an official acceptance of the Pak-Afghan boundary. There is one thing though on which the Afghan and Waziristan jirgas tacitly agree. They both despise President Musharraf.

The Afghan experience with the Pakistan army from 1996 onwards, as the power behind the cruel governance of the Taliban, has been nightmarish.

The pursuit of “strategic depth” by the Pakistan army against India inside Afghanistan has been the cruellest period in Afghan history. Contrary to thinking in Pakistan, neither the Pushtuns nor the other nationalities in Afghanistan hold a brief for Pakistan. The joint jirga is not a South Asian idea. It is the product of a typically Western mind that thinks that structured dialogue is the answer to all disputes. But talking is not what we do in our region. We isolate ourselves, stew in our own juice till positions drift continentally away from each other and war is seen as the only solvent.

Like the Indo-Pak peace talks, the “peace” jirga is an alien American idea which no one likes but to which we have to dance a slow, insincere pantomime, even as we curse the Americans under our breath all the while.

Again thank you very much.

Yours sincerely,

Muhammad Khurshid
Khar, Bajaur Agency,Tribal Areas Pakistan


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