Jirga for peace and development formed

20 Oct 2009

Jirga for peace and development formed

KABUL - Governors of three eastern provinces of Afghanistan jointly launched a regional peace Jirga today to step up peace, reconciliation and development efforts in their areas.

The Governors – Gul Agha Sherzai of Nangarhar, Sayed Fazlullah Wahidi of Kunar and Lutfullah Mashal of Laghman – told a press conference called at the Governor’s Palace in Jalalabad that security and peace are the “main purpose” of the Jirga, which will engage with both anti-government elements and the international military.

The Governors also approved an eight-point draft strategy of the Jirga.

“We want peace in the eastern region and we will continue our efforts to this end,” said Mr Sherzai.

He added that the eastern region Governors will talk to President Hamid Karzai to get his support “in our endeavour”.

“It (the Jirga) will give us an opportunity to talk to the (armed) opposition,” added Mr Sherzai, seated between Governors Wahidi and Mashal at his heavily fortified palace.

“Tribal leaders will be engaged and they will also work on reconciliation with the Taliban,” said Mr Sherzai, who enjoys significant influence among the tribal leaders in Nangarhar.

The Jirga will initially have more than 300 tribal leaders as members from four provinces of the eastern region – Nangarhar, Kunar, Laghman and Nuristan.

The Jirga is going to hold its first meeting in Jalalabad on 22 October.

Besides journalists, today’s press conference also saw the participation of representatives from the United Nations, international military and government officials as observers.

“Expectation from this Jirga is to strengthen security in this region,” said Mr Wahidi, the Kunar Governor.

“The Jirga will not only get involved in peace and reconciliation but it will also be involved in development because the factors contributing to instability in Afghanistan are not only the anti-government elements,” said Mr Wahidi, adding, “poverty and lack of job opportunities are the other factors that have destabilized the situation.”

“The Jirga will work towards reducing poverty and providing job opportunities, which will eventually affect positively in the security situation,” added Mr Wahidi, who along with Laghman Governor Mr Mashal came all the way from their respective provinces to address the press.

Mr Mashal said the Jirga will work closely with the international military in reducing civilian casualties.

“This model (of a Jirga) will be expanded to other provinces of the country as well,” he said.

The strategy paper of the Jirga says it supports “national unity, peace and reconciliation” and “will also establish contacts with leaders of the Taliban”.

“All those who are honest and accept the rules and regulation of the peace Jirga can be the member of this Jirga and we welcome them to join the peace Jirga,” reads the strategy paper.

By Tilak Pokharel, UNAMA