Kabul : Hundreds of tribal elders from Afghanistan and Pakistan met in Kabul Thursday for the start of a three-day “peace jirga” aimed at containing the influence and activities of Taliban insurgents and bringing calm to the border region.
“The people of Afghanistan and Pakistan are waiting for the success of this jirga (tribal assembly) and are very hopeful,” Afghan President Hamid Karzai said in opening remarks to some 650 delegates gathered inside a huge tent closely guarded by international troops and Afghan forces.
The Taliban earlier called for a boycott by all representatives of the Pashtun tribes that live on both sides of the mountainous frontier.
The radical Islamic militia, which was ousted from power in Afghanistan in 2001, dismissed the event as worthless, saying no independent forum could work in the country in the presence of US-led coalition forces.
The delegates also included politicians and clerics. But more than 50 representatives from tribes in North and South Waziristan in Pakistan stayed away, largely in protest at renewed military operations there by government forces.
Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf was also conspicuously absent after pulling out of the event on Wednesday, citing “engagements at home.”
The military ruler was reportedly holding discussions on whether to impose a state of emergency in Pakistan, in part because of the deteriorating security situation, especially along the border.
He is being represented by Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz.
The idea of the joint jirga was floated when Musharraf met Karzai and US President George W Bush in Washington last September. The two governments hope to co-opt local tribes in efforts to stem cross-border movement by Al Qaeda and Taliban fighters.
Observers and some delegates are sceptical whether concrete results will emerge from the jirga, which is a centuries-old mechanism for resolving disputes.
A second meeting is planned to be held in Pakistan at a later date to be determined in Kabul.