Kabul peace jirga extended


Kabul : Hundreds of tribal leaders from Afghanistan and Pakistan Friday agreed to convene for an extra day as they continued discussions about initiatives to stem the regrouping of Al Qaeda and the Taliban’s cross-border insurgency.

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The gathering of 650 elders, clerics and politicians will now issue a statement Sunday, said a spokesman for the joint “peace jirga” or tribal assembly taking place in a giant tent in Kabul amid tight security provided by international and Afghan troops.

The idea of combating the Taliban through a jirga, which is a centuries-old traditional Afghan mechanism for resolving disputes, was proposed in September when Afghan and Pakistani presidents Hamid Karzai and Pervez Musharraf met US President George W. Bush in Washington.

While both are US allies in the war against terrorism, the governments of the two South Asian countries have constantly charged each other with failing to cooperate in other’s counter-terrorism efforts.

Karzai even accused Pakistan of covertly supporting the Taliban.

But in his opening remarks Thursday, the Afghan leader expressed confidence that if they so resolved, the “brother nations” could eliminate the “monster” of terrorism in the region.

Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, representing Musharraf who pulled out of the convention citing domestic preoccupations, warned against the “Talibanisation” of the region and called for a united front against the common enemies of terrorism and extremism.

However, the jirga’s prospects for producing concrete results were severely dented by the refusal to attend by more than 50 invited key delegates from Pakistan’s tribal border districts of North and South Waziristan.

The group pulled out last weekend, largely in protest at renewed military operations in the tribal belt by Pakistani forces.

Some also objected to the omission of the Taliban itself at the jirga.

Absence of Musharraf, who was to inaugurate the jirga jointly with Karzai, was another blow to the prospects of the meeting.

A second meeting of the jirga is planned in Pakistan at a later date to be determined in Kabul.