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    152 lawmakers to attend Loya Jirga

    KABUL (PAN): As many as 152 lawmakers have filled out forms for participation in the mid-November consultative Loya Jirga on the proposed US-Afghanistan strategic partnership agreement, but others say attending the event is a violation of a Wolesi Jirga decision.

    More than 2,000 government officials and elders are scheduled to meet on November 16 in Kabul to discuss the pros and cons of the agreement. The gathering will also confer on a mechanism for peace negotiations with Afghan insurgents.

    Participants, who will arrive in the capital four days ahead of the event, will be briefed on the objective behind the grand assembly. Beginning on Nov. 16, the deliberations will continue for four days.

    All sitting parliamentarians, some former MPs, 30 percent members of each provincial council, representatives of civil society and special people, religious scholars and influential tribal elders will attend the jirga

    On July 29, 126 of the 249 parliamentarians raised green cards, condemning the planned gathering as unconstitutional. They vowed not to take part in the assembly.

    Under the constitution, the jirga involving parliamentarians, provincial and district council members is the highest manifestation of people's will. However, the grand assembly will convene at a time when district councils are yet to be established

    Wolesi Jirga Speaker Abdul Rauf said 153 MPs had filled out forms to attend the event and others were expected to do so in the near future. He criticised legislators for flouting the lower house decision. "I have not filled any form. Those who have are among you and you call on us to enforce the parliamentary decision," he remarked.

    A legislator from central Daikundi province, Asadullah Sadati, said participation in the jirga was against their unanimous decision."Every lawmaker going against the house decision is betraying the national interest," he said.  

    Sadati said he was not against the assembly, but it resembled the Loya Jirga as outlined in the constitution. He said the event was aimed at bypassing Parliament on key issues.  He said the legislature should ask the government about funds allocated for the gathering.