President invites Taliban, HIA to Loya Jirga
KABUL (PAN): Calling on Taliban and their allies to attend a Loya Jirga due next Thursday, President Hamid Karzai on Saturday reiterated his government’s position that the assembly would only discuss the security pact with the US.
Nearly 3000 tribal elders and civil society leaders are expected to take part in the traditional gathering that will advise the government on whether or not the draft Bilateral Security Agreement between Afghanistan and the US should be accepted.
There have been rumors that the jirga will also discuss other issues, including a delay in next year’s landmark presidential elections in the wake of rising security risks.
But Karzai rejected the rumors at a press conference in Kabul, saying the grand tribal assembly would only discuss the security pact and there was nothing else on its agenda.
The president said the April 5 presidential and provincial council elections would be held the schedule and in line with the constitution.
He said translation of the BSA text into Pashto and Dari would be completed soon for distribution to jirga’s participants to enable them to read all relevant details and make a decision easily.
The agreement would be then referred to the parliament for approval. If signed, the deal will allow up to 10,000 US troops to stay on in Afghanistan beyond the formal withdrawal by the end of 2014.
American and Afghan officials have been discussing the security pact over the past one year. Both sides have claimed progress and agreement on key issues concerning the accord.
But Karzai said it was beyond his administration’s authority to decide the deal-breaking issue of immunity for American troops, explaining only the jirga had the discretion to do so.
The president also said their demands included respect for Afghanistan’s sovereignty, maintaining security and strengthening Afghan security forces and developing the country’s infrastructure.
“We want that the Hezb-i-Islami led by Hekmatyar and the Taliban to participate in the assembly, it is their right, they are Afghans, Afghanistan has right over them,” said Karzai in response to a question.
“Afghanistan has more right over them than they have over Afghanistan; they should come and express their views about the most important national issue,” the president observed.
“We have invited them and again invite them to participate in the important event, raise their voice and opposition and comment, but they should accept views of the majority of the jirga’s participants. Their participation is in their benefit and in the benefit of the Jirga.”
Both the Taliban and the HIA have rejected the jirga and refused to attend it.
Last week, some reports suggested the HIA had agreed to sending its members to attend the jirga, but the group later rejected the claim and said they would not participate in the assembly aimed at legalizing the US presence in Afghanistan.
Asked if representatives of media advocacy groups had been invited to the jirga, Karzai replied it was an important question and asked the preparatory commission to consider the proposal.
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