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Historic Jirga Unites Afghanistan and Pakistan to Empower Traditional Leadership Against Terrorism

The historic Afghanistan-Pakistan Peace Conference—or jirga—commenced on August 9, with President Hamid Karzai addressing more than 600 Afghan and Pakistani tribal leaders on the need for a common solution to the region's growing violence.

A historically Pashto term and centuries-old tradition, Jirga, translates to “council.” It is a unique forum in which tribal elders convene to discuss and resolve conflicts. Following the collapse of the Taliban regime in 2001, Afghanistan held several jirgas to determine the best course of action for the country’s social, political and economic development. Today, Afghanistan’s Parliament draws upon this deep-rooted tradition in its structure and performance of legislative functions. In September of 2006, President Karzai proposed holding jirgas along the Afghanistan-Paksitan border during a trilateral meeting with U.S. President George Bush and Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf. The first jirga, in Afghanistan, commenced on August 9 and concluded on August 12. The second jirga will take place in Pakistan in the near future.

In his opening remarks President Karzai described the daily suffering the Afghan people endure as the Taliban attack the government, schools, foreign troops and innocent villagers. "Afghanistan is not under fire alone now. Unfortunately our Pakistani brothers are also under fire, and this fire, day by day, is getting hotter," he told the gathered tribal leaders. The four-day jirga focused on security, but also encompassed economic development and counter-narcotics strategy.

Pakistan President Gen. Pervez Musharraf joined the conference on August 10, after being delayed by domestic issues; before his arrival, Pakistan was represented by Prime Minster Shaukat Aziz. Gen Musharraf said both countries had to work together to "defeat the forces of extremism and terrorism". Gen Musharraf acknowledged that safe havens for the Taliban exist within Pakistan's tribal regions and pledged to fight against terrorism and extremism. "Our societies face a great danger from a small minority that create violence and backwardness,” he said. Gen. Musharraf’s closing speech was well received and members from both delegations say the Jirga ended on an optimistic note. 

At the conclusion of the conference, both Presidents signed a six-point declaration pledging incresed cooperation on fighting terror and narcotics, as well as the promotion of economic projects along the border The Jirga formed a series of smaller bilateral commissions that will meet routinely to continue to build on the progress made thus far.  Each committee will have two chairmen and as many secretaries - one each from Afghanistan and Pakistan. Names of chairmen and secretaries of the committees from the Pakistani side were announced by Pakistan Interior Minister Aftab Ahmad Khan Sherpao Sherpao and those from Afghanistan by former Foreign Minister Dr. Abdullah Abdullah. Governor of Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province Ali Jan Aurakzai, will join Azizullah Wasefi to head the first committee. Other committee leaders include Awais Ahmad Ghani,  Sardar Yar Muhammad Rind, Ghazi Gulab Jamal, Humayun Sarfaraz from Pakistan and Habibullah Rafi, Mirwais Yasini, Sayed Hussain Alami Balkhi, Pir Sayed Ahmad Gilani from Afghanistan.

Afghanistan-Pakistan Joint Peace Jirga Declaration

In the name of God almighty, the most merciful and the most beneficent

To reaffirm and further strengthen the resolve of two brotherly countries to bring sustainable peace in the region, Afghan - Pak Joint Peace Jirga was convened in Kabul , Afghanistan from August 09 to August 12, 2007 as a result of initiative taken by the Presidents of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the Islamic Republic of Pakistan on September 27, 2006. This was the first historic event of its kind that opened a channel of people to people dialogue in which around 700 people including members of the parliaments, political parties, religious scholars, tribal elders, provincial councils, civil society and business community of both countries participated. The inaugural session was addressed by HE Hamid Karzai, President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and HE Shauket Aziz, Prime Minister of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. The concluding session of the Joint Peace Jirga was addressed by HE Hamid Karzai, President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and HE General Pervez Musharraf, President of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

The main recommendations made by the first Joint Peace Jirga are summarized as follows:

1.  Joint Peace Jirga strongly recognizes the fact that terrorism is a common threat to both countries & the war on terror should continue to be an integral part of the national policies and security strategies of both countries. The participants of this jirga unanimously declare to an extended, tireless and persistent campaign against terrorism and further pledge that government and people of Afghanistan and Pakistan will not allow sanctuaries/ training centers for terrorists in their respective countries.

2.  The Joint Peace Jirga resolved to constitute a smaller Jirga consisting of 25 prominent members from each side that is  mandated to strive to achieve the following objectives:

a. Expedite the ongoing process of dialogue for peace and reconciliation with opposition.

b. Holding of regular meetings in order to monitor and oversee the implementation of the decisions /recommendations of the Joint Peace Jirga.

c. Plan and facilitate convening of the next Joint Peace Jirgas.

d. Both countries will appoint 25 members each in the committee.

3.  The Joint Peace Jirga once again emphasizes the vital importance of brotherly relations in pursuance of policies of mutual respect, non-interference and peaceful coexistence and recommends further expansion of economic, social, and cultural relations between the two countries.

4.  Members of the Joint Peace Jirga in taking cognizance of the nexus between narcotics and terrorism condemn the cultivation, processing and trafficking of poppy and other illicit substances and call upon the two governments  to wage an all out war against this menace. The Jirga takes note of the responsibilities of the international community in enabling Afghanistan to provide alternative livelihood to the farmers.

5.  The governments of Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and Islamic Republic of Pakistan, with the support of the international community, should implement infrastructure, economic and social sector projects in the affected areas.

6.  The comprehensive and important recommendations made by the five working committees of the Joint Peace Jirga for implementation are attached as annexure and form part and parcel of this joint declaration.


Opening Speech of President Hamid Karzai

In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate.


His Excellency Shaukat Aziz, the prime minister of the neighboring and fraternal country of Pakistan, respected jihadi leaders of Afghanistan, dear guests, brothers and sisters, representatives of this historic grand jerga, peace be upon all of you.


It is a great pleasure not only because we have gathered in a jerga today, but also because we participate in a gathering held between two fraternal countries. There is no doubt that the people of Afghanistan and the fraternal country of Pakistan are looking forward to, and are hopeful that the jerga will succeed.

In a magnificent gathering like the one today, one feels like speaking for a long time, but time is short. I would therefore make it a brief speech so that our dear participants have the opportunity to deliver their valuable speeches this afternoon.

Dear brothers and sisters, you are most welcome. Today we have a very important meeting with our dear brothers from Pakistan. We open the jerga meeting with high hopes. I will deliver my speech in Pashto, as we all understand it. If you need clarification at any part of my speech, raise your hands, and I will explain.

I was thinking about preparations for the jerga yesterday evening. I was thinking about from where to start my speech, and from where to start explaining the facts.

I thought it would be better to start from the jihad times. We have all lived in Pakistan, especially in Baluchistan and the North West Frontier Province for 10, 15 or 20 years, and some people still live there.

I will start from the Taleban period. How and why did the Taleban movement emerge in Afghanistan? What happened after that? What did the people of Afghanistan do with them?

Dear brothers and sister,

The Taleban movement was undoubtedly a product of internal strife and conflict in Afghanistan. Initially, the people of Afghanistan welcomed the Taleban's appearance. The people helped them regroup and helped them come to power, hoping that the movement would bring peace, security and a proper [state] system in Afghanistan. The people wanted unity and brotherhood of all the tribes in the country.

Some of our jihadi leaders, who also helped the Taleban in the early days, are here today. I myself helped them in the beginning. I was the first supporter of the Taleban movement.

The then president of Afghanistan, Mr Ustad Rabbani, was helping the group, giving them large amounts of money. Behind him sits our great Mojahid, Esmael Khan. He helped them; [Marshal] Fahim Khan helped them. Mr Pir Saheb [Gelani] and Hazrat Saheb [Sebghatollah Mojaddedi] were optimistic about their presence. Gen Dostum helped them. The majority of the people of Afghanistan helped them. Scholars and tribal elders initially helped the Taleban. They all helped the Taleban, hoping that they would bring peace and prosperity to the country. But as days passed, the people's hopes turned to despair as they noticed that unfortunately nothing happened. They [the Taleban] neither brought peace, nor could they improve the people's living conditions. They intensified the conflicts in the country. They repressed the mojahiddin. They started fighting against the mojahiddin and against different tribes. They provoked disputes among different tribes. They set fire to the people's gardens; shut down schools; and closed all employment opportunities. They destroyed the Afghan economy, and led Afghanistan towards complete international isolation. They brought disrepute on the people of Afghanistan, and damaged the Afghan history. They ruined Afghan values and wealth.

For example, we have Parwan Province near Kabul on the other side of the Kotale [Khair Khana] area. It is one of Afghanistan's very beautiful and green provinces. They set fire to, and destroyed, the people's vineyards in Parwan Province. They destroyed mosques. They set fire to homes and markets in Bamian Province. They closed down schools in Kandahar Province. They attacked and beat up women on the roads. They ruined Afghanistan's economy, and finally set the people of Afghanistan on the path of confrontation with the world.

We understood the truth in the second year of the establishment of the Taleban movement. We noticed that one brother was fighting another, and families were fighting each other. One tribe was fighting the other.

We should have tried to address the problems through consultation and bring security to Afghanistan through jergas and through reconciliation among the people.

The majority of the people of Afghanistan were optimistic about these efforts. We turned to the world. We spoke to European countries and to America. We spoke to Pakistan, Iran, and other neighboring countries. Afghanistan was a poor and weak country. It had nothing to sell to others, and had nothing to buy from others. The world, and the neighboring countries, paid no attention to us.

It was in the interests of one neighbor to let the Taleban do whatever they wanted, and for another, it was a hostile environment.

The situation continued until the September 11 attacks when and the US twin towers were destroyed. Europe and the West were under threats. That was when the world came to us, telling us that they have realized what has been going on in our country. They said they wanted to work with us to help get rid of the disaster. Before September 11, the world did not value or pay attention to whatever we said.

The situation in their own countries forced them to help us. We had repeatedly talked with America and European countries. We told them that they were powerful and that they could help this poor, oppressed, mojahid, and Muslim nation get rid of the problem. We asked them to help us in our efforts to liberate our country, and to bring prosperity to the country. But no one cared until the September 11 attacks occurred. They then came here and the people of Afghanistan helped the international community.

The people came together, Afghanistan was liberated, Al-Qa'idah, terrorists, foreigners, were all forced out of Afghanistan, and the people started a new life. They resumed their traditions of holding jergas and consultative meetings. The warm atmosphere of brotherhood was again established among the people. The people of Afghanistan once again came together as a united nation, with a single voice.

We once gain boosted relations with our neighboring countries, and the countries of the world. Afghanistan's flag was once again hoisted throughout the world. It is still hoisted, with the grace of God.

Our relations with the neighboring countries have improved very well. Relations, the frequency of visits to neighboring countries and the level of business transactions have not been as good as they are today throughout our history. That is very good for us and for our neighbors.

Our relationship with the fraternal country of Pakistan is a prime example. The people of Afghanistan are deeply grateful and deeply indebted to Pakistan. Pakistan has been our friend during the years of jihad, and has been given shelter to our refugees. Pakistan sheltered millions of our refugees. I myself was a refugee there. The elders and leaders who are here today were all refugees in Pakistan. We were living there with great honour as if we were in our own country, even more honoured. The people of Afghanistan will always remain grateful to Pakistan for this.

During the Taleban regime, the Pakistani exports to Afghanistan did not add up to more than 25m dollars in a whole year. Today, as we speak here, Pakistani exports to Afghanistan are higher than 1,300m dollars [per year]. It was not more than five to 10m dollars with Iran during the Taleban. It has now reached almost 500 to 600m dollars.

It is the same story with Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, India, China, and then Europe and the whole world.

The new life in Afghanistan, the richness and prosperity of the people of Afghanistan is beneficial for the neighboring countries.

In addition to all this, the people have started to return to their country. The emergency Loya Jerga was held. The transfer of power was before the Emergency Loya Jerga. Mr Ustad Rabbani, who was then the president of Afghanistan, transferred the power to me in a fully peaceful atmosphere. Around 1,500 Afghans took part at the Emergency Loya Jerga. The jerga elected a new transitional administration and a head of administration.

We then had the Constitutional Loya Jerga. Our dear leader Hazrat Saheb [Sebghatollah Mojaddedi] was chairman of the Constitutional Loya Jerga. The jerga, with the help of God, produced an Islamic constitution for Afghanistan. It was approved with the consent and votes of the people of Afghanistan after full deliberation. The jerga continued for one month.

We then had the presidential elections. Around 10m people took part in the elections. Even Afghan refugees in Iran and Pakistan took part in the elections, and elected their president.

Fortunately, we then had the parliamentary elections. More than eight million people took part in the elections. Our National Assembly, the Lower House and Upper House of parliament, were elected.

We were already on the track. Everything destroyed during the 30 years of war was rebuilt. In addition, new administrations and new roads were built. Roads, and even highways, were resurfaced.

Afghanistan's annual income was 120m dollars in 2001 and 2002. It has now increased to 600m dollars per year.

The amount of money within the treasury of the government of Afghanistan, which was previously less than 80m dollars, reached 2,000m dollars.

Afghan children, boys and girls, started going to school. Afghan children lived in the worst conditions in the world. Some of the children died even a day after being born. Some of them would die five days, one month, or a year after they were born.

Afghanistan was a country with the highest level of child mortality rate. But today we are capable of saving 50,000 babies' lives every year. Now, every year, with the help of God, we can save almost 58,000 of the children under five years of age. Health centres have been established throughout Afghanistan, in at least 37,000 to 38,000 villages.

Today, our urban health development programme covers more than 20,000 villages. The number of our universities in has increased from two and three to eleven. Thousands of girls and boys get admission to universities after taking university entrance exams. Foreign embassies, which were previously closed down, have now been reopened.

During the Taleban period, we only had the embassies of Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the UAE [United Arab Emirates] in Afghanistan. God knows if they had ambassadors here or they were just empty embassies. There was only the Pakistani ambassador here.

Today, we have developed political relations with more than 60 countries of the world. We have political relations with more than 100 countries, international organizations, and the United Nations agencies. Afghanistan's flags are hoisted in different countries, and Afghanistan's representatives are present everywhere.

FAO, the Food and Agriculture Organization, announced yesterday that Afghanistan will very soon, in the coming one or two years, become self sufficient in terms of producing grain. It will no longer need bread and grain from elsewhere. Afghanistan has its own wheat, and crops. Fruit produce are of course very high and can even be exported to the world.

Dear brothers and sisters,

In spite of all the progress, why does Afghanistan still suffer? Why do people still get killed; schools are set fire to; religious scholars, engineers are assassinated; and school children, boys and girls, are killed? Women are kidnapped, not men. We do not speak of abduction of men here, even if they kidnap thousands of men. They kidnap women, bringing historic shame and disgrace to this country and its people. Never in Afghanistan's history has anyone kidnapped women. Even robbers would back off when they found women in a caravan, respecting women's dignity and honour. Today in this land women are being kidnapped in the name of Taleb [religious student], Muslims and Afghans. Today women are being beheaded in the name of Taleb, Muslims and Afghans. In Helmand they nailed an elderly woman to a tree, while her grandchild was hanged next to her.

They cut a woman into two pieces in Zharai District of Kandahar Province. In the southern zone of this land, the provinces bordering on Pakistan, 250,000 children cannot attend school. They could go to school three years ago, but cannot this year. They are deprived of education, and even deprived of their right to live.

In the past two years, we have seen gradual signs of such an atmosphere on the Pakistani side of the Durand Line.

In Bajaur, someone, acting under the name of a religious scholar, calls on the people through FM radio to stop their children and girls from going to school. Is this Islam?

Some 200 tribal leaders have been killed in North and South Waziristan, and schools have been shut down. No one knows who killed them. Security is poor. The problem went through Peshawar and Quetta cities, and finally reached the Red Mosque in Islamabad.

Dear brothers and sisters,

Twenty days ago, I pardoned a 14-year old boy called Rafiollah. He was here to carry out a suicide attack. Rafiollah was from South Waziristan. His father came after him. I called him to my office and pardoned the child because he was innocent. I spoke to his father, who was a teacher and had a masters' degree. He was teaching mathematics at a school in South Waziristan.

I asked him how his son had become a suicide bomber and who had asked him to carry out a suicide attack. He told me that the boy's mother was sick, and that he could no longer send his son to school. He said he took his son to a religious school to receive religious education. Some months later, I lost his son, and finally heard his voice from Afghanistan and realized that he was in Afghanistan to carry out a suicide attack, his father said. They had taken advantage of the boy's poverty.

Who are the people who take a 14-year old pupil from South Waziristan out of a religious school and train him in how to carry out suicide attacks, and defame Islam? Who are the people who do the same thing on the Afghan side, in Paktika? Who are these people who close schools and kill children in Waziristan and Bajaur [in Pakistan] and do the same in Kandahar, Helmand, Konar and Logar provinces [in Afghanistan]? Are these people the representatives of the tribes or representatives of religion or are they the enemies of the two? Who are these people who harm Pakistan and harm Afghanistan? Who are these people who discredit Pakistan and discredit Afghanistan? Who are these people who kidnap Chinese nationals in Islamabad and Korean nationals in Ghazni? Who trains these people and who finances them? Who supports and backs them? These are all the questions, esteemed members of the jerga, that we all should try to find answers for and solutions to so that these two countries enjoy tranquility and utilize their young energy for a prosperous future.

Unless we find answers to these questions, there will be no peace in the region and tyranny will not be rooted out in the region, enmity with Islam will not be erased and hostility between the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan will not disappear.

That is why we are here at the jerga. I proposed the establishment of this jerga five years after talks and negotiations with His Excellency Pervez Musharraf, the president of Pakistan, and the His Excellency Shaukat Aziz, the prime minister of Pakistan, and their other colleagues.

I complained to them. I told them that several disasters were coming to our country from their land and from their administration, harming Afghanistan, killing our people, burning schools, dishonouring women, and killing religious scholars. They told me that they were not involved in all this, and that it was because of the situation. We accepted whatever they said. We are brotherly countries.

At a meeting I had with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and the president of America, I proposed an Afghan-Pakistani joint jerga, taking into account the traditions and historical background. I wanted the jerga so that the representatives, elders, sisters, and religious scholars of the peoples of Afghanistan and Pakistan could sit together and appraise the situation and discover the causes of the problems. If the problem lies in Afghanistan, and if Afghanistan is to be blamed, then Afghanistan should surrender to the truth, and find ways of addressing the problem. If the problem lies on the other [Pakistani] side, we hope they try to address it, and if the problem lies between our peoples, then the two nations shall look for ways of addressing the problems.

We believe that whatever happens in Afghanistan, the destructive activities, is not because of the people of Afghanistan. These are the acts of non-Afghan elements. The acts of elements who are the enemies of Afghanistan and the enemies of Islam.

An Afghan man would never kidnap a woman who is a guest in his country. An Afghan man never kills a religious scholar of his country. He would never set fire to schools of his country.

Similarly, someone from Waziristan, Bajaur, Peshawar, Baluchistan, Punjab or Pakistan, would never shut the schools in his country. He would never kill the women of his country, and would not harm his hometown.

Who are these people then? We should identify who these people are.

Dear brothers and sisters,

In spite of our achievements in the past five years, we have had problems too. Afghanistan is a poor country, with very few numbers of educated people. It has limited administrative capacity. The government is weak. Its army and police forces are weak.

In the past five years, some Afghan government officials did not treat well some Taleban who were ordinary religious students and were living ordinary lives in their homes. There is no doubt that some Taleban members escaped to Pakistan because of fear. Some of them undoubtedly escaped from fear of oppression. They now disrupt the situation. There is no doubt that some people have been harmed. It is our responsibility to prevent this.

We make a distinction between the Afghan Taleban [religious students], who have escaped after being bothered or disturbed, and the Taleban who stand against Afghanistan because of their hostility with the people of the country.

Those who have been disappointed with the government, and with the foreign friends present in our country including the NATO forces, it is our responsibility to convince them and bring them back. We will do this not only once or twice but 100 times, 1,000 times, and even a million times.

That is why we have established the Peace Consolidation Commission. It is chaired by Hazrat Saheb [Sebghatollah Mojaddedi], a national leader of Afghanistan. Those who have been troubled before and want to return to their country, we welcome them to their country and apologize to them.

We will therefore have a distinction [between Taleban].

But it is our joint responsibility to identify and bring to justice the real terrorists and those trying to defame Islam, disrepute Afghanistan and Pakistan. We should root them out from the two countries.

I am confident and I fully believe that if the two countries, Pakistan and Afghanistan, join hands, we would be able to eradicate this calamity by tomorrow.

I repeat, I am confident and I fully believe, and every man, woman and child in Afghanistan is confident, that if the two countries, Pakistan and Afghanistan, join hands, this calamity and this tyranny inflicted on these nations will be eradicated in a single day.

This jerga is held for this very same purpose. The jerga is held to prepare the ground for you tribal elders, scholars, representatives, parliament members, to sit together and find ways out of the problems.

I would like to assure you from the Afghan side. The government of Afghanistan, the state of Afghanistan, the leadership of Afghanistan - from the president to the Senate, the parliament, the cabinet and national leaders - will respect the decisions of this jerga. We will respect the truth.

The fire does not only inflame Afghanistan, but it has unfortunately spread to our fraternal country of Pakistan too. The fire is spreading on a daily basis. We are sad about it. We want peace and security both in Pakistan and in Afghanistan. You are the messengers of peace and security both here and there. You are the people who can establish security and stability. Your voice will be the voice of the two nations.

Welcome to this meeting. May God bestow on you success. I look forward to your discussions in the jergas and meetings. God willing, on the third day, you will inform the two nations and give them the good news of prosperity, security and peace for the two countries. This would convince the people to send their children to school to study and develop. It would also help the people get rid of dependency. We hope the nations are one day self-sufficient so they no longer need the others' help.

Pakistan, too, receives cooperation from abroad today. Afghanistan has also asked for cooperation from abroad.

We, the two nations, have the strength to help our economy stand on its own feet with our own determination and bravery. This can happen when we have cooperation. It cannot happen if we are in a state of war with each other. It cannot be done through terrorism. May God help us reach our objective one day: Islamic, strong, and self-sufficient countries, respecting each other's scholars, elders, and children.

Welcome again. I wish you all success.

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