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Pashtun Jirgas, their potential in Pak-Afghan reconciliation and national reconstruction
journal contributionposted on 2018-02-01, 00:00 authored by Zahid AhmedZahid Ahmed, F Yousaf
Relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan have mostly been hostile since 1947. The animosity has grown in complexity from various territorial disputes to frequent allegations of cross-border terrorism in the post-9/11 era. This article first makes a case for involving Jirgas, a traditional dispute resolution mechanism among Pashtuns, for improving peace dialogues between both countries. It presents evidence of the traditional acceptability of Jirgas by Pashtuns on both sides of the border and assesses previous official bilateral attempts of using Jirgas. It then proceeds to propose some new policy recommendations focused on national reconstruction of Afghanistan, which include involvement of the Taliban as an important local stakeholder. The dual key argument then becomes, first, that since Jirgas have long-standing local legitimacy and acceptability both in Afghanistan and Pakistan, using the strength of their social recognition would allow higher-level bilateral negotiations between the neighbours, enhancing the effectiveness of new and locally more credible forms of multi-track diplomacy. Second, reinvigorating the Jirga system would allow the Afghan people themselves to engage in fuller multi-dimensional debates on sustainable modalities for their own future, on terms to be set by them, not outsiders.