Thousands of Afghanis summoned in the capital, Kabul, on Monday to address a rare consultative assembly, aimed at paving ways to negotiate an agreement with the Taliban to put an end to the 17-year-long crisis in the region.
According to Reuters news reports, a rare four-day consultative meeting, also called as a Loya Jirga, was an attempt by Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani to facilitate peace talks between the Taliban and the United States, which the Taliban excluded his own government from.
During an opening ceremony in central Kabul, Ghani said, “It is a proud moment for me to have representatives from all over the country here and today we are gathered to speak about the peace talks.”
The grand assembly is aimed at constructing agreement among tribal factions and several ethnic groups, and is also traditionally convened under some extraordinary circumstances.
This week’s Loya Jirga was attended by some 3,200 trail elders, including religious and community leaders from all the 34 provinces, aiming to set out Afghan’s conditions for a peace deal.
But Ghani’s critics and the opposition political leaders, also including ex-president Hamid Karzai, has boycotted this week’s meeting, accusing the president of using the meeting as a platform to uplift his status as a leader in coming election year.
Ghani also invited the Taliban to attend the Loya Jirga, but however, they denied the request and urged its people to boycott it, further denouncing it as an effort by US-backed government to deceive Afghan and extend so-called “illegitimate rule”.
In a statement, Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid said, “Do not participate in the enemy’s conspiracy under the name of Jirga, instead find ways to further sideline the shaky administration of Kabul.”
A Kabul envoy said, “He wants to prove that he has the ability to secure a peace deal and also enjoys the support of Afghans,” adding, “Ghani fears the opposition is using the Taliban refusal to engage with him to undermine him politically.”