Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Jihadi Presence Questioned

By Mohammad Monir Mehraban in Kabul (ARR No. 90, 22-Dec-03)
By IWPR

The selected delegate list includes many of the jihadi leaders who fought first the Soviets and then each other in Afghanistan's 23 years of war.


"Hamed Karzai with this action ignored a chapter of democracy," said Dr Ghulam Habib Panjshiri, a social science professor at Kabul University.


Ustad Massoud, an official at the Independent Commission for Human Rights, said he believed Karzai had been heavily influenced by questions of politics.


"Hamed Karzai has made an investment in the jihadi leaders for the elections in Afghanistan in 2004," he told IWPR.


Top of the list of 54, which was expanded by two when Karzai appointed two disabled people at the last minute, was Sibghatullah Mujaddidi, who was briefly president of Afghanistan in 1992 when Karzai served under him as deputy foreign minister.


Mujaddidi was elected chair of the Loya Jirga last Monday, and has made his presence felt since. He ordered a woman delegate Malalai Joya to be removed after she publicly protested at the dominance of Afghanistan's wartime leaders at the gathering, only relenting when other delegates supported her.


Other jihadi leaders include Pir Ahmed Gailani, Ayatollah Mohammad Asef Muhseni, Ahmad Nabi Mohammadi, Mohammad Akbari, Abdul Rashid Dostum and Ustad Farid. Other leaders from the jihad period like Abdul Rasul Sayyaf and Burhanuddin Rabbani got to the assembly as elected members, but many delegates feel the dominance of these groups has been greatly increased by Karzai's list of selectees.


The country's largest circulation weekly Kilid magazine put a cartoon on its cover last week showing a jihadi leader standing in the middle of one of the committees at the Loya Jirga. A group of male and female delegates are sitting round looking nervous with their hands tied behind the backs. The jihadi leader says, "I think no one disagrees with me, do they?"


In the absence of democratic political structures, many jihadi figures still wield enormous influence in Afghanistan's political life. Many retain their own private forces around the country.


Observers say Karzai has used the list to increase participation of groups that had relatively weak representation in the body of elected delegates. Some 26 of the 54 selected representatives are women - only five of them were directly elected.


The list also includes other personalities from Afghan public life, such as Kabul University president Akbar Popal, the deceased Northern Alliance leader Ahmed Shah Massoud's brother Wali Massoud, a head of the small but influential Ismaili community Sayed Shah Naser Naderi and Sardar Abdul Wali, the son-in-law of ex-king Zahir Shah.


Karzai's spokesman Jawed Ludin said the list had been selected to increase the diversity of opinion in the jirga, but not with any specific idea of accommodating jihadi factions.


"We can see that these members are visibly opposed to the draft constitution," he said.


Mujaddidi said the selections proved this gathering was in keeping with social justice.


"According to Islamic Law, and also the 1964 constitution, the head of government has the right to introduce more than fifty people to the Loya Jirga as selected members," he said.


Masouda Jalal, an elected delegate from Kabul, said the selected delegates were all working for Karzai inside the tent.


"I see that even these people promise some privileges for the elected members, to work for Karzai," she said.


Some delegates raised the fact that the list of representatives did not cite these women's profession, unlike most of the other delegates.


Ludin said this was because some of them had no profession and were wives and mothers, "We have given the right to house wives to attend this Loya Jirga."


Mohammad Monir Mehraban is participating in the IWPR Loya Jirga reporting project.