An Overview of the Pukhtun Qaumi Jirga

For the first time a two-days Pukhtun Qaumi Jirga was convened on 29 and 30 May, 2012 in the Nishtar Hall Peshawar to consolidate the Pukhtoon Unity in the Region in view of the ongoing endangered situation as a result of the last 3 decades bloodshed on the Afghan soil. This Jirga was the initiative of the living legendary elder of the Afghan Nation, Khan Muhammad Afzal Khan, popularly known out of respect, as ‘Khan Lala’. It goes without saying that Khan Lala has been recognized as the agreed elder in the true meaning of the term used in Pukhto Culture for ones elder brother. Thus this highly respected elderly Khan is unanimously called with love and affection as the Khan Lala of Pukhtoon people. The octogenarian respected icon has since his boyhood, the deepest passion for the concerns of the Afghans and has been advocating throughout his long career in politics the unity of the Afghan race if it has to achieve its right place in the comity of the nations.

Notwithstanding his affiliation to a particular political party, Khan Lala is revered by all Afghan nationals alike and he is respected everywhere in the Afghan belt. I have the honor of being associated with him for almost two years during late sixties when the State of Swat was a monarchy. This relation to him has survived through all these long years till date. Khan Lala was one of the nearest friends of the then Wali-Ahad (Crown Prince) of the State, Mian Gul Aurang Zeb. Even by that time, Khan Lala would give his sagacious advices on different matters to the ruling dynasty through the Prince, for the welfare of the general public of Swat. Khan Lala’s aspirations for the cause of Pukhtoons are abundantly reflected in the booklet authored by him in Pukhto language years back by the name ‘Qami Taroon’ (national coherence). I also have the honor of being with him during his first meeting (in connection with politics) with the late Grand Khan, Abdul Wali Khan, at his Bagh Dheri (Swat) summer house when the late Khan Sahib had returned home after his meeting with General Yahya Khan, the President in uniform, who had a series of consultative meetings with the top political leaders of the country in order to work out a program for conducting general elections in a more befitted manner. I remember the very deep and thought-provoking conversation between the two Pukhtun leaders who exchanged their views on most of the problems faced by the Pukhtuns in particular and the rest of the nation in general. It was during this courtesy call that a formal invitation was extended to Khan Lala by Khan Abdul Wali Khan to join his party to serve the nation. It was the time when the States of Swat and Dir were merged and political activities had started in these ex princely states. Thus khan Lala had joined politics with a solemn determination to work for the cause of Afghans in his capacity as a political leader. Khan Lala has been successful in his aim of serving his Afghan brotherhood as his career and non-career history testifies. Despite being in advanced stage of life and some health complications, the Khan has never been free-minded of the concerns of his nation. It is with this background that in the current regional turmoil the Khan Lala, with his personal initiative convened this Grand Pukhtun Qaumi Jirga titled above.

There are many applauses as well as criticisms to the endeavors of the Khan Sahib after this meeting. Many people term it as a successful attempt and a step forward in the direction of the perceived objectives while certain others are showing their half-heartedness over the overall achievement of the venture. The Declaration at the end of the Jirga sums up a series of issues that are to be addressed to guarantee full safeguard of the rights of Afghans and their homeland. It is inclusive of the multi-dimensional problems facing the nation due to foreign intervention and the state and non-state actors playing havoc with the land of Afghans. The declaration ends with the following three directives.

  1. All the Jirga participants representing different political, religious, social and literary and cultural organizations have to convey the Jirga message to all corners of Afghan lands and every Afghan;
  2. A permanent committee headed by Muhammad Afzal Khan Lala is constituted and entrusted with the task to develop an action plan for restoration of peace on the Afghan lands through reconciliation. The committee on behalf of the Jirga, in coordination with the Afghan High Peace Council and contact all internal and external stakeholders on the conflict for its peaceful resolution.
  3. Call upon all the Afghans wherever they may be, whether they participated in the Jirga or not, to support the Jirga and its reconciliation efforts and play their due role in restoration of peace on the Afghan lands 

Despite all the sincere efforts, critical reservations have also been expressed on the event which needs attention of the concerned quarters. Some comments have been made as to why most of the Afghan political segments other than ANP and its allies in the government, did not participate. To name a few the JUI Sami, JUI Fazal, PPP Sherpaw, Mehmood khan Achakzai and JI are worth mentioning. Such people believe that the Jirga was convened at the behest of the ANP which has its own stakes to serve since the party has been quite inactive on a meaningful protest against the assaulting forces on the Pukhtun soil. They argue that it was the ANP, which had supported the aggression of the USSR when it attacked the Afghan soil in the late Eighties giving it its own meaning. They say that the ANP had portrayed the struggle of the Afghans against the invading forces a ‘Fasad’ which these people call as to be ‘Jihad’ since, according to their argument an infidel super power of the time had attacked a Muslim country, Afghanistan. As such the Muslimans of that country had every justification and moral, religious and national obligation to rise against the enemy and liberate their lands. At present situation, the critics claim that the ANP has shown no serious resentment or done any strenuous efforts to denounce the American attack on the Afghan lands on the concocted ruses of 9/11 home-made story. They opine that the ANP has never taken a clear stance on the drone attacks, which has been detrimental to the life and property of Afghans of our tribal areas. Those having reservations on the Jirga are also arguing that a clear message has not been conveyed to the Americans and the NATO, that the Afghans will never accept any hegemonic dominance of any alien power in the region; be that America or her accomplice, India. The absence of a clear message that terrorism in the region has resulted from the unjustified and cruel interference of the US is another point raised by those having reservations on the moot. Criticism has also been done on the stance of the ANP president for KPK, who has, in his address on the occasion allegedly opposed the pull-out of the invading forces on the plea that it will have a fall-out due to the vacuum thus created. Such people think that the statement of the said leader was tantamount to inviting further presence of the US in the area thereby endorsing indirectly the agreement finalized between Obama and Karzi during the recent visit of the former to Kabul. They argue, “What Obama and Karzai have done through this agreement has been approved in this statement of the Provincial President of the ANP at home here”. There is no shred of doubt that India, Israel and the Karzai administration in Kabul, are backed by America on every nefarious activity that is done to harm Pakistan. Interference in Baluchistan is a development testifying this fact abundantly. The critics suggest that the ANP provincial president should have given a clear message to America that the Afghans will no more tolerate any further presence of the foreign forces on their soil. He should have emphatically declared that the Afghans had the potential and competence to depend themselves after the draw-down of the invading forces by 2014. There is also a common distrust in the Afghans of the area, as the critics say, that the ANP being the sole ruler in the Province and sharing power in the center has so far not been able to give something substantial to the Afghan Nation except bullying them on the change of name and the so-called democracy. They observe that there is rampant corruption in the province, lack of merit and a mass suffering of the Pukhtun nation for want of the daily bread and butter. They say, “Since the province is ruled solely by the Pukhtun rulers, therefore they should have had far better governance and political performance than what it is now”.

There are other voices which have been critical to the holding of Jirga on the ethnic basis since the foreign intervention and the continued aggression on the soil of Pakistan are the problem of the whole Pakistani Nation. They argue that holding such jirgas will further instigate the nation for more sub-ethnic fragmentation leading to disintegration of the national unity. Tomorrow a trend of holding smaller Jirgas can develop where such gatherings will be taking place on the basis of sub sections of the Pukhtuns; like the Jirga of Utman Khel, Painda Khel, Shahi Khel, and so on each demanding its own security without any care for the other segment. Such people put a serious question before the leaders; can we not live as one Pakistani Umma under the broader umbrella of the Ummat-e-Muslima? Can’t our leaders find time to ponder on the issue of integration into one big unity of Pakistani nation as we have the faith of being one on the basis of Islam which is a foundation of our nationalism and a source of our unity and inspiration? This should be one of the most valid points, since the genesis of Pakistan is a unique phenomenon. The country had been created on the basis of ideology which must be recognized by all to the deepest conviction. We must remind to ourselves that we have to commit ourselves for struggling further to achieve the objective for which we had made a pledge at the time of our struggle for independence. There is no way out to survive as Pakistani nation if we do not recognize our real commitment which should supersede any endeavor on ethnic, linguistic, geographic and racial basis.

Khan Lala has done his best with all his sincerity for the Afghan people but the response received seems inappropriate to what has been invested in this activity. Many have failed to attend the meeting and many have taken no interest. Absence of some bigwigs of the Pukhtun leaders has created a suspicion. A doubt also arises whether proper spade and home work had been done for the Jirga or not. The Jirga has also overlooked two important issues which need the attention of the concerned committee constituted for the follow up of the recommendations. The realities overlooked are as follow.

1. What measures have been taken to ensure that deadly weapon will not be transported in those huge containers, to be dumped there in Afghanistan once the NATO supplies are resumed? What is the guarantee that this deadly arsenal will not be used later on against Pakistan and the first target will be nobody but Pukhtuns of the area? The Jirga recommendations give nothing on it.

2. The agreement between Karzai and Obama necessitating the American presence beyond 2014 will not be used for conspiracies in Baluchistan to boost up the movement of the so-called liberation of that province which has already been started with the Ameircan CIA on its back. The Jirga should have given a clear stance on the presence of America in Afghanistan where the former will not be playing football and gymnastics but will be hatching conspiracies against Pakistan. We all should pray that the sincere efforts of Khan Lala succeed in bringing peace, harmony and prosperity not only to Afghans but the whole Pakistani Muslim Umma.