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Grand Jirga At Kabul: A Futile Exercise

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Rulers of Pakistan have still been playing a double game and show very little interest in controlling terrorism.

Terrorists and Taliban are on the rampage in the tribal areas, but the officials have been playing the role of silent spectator.

The jirga, which is being held in Kabul for evolving joint strategy, has to fail as the geniune tribal elders were ignored and only those people were given representation who have been supporting Taliban and terrorists. Actually they are the agents of Pakistan.

According to a report from Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, Afghan President Hamid Karzai told hundreds of Afghan and Pakistani tribal leaders on Thursday that both nations could defeat Al-Qaeda and Taliban if they worked together.

Karzai's remarks came as he opened three days of talks on rising extremism. He was joined by Pakistan Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, in calls for unity at the peace jirga, but both leaders also repeated often-traded accusations on the roots of the unrest.

President Pervez Musharraf announced he would not attend the meeting the day before and sent the prime minister. Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz said, it should not be forgotten that "first and foremost the Taliban are Afghans. And Afghanistan cannot blame others for the lack of reconciliation among its people, he said. He strongly condemned Al-Qaeda, which he said had to be dealt with firmly and mainly through military means.

A prominent journalist of Peshawar who is nowadays in Kabul Syed, Mudassar Ali Shah, in his dispatch stated that with the much-awaited grand peace jirga between the estranged neighbours Afghanistan and Pakistan due to begin today, organisers of the event are optimistic but the overall mood in Kabul is largely downbeat.

A spike in violence on both sides of the frontier has cast a shadow on the jirga's maiden session, officially touted as a giant stride towards realizing the shared aspirations of peace and security, cordial bilateral relations and enhanced people-to-people contact.

Apologists for the dispute-resolution mechanism hail it as the best hope for building bridges between the two South Asian countries. Profound distrust at the political level notwithstanding, they insist the two sides can still make common cause in jointly battling the forces of obscurantism and militancy.

"Jaw-jaw is better than war-war" is the thrust of their argument for a negotiated settlement of problems such as cross-border incursions into Afghanistan by Taliban insurgents and their collaborators in Pakistan's troubled tribal region - lying cheek by jowl with the Durand Line border which has also constituted a long-simmering row between the neighbours. However, this and other divisive subjects like the Pakhtunistan question have been excised from the agenda.

Proponents are in no mood to buy the suggestion that the social and political landscape has shifted against this "half-hearted fence-mending initiative" - taken under duress from a superpower - in the wake of an on-going wave of lawlessness in Pakistan's tribal areas and the abduction of South Koreans by Taliban militants in Ghazni province.

They say that the representatives from the two countries will have to sit across the negotiating table to fashion a workable strategy to achieve measurable progress in their combined drive against extremists.

Safe in the knowledge that Washington continues with the stick policy towards Islamabad and the carrot approach with Kabul, top-ranking government functionaries in Kabul view the gathering as a godsend opportunity to impress upon the Pakistani delegates that cross-border abetment is keeping the insurgency pot boiling in Afghanistan.

On the face of it, this feeling of dominance in the Afghan camp essentially stems from a two-day Camp David summit between Karzai and Bush. The impression in Kabul is that the reaffirmation of stout support from Bush has given his Afghan counterpart, beset by a whole host of security woes on the domestic front, a boost at a time when the US administration is threatening direct strikes on Taliban and Al Qaeda safe havens in Fata.

"Turning the heat on the other side is our overarching game plan for the assembly, which may help reinforce our position that homegrown terrorists don't have the strength and resources to prop up their uprising in a country with a sizeable foreign military presence," said one government official familiar with Kabul's meticulous homework for the meet.

Chary of what is widely characterised as the "consistently negative role of Pakistan's premier intelligence service in Afghanistan," Afghan officialdom has repeatedly hinted during orientation sessions for prospective participants at the possible inclusion of ISI agents in the visiting team.

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Muhammad Khurshid, a resident of Bajaur Agency, tribal areas situated on Pak-Afghan border is journalist by profession. He contributes articles and news stories to various online and print newspapers. His subject matter is terrorism. He is also (more...)
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