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  The Loya Jirga
Loya Jirga or Grand Assembly, By Afghanland.com

Despite the fact that traditions of jirgas are as old as the civilisation of Afghanistan is, yet its practice to turn it into regular national phenomenon on a grand scale was owned by the more modern rulers and inhabitants of Afghanistan. Following the rise of Mirwais Khan Hotak as leader of Afghans, the jirgas became a national and regular feature for deciding matters of common concern.

There are two types of
Loya Jirgas: One called by the people themselves at the time of national crisis to deliberate and decide upon matters of war and peace, election of Amir or King, and restoration of national sovereignty and national independence. Secondly, when the circumstances and rules of the game compel the ruler or leader to consult people with regard to urgent and important matters, like enactment of fundamental law, ratification and endorsement of treaties reached with outside powers and defence of territorial integrity and national sovereignty. Mirwais Khan Hotak's three Jirgas held in the beginning of 18th century helped the people of Afghanistan to liberate western part of Afghanistan from the ruthless Saffavid ruler, Gurgin, in the year 1707. 

Loya Jirga participated by influential elders and leaders of Abdali and Ghilzai tribes, as well as representatives of other ethnic groups, especially Uzbeks, was held at Sher-i-Surkh near Kandahar City in 1747 had chosen Ahmad Khan, later Ahmed Shah Abdali, as king new and modern Afghanistan. As we see the very state of modern Afghanistan owes its existence to this time-tested tradition. From then onward, Loya Jirga became regular feature in the history of the country.

When the First World War was started and the intelligentsia of the country leading the constitutionalist movement was clamouring for participation on the side of Turks and Germans and against British imperialism for wresting back their complete independence, Amir Habibullah Khan called loya Jirga in 1915 and won the approval of the Jirga for maintaining neutrality in war. King Amanullah Khan convened three more Jirgas in February 1923, in July 1924 and in August 1928.

Zahir Shah, Daud Khan and Naim Khan at Loya JirgaAccording to afghanland.com sources,  The Loya Jirga of Nadir Khan was held in September 1930 to approve the rules of business for Millie shura (national council). In July 1941, Zahir Shah convened Loya Jirga to deliberate upon the Afghan position vis-a-vis Second World War. Another Loya Jirga during the Prime Ministership of Sardar Daoud Khan in November 1955, which raised the issue of Pakhtunistan under the conditions that Pakistan had come into being as inheritor of all British rights and obligations in the area.  Daoud Khan also called Loya Jirga in February 1977 to legitimise his rule, pass new constitution, elect new president, get approval for launching of his national revolutionary party and ratify some laws and agreements reached with other countries.               


After April Communist Revolution in 1978 and especially after the invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviet Union in December 1979 the Cold War rivalries entered Afghanistan and, both sides, ruling and opposition forces resorted to this tradition. Since Jirgas held by moderate elements opposed by  Mujahideen in 1980 at Peshawar, by Karmal regime in 1985 and by President Najibullah in 1987 where held under the shadow of foreign powers, therefore, their influence on the course of events was limited. The same was the fate of Shura-e-Al-o-Aqd, held in Herat in 1992 without any representation by the opposition to legitimize and prolong the rule of Burhanuddin Rabbani. 


Emergency Loya Jirga of 2002

Hamid Karzai, a unifying figure during his interim tenure at the head Afghan administration, was overwhelmingly elected head of state Thursday June 13 2002 by a grand council, or loya jirga.

Ismail Qasim Yar, the Loya Jirga council chairman delivered the news


"We announce Hamid Karzai as the president of the coming interim government,"


Karzai had served six months as interim prime minister of the U.N.-organized government that took power after the fundamentalist Taliban regime was driven from power in December.


Final Results of the Election from 1555 votes cast

Mahfoz Nadai 89   6%                        
Hamid Karzai 1,295                           83%
Dr. Masooda Jalal 171     11%  

The United Nations said 1575 votes were cast and that 20 were declared invalid. A fourth candidate Glam Fareq Majidi was disqualified before the vote because he garnered only 101 signatures of support.

Karzai received thunderous applause when the announcement was made placing him at the top of the Afghan administration for the next 18 months until parliamentary elections are organized.


Karzai's candidacy was backed by a former mujahedeen fighter, Mohammed Asef Mohsoni, who submitted a list with 1,050 names seven times the number required to confirm the nomination and well over half of the 1,650 delegates.

In accepting the nomination before the vote, Karzai spoke to the delegates assembled in both Pashto and Dari, the country's two main languages;.


"After 25 years, all the Afghans are gathering under one tent. The refugees are coming back. It is a proud moment for me,  we need security, we need peace, we need stability, we need an administration in control of all of Afghanistan, I know many Taliban and they were taken over, hijacked by the foreign people. Those people were against Afghanistan. Those who were responsible for the massacres, those who were responsible for the burning" were foreigners. We want an improved economy. We want the people to trust each other. We want investment in Afghanistan. We want to start a reconstruction program to rebuild the roads, the irrigation channels. We don't want to miss this chance. This is our best chance for reconstruction.... a matter of pride for me, for my friends, sisters and brothers, like you who voted for me to be head of the transitional period... God willing, I will be of service to Afghanistan, my religion and will work for the development of my country"


Karzai was chosen by secret ballot with black-and-white photos of the candidates adjacent to their names.

Many delegates believe the United States and other powerbrokers have cut deals circumventing the loya jirga process. Former monarch Mohammad Zaher Shah and ex-president Burhanuddin Rabbani withdrew from candidacy for head of state and threw their support behind the U.S.-backed Karzai, causing consternation among many delegates.


Emergency Loya Jirga  Representatives


2,000 delegates

1,051 elected members

Guaranteed seats for 160 women

53 seats for current government

100 seats for Afghan refugees and six for internally displaced Afghans

25 seats for nomads 




Emergency Loya Jirga Commission 2002

Qasimyar, Ismael Lawyer, expert in constitutional law Qizilbash
Vice Chair    
Hoquqmal, Mahbooba Professor of Law & Political Science in the University of Kabul Tajik
Abdul Aziz, Al-Haj Professor; Dean of the Sharia Faculty of Kabul University Pashtun
Relations Committee Head    
Ahang, Kazim Head of the Faculty of Journalism in the University of Kabul Tajik
Commission Member    
Ameer,  Essa Teacher, 25 years experience in education Hazara
Drafting Committee Head    
Borgai, Taher PhD Germany in Law and science; lecturer Kabul University Pashtun
Jabbarkhel, Zaher Previously director of Nasir Bagh refugee camp, near Peshawar Pashtun
Hamidi, Farid Lecturer in Law and Political Science, anti-Taliban student leader Pashtun
Kamal, Enayatullah Lecturer in the Sharia Faculty, Kabul University;  Uzbek
Karkin, Nur Mohammed Former civil servant in Northern Afghanistan Turkmen
Mudaber, Dr. Sadiq Former Deputy Minister of Labor and Social Affairs Hazara
Mujahed, Prof. Amin Professor of History in the University of Kabul Pashtun
Nematy, Humaira Professor of Law in Balkh University (Mazar-i Sharif) Tajik
Criteria Committee Head    
Nidai, Prof. Mahfooz Professor of Geology and Mining in Kabul University Pashtun
Commission Members    
Parlika, Soraya Former Head of the Afghan Red Crescent Pashtun
Rahimy, Abdul Salam Director of the NGO Coordination of Humanitarian Aid (CHA) Pashtun
Sayed Massoud, Ustad Master in Economics; civil servant under Rabbani and Taliban Sayed
Sebghatullah Sanjar, Colonel Young former military officer, anti-taliban underground activist Tajik
Seljuki, Rashid Religious figure in Heart Tajik
Tawana, Dr Sayed Musa Former Prof. of Theology at Kabul University; teacher of Rabbani Tajik
Wolwaliji, Assadullah Graduate of Military Academy; historian Uzbek


What is Loya Jirga
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