17th Jan, 2019
A traditional gathering of Afghan tribal elders, religious figures, and political leaders, will meet in Kabul this week to rule on a draft security pact with the United States.
What is a Loya Jirga?
- A Loya Jirga, or "grand council" in Pashto, is a mass national gathering that brings together representatives from the various ethnic, religious, and tribal communities in Afghanistan.
- The Loya Jirga is a centuries-old institution that has been convened at times of national crisis or to settle national issues. Historically, it has been used to approve a new constitution, declare war, choose a new king, or to make sweeping social or political reforms.
How much power does it have?
- According to the Afghan Constitution, a Loya Jirga is considered the "highest expression" of the Afghan people.
- But it is not an official decision-making body. Its decisions are not legally binding and any verdict it hands out must be approved by the two houses of the Afghan parliament and the president in order for it to be made official.
- Unofficially, however, the Loya Jirga's decision is seen as final, with the president and parliament expected to respect the ruling.
What happens at a Loya Jirga?
- Afghan President opens proceedings by addressing the gathering. Delegates then choose a chairman to lead the Loya Jirga.
- The 2,500 delegates are then separated into 17 subcommittees. Each subcommittee debates a clause in the 32-page proposed security pact. The subcommittee can revise or reject any clause of the draft document.
How are members chosen?
- The process can vary. In the past few gatherings, each district in the country votes for one person to represent them. Further seats are allocated for every 20,000 residents. A certain number of seats are reserved for women, refugees, nomads, and members of civil society.
- This time around, the Loya Jirga was handpicked by the Preparation Loya Jirga Commission. Members of the commission were picked by President Karzai.
- The commission has not released a list of participants. But delegates must be at least 25 years old and cannot have been convicted or even accused of any crimes.