AFGHANISTAN:

Jirga Peace Promotion Key to Stability

July 12, 2011

Peace-Promotion-Jirga_Baaghlan-Province

With completion of the three-phased Jirga, religious leaders reiterated their commitment to strengthening peace and stability in their province.

Tucked away in northeastern Afghanistan, the Baghlan province is anything but insignificant. A major highway links the province to Kabul serving also as an artery to other commercial, industrial and administrative centers of the country. As such, Baghlan is as strategic to the Taliban as it is to the Afghan National Security Forces and International Security Assistance Forces. And, like many other provinces, Baghlan has remained a stronghold for different warring factions.

Home to Tajiks, Uzbeks and Hazaras and dominated by Pashtuns, Baghlan’s citizens have deep roots to their region despite having long lived on an ethnic and political crossroad. They once made up the Northern Alliance forces and years of conflict have created a hardy people. Now, however, Baghlanis are suffering from the intrusion of insurgent elements that contribute to drug trafficking and the launching of suicide attacks.

In an effort to stem the spread of insurgency to Baghlan and neighboring provinces, the USAID-funded Community Based Stabilization Grants Program is working to initiate activities that will fuel confidence in the government’s capacity to respond to citizen needs. Like releasing steam from a pressure cooker, confidence in government undermines insurgent influence. Consequently, on February 13, 2011, the Creative-managed CBSG Program funded a Peace Promotion Jirga, in coordination with the Provincial Governor’s Office, providing a platform for communities to voice concerns and to encourage the peaceful resolution of conflicts.

Held in Pul-e-Khumri, the capital of Baghlan province, the CBSG program helped convene religious leaders to hold a Peace Promotion Jirga. Pul-e-Kumri is not a big city, yet, it is nevertheless critical to both commercial and stabilization efforts because it is a transit route to nine provinces in Afghanistan’s north and northeast. Under the sway of the Islamic Brotherhood Council and support from CBSG, religious leaders of both Shia and Sunni communities, including tribal elders from Baghlan-e-Jadid, Dehna-e-Ghori, Burkah, Nahreen, Gilah, Khost, Puli Khumri, Central Baghlan, Deh Sala, Fering, Tala wa Barfak and Doshi Districts, met to discuss issues pertaining to peace and stability. Specific discussions during the Jirga centered on human rights and violence against women, as well as the fight against narcotics and suicide attacks, that fracture the peace and stability of the province.

Though a small victory in the fight against insurgency, the Peace Jirga helped bring the government and communities closer together. These types of efforst by CBSG help the local populations to increase their confidence in the government’s ability to provide services and serve as a reminder that the area is not forgotten in the grand scheme of rebuilding Afghanistan. As testament to the success of the event, at the completion of the three phased Jirga, Religious Leaders issued 12 articles in a final resolution commiting themselves to strengthening peace and stability in their respective areas. Article 5 of the resolution underscored communities’ respect of human rights by strictly prohibiting violence against women. Article 6 of the resolution expressly banned cultivation, trafficking and the business of narcotics, ‘calling it unlawful under Islam and that cultivators and traffickers are subject to punishment under Sharia Law.’ Article 7 rigorously prohibits suicide attacks that disrupt public order, peace and security also calling such actions illegal under Islamic law. Article 10 reaffirms that social justice is to be respected in all spheres of life calling it the foundation for the achievement of national unity, peace, stability, welfare and human development. Article 11 espouses human freedom and Article 12 underlines peace as a factor of well-being and prosperity for human beings and obligates religious leaders to make utmost efforts to promote peace and stability.

“The Peace Promotion Jirga is a crucial step towards bringing together the religious scholars who can better resolve problems such as human rights violations, upholding women’s rights, condemning suicide attacks, among other problemsin the province, that have long contributed to instability,” said Baqir Hashimi, member of Baghlan Religious Scholars’ Council. “The Peace Promotion Jirga will allow for better ways to address the problems of insurgency and conflict and ensure stability through the efforts made by the religious scholars in their respective areas.”

The Peace Promotion Jirga may be a key element in the war to defeat insurgent elements paving the way for stabilization and development. Religious leaders have the respect of their communities and their support to the local government serves as encouragement to their followers to cooperate with the local government, eventually contributing to improved stability in the area.

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