The much anticipated Jirga of Pashtun tribal leaders from both sides of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border is underway. For weeks president Karzai had promoted just such a gathering as a cure all for the transborder agitation and the infiltration of insurgents and weapons to Afghanistan, all the while drumming up Pakistan’s dishonesty in the war against the Taliban.
Read Ahmad Rashid’s account of the Jirga for the Daily Telegraph here. Here is an excerpt:
“Clean-shaven tribal chiefs with large turbans, religious scholars with long beards and young political activists sat together in a large hall in the Pakistani border city of Peshawar to demand that the peaceful traditions of the Pashtun tribes which ‘are being drowned out in a sea of blood’ be restored.”
Called by Karzai and organized by a prominent Pashtun secular political party in Pakistan (ANP) the Jirga is aimed at appealing to Pashtun nationalist sentiments to battle the “Talibanization” of the ethnic group.
This of course assumes that Talibanization itself is not a manifestation of Pashtun ethnic nationalism. For many in Afghanistan who see that Taliban have an exclusively Pashtun popular base, and certainly for many of the Taliban who see themselves as legitimate defenders of Pashtun ethnic interests, this separation is not so clear cut.
And then there is the question of to what extent can Pashtun ethno-nationalism be rallied before that in itself spirals out of control and becomes a threat. After all, the phrase unintended consequences has an all too familiar ring to it in recent Afghan history (e.g. rallying the faithful to Jihad with American money.)