Loya jirga, occasionally loya jirgah, is a large meeting held in Afghanistan,
originally attended by Pashtun groups but later including other ethnic groups.
The word is from the Pashto language
-- loya means "great" or "grand" and jirga means "council", "assembly" or "meeting".
The attendees of loya jirga variously
include tribal or regional leaders, political, military and religious figures, royalty, government officials, etc. The meetings
are called irregularly, often by the ruler. Some historians maintain that the tradition is 1000 years old.
There are no
time limits in a loya jirga and it continues until decisions are reached. Decisions are made by consensus and no formal votes
are taken. Many different kinds of issues can be addressed, such as foreign policy, declaring war, legitimizing rulers, or
introducing new ideas and policies.
Loya jirgas in the history of Afghanistan include:
1747 -- near Kandahar, attended by Pashtun representatives who appointed Ahmad
Shah as the new leader.
1880 -- called by Abdur Rahman Khan
1930, September -- a meeting of
286 called by Mohammed Nadir Shah to confirm his accession to the throne.
1941 -- called by Mohammed
Zahir Shah, to approve neutrality in World War II.
1947 -- held by Pashtuns in the Tribal Agencies administered
by the British, to choose between joining India or Pakistan.
1949 -- called during a dispute with Pakistan,
declared that it did not recognise the Durand Line forming the border between the two countries.
1964, September --
a meeting of 452 called by Mohammed Zahir Shah to approve a new constitution.
1977, January -- approved the
new constitution of Mohammed Daoud Khan establishing one-party rule in the Republic of Afghanistan.
April -- to ratify the new constitution of the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan.
2001, September --
there were four different loya jirga movements anticipating the end of Taliban rule. There was little communication between
each of them:
The first was based in Rome around Mohammed Zahir Shah, and it reflected the interests of moderate
Pashtuns from southeastern Afghanistan, the same ethnic group from which the Taliban draws much of its support. The Rome
initiative called for fair elections, support for Islam as the foundation of the Afghan state and respect for human rights.
The second was based in Cyprus and led by Homayoun Jarir, a renegade member of the Islamic Party of his father-in-law,
Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who fought a battle over Kabul with rivals before the Taliban took over in 1996. Critics of the
Cyprus initiative suspected it of serving the interests of Iran. The members of the Cyprus initiative, however, considered
themselves closer to the Afghan people and regard the Rome group as too close to the long-isolated nobility.
important initiatives were been based in Bonn and Pakistan.
2002 -- organized by the interim administration
of Hamid Karzai, with about 2000 delegates, either selected through elections in the various regions of the country or allocated
to various political, cultural and religious groups. It was held in a large tent in the grounds of Kabul Polytechnic from
June 11 and scheduled to last about a week. It formed a new transitional government which took office shortly afterwards.
2003, December -- to consider the Proposed Afghan Constitution. See 2003 Loya jirga.