KABUL: The Afghan government was preparing to host a loya jirga, a grand assembly of scholars and leaders from around the country, authorities said on Tuesday, for what would be the first such meeting since the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan last year.
The loya jirga is a centuries-old institution, a forum to discuss and reach a consensus on important political issues. It will be held as the Taliban — unacknowledged by foreign governments since they took control of the country — have been under mounting pressure to form an inclusive government to win international recognition.
“The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan is holding a large gathering of scholars based on the hopes and demands of scholars from across the country,” Bilal Karimi, deputy spokesperson of the Taliban government, told Arab News, adding that the Taliban government was “committed to solving the current issues in light of its facilities and limitations.”
Karimi did not confirm the exact dates of the meeting, but it was likely to begin as soon as Wednesday, according to last week’s announcement by the acting prime minister of Afghanistan, Mullah Mohammad Hasan Akhund.
Preparations for loya jirga were underway in the Afghan capital on Tuesday, and the Kabul Polytechnic University, where the gathering will be held, has called off classes until July 2. Loya jirga meetings usually take several days.
The assembly will be held as a number of former administration officials have returned to Kabul following months of exile abroad and declared readiness to serve the country after security assurances from its new authorities.
Most high-ranking officials left the country after its Western-backed government collapsed when the Taliban seized power in August, following the withdrawal of US-led forces after two decades of war.
Afghanistan’s former chief executive and lead peace negotiator between the previous government and the Taliban, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, also returned to the country last week, after being in India since May.
Karimi declined to comment on whether the former officials would take part in the meeting, but said, “there will be influential figures from all provinces.”
Local media reported that around 3,000 participants were expected to arrive for the meeting, as representatives from provinces have already started to depart for Kabul.
From southern Kandahar province, they started their more than 10-hour-long journey on Monday.
Javed Ahmad Tanveer, a Kandahar-based journalist, told Arab News: “One-hundred-and-seven scholars and tribal elders from Kandahar city and districts traveled to Kabul for the planned gathering.”
The meeting will be the first such gathering since the Taliban takeover, but Torek Farhadi, analyst and adviser to the former government, told Arab News that its significance would be symbolic, with no impact on solving the country’s current challenges.
He said: “Afghanistan is facing three problems right now: Monopoly of power, restrictions on women’s rights, and concerns about unequal treatment of minorities.
“An allegiance from 3,000 selected guests by the Taliban in a meeting will not fix any of these problems, nor will it confer any internal or external legitimacy to the Taliban government.”