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  Topics - Ahhangar
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106  General / General Discussion / Recommended Books and other literature on: April 29, 2008, 08:31:01 AM

I think we need a place to list all the books and other literature like academic papers, which  is useful to us as the Persians of Khurasan.

This should include everything we can find about the

Khurasan of the past
- the Khurasan that we have lost;

and also everything about the

Khurasan of today (mainly Afghanistan but  the region as a whole should be included) dealing with the modern phenomena that affects us, both positive and negative.

We ought to discover fully what we have lost from the past - and understand fully our current plight - in order that we might make well thought out and wise decisions about what to do to create a Khurasan relevant to todays world. It is very ambitious I know - but with a solid base built on sound knowledge and a thorough understanding of everything that is related Khurasan - everything will become possible.

Ahhangar Ghuri

107  General / General Discussion / Editing the past: colonial production of hegemony through the "Loya Jerga" in Afghani on: April 27, 2008, 12:25:10 AM
Salams dear all,

This is one of the most insightful articles I have come across regarding a notion that is much vaunted in our country, the 'Loya Jerga', and which has to a certain extent escape the attention of most of us whom want to change Afghanistan.

So here it is in full - I hope it will be useful to you.

Editing the past: colonial production of hegemony through the "Loya Jerga" in Afghanistan

Author: M. Jamil Hanifi

1 1 This essay has benefited from the generous comments and suggestions of David W. Akin and Shah Mahmoud Hanifi. I thank them for this. However, I alone am responsible for its contents.

The central government of Afghanistan disintegrated in April 1992 setting in motion the collapse of the Afghan state apparatus that culminated in the occupation of the country by the armed forces of the United States in Autumn 2001. In the early days of the occupation Hamed Karzai, an expatriate Afghan, appeared surrounded by American soldiers on Western television screens as the man who was to become the American-appointed head of the future Afghan government. Shortly thereafter, the media carried a picture of a turbaned Mr. Karzai being presented a Holy Qur'an by Muhammad Zaher, the former King of Afghanistan then living in exile in Italy. The picture symbolically conveyed the approval by the aged ex-king of the anticipated appointment of young Karzai as head of the Afghan government.

On December 5, 2001 a conference attended by about thirty hand-picked expatriate Afghans - mostly descendants or otherwise members of the pre-1978 Afghan bourgeoisie - was convened in Bonn, Germany. The gathering was subsidized and controlled by the United States and allegedly coordinated by the United Nations. The Bonn conference produced a document titled "Agreement on Provisional Arrangements in Afghanistan Pending the Re-Establishment of Permanent Government Institutions." This "Bonn Agreement" provided for an "Interim Authority" as the government of Afghanistan and its Annex IV names Hamed Karzai as the "Chairman" of this authority. The agreement stipulated the convening of an "Emergency Loya Jirga" within six months after December 22 to establish a "Transitional Authority - to lead Afghanistan until such time as a fully representative government can be elected through free and fair elections to be held no later than two years from the date of the convening of the Emergency Loya Jirgahellip A Constitutional Loya Jirga shall be convened within eighteen months of the establishment of the Transitional Authority in order to adopt a new constitution for Afghanistan. The Emergency Loya Jirga will be opened by His Majesty Mohammed Zaher, the former King of Afghanistan."2

With the occupation of Afghanistan by the United States in progress the global mass media disseminated unprecedented amounts of news and information about Afghanistan, Loya Jergas, the Kabul government, and Hamed Karzai. The Loya Jerga has been hailed in the West as a triumphant exercise in democracy and representative government; so much so that some United States government leaders and the international press have recommended its application to the political reconstitution of the state of Iraq.3 Lakhdar Brahimi, the United Nations representative who produced and implemented two Loya Jergas in Afghanistan (2002 and 2003-2004), has now been assigned to construct a transitional government for Iraq. It seems as though this exotic Afghan mechanism for the production of the hegemony of the bourgeoisie has become the favorite consent-producing tool of American neocolonialism in the Middle East and Central Asia.

Euro-American scholars, local intellectuals, and politicians view the Loya Jerga as the highest source of legitimacy for the Afghan government and its policies and decisions. Other than one descriptive study of the 1941, 1955 and 1964 Loya Jergas there exists no systematic examination of this feature of the Afghan state during the past century.4 Approached critically, the Loya Jerga has been the most important consent-producing, hegemonic prerogative of post-1919 monarchs and heads of government in Afghanistan. Antonio Gramsci's concept of "hegemony" is used here to mean generally the practices of the dominant class, including the process through which moral and intellectual leadership, nested in civil society, extracts consent from those who are dominated.5 The Loya Jerga is viewed here as one element in the "hegemonic apparatus" of the Afghan state. The hegemonic apparatus consists of "a complex set of institutions, ideologies, practices and agents including the 'intellectuals'."6 In addition to the Loya Jerga, other components of the Afghan hegemonic apparatus, in so far as they reflected the dominant class interests in civil society, included schools and universities, museums, libraries, public celebrations of independence and religious events, government publications (newspapers, journals, and books), radio, "representative" assemblies in Kabul and provincial capitals, and Sufi and other religious networks. Central to the idea of hegemonic apparatus is ideology, which Gramsci viewed as "a conception of the world that is implicitly manifest in art, in law, in economic activity and in all manifestations of individual and collective life."7 Western views of the Loya Jerga as a legitimizing device are largely derived from the ideology promoted by the bourgeois interests of the Afghan government and the intellectuals it patronized.

To critically understand the origin and dynamics of the Loya Jerga it is first necessary to address how European writers, and the Afghan intellectual elite and monarchy during the past two centuries, have located the Afghan state and its founder in one 1747 historical event. That event is widely viewed as the model for the structure and conduct of the Loya Jerga at the disposal of the Afghan government at times of major crises. Essentially, the Loya Jerga is a framework in which the Afghan state has adopted distortions of Western ideas of popular representation in the government and have attached to them Paxtu labels. The Loya Jerga has functioned to confirm the legitimacy of the ruler, his government, and their policies and actions. In reality, little about the Afghan monarchy was tribal or Paxtun, and nothing about the Loya Jerga was meaningfully representative of the people of Afghanistan or of free, open, and uninhibited debate about the issues facing the state. Since 1922 there have been eleven Loya Jergas convoked in Afghanistan and all nine constitutions of the country during this period have been produced by these assemblies. Only the 1924 assembly has left us a published and relatively comprehensive record of its proceedings.8 This essay will provide a critical discussion of this record followed by an overview of how the Afghan state has continued to reinforce, promote, and manipulate this hegemonic apparatus over the last 85 years in the absence of free and democratically elected parliamentary institutions. But first, let us briefly address the ethnographic meaning and location of Jerga, the local Paxtun sodality for conflict resolution, from which the concept Loya Jerga is adapted.
The ethnographic locations of Jerga and Loya Jerga

Among the settled and nomadic Paxtuns9 of central Asia, the Jerga (with the first vowel occurring between the short soft [a] and [e]) is a political arrangement for the resolution of local conflict. It functions as a sodality - it dissolves when the need for it disappears. It is the symbol of tribal autonomy10 and it operates, in its traditional setting, on the margins of state government. The word Jerga in Paxtu means assembly, council, or gathering. It is occasionally interchangeably used with Maraka - discussion, or dialogue. The initiative for convoking a Jerga comes from local individuals or groups, and not from an external agency such as the state. Even in instances where a number of Jergas meet in one assembly, the label for a single assembly is used. There is at least one known instance where the British colonial government wished to engage the Mas'ud Paxtun tribe as a whole; the phrase "great jirga" was used by the British but the event turned into "a disorderly mob."11 The earliest written reference to Jerga is provided during the colonial period by Mountstuart Elphinstone, a representative of the British government of India to the court of the ruler of Kabul at his summer capitol of Peshawar.12 The earliest dictionary references to Jerga are provided by Henry George Raverty, Henry Walter Bellew, and J. G. Lorimer,13 all colonial officers of the British government of India. Other early references to Jerga are contained in official British colonial texts about Paxtuns.14

Theoretically, all adult male members of the community can participate on an equal basis in the Jerga and any adult male can request its convocation. In practice, however, elders and other influential male members convene the assembly. No one officially presides over the Jerga and every male participant is entitled to speak. A local Jerga seldom has more than twenty-five members. Decisions of the Jerga are based on consensus; dissent is strongly discouraged and rarely allowed. In smaller, isolated communities the Jerga is convened adjacent to a cemetery or in a local mosque when the facility is readily accessible. Open space is preferred to space under a roof. The decisions of the Jerga are final and a person who does not abide by them risks being expelled from the community and/or having his residential property burned. The individuals who are assigned to enforce the decision of the Jerga are collectively and symbolically called Tsalwextai - "a contingent of forty" - but lower or higher numbers may be involved depending on the size of the community and the complexity of the task at hand. A local Jerga may negotiate with its counterpart elsewhere in matters involving intercommunity conflict. Under the colonial domination and during the postcolonial period15 in Afghanistan a local Jerga, alone or together with other Jergas, negotiated with agents of the government. Within this general framework, specific instances of Jerga are noted in the available ethnographic accounts dealing with political processes in Paxtun communities.16

Although the word Jerga is familiar to non-Paxtuns of Afghanistan and the surrounding region, it is not their preferred label for local assemblies or councils for conflict resolution. The popular term in non-Paxtun areas of Afghanistan for a local assembly, a deliberative, or advisory body was Shura-ye Mahali (Persian: local assembly or council during 1919-1929) or Majles-e Mashwara (Persian: consultation council, attached to provincial governments). During the reigns of Amir Habibullah (1901-1919) and Amir Amanullah (1919-1929) the government instituted a Shura-ye Dawlat (Persian: state assembly) composed of high-ranking members of the central government and the inner circle of the king. But this practice was dropped after the fall of Amir Amanullah in 1929. Starting in 1930, Majles-e Shora (Persian: consultative assembly) was introduced. The adjective Meli (Persian: national) was occasionally added as a suffix to signify national assembly, Majles-e Shora-ye Meli. In 1933 a Majles-e A'yan (Persian: assembly of nobles, grandees) was introduced. During 1964-1978 the Majles-e Shora and Majles-e A'yan were changed to Wolusi Jerga (Paxtu: Peoples' Assembly) and Da Meshrano Jerga (Paxtu: Elders' Assembly) respectively. In Iran, Jerga refers to a ring, group, coterie, or clique, and the use of the label for tribal or other local mechanisms for conflict resolution in that country is unknown. Among the Marri Baluch the term Jerga applies to a relatively structured arrangement in which "the hierarchy of tribal leaders, the organs of external administration, and the framework of sections meet and articulate in a manner that is decisive to the function of each."17

The available pre-1922 ethnographic and historical record dealing with tribes and states in Afghanistan and the surrounding region does not contain specific reference to the concept or apparatus of Loya Jerga. However, Afghan nationalist writers like Mir Gholam Mohammad Ghobar18 and Mohammad 'Alam Faiz-zad.19 insist that the Loya Jerga, as a feature of central government in Afghanistan, dates back to pre-Islamic times. An intellectual of the Afghan diaspora in North America claims that a "great Afghan Loya Jirga [was] convened by Emperor Kanishka a little less than two thousand years ago."20 There is no historical or archaeological evidence in support of these claims, however. There is no record of assemblies or councils or other specifically named representative bodies that the government convened or with which the rulers of Afghanistan consulted prior to 1922. Ghobar, the most prominent twentieth-century Afghan historian, writes that Amir Sher Ali (r.1863-1866 and 1868-1879) convened a "Loya Jerga"21 in 1866. But the source he quotes mentions a "majles" (gathering),22 not a Jerga or a Loya Jerga. And Hasan Kawun Kakar, a British-trained Afghan historian of nineteenth-century Afghanistan writes of the convening of three Loya Jergas during the reign of Amir 'Abd al-Rahman (r.1880-1901).23 He offers no documentation in support of this claim. Likewise, Louis Dupree claims that 'Abd al-Rahman "appointed a General Assembly (Loya Jirgah) which included three groups of the Afghan citizens: certain Sardars (princes) of the royal family; important khans or khawanin-i mulki in the rural power elite, from different parts of the country; the religious leaders from whom, however, he brooked no opposition."24 Like Kakar, Dupree does not offer any evidence in support of this important assertion. Similarly, Barnett R. Rubin, an American political scientist who has written extensively on Afghanistan writes, without any supporting evidence, that Amir 'Abd-al Rahman "modified [the] tradition of tribal representation by establishing the Loya Jirga."25 Ludwig W. Adamec, an American political scientist, claims that in 1915 Amir Habibullah (r.1901-1919) had convened a "Loya Jerga" for the purpose of deciding Afghanistan's position in World War I and to compose a reply to the British demand for Afghan neutrality. He offers a British archival document as his source.26 Ghobar, on the other hand, without documentation, cites a 520-member "Jerga-e 'omom-ye rahbaran-e ehtemali-ye jehad" (Persian: general assembly of the leaders of the impending jehad)27 that Amir Habibullah had assembled in Kabul for this purpose.

Although constructed out of Paxtu language elements, there is no application of the Loya Jerga label to any social mechanism among the tribal Paxtuns in the region. In Paxtu the noun is gendered, and an adjective precedes the noun and must reflect its gender. Thus, Loya (feminine adjective), grand, large; Jerga (feminine noun), assembly, gathering - Loya Jerga, grand assembly, grand council. The earliest use of the label is in reference to the proceedings of an assembly convened in 1922 by the order of Amir Amanullah in Jellalabad to discuss and approve the first constitution of Afghanistan. This reference is contained in the published proceedings of the 1924 Loya Jerga. The label Loya Jerga as invented by the governments of Afghanistan in 1922 is derived from the colonial reconstruction of events in 1747 surrounding the rise of Ahmad Khan Abdali (r. 1747-1772) to political prominence-the foundational moment of the Afghan monarchy. These events are originally variously described in several local Persian chronicles of the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries. Ahmad Khan was a former officer in the court of Nader Shah Afshar, who, subsequent to the latter's assassination, found himself ruler of an extensive territory from which Afghanistan was later carved out in the late nineteenth century. A succession of lineal and collateral descendants of Ahmad Khan governed Afghanistan until 1978.

Ahmad Khan, the legendary founder of the Afghan state, was allegedly elected by consensus and crowned king of Afghanistan in 1747, according to texts produced by the Afghan government and intellectuals and popular ideas about the tribal assembly in which the event occurred. These accounts are inspired by various whimsical European representations of local Persian chronicles. The earliest and most comprehensive pre-colonial account of Ahmad Khan's rise to political power is provided in a chronicle written during 1753-1774 by Mahmud al-Hosaini al-Munshi ibn Ibrahem al-Jami, the court historian of Ahmad Khan Abdali.28 This account makes no mention of an organized assembly in which the election and coronation of Ahmad Khan took place. Nor is there any mention of the acts of election or coronation per se. Hosaini's narrative clearly states that during a gathering in Qandahar in 1747, Saber, a mendicant, placed blades of green grass, giyah-e sabz29 on Ahmad Khan's cap and proclaimed him king. This mendicant had earlier foretold that Ahmad Khan would become king after Nader Shah Afshar's death. Hosaini writes, not of consensus, but of much violence surrounding the accession of Ahmad Khan including armed conflict between his supporters and opponents and the trampling to death by elephants of his major detractors.30 There are several variations of Hosaini's account of Ahmad Khan's rise to political leadership in late eighteenth, nineteenth, and early twentieth-century chronicles. Like Hosaini's narrative, these accounts do not mention coronation, election, consensus, Afghanistan, Paxtuns, or Loya Jerga.31

As mentioned above, European colonial writers have converted these local narratives of the event of Ahmad Khan's accession to power into a variety of whimsical, orientalist portrayals. Here are a few samples of these representations. Mountstuart Elphinstone, the earliest of these colonial authors, writes that "n October 1747 [Ahmad Khan] was crowned: Dooraunee, Kuzzulbaush, Beloches, and Hazaurah chiefs are mentioned as assisting at the coronation."32 Writing in 1852 James Fraser repeats Elphinstone's distortion: "Ahmed hellip assumed the ensigns of royalty at Candahar, in the month of October, 1747, the Dooranee, Kuzzilbash, Beloches, and Hazara chiefs assisting in his coronation."33 Joseph Pierre Ferrier, a French traveler who visited Afghanistan during 1844-1845 states that the mendicant "took a handful of barley from an adjoining field, and having formed it into a wreath, placed it on the head of Ahmed Khan, adding, 'and may this serve as your diadem' hellip Ahmed Khan, who took the title of Shah, was crowned in the mosque at Kandahar towards the end of 1747. The ceremony of his coronation was of the most simple kind: the Mollah of the highest rank poured a measure of wheat on the head of the new monarch, announcing to the assembled Afghans that he was the chosen of God and the nation."34 Henry George Raverty, the most prolific English colonial writer on Afghanistan, confirms what his predecessor's have invented: "In October of the same year (1747), Ahmad, hellip assumed the title of Shah or King of Afghanistan, and was crowned at Kandahar, with great pomp, the different chiefs of the various Afghan tribes, with but few exceptions, and the Kazalbashes, Baluchis, and Hazarahs, assisting."35 Other European colonial writers have followed suit: Ahmad Khan was "crowned King of the Afghans at Kandahar in October 1747";36 the mendicant produced "a tiny sheaf of wheat, and placing it in Ahmad Khan's turban, declared that no one in that assembly was so fit for the kingship as Ahmad Khan, the flower of the Duranis."37

These European inventions have had a profound impact on how Afghans and others have constructed the history of Afghanistan and how they have addressed the genesis of the Afghan state and the Durrani dynastic rule in Afghanistan. The reference to barley and wheat in these European accounts of Ahmad Khan's "coronation" (on the authority of Ganda Singh)38 led the archaeologist Louis Dupree, in describing Ahmad Khan's career, to state that "[a]s an anthropologist, I cannot resist speculating that this fertility symbol must have an ancient prehistoric root in Afghanistan."39 The Afghan monarchs have used European embellishments of this legend as the source of their legitimacy and the basis of their hereditary right to the kingship of Afghanistan. Addressing the Loya Jerga of 1924, Amir Amanullah exclaimed "the crown made of a cluster of wheat that this nation bestowed on our dynasty - a dynasty whose descendants rule to this day - makes them [the descendants] proud."40 Starting with Amanullah's rule, clusters of wheat have had a prominent place in the official state emblems, insignias, and banners of Afghanistan.

Following these distortions and adding to them, Louis Dupree, who is known as a "specialist" on Afghanistan, refers to the Loya Jerga as the "Great National Assembly - partly elected, partly appointed."41 Leon Poullada, an American political scientist, views the Loya Jerga as the "Great Tribal Assembly."42 M. Nazif Shahrani, an American-educated Afghan anthropologist, considers the Loya Jerga as the "National Grand Assembly."43 Another American-educated Afghan anthropologist, Ashraf Ghani, states: "The power elite of the country was given a voice in the determination of state policies through the convening of loya jergas or grand assemblies. Such an assembly had elected Ahmad Shah Dorrani king of Afghanistan"44 Ghani's assertion is puzzling since he apparently had access to Hussaini's text as it is listed in his bibliography.

The British anthropologist Richard Tapper writes that "Ahmad Khan hellip was elected leader by a jirga assembly of Nadir's Afghan generals, as something of a compromise hellip and his leadership among the tribal chiefs indeed remained that of primus inter pares."45 The American anthropologist Robert L. Canfield, however, with implicit caution, asserts: "The 'founder' of the country, Ahmad Shah Abdali, took a religious title after he was 'crowned' amir by a notable religious authority, and every other ruler after him similarly claimed a special Islamic title (at least until 1973)."46 The French sociologist Olivier Roy notes that: "War was a short-lived affair and decided upon by the council of clan chiefs [a limited jirga].47 Of Ahmad Khan Abdali, Roy writes: "He was first and foremost a warrior chief, with whom his followers entered into a contract. His right to lead was based upon the fact that he had been enthroned by a great tribal jirga [an assembly of all the warriors]. The great jirga was the founding myth of the Afghan state and was to be re-enacted in periods of crisis [as for the enthronement of Nadir Khan in 1929]."48 D. Balland, a French social scientist, states that "Ahmad Khan was thus elected king of the Afghans by a jerga or tribal council of Pashtun chiefs; in October of the same (1747) year he was crowned at a location not far from Qandahar."49

Yu. V. Gankovsky, a prominent Soviet historian of Afghanistan, wrote extensively during the Soviet era. He published a comprehensive account of the Durrani Empire50 and the Paxtuns.51 In the 1958 publication he says nothing about how Ahmad Khan rose to power. However, in a more recent publication, after Ghobar's book on Ahmad Khan (see note 91 below) was translated into Russian, Gankovsky writes "No mean role was played also by the backing rendered to Ahmad Khan by Sabir Shah, an outstanding Muslim theologian and a leader of the large Sufi order of the Chishtiye [the Sadozais had long-standing ties with it]. Sabir Shah had suggested Ahmad Khan for the post and himself crowned him."52 Finally, here are the views of Barnett R. Rubin whose ideas about Afghanistan are widely used by academics, United States policy makers, and the media: "[T]he jirga of the tribes was simultaneously a representative institution, a sort of electoral college for the Shah, and a military force. Just such a jirga had chosen Ahmad Shah as leader of the Abdalis hellip Afghans referred to previous large jirgas, such as the one that elected Ahmad Shah, as Loya Jirgas, but the term had never been given a legally codified meaning."53 Referring to the 1955 Loya Jerga, Rubin states: "The Loya Jirga showed the encapsulation of the tribes, not their continuing power";54 the 1964 Loya Jerga was "probably the freest and most effective such body ever convened by the state."55 "At a controlled Loya Jirga in 1977 he [Mohammad Daud] promulgated a new constitution."56 "[T]he institution of the Loya Jirga developed out of the state's attempt to modify Pashtun tribal tradition in order to create a tribal-nationalist legitimation for state power."57

According to Rubin, in trying to mediate the Afghan conflict in the 1980s, the United Nations considered "the creation of Afghan groups that had a realistic chance of gaining the needed authority. The procedure drew on certain Afghan traditions (in particular the 'emergency Loya Jirga') described to the United Nations by exiled officials of the old regime, including the former king and his advisors."58 "For the Islamists and the opponents of Pashtun domination, the Loya Jirga represented political forces they opposed, not a primordial tradition."59 Rubin's report and observations clearly illustrate how conflated the processes of domination and hegemony were in Afghanistan and how removed postcolonial intellectuals and the popular ideology and consciousness of the people of Afghanistan were from the realities of the Loya Jerga, "a basic hegemonic lie [that] says, to rulers and the ruled alike, that only the elite are fit to govern."60 This elite, nestled in the Afghan government, determined the structure, process, and membership of the Loya Jerga in Afghanistan.

The distortions and misrepresentations contained in the colonial constructions of Ahmad Khan's "election" and "coronation" in a participatory "tribal" context - the founding legend of Afghanistan, the Afghan monarchy, and the legitimizing basis of the Loya Jerga-have been reproduced virtually intact by the Afghan government and by local and Western postcolonial writers interested in political processes and leadership in Afghanistan. The Afghan government portrayed the Loya Jerga as an arrangement derived from Paxtun social and symbolic elements when in fact, as we will see from the record of the first Loya Jerga in 1924, there was virtually nothing (except the label) Paxtun in practice about this hegemonic apparatus. The Afghan monarchy's claim to Paxtun identity has little ethnographic and historical validity. The royal lineage had been Persianized; its members neither spoke Paxtu nor exhibited other behavioral and cultural features of Paxtun identity. By identifying themselves with the Paxtun label "Loya Jerga" the monarchy attempted to boost their own dubious claim to Paxtun identity, co-opted the Paxtun tribes, and intimidated the non-Paxtun population with the alleged numerical majority of Paxtuns and the latter's historical reputation as brave warriors. The Paxtun numerical majority was a mere speculation and notions about their bravery were a matter of interpretation valid only in the framework of their long-standing opposition to state structures. Western academic writers have uncritically accepted the Loya Jerga as a primordial and legitimate fixture of the Afghan polity. While these writers virtually unanimously promote the invalid thesis of Paxtun domination of Afghanistan, none have critically addressed or acknowledged the transparent, non-Paxtun character of the Loya Jerga in practice. These uncritical views portray the Loya Jerga as the framework for popular participation in the affairs of the Afghan government. These views of the Loya Jerga and the idea that this assembly was the mechanism through which political leadership was produced and legitimated through tribal participation are widely shared by Western academic writers who view the Afghan state as an amalgam of Paxtun tribes and the Afghan monarchy as a Paxtun tribal construction. Most academic writings on Afghanistan convey the impression that there are no non-Paxtun tribal and non-tribal communities in Afghanistan. These perceptions of Afghanistan, the Loya Jerga, and the Afghan monarchy evaporate when confronted with ethnographic and historical facts. Although there has never been a systematic headcount in Afghanistan, it is likely that non-Paxtuns comprise the majority of the people of the country. Non-Paxtun communities have played prominent roles in the affairs of the country.
Postcolonial construction of Loya Jerga, 1919-2001

The first quarter of the twentieth century in urban Afghanistan ushered in the confluence of a number of important social, political, and ideological developments. During this period the Afghan political elite was exposed to heavy doses of Western political ideas as contacts with the outside world increased. British subsidies were withdrawn after Afghanistan gained its political independence in 1919. The loss of subsidies was, in part, offset by revenue from the expansion of Afghan merchant capital.61 Not only did the Afghan government become dependent on merchant capital but the Afghan intellectual elite was and continues to be located in this small merchant class. In the first twenty years of post-1919 Afghanistan, this small group of intellectual elites produced numerous texts that strengthened the legitimacy of the Loya Jerga, which enabled the government to exert direct hegemonic control over the nascent Afghan civil society. During this period, the domination of Afghanistan by the central government was steadily enhanced through the government's ever-increasing coercive power achieved primarily through the acquisition of large quantities of modern weapons from Europe and Russia. Consent was procured through a number of hegemonic apparatuses, chief among them the Loya Jerga. Other hegemonic devices included state-produced mass media (newspapers, journals, and Kabul Radio, established in 1940), literature, and school textbooks. Two additional government-controlled nominal assemblies - one ostensibly representing the people of Afghanistan, the other appointed by the king - were also initiated.

During Amir Habibullah's reign Mahmud Tarzi, a prominent member of the Muhammadzai lineage, started publishing a biweekly newspaper, Siraj al-Akhbar (1911-1919). Tarzi, whose family was exiled earlier, had lived in Syria and had traveled through Turkey and North Africa. He used this paper as a platform for promoting the modernization and Westernization of Afghanistan in a framework that emulated Turkey's adaptation of Western ideas and material achievements. However, he was a staunch opponent of British colonialism and a proponent of the removal of British control over the political affairs of Afghanistan. Inspired by Mahmud Tarzi and his newspaper, a small number of Afghan intellectuals became increasingly active. What seems to have sparked this development was Habibullah's decision, under British pressure, that included an increase in his subsidy, to remain neutral in World War I despite an official request by Turkey and Germany for Afghanistan to side with them. These intellectuals were mostly self-educated, literate employees of the Afghan government and members of a budding merchant class that called itself Mashruta Khwahan, constitutionalists, or Junbesh-e Mashsrutiyat dar Afghanistan (Persian: the constitutionalist movement in Afghanistan).62 Ghobar calls it Nuhzat-e Demokrasi (Persian: democracy movement) and lists its forty-five members.63 They opposed British domination of Afghanistan and wanted a greater role for themselves in state affairs in the framework of a constitutional monarchy. The group was composed mostly of writers with urban merchant roots, government employees, landowners, and a few Indian nationals working for the government. Ghobar describes them, as a group, Bourgeoisie-ye Meli wa Zamindar-e Lebral, (Persian: national bourgeoisie and liberal landowners) and divides them into three categories: liberal members of the court, a secret nationalist party whose members were radical students of the newly established Habibiya High School, and those outside of these groups.64 Amir Habibullah was assassinated in 1919 and his son Amir Amanuallah succeeded him as amir of Afghanistan. After a limited military confrontation with the amir's forces, the British government of India surrendered its control over the foreign affairs of Afghanistan in 1919 and terminated its annual subsidy to its ruler.

During the rule of Amanullah the constitutionalists became known as "Roshan Fekran" (Persian: intellectuals, or literally, enlightened minds) and "Jawanan-e Afghan" (Persian: Afghan Youth).65 Ghobar states that Amanullah, "from the beginning of his rule, approached the Afghan intellectuals with sincerity and sympathy and released all constitutionalists who had been imprisoned by his father, and together with the other young intellectuals, gave them a role in the affairs of the state."66 Ghobar was a member of the Enlightened Minds and had participated in the conferences in which Amanullah encouraged and promoted discussions about Afghanistan's foreign relations and internal reforms. The idea of the Loya Jerga was hammered out at these discussions. The progressive amir and his Afghan intellectual elite subjects saw in the Loya Jerga a framework in which both sides could promote their objectives; the amir, by using a Paxtu label, could portray himself as a Paxtun to gain popular support for his reforms and modernization programs; the intellectuals would have a real opportunity for participation in the affairs of the government, influencing both the amir and the Loya Jerga proceedings.

The first Loya Jerga was convened in 1922 by the amir in Jellabad, his unofficial winter capital. Predictably, the Loya Jerga discussed and ratified the first constitution of Afghanistan, something the Afghan intellectuals earnestly desired. The constitution was formally approved in April 1923. This constitution provided for direct input from ordinary people but only to the extent that people could "make suggestions" and submit "petitions" and "complaints" to the government.67 The state and provincial councils were to include two categories of members: those allegedly chosen by the people and those appointed by the monarch. The 1923 constitution made no explicit provision for the Loya Jerga. Leon Poullada suggests that this constitution was originally drafted in Paxtu.68 This is possible but not likely since, even though the Loya Jerga that approved the constitution was held in a Paxtun setting, it is doubtful that Persian was dropped on this occasion as the official language of the Afghan state bureaucracy. Apparently relying on Poullada, Ashraf Ghani, referring to the 1923 constitution, states that "[t]he original text is in Pashto, while a Persian translation is also provided."69 To my knowledge no one else makes this claim and there is no known evidence to support such an assertion. In any event, only the Persian text of this constitution has survived - there is no record of the transactions of the 1922 Loya Jerga that adopted this document.

Partial or sketchy records are available for all twelve Loya Jergas, but they are difficult to access because they have been either destroyed or circulated only on a limited basis. Only the 1924 and 1964 Loya Jergas have generated a relatively comprehensive, accessible record. The partial, written Persian record of the proceedings of the 1964 constitutional Loya Jerga is available in a typescript of 826 pages, from which pages 1-219 are missing.70 However, the available pages lack, among other things, information about the active role of the king, his government, and biographical data about the participants.
The 1924 Loya Jerga

Amanullah's second Loya Jerga was convened during 1924 in Paghman, the amir's summer residence, about twelve miles west of the city of Kabul. This is the only Loya Jerga for which there is an officially issued, published, comprehensive record.71 One thousand lithographed copies containing 451 pages were published. The purpose of this Loya Jerga was to modify some of the amir's reforms, and to review the internal and external policies and activities of the government. The Loya Jerga was envisioned by Amir Amanullah and his advisors as a mechanism through which consent in civil society could be produced by manipulation and deceit. The Loya Jerga was proclaimed in a royal decree in early 1924. In this proclamation the amir recalled the 1922 assembly as having been narrow since it represented only the eastern region and parts of Kabul province. The protocol that accompanied the memorial medal issued to each participant at the completion of the 1924 assembly refers to this gathering as the first Loya Jerga.72

The proclamation instructs the provincial governors to arrange for one-half of the representatives to local assemblies to participate in the Loya Jerga and orders these officials to remit the representatives' expenses for food and travel to Kabul. The other half of the local representatives were to remain in their posts to perform their routine duties.73 Simultaneously, the amir issued an order to every representative selected for the Loya Jerga informing them of his desire that they come to Kabul, participate in the Loya Jerga, and consult with him and his government. He assured the representatives that when in Kabul they would be his guests, and their return travel expenses from Kabul would be paid for by the Ministry of Interior.74

As can be seen in Table 1, the 1924 Loya Jerga consisted of 1,054 participants from nine provinces and the central government in Kabul. Two hundred thirty-one or about 22 percent consisted of members of the central government bureaucracy, all chosen by the amir. This group included all civil servants with the rank of chief clerk (Sarkateb) and above, and all military officers with the rank of major (Kandakmeshr) and above.75 The remaining 823 participants consisted of the following six categories: 'Ulema (plural of 'Alem, religious authority):75 members (7 percent); Sadat (plural of Sayid, one claiming sacred descent, definitionally non-Paxtun):111 members (10.5 percent); Mashayekh (plural of Shaykh, generally Sufis, mystics who claim sacred descent, definitionally non-Paxtuns - prominent members are the Naqshbandi Sufi networks whose main group is locally called the Mujaddidis and the Qaderiya Sufi network who are locally known as the Naqibs. Other important Shaykhs in attendance were the Mullah of Chaknahwar, Mawalawi of Kama, and the Shaykh of Karakh):33 members (3 percent); Khawanin (plural of Khan, local leader and landowner):240 members (22.7 percent); Wokala (plural of Wakil, representative, usually landowner or merchant):272 members (26 percent); and Khawanin wa Wokala (Khans and Representatives):111 members (10.5 percent). The three Islamist groups ('Ulema, Sadat, and Mashayekh) combined had 219 members (26.6 percent) in the 1924 Loya Jerga. All three predominantly Paxtun provinces (Mashreqi [Eastern], Qandahar, Jonubi [Southern]), and identifiable Paxtun areas of Kabul Province (44 [4% percent]) contributed about 337 members (32 percent). The identifiable non-Paxtun areas of Kabul Province (153 [14.5 percent]) and the provinces of Herat, Qataghan and Badakhshan, Turkestan, Maimana, and Farah were represented by about 486 members (46 percent).76 The 22 percent members representing the central government in the assembly were from Kabul, a non-Paxtun city. Thus, the combined numerical strength of participants from non-Paxtun areas in the 1924 assembly was about 717 (68 percent).
CG = Central Government; KP = Kabul Province; HP = Herat Province; QBP = Qataghan and Badakhshan Province; TP = Turkestan Province; MmP = Maimana Province; QP = Qandahar Province; MP = Mashreqi (Eastern) Province; FP = Farah Province; JP = Jonubi (Southern) Province; Reprs. = Representatives; K&R = Khans and Representatives. Source: Roydad-e Loya Jerga-ye Dar al-Saltana, 1303 (Proceedings of the 1924 Loya Jerga at the Capital [of Kabul]), pp.422-451.

Table 1.    Composition of the 1924 Loya Jerga

As we can see, even if we allow a sizeable margin for error in my calculations, the number of participants in this assembly from predominantly Paxtun areas is significantly less (32 percent) than those from non-Paxtuns areas (68 percent) and substantially less than the majority of participants. I believe we can assume these figures to represent a reliable approximation of the distribution of the population of Afghanistan in 1924. Has this distributional profile changed significantly in subsequent Loya Jergas? How and why? I do not have the answers to these questions. But this is a meaningful start for addressing the complex questions of the numerical size and distribution of ethnic and regional groups in Afghanistan.

The participants in the Loya Jerga were first received in Kabul with royal pomp and ceremony in early July 1924 during the elaborate festivities for the celebration of 'Eid al-Adha, hosted by the amir. They were later housed (with their servants, and in some cases, with their camels and horses) at the private residences of the royal family and members of the government in Paghman, the summer residence of Afghan political elite, and for the three-week duration of the assembly the participants were feted with the most desirable selections of Kabuli comfort and cuisine.77 They were given free access to the best modern medical care available while in Paghman. Free tickets for admission to the cinema were provided to participants from the provinces. They were also promised that after the conclusion of the assembly they would have their personal petitions efficiently attended to by the various departments and ministries of the government. The amir promised that if a petition was to be directed to him personally, he would immediately reply.78 Before the start of the Loya Jerga in Paghman, participants from the provinces were individually received at a reception by the amir at his gardens, embraced and, upon departure, given packages of sweets.79 A comprehensive critical analysis of the practical consequences and symbolic meanings of these dramatically imbalanced (one way) transfers of gifts from the amir to the participants is beyond the scope of this essay. However, if we consider the Loya Jerga as a hegemonic process through which consent is extracted by the ruler, there is no doubt of the outcome - the guests' consent to what the amir asked even though, at the outset, Amanullah clearly told them to speak their minds freely.80 The record of the discussion and debate bears this out.

The 1924 Loya Jerga was clearly inspired by localized understandings of parliamentary processes in the West. Every participant was furnished with elaborate written rules for the proceedings. The ritual observances for the start and conclusion of daily sessions were spelled out. Procedures for voting and rules for debate and discussion were provided. Eating and drinking anything but water, were prohibited in the assembly. The Loya Jerga was convened in a theater where seating arrangements on chairs for the various categories of participants, the amir - in a raised platform surrounded on three sides by officials of his government - and his secretariat were drawn out in a chart. The amir was the presiding officer. Those wishing to address the amir or the assembly had to step up to a microphone. Participants were not allowed to speak over a person addressing the assembly; use of harsh language and profanity was not permitted; personal matters could not be discussed in the assembly.81 The proceedings of the Loya Jerga were transcribed in Persian only.

The government first presented to the Loya Jerga for review the issue of foreign relations, including treaties it had signed with various countries. The remainder of the assembly was devoted to internal matters, especially the various laws and regulations Amanullah had initiated since he had come to power. Revisions in some laws were proposed by the amir or high-ranking officials of his government and, after discussion and some debate, considered approved without balloting. With regard to such issues as the laws regarding marriage, the 'Ulema were invited to provide input to make sure the laws were consistent with the Hanafi school of jurisprudence. The assembly established a Dar al-'Ulum-e Islamia (a school for Islamic studies), a Maktab-e Hefaz (school for memorization of the Qur'an), and a Jam'iyat al-'Ulema (Society for Religious Authority). The amir used every opportunity to lecture the participants about social and moral issues such as the virtue of wearing clothing made of locally made cloth, of savings, and of educating children. In the last formal session of the Loya Jerga the amir delivered a passionate condemnation of the Paktia rebellion.82 Several delegations volunteered to participate in subduing the rebels. But the amir counseled restraint. On the eighteenth day of the assembly the amir received the participants from the provinces, greeted each member individually, and gave him a medal commemorating the 1924 Loya Jerga. At the conclusion of the Loya Jerga participants attempted to present the amir with a medal, a rifle, a sword, and the title Amir al-Mu'minin (Commander of the Faithful). The amir declined all but the rifle. The text of the proceedings uses the Paxtu construction Tol-Wak (Supreme Commander) as the equivalent of Amir al-Muminin; Amanullah, in rejecting the title, makes a revealing observation: "I know what Tol-Wak means, when the Afghani [Paxtu] language spreads in all parts of Afghanistan and among state officials, I will then accept the (Paxtu) title."83

In reflecting on the composition and proceedings of the 1924 assembly, Mir Gholam Muhammad Ghobar,84 a member of the 1924 and 1928 Loya Jergas concludes that, "in a country where there were no legal and open political parties, and no written, secret ballots available, the vast majority of the members of the Jerga were composed of religious leaders, big businessmen, and landowners who represented and defended their class interests, not the interests of the masses of farmers, nomads, and workers. The handful of enlightened individuals who supported the people were condemned to defeat by this majority."85 In stating this and consistently emulating the agency of the Loya Jerga and its patronage by the state, Ghobar manifests an ideology that contains the tensions inherent in combining the roles of organic and traditional intellectuals - a pattern of contradictions discernable in the intellectual products of the Afghan elite to this day. The amir's third Jerga was convened in 1928 where he announced the recall of most of his radical reforms. Ghobar notes that in this Jerga no one was allowed to speak about mismanagement by ministers and governors or to suggest ways for improvement.86 Despite this, Ghobar offers a staunch defense of the substance of the monarch's radical Westernization programs.

From 1929 to 2004, ten additional Loya Jergas were convened in Afghanistan. In October 1929, Mohammad Nader, after driving the forces of Habibullah Kalakani from Kabul with the material support of the British government of India, was declared king of Afghanistan. In September 1930, Nader decreed that a Loya Jerga be convened and presided over by his brother,Prime Minister Mohammad Hashem. The Jerga approved, by consensus, a new constitution and five other items on its agenda: regulations for creating a national assembly, regulations for provincial consultative councils, matters dealing with medals and titles, colors of the Afghan flag, and the request (by Mohammad Nader) for the confiscation of the properties of the previous king.87 Nader's constitution remained in force until 1964. Two Loya Jergas were held in the interim period.

In early 1931 Mohammad Nader instituted the Anjuman-e Adabi (Persian: literary society) which, in one form or another, became home to the core of the Afghan intellectual elite during much of the next fifty years, its influence spanning to the present. The Anjuman was under the supervision of the king's secretariat and housed in the northern tower of the royal palace in Kabul. Its basic aim was "to reform (improve) and promote the literature of the country and to adopt fine (humanistic) methods or methods from the humanities."88 The Anjuman-e Adabi, with thirteen charter members, published the influential monthly journal Kabul starting in June 1931. Most members of the society could translate from English, French, or Urdu. Many of the writings of the members of the Abjuman-e Adabi were published in Kabul, or as individual titles, translations of texts from foreign languages into Farsi. Mir Gholam Muhammad Ghobar was a charter member of the literary society. As one of the most prolific writers of Anjuman-e Adabi, Ghobar contributed numerous texts dealing with the history of Afghanistan to virtually every issue of Kabul during its first year. His 1943 publication Ahmad Shah Baba-ye Afghan (Persian: literally, Ahmad Shah, the Afghan Father or Ahmad Shah, the Father of Afghan) was his major work until his 1967 Afghanistan dar Masir-e Tarikh (Persian: Afghanistan in the Course of History). The latter book is probably the most widely circulated work published in Afghanistan.

Inspired by Antonio Gramsci's concept of hegemony, in discussing the texts produced by intellectuals of the Pacific Islands, Roger Keesing writes that there seems "a gulf between the authenticity of actual pre-colonial societies and cultures and the inauthenticity of the mythic pasts now being invented."89 As we will see below, in their representations of the past the Afghan intellectual elite provide a corollary to Keesing's observation. In the texts relevant to the Loya Jerga the Afghan intellectuals produced images of the past that were dramatically inconsistent with local historical accounts but similar to the distorted colonial representations of the Afghan past. These texts supported the rulers' claims to legitimacy and facilitated access to the hegemonic process of the Loya Jerga. Among the Afghan intellectual elite, as in the Pacific Islands, although intended as nationalistic and anti-colonial, the

    counter hegemonic discourse pervasively incorporates the structures, categories, and premises of (colonial) hegemonic discourse. In part this is because those who are dominated internalize the premises and categories of the dominant hellip in part, because it defines the semiology through which claims to power must be expressed."90 In other words, "the discourse of the dominant shapes and structures the discourse of the dominated.91

The Afghan intellectual elite employed by the government of Afghanistan wrote extensively in support of their employer, the Afghan monarchy, and its sources of legitimacy. The government was regularly depicted as Islamic, and the king, as the "shadow of God." The government's most important source of hegemonic and ideological domination, the Loya Jerga, was memorialized and promoted by the Afghan intellectuals as primordially Afghan. As noted earlier, the Afghan intellectual elite saw in the Loya Jerga a realistic hope for a constitutional monarchy and for their participation in the affairs of the state. Paralleling the emergence of the Loya Jerga, but especially after 1930, various texts appeared in Afghan government official publications about a legendary assembly in 1747 in which the alleged founder of the Afghan state Ahmad Khan Abdali was portrayed as having convened a Loya Jerga or large assembly composed of various Afghan groups in which he was, by consensus, "elected" and "crowned" king of Afghanistan. As mentioned earlier, Amir Amanullah had alluded to this in passing during the 1924 Loya Jerga. Ghobar is the first Afghan historian who attempted to establish a relationship between the Afghan monarchy and the Loya Jerga as the basis and context of its legitimacy, and the prominence of Sufi networks in the civil society and government of Afghanistan. He is the author of the first local contemporary work on Ahmad Khan Abdali.92 The book was awarded the "Second Order of Aryana" prize by the Afghan government and was translated into Russian in 1959 under the title "Ahmad Shah, the Founder of the Afghan State" and published in Moscow that year. This was the first work by a contemporary Afghan writer to be translated into a European language.

Chapter 16 (pages 82-90) of Ahmad Shah Baba-ye Afghan is titled "How Ahmad Shah Becomes King of Afghanistan." The following is a freely translated summary of relevant portions of Ghobar's text: After the death of Nader Shah Afshar in 1747, Ahmad Khan (one of his Afghan court attendants) had ideas about ruling Afghanistan and without further involvement in Persian affairs, he, together with his Afghan military contingent, headed for Qandahar. On arriving at Qandahar, he proposed to the Afghan leaders to select a king for Afghanistan. Since this was a "national" issue, the leaders agreed to convene an "important assembly." After a few days the "Afghan Jerga" was convened at the shrine of Sher-e Sorkh (Persian: Red Lion) and began the process of selecting a leader. The decision of the Jerga had to be unanimous. Ahmad Khan was the only person who was silent throughout the proceedings of the Jerga. In the ninth gathering, a member of the Jerga spoke about the good moral constitution and administrative abilities of Ahmad Khan and proposed that he deserved to be king. This advocate of Ahmad Khan was none other than Saber Shah Kabuli, the son of Master laikhwar (on the authority of Siyar al-Mutakherin, note 30 above). Since Saber Shah was a Sufi, he was respected by all leaders. Thus, Ahmad Khan was declared king of Afghanistan and the National Jerga of Sher-e Sorkh was adjourned after it accomplished an important historical task. Ahmad Khan left the Jerga as the king, wearing a gold-colored crown made of a cluster of wheat. This historic natural crown was placed on the corner of Ahmad Khan's hat by Saber Shah. Ghobar's text is accompanied by a colorful drawing by 'Abd al-Ghafur Breshna, a member of the royal lineage and a charter member of the Anjuman-e Adabi.

Figure 1.    "Coronation" of Ahmad Khan Abdali. Translation of captions at top: No. 6. Drawing by Breshna, the famous contemporary Afghan artist. Sher-e Sorkh: The cluster of wheat is being placed on Ahmad Shah's turban.

This version of the accession of Ahmad Khan to the kingship of Afghanistan was included in many government cultural productions including the history textbook written by M. Osman Sedqi for grade 12 of Afghan high schools.93 The Persian language textbook was first published in 1949 and was in use, at least through 1954, when I graduated from Ghazi High School. Sedqi was a member of Anjuman-e Tarikh (Persian: Historical Society), one of two successors to Anjuman-e Adabi. The other being Paxtu Tolana (Paxtu: Paxtu Society). The textbook presented the following account of Ahmad Khan's rise to power:

    After the assassination of Nader Shah, Ahmad Khan Afghan, who was one of his companions, arrived in Qandahar. There he organized a Jerga-ye Bozurg (Persian: Great Assembly) at Sher-e Sorkh for the purpose of electing a king. During the eight meetings of the assembly all Afghan leaders were promoting their own candidacy. Ahmad Khan was the only one who did not speak on his own behalf. Finally, a respected Sufi, Saber Shah Kabuli, proposed Ahmad Khan for the kingship. Ahmad Khan was unanimously chosen by the Jerga. Saber Shah Kabuli prepared a crown from a cluster of wheat and placed it on Ahmad Khan's head and addressed him as king. Ahmad Khan Afghan Durrani is the founder of the national government in Afghanistan.94

This representation of the Jerga and of Ahmad Khan's ascension to the kingship of Afghanistan was found not only in textbooks, but was also widely circulated in government-sponsored publications, including Aryana, Kabul, and Afghanistan - the three major serials produced by the government-and in topical books of history and literature.

Writing in 1957, 'Abd al-Rauf Baynawa, a prominent Paxtun member of the Paxtu Tolana and the Afghan intellectual elite, writes that "from ancient times onward, Afghans have had special assemblies called Jerga hellip [E]very Afghan considers it his obligation to act according to its decisions and they even consider this a national duty. Today the Afghan Jerga has the status of a legislative, judicial, and executive body."95

Ever since its invention in 1922, the Loya Jerga has been a fixture of political life in Afghanistan. Starting with the 1920s, every decade except the decade of the 1990s has seen the convening of at least one Loya Jerga. In 1941 the British government demanded that the German and Italian citizens working in Afghanistan for the Afghan government leave the country. A Loya Jerga was convened and, without discussion or debate, it approved the Afghan government's decision to expel the Germans and Italians.96 In November 1955 the Afghan government convened another Loya Jerga which approved the decision to support the independence of Paxtuns in Pakistan - the so called "Paxtunistan" issue. As in earlier cases, there was no meaningful discussion or debate of the issue. The government presented its case and received unanimous approval for its policies and decisions. In 1963 King Muhammad Zahir (r. 1933-1973) established a commission to draft a new constitution for Afghanistan. The commission included several members of the Afghan intellectual, business, and religious elites. The draft of the constitution was presented to a Loya Jerga in 1964 and was approved unanimously. Section 4, articles 78-84 of this constitution institutionalizes the Loya Jerga. It states that the Loya Jerga consists of the two houses of parliament (Wolusi Jerga and Meshrano Jerga) and the chairmen of the provincial "Jergas." The Loya Jerga was to be summoned by the king and, when in session, the president of the Wolusi Jerga would preside over it. If the king died or abdicated, his successor would be chosen by the Loya Jerga, "the government," and the justices of the Supreme Court. The decisions of the Loya Jerga were to be based on a majority vote. Sayid Qasem Reshtiya, a participating intellectual elite, provides a brief personal account of the proceedings of the constitutional commission and the 1964 Loya Jerga.97

The next Loya Jerga was convened in 1977 by Mohammad Daud, "President of the Republic of Afghanistan," to approve the draft of a new constitution. This constitution abolished the Elders Assembly of the previous governments and instituted the "Meli Jerga" (Paxtu: National Assembly) in place of the Peoples' Assembly of the 1964 constitution. Chapter 6, articles 65-74 of this constitution incorporates the Loya Jerga as "the supreme manifestation of the power and will of its people" to be composed of the Meli Jerga, members of the Central Council of Daud's political party, members of the government and the High Council of the Armed Forces, members of the Supreme Court, five to eight members from each province, and thirty members appointed by the President of the Republic. The president was to convene the Loya Jerga and be its presiding officer. Daud was removed from power in 1978 in a military operation organized by the Peoples Democratic Party of Afghanistan. In April 1985 the revolutionary government convened a Loya Jerga to offer new alternatives for pacifying wide-scale opposition to its earlier policies, much like what Amir Amanullah was attempting in 1924. In 1987 the government of President Najibullah convened a Loya Jerga for the purpose of approving a new constitution. Chapter 4, articles 66-70 of this constitution deal with the Loya Jerga. The assembly was to be convened and presided over by the president. In this articulation, the Loya Jerga consisted of members of the National Assembly; ten "people's deputies" from each province; the governors of provinces; the mayor of Kabul; the prime minister, deputy prime ministers, members of the Council of Ministers; the chief justice, deputy chief justices and judges of the Supreme Court; the attorney general and his deputies; chairman and members of the Constitution Council; a minimum of fifty persons from among prominent political, scientific, social, and spiritual figures to be appointed by the president on the basis of the recommendations of the secretariat of the National Front (party).

The 1987 constitution was amended in 1990. Chapter 4, articles 65-70 of the new constitution dealing with the Loya Jerga states that "[the] Loya Jerga is the highest manifestation of the will of the people of Afghanistan in accordance with the national historical traditions." The Loya Jerga included the president and vice presidents; members of the National Assembly; the prime minister, deputy prime ministers and members of the Council of Ministers; the chief justice and deputy chief justices; the attorney general; the chairman of the Constitution Council; the chairman of the Council of Provinces; from each province, equivalent to the member of their deputies to the Wolusi Jergas, "elected by the people"; a maximum of fifty persons from amongst the political, scientific, cultural, social, and religious figures to be appointed by the president. In both the 1987 and 1990 constitutions the Loya Jerga has the power to approve and amend the constitution, to elect the president and to accept his resignation, to consent to the declaration of war and armistice, and to adopt decisions on the most important questions regarding the destiny of the country.
Neocolonial production of Loya Jerga

When the United States and its supporters occupied Afghanistan, the emergency Loya Jerga which the exiled king and his courtiers had discussed with Barnett R. Rubin was used as the central device with which to legitimize the colonially-appointed government of Kabul. The internationalization of the 2002 and 2003-2004 Loya Jergas made this hegemonic assembly transparent and open to critical scrutiny by outsiders. For the first time in its history this tool of deception was exposed for what it really is - a consent-producing machinery constructed out of colonial misrepresentations unrelated to the Paxtuns, Afghan tribes, or tribalism, and independent of the wishes and aspirations of the people of Afghanistan. Like its predecessors, the affair in the German tent was nothing but a charade cleverly staged by the American-controlled bourgeois government of Kabul. No scholarly writings about these Loya Jergas have yet appeared and no reliable information is available about the names and identities of the participants. These realities are accurately captured in the following sample of titles from the media reports and the Internet. "Nothing Good Ever Came of the Loya Jergas";98 "Loya Jirga Disaster: Stifled in the Loya Jirga";99 "Nothing Left to Chance in Rigging the Loya Jirga";100 "US Casts a Shadow on Afghan Assembly";101 "Loya Jirga Could Become a Sham";102 "Afghanistan's Loya Jirga: A Cynical Exercise in Neo-Colonialism";103 "The Loya Jirga: Transcending the Past With a 'Pseudotradition'."104 But those who wield power in Kabul and their Afghan intellectual collaborators have either succumbed to the local ideology of this hegemonic device or, more likely, have chosen to implement the colonial project without due consideration of legitimate means and the prospects of dire consequences for associative life in Afghanistan.

The "Bonn Agreement" called for the convening of a "Loya Jerga-ye Ezterari" (Persian: Emergency Loya Jerga) to be held in June 2002 in Kabul to approve the colonially-appointed government of Kabul and to consider other issues placed before it. The European and American occupying military forces (with the facilitation of the United Nations) persuaded the for
108  General / Tajik History, Culture and Civilization / Massoud's 1989 kingdom within Afghanistan on: April 26, 2008, 11:21:13 PM
109  General / General Discussion / Thoughts on Afghanistan's Loya Jirga: A Myth? on: April 26, 2008, 05:10:54 PM
Thoughts on Afghanistan's Loya Jirga: A Myth?
Benjamin Buchholz

1 Introduction

"The Loya Jirga: Pain Therapy for Our Nation". This headline used by the daily
newspaper Arman-i Milli (25 June 2002, p. 2, my translation) captioned an article on
the loya jirga's role in Afghan history a few days after the 2002 loya jirga, or Grand
Council, was held. Twelve years previously, captioning a similar article on the eve
of the 1990 loya jirga, the newspaper Anis had written: "The Loya Jirga: Emergency
Exit from the Fire of War for People and Homeland" (16 May 1990, p. 1, my translation).
These are both rather striking headlines, but they nevertheless stand for a
belief still widely held in Afghanistan today. Even a casual review of Afghan newspapers
of the past forty years, like Anis, Islah and the Kabul Times, reveals that a
similar rhetoric has been repeatedly used in the historical setting of most loya jirgas.
Recent interviews with politicians and academics show that the above-mentioned
messages have also reached their addressees.
Today, however, the institution has lost much of its supposed glamour of former
days. Under certain circumstances, the constitutional institution of the loya jirga –
the "highest manifestation of the will of the Afghan people" – brings together the
meshrano jirga (Upper House) and the wolusi jirga (Lower House), the heads of the
provincial and the district councils, the Cabinet and the members of the High Court
(see the Constitution of Afghanistan, 2004, Chapter 2, Articles 110-115). What's
more, its effectiveness as a political tool has also been questioned. In a distinguished
historical survey, Christine Noelle-Karimi (2002) critically analyses its political role
in 20th century Afghanistan. She argues that the loya jirga is a relatively young
phenomenon, installed by the young centralised Afghan state at the beginning of the
20th century in order to bridge the "gap between state and tribe, between periphery
and centre" (Noelle-Karimi 2002, p. 48). This scholar also points out that the loya
jirga was primarily an instrument for investing Afghan governments with legitimacy,
and that it has been efficient in times of political stability but not in times of
crisis: "Historically, the loya jirga has shown itself to be a useful tool in the hands of
well-established rulers, no more, no less" (Noelle-Karimi 2002, p. 48).
This draws attention to a discrepancy between the imagined role of the loya jirga as
a resort in times of political crisis, which has been propagated by the Afghan state,
and its de facto role as a constitutional and political instrument. It is precisely this
discrepancy which gives rise to the questions of whether the loya jirga has a mythical
character besides its actual political function and what its political surplus might
be. When following up this question, there is a great temptation to compare the standard
representation of the loya jirga's history as found in Afghan research literature,
in the media and in public opinion with the alleged reality in order to show that the
loya jirga is not a "panacea" (Noelle-Karimi 2002, p. 47).1 Admittedly, if one was to
regard it predominantly from the perspective of constitutional law or from a historical
or a pragmatic perspective, the institution would lose a lot of its 'healing power'
and its effectiveness would be questioned. But if one considers the loya jirga in
terms of a political myth, then a number of new avenues of inquiry are opened that
enable a new approach to its political role in 20th century Afghanistan to be taken.
Pursuing the questions of whether the loya jirga is a political myth and what its
socio-political impact might be, this article aims at presenting some thoughts on the
mythologisation of the loya jirga in Afghan society. It is based on material collected
during a field trip to Kabul from September to November 2006.2 In order to
contextualise this material, I will analyse the loya jirga against the background of
recent theories on myths. In doing so, the approach will be problem-centred: I will
neither modify existing myth theories nor develop my own myth model. Rather, I
intend to compare the main aspects of political myths, e.g. long-standing historical
continuity and the connection to the founding myths, their role in political crises and
their identity-building function, with characteristics of the loya jirga according to
Afghan research literature, the media and public opinion in order to emphasise the
mythical character of the loya jirga. Taking the fact into consideration that most
modern myths have a heterogeneous character, I will also point out that the discourse
on the loya jirga has never been homogeneous and that it has changed over
recent decades and under the influence of different national ideologies.

2 Theoretical framework and source material

"Mythicality arises from the intricate, highly variable relationship between claims to
validity, discursive ideological marking, and reception of the account by a particular
audience in a particular historical context" (Flood, 1996, p. 7).3 Apart from being an
essential analysis of political myth, Flood's theory is particularly interesting insofar
as it allows us to identify and analyse the loya jirga as a myth in order to get access
to its political and historical impact, yet without having to dismantle it. Consequently,
this article will not treat political myths merely as false assertions. Rather, it
regards them as a form of public discourse that might be seen as a mirror reflecting
different ideological positions (see Flood, 1996, p. 13). While examining how to
interpret or analyse the depiction of historical events within public discourse, the
article will not challenge their historical authenticity. Instead, the problem of how
political and historical events are defined in discourse and how meaning is ascribed
to them will be expounded (see also Flood, 1996, pp. 8-9).
If one recalls that the loya jirga is a national institution and that its myth – as I shall
attempt to show – might serve as an instrument for building a national identity, then
Herfried Münkler's thinking ought to be taken into account here. In a relatively short
but intriguing article that reflects on a pre-theory of political myth, he refers to the
role of myths in the process of identity-building. In this context, he argues: "It is
remarkable that almost all political communities [Gemeinwesen] have kept on relying
on myths for the purpose of (their) self-representation […]. Generally, it is a
matter of investing the community that relies on [myths] with meaning and identity
through them" (Münkler 1994, p. 21; my translation). Likewise, his view on the
mythologisation of historical events, and particularly that of the founding events of
communities, is particularly important in the historical context of the loya jirga.4
Following Münkler's line of thought, such events that are handed down through
political myths are more than just ordinary historical events in time. These myths
create meaning by drawing on past events and connecting them with the present, and
even going beyond that with prospects for the future. Thus, those who conjure up a
past event through a political myth are able to provide a guarantor for the future
(Münkler, 1994, p. 21). In contrast, connecting a term with a meaningful historical
event invests it with additional legitimacy. Also, regarding the extent to which
myths are relevant in the process of building up political identity, Münkler states
that it "depends remarkably on the size, the condition and the actual history of the
communities that the addressees of political myths are to be persuaded to identify
themselves with" (Münkler, 1994, p. 23; my translation). His assumption that this is
particularly true for nations that have not completely succeeded in achieving state
unity gains specific relevance concerning the difficult nation-building process in
Afghanistan (see Münkler, 1994, p. 23).
This article acts on the assumption that intellectuals, politicians and scholars are
especially inclined to conjure up a sense of national identity through political myths
(see Münkler 1994, p. 25). In this context – and again following Flood – I neither
claim to know the intentions of those who tell myths nor do I intend to judge the
state of mind of those who appear to believe them (see Flood, 1996, p. 7).
With regard to the appropriate source material, one can refer to modern Afghan
historiography that either explicitly or implicitly deals with the history of the loya
jirga.5 This provides an insight into the current Afghan perspective on the loya jirga.
If one attempts to trace the origins of a political myth, this is a useful starting point.
Furthermore, the Western research literature on the loya jirga, which provides a
more objective view from outside Afghanistan, also needs to be taken into consideration
(e.g. Noelle-Karimi 2002, 2005).6
Another avenue of inquiry of similar importance is opened by reviewing selected
newspapers from the 20th century, especially those which express a point of view
close to the Afghan government's.7 In addition to further official documents like
government resolutions and minutes taken at loya jirgas, one should also take the
views of individuals into account since the addressees of a myth can also promote its
renaissance (see Flood, 2002, p. 7). This can be achieved by conducting interviews,
which have to try to capture the social, political and ethnic diversity of Afghan society.

3 The historical continuity of the loya jirga

Among other points, one characteristic of political myths is their close and longstanding
relation with the respective national history. They serve as a link between
different time horizons and derive prospects for the future from a shared past. This
way they establish continuity between the past and present (see Kirsch, 1998, p. 112
and Münkler, 1994, p. 21). It is precisely this aspect which takes on particular significance
in the analysis of Afghan historiography and interviews with Afghan politicians
or academics regarding the history of the loya jirga. According to them, and
according to general perceptions, the loya jirga is a century-old tradition, which
goes back to time immemorial: "Afghan Loya Jirga, called constituent assembly in
other countries, as a democratic institution has existed in our society for centuries to
consider the important national issues and will continue to do so in future" (Abdul-lah Mehraban, 1982b, p. 53). The verifiability of this historical continuity has been widely neglected, however. The fact that we do not know of any source which mentions the term "loya jirga" and dates back to before 1923 (cf. Aman-i Afghan, 12
March 1923, pp. 11-12) is normally disregarded.9
We can find major assemblies under the label of "loya jirga" at the important milestones
of Afghan history: during the liberation from Safavid rule in 1709; in 1747,
which is often considered the founding year of the Afghan nation; in 1964 when the
new constitution was adopted; and finally in the course of the so-called "Bonn Process".
10 Most Afghan interviewees who considered the loya jirga a national symbol
consequently connected its history to their own perception of the history of the Afghan
nation. In an interview, Sayyed Amin Mojahed11 once said the following about
the first national loya jirga, for instance: "A jirga becomes a loya jirga if it includes
representatives from all over Afghanistan. […] At that time [1709] there was a national
personality named Mir Wais who convoked the first historical loya jirga in
Kandahar attended by Pashtuns, Tajiks, Hazaras, Uzbeks, Chahar-Aimaq […] in
order to liberate the country from the Safavids" (personal interview in Kabul on 15
November 2006; my own translation).
While political systems and ideologies have come and gone, the loya jirga has been
considered an element of continuity in the political history of Afghanistan. Although
often dismissed as illegitimate, this myth was particularly fuelled by the governments
of Najibullah and Babrak Karmal; the newspaper Anis cleared the way for
these major political events with its propaganda weeks before the loya jirgas of
1985, 1987, 1989 and 1990 took place. It published comprehensive articles with
headlines such as "The Deep Historical Roots of Jirgas" (Anis, 16 August 1985, p. 3;
my translation), which aimed at putting the respective loya jirga in line with historical
assemblies of the past two and a half centuries. We can find this strategy of historical
embedding in earlier and later decades as well.

4 Providing political solutions through the loya jirga

One function of political myths is to simplify complex political circumstances (via
their instrumentalisation) and to offer supposedly simple solutions. This power of
the myth often becomes apparent in seemingly hopeless situations (see Küppers,
1993, p. 28). The citation at the beginning of this article, which represents the loya
jirga as a kind of domestic medicine that the Afghan nation has to swallow in order
to solve its problems, is a representative example. This very aspect is particularly
obvious in public discourse on the political role of the loya jirga. As has become
apparent in discussions with members of Afghan society ranging from publicists and
university lecturers to senators and members of the wolusi jirga, this discourse has
registered deeply with the Afghan public: "In times when the Afghan state is unable
to solve its problems by itself, it can fall back on the people and call for a loya
jirga", said Senator Safia Sadiqi in a personal interview with me in Kabul (20 November
2006). Consequently, it has adopted the character of an all-encompassing
truth, not that of a hypothesis which can be argued against; indeed, questioning the
efficiency of the institution itself or its historical foundations is often perceived as an
affront. In the public depiction and reception, the loya jirga is often considered to be
the one genuine Afghan way of resolving the country's problems:
The Loya Jirga is a great national tradition of our country and has roots in the history
of our ancient land. People or governments have referred to a Loya Jirga whenever
they were faced with problems. This national tradition does not belong to any one tribe
or region of the country. It belongs to our brave nation as a whole (Amin Kharoti,
lecturer at the Faculty of Law and Political Sciences, in an interview with the newspaper
Kabul Weekly, 6 June 2002, p. 2).

What's more, it has mostly appeared in Afghan historiography at times when the
preservation of the Afghan state was at stake. This might be one reason why the
Afghan constitution provides for the loya jirga in the event of national emergencies
(see the Constitution of Afghanistan, 2004, Chapter 2, Articles 110-115).
In addition to its historical embeddedness, the loya jirga's imagined cultural link to
tribal traditions also plays a decisive role. As a national variant of the local jirga, it
carries the tribal culture into the apparatus of the state. According to widespread
opinion, it is also able to deploy its power as a local problem-solving mechanism on
a national level.12 Summarising this popular perception, Ali Wardak states:
This, in turn, is expected to lead gradually to the creation of a culture of tolerance, accommodation
and of the rule of law – a culture that the loya jirga as an institution is
able to provide; it is a culture with which the practitioners of the centuries-old institutions
of maraka and qawmi jirga are not unfamiliar (Wardak, 2002, p. 101).
But shouldn't the loya jirga be considered separately from its local equivalent because
of its development in the 20th century and particularly its formalisation in the
1964 constitution? Doesn't it have very little in common with the tribal jirga since
its assimilation by the state apparatus? This process of disengagement from its cultural
roots has not been accomplished yet in the historical and political consciousness
of the majority of the Afghan and especially the Pashtun population. Thus,
most Afghan governments were able to avail themselves of its myth and to develop
it further, in particular as a last resort in times of severe political crisis – cf. Najibullah
at the 1990 loya jirga: "The present Loya Jirgah held at a crucial moment
will go down in the history of our beloved homeland. Let this Loya Jirga be identified
with the notions of National Reconciliation, national unity and peace and tranquillity
in Afghanistan" (Loya Jirgah: documents, 1990, p. 31). The convocation of a
loya jirga did not only appear to be attractive for inner-Afghan parties either. During
the 1980s and 1990s, for example, such steps were also proposed by the exiled king
and exiles affiliated to him, as well as by Western experts on Afghanistan and the
UN, as a political option to solve the dilemma of civil war (see Rubin, 1995, p. 195).

5 The loya jirga as a symbol of integration and identity

Regarding the loya jirga, the integrative, mobilising and identity-creating functions
of political myths (see e.g. Münkler, 1988, pp. 66-7 and Münkler, 1994) seem to be
particularly important. This is certainly also due to its assumed historical and cultural
depth, which assists its depiction as a representative assembly of the Afghan
people. This depth makes it almost impossible to question the institution without
concurrently casting doubt on the foundations of the Afghan nation. In particular, its
conjunction with the founding myth of the Afghan nation, the coronation of Ahmad
Shah Durrani in 1747, gives it a semblance of legitimacy. Although there is no historical
evidence for the use of the term loya jirga or jirga for grand Afghan assemblies
before 1923, Afghan historians still try to project the term into the past. Referring
to this, Noelle-Karimi mentions that the
[…] terminology employed in this context is also of interest. While the modern Afghan
authors consistently use the word jirga for the tribal assembly of 1747, it is
called majlis-i mushawirat, a consultative meeting, in the Tarrikh-i sultani. [...] Another
term used for the meeting of 1747 is diwan-i ahmadshahi, which would also imply
the creation of a consultative assembly (Noelle-Karimi, 2002, p. 40).
By taking recourse to this founding myth, the loya jirga symbolises the unification
of the Afghan people and becomes an allegory for the nation's unity. According to
widespread public opinion, the loya jirga will be able to ensure this unity in the
future, just as it established it in the past. It therefore symbolises the common identity
of the Afghan people, which is so often questioned, and represents the will of
the people in its entirety.

Furthermore, the loya jirga not only brings the peoples of Afghanistan together, but
it also acts as a link between the state and society. If the state is unable to resolve
political or social problems, it can fall back on the concept of the loya jirga in order
to manufacture the semblance of a nationwide consensus. Thus it becomes a representative
platform of national will in a horizontal as well as in a vertical line.
Habibullah Rafi', a member of the Academy of Sciences in Kabul, once said in an
interview that despite its modern embodiment the loya jirga still had a traditional
function. Using a classic image of the local jirga, he explained its function as "a
place where the representatives of the people sit together with the representatives of
the state and make decisions on several issues" (personal interview with Habibullah

Rafi' in Kabul, 30 September 2006; my translation). The answer to the question of
how it can develop this integrative power, for instance through a representative
composition of the assembly, has certainly varied throughout its history. While its
achievement of unifying all the social classes was eulogised during the 1985 loya
jirga, the democratic aspect was emphasised during the emergency loya jirga held in
2002. And while the loya jirgas under Amanullah Khan symbolise the attempt to
integrate the tribal authorities in the decision-making process of the young Afghan
central state, the 1964 loya jirga stands for a democratic approach which involves
the people in the political decision-making process. Thus, what has been understood
by representation within different political currents over the last few decades of
Afghan history can be determined by regarding the composition and the rhetorical
accompaniment of each loya jirga since the 1920s. The loya jirgas staged in exile in
Quetta and Peshawar are no exception to this.

6 Heterogeneity of the loya jirga concept

Afghan interviewees have often distinguished between legitimate and illegitimate
loya jirgas. So it may seem obvious to look for a prototype of the loya jirga in order
to address the question of other loya jirgas' authenticity. However, this search is
bound to fail, considering that the so-called "new myths" – and here the loya jirga in
its recent form is seen as such – mostly have a heterogeneous character. They are no
longer supported by a universal society, but articulate themselves mostly within
social, political and ethnic groups (see Hoffmann 2002, p. 172). Although one might
point out the process of mythologisation of a term, phenomenon or event, this does
not explain the form or the role of its myth in different parts of a society. Consequently,
the superficial homogeneity of the loya jirga concept actually proves to be
very heterogeneous. The loya jirga concept, and in particular the associations to
which it gives rise, offers room for interpretation; everybody can discover their own
political visions in it as soon as they adapt the idea to their own ideological criteria.
Today, the loya jirgas under Amanullah, Zaher Shah or Najibullah may be remembered
in a positive way, depending on the respective political viewpoint. However,
the emphasis on certain loya jirgas leads to others being neglected; in the eyes of
those who perceive the 1981 loya jirga held in exile in Quetta as a milestone of
Afghan resistance, a legitimate loya jirga did not take place under Babrak Karmal or
Najibullah. During an interview, Mohammad Omar Barakzay13 fully negated the
legitimacy of the loya jirgas during the 1980s, for instance. In a comprehensive
historical portrayal of the loya jirga, he completely omitted these as if they had
never taken place at all (personal interview in Kabul, 28 November 2006). In a
similar manner, Nasrollah Stanikzay, a lecturer at the Faculty of Law at Kabul University,
divided the loya jirgas of the 20th century into three categories: "the 'real' loya jirgas before the communist era, the 'fake' loya jirgas during the communist era and a 'mixed form' after Bonn" (personal interview in Kabul, 22 November 2006;my translation). Naturally, exponents of other ideologies see this differently. Abdullah
Mehraban, who considers the Founding Congress of the National Fatherland
Front in 1981 to be a loya jirga as well, said: "Loya Jirgah in Afghanistan has always
been convened during the period of a crisis" and later on he added: "The
meeting of the Founding Congress of the National Fatherland Front as a Great National
Jirgah is a historic event of high significance in the contemporary history of
Afghanistan" (Mihraban, 1982b, pp. 53 and 55). The rich diversity of the institution
also becomes obvious through the analysis of some of the attributes assigned to it.
Sometimes it was depicted as democratic and sometimes as Islamic. It was mostly
considered historic or curative, but it was always Afghan, unifying and national. At
the same time, it is sometimes qualified as superfluous or as an instrument of hegemony
(see Hanifi 2004).

Kazem Ahang, a lecturer at the University of Kabul, advanced his opinion on this in
one of my interviews. He said that there was no true or untrue loya jirga and that it
is just a concept. Everything bearing the label loya jirga has to be accepted as such.
He went on to say that if one loya jirga is defamed as a 'fake' loya jirga, as happened
in a famous Afghan book concerning the loya jirgas in the 1980s [see Fayz-zad,
1989], then all loya jirgas have to be called 'fake'. After all, all governments have
used this label, subordinated it under their ideologies, and adapted it to these. In the
light of this, he added, wouldn't the emergency loya jirga be a fake loya jirga as
well? (personal interview with Kazem Ahang in Kabul, 28 November 2006).

7 Conclusion

Recalling the recurring medical metaphors in public discourse on the political role of
the loya jirga (e.g. "pain therapy", "no panacea") and following this imagery, one
can certainly not consider it as a remedy in terms of scientific medicine. Perhaps one
should rather view it as a kind of alternative medicine. This becomes more obvious
if one regards the differentiation between evidence-based and belief-based medicine.
As a political institution, the loya jirga clearly has some weaknesses and the loya
jirgas of the past could be criticised with respect to their composition or decisionmaking
processes. Nevertheless, it is a fact that the loya jirga is a common thread
which runs through the entire modern history of Afghanistan, be it in written or oral
records. Therefore, neither the institution itself nor its actual embodiments really
matter. In fact, it is its myth or rather the label "loya jirga" which makes it a meaningful
instrument of Afghan politics. The prevalent belief in its deep-rootedness in
Afghan culture and history as well as the mutability of the myth give power to the
instrument and to those who adopt it. Where modern institutions may be rejected,
the loya jirga has the advantage of not just being assessed in terms of the decisions it
makes, but also of being backed by a general faith in the institution itself. This was also one of the reasons for the UN's search for an equivalent of the Afghan loya
jirga, which would have the potential to establish a consensus across all parts of
society in the course of the reorganisation of the Iraqi state after the US-led intervention
(personal interview with Eckard Schiewek (UNAMA) in Kabul, 13 November

The term 'myth' is often considered to be a pejorative word. But if we refer again to
Herfried Münkler, who argues that myths are an indispensable element of political
integration and that no state can exist without at least one myth, then the positive
aspects or even the necessity of a mythologisation of the loya jirga become obvious
(Münkler, 1988, pp. 66-7). Developing this proposition further, one can say that
myths might promote the specific identity of a nation and that the loya jirga is one
of those myths which might be able to create a national identity in Afghanistan.


1 The first use of this medical metaphor in the context of the loya jirga can be found in Noelle-Karimi
(2002, p. 47): "For all its positive connotations, it is no panacea for the social and political evils that
have befallen the country in recent years". My article is going to enhance this metaphor.
2 This material can be divided into three categories: secondary Afghan literature, interviews, and
primary sources such as Afghan print media, official publications from loya jirgas, etc.
3 In addition to Flood, this article also refers to publications on political myth by such researchers as
Peter Tepe (2006), Johannes Hoffmann (2002), Jan-Holger Kirsch (1996) and Markus Küppers
(1993). In a broader sense, it also refers to the thoughts of Ernst Cassirer (see Cassirer, 2002), who
made a "pioneering contribution to the study of political myth" (Flood, 1996, p. 257).
4 This is important if one considers that the loya jirga is often linked with the 'founding myth' of the
Afghan nation, viz. the coronation of Ahmad Shah Durrani in 1747.
5 There is a wide range of literature regarding the loya jirga one could refer to. See, for example, Fayzzad
(1989); Mihraban (1982); Mujahid (2002); and Ghubar (1999).
6 In addition, an article by Hanifi (2004) should be mentioned here, and a comprehensive compilation
of material on loya jirgas can be found in Yunas (1997). Furthermore, a wide range of articles have
been written by Afghan authors in Western languages. Cf. Reshtia (1988) and Wardak (2002), for instance.
7 The newspapers Anis, Islah and the Kabul Times should particularly be taken into account. Since
Afghan print media are not easy to obtain in Germany, the comprehensive archives of the Public Library
and the Academy of Sciences in Kabul lend themselves to this purpose.
8 The author was able to conduct about 25 interviews on the history and political role of the loya jirga
in Afghanistan in autumn 2006.

9 Noelle-Karimi mentions that "the first loya jirga took place in 1915" (2002, p. 42), but since she does
not state any historical evidence for the use of the label in 1915, I personally consider Amanullah's
1923 loya jirga as the first case in which the term was used.
10 In his famous book on the history of the loya jirga, Mihraban mentions 13 assemblies labled as 'loya
jirga' from 1709 until 1981 (see Mihraban 1982, p. 1).
11 Sayyed Amin Mojahed is the author of the book "Negahi be loya jirga-i iztirari" [A Look at Emergency
Loya Jirga] and was a member of the Special Independent Commission for the Convening of
the Emergency Loya Jirga.
12 In this context, see also the historical analysis of the jirga by Noelle-Karimi (2005, p. 193).

13 He played a decisive role in the convocation of the loya jirga in exile in Quetta and is now a judge at
the High Court.

14 Regarding the constitution-making process in Iraq, see also Benomar (2004).


Loya jirga-i 'umumi dar Jalalabad. (1923, March 16). Aman-i Afghan, pp. 11-12
Loya jirga: Rah-i nijat-i mardum wa watan az atish-i jang. (1990, May 16). Anis, p. 1
Loya jirga: Darman-i dardha-i millat-i ma. (2002, June 25). Arman-i Milli, p. 2
Rishiha-i 'amiq-i tarikhi-i jirgaha. (1985, August 16). Anis, p. 3
People talk about Loya Jirga… (2002, June 6). Kabul Weekly, p. 2
Benomar, Jamal (2004). Constitution-Making after Conflict: Lessons for Iraq. Journal for Democracy 15,
2, pp. 81-95
Cassirer, Ernst (2002). Vom Mythos des Staates. Hamburg: Meiner
Fayz-zad, Muhammad 'Alam (1989). Jirgaha-i buzurg-i milli-i Afghanistan (luya jirga) wa jirgaha-i
namnihad taht-i tasallut-i komunistha wa rusha. Peshawar: Babrak Ludi
Flood, Christopher G. (1996). Political Myth: A Theoretical Introduction. New York: Routledge
Ghubar, Mir Ghulam Muhammad (1981). Afghanistan dar masir-i tarikh. Qom: Payam-i Muhajir
Hanifi, M. Jamil (2004). Colonial Production of Hegemony through the 'Loya Jerga' in Afghanistan.
Iranian Studies 37, pp. 295-322

Hoffmann, Johannes (2002). Mythen der Nationen: Regionale Traditionen - Hemmnisse auf dem Weg
nach Europa? Mythologica 8, pp. 167-90
Kirsch, Jan-Holger (1998). Mythos, Geschichte und Geschichtswissenschaft. Mythologica 6, pp. 108-27
Küppers, Markus (1993). Politik und Mythos. Das Beispiel Heinrich Heine. Mythologica 1, pp. 19-60
Mihraban, 'Abdullah (1982a). Tarkh-i jirgaha-i milli dar Afghanistan, Kabul: Jabhah-i Milli-i Pidar-i
Wat?an-i Jumhuri-i Dimukratik-i Afghanistan
Mihraban, 'Abdullah (1982b). National Jirgahs (Assemblies) and Their Role in the Socio-Political Life of
the People of Afghanistan (translated from Dari by Abdul Samad Bakhshi). Afghanistan Quarterly 2,
pp. 50-8
Mujahid, Amin (2002). Nigahi be luya jirga-i iztirari, Kabul: Kumisyun-i Mustaqil-i Huquq-i Bashar-i
Münkler, Herfried and Wolfgang Storch (1988). Siegfrieden. Politik mit einem deutschen Mythos, Berlin:
Rotbuch Verlag
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politischer Mythen. In: Frindte, Wolfgang, Harald Pätzold (eds.), Mythen der Deutschen. Deutsche
Befindlichkeiten zwischen Geschichten und Geschichte (pp. 21-7). Opladen: Leske und Budrich
Najibullah, H.E. (1990). Main Statement delivered by M.E. Najibullah. In: [s.n.] Loya Jirgah: 1990
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In: Noelle-Karimi, Christine, Conrad Schetter and Reinhard Schlangenweit (eds.), Afghanistan – A
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110  General / General Discussion / Economic war against Tajiks on: April 26, 2008, 02:33:02 PM
Dear all,

The price of food has sky rocketed within Kabul - here a huge population of Tajiks reside - and there are indications that the government is deliberately keeping the prices high - by preventing lorries at the borders to travel to Kabul.

They also have control over how much money is to be printed - and thus can through inflation steal the wealth of people.

There are even indications that the government is deliberately pursuing policies that cause the social break down of families by creating huge gap in the distribution of wealth and thus increasing the chances of people resorting to desperate measures - like selling their children.

I know that there has been a general increase in the price of commodities around the world - but it has presented a good opportunity for our enemies os to do us harm.

The Afghan Mellat crew are trying to get people to blame their enemies for hike in prices - through their favourite HAZARA - RAMAZAN BASHARDOST and term like the MAFIA and so on.

It makes vicious sense - starve the Tajik populations and make them desperate and then blame it on the Tajik enemies of Afghan Mellat.

We need to be aware of these tactics and alert.  

Can we dedicate this thread to all instances of the use of economic tools by the Afghan Mellat controlled state against our population.

Thank you.
111  General / General Discussion / Khurasan and Pukhtunkhwa? on: April 25, 2008, 11:02:05 PM
Dear all,

What are your opinions regarding the Pushtun question and how to best deal with them and their vast potential for being used as the running dogs of our enemies?

My opinion is that an entity needs to be formed with the distinct name of Pashtun within it in order to deflect some of the arguments they have for a lack of a territory that is recognized as their solely in terms of culture and territory.

There is a potentially great development in Pakistan - that of the renaming of the NWFP province to Pukhtunkhwa - something I feel will be great in giving them a sense of control over their destinies and that they would then feel less inclined or such wild fantasies as LOY AFGHANISTAN. They should concentrate on improving the lot of their own children whom are daily raped - brainwashed - used as canon fodder and whom are forever trapped in the inhumane tribal culture. This territory should be the only place for Pushtun nationalism.

One of Afghan Millats most fundamental arguments is that "the character of Afghanistan should be Afghan, just as the character of Tajikistan is Tajik or the Uzbek identity of Uzbekistan" - an the establishment of a Pukhtunistan next door to us would thus eliminate this basic argument.

Within our own territory of Khurasan (all of current Afghanistan, maybe with some fringe territories designated special tribal zones) all traces of Pushtun nationalism should be removed from the state - with the just argument of recognizing the true PERSIAN SEDENTARY identity of that land and its historical KHURASAN name. Pushtuns within Khurasan should be expected to abandon their tribalism and nationalism for the Khurasani identity - just like all other ethnics within Khurasan. They can continue to use thei own languages in their own villages - but at state level - only the Khurasani identity ought to be promoted.

The Pashtu language should be recognized and acknowledged as an Aryaye language like Persian - but their Mongolic tribalism always opposed within Khurasan.

So what do you think?

By the way,

I came across a site made by Pushtuns about LOYAFGHANISTAN - you know their recently invented story of a Pushtun empire including all of Afghanistan and the all lands of Pakistan upto the Indus.

It struck me because it was the first place where I saw a synthesis of the Aryan and Jewish origins of them and even a justification from the Quran for their Pushtunisation of Afghanistan and the establishment of LOY AFGHANISTAN.

I thought to myself 'to what lengths will these poor people go to make up an origin for themselves and justify their criminality?'

It is a really good laugh - so have a look:

Some Misunderstandings in History:

When abraham revolted against nimrod and broke all idols, the assyrian king ordered to throw abraham in fire. The fire did not burn Abraham at all.Abraham was known for his knowledge of astrology and stars. Hence some of his fellow Hebrews couldn't understand the unvisible God of Abraham but using logic they certainly developed faith in secrets of fire and stars both related to Abraham.the idea of worshipping fire and stars started developing and turned into a sect and later in a relgion by zoaraster(zar tasht-golden takht or may be aur tasht-meaning escaped from fire(Abraham, aur-fire, tashedal-to escape).The interesting thing is that they did not worship idols but added fire and star componet to abrahimian monotheism.
Time goes on, Isaac , Jacob and joseph come into picture, there is link between Egypt and khurasan.Encyclopedias mention that afghan hound was known in Egypt 4000 years B.C.
Again times passes and Imran(father of Moses,) Aaron(brother of Moses) and Maryam (mother of Moses) come into picture.We know the story of crossing river and Moses going to Kohi tore and receiving commandments.Some followers make golden calf(cow) and the res of the story is written in quran and torah.The others follow Aaron alaisalam. The philosophy of Egyptian beliefs is added to zoarastrian religion. The belief of cow being sacred is added to this religion. This philosophy is exported to India by brahmans(Abrahamans-hebrews).They don't give up worshiping idols but cow and fire becomes a key component of their beliefs.Till today in their marriages bride and groom circle around fire for blessings.
In khurasan Hebrews come up with a new name Aryan.Remember Aryans has nothing common with Romans,Greek,Kushans,Parthians,white Huns,Mongols except fair complexion. Aryan is a pure Hebrew word, Ar being a Hebrew prefix( Ar-ab,arab),(As-ya,asia), (Ar-ron), (Am-ran-imran,)(Ab-raham), (Af-roim), (Af-ghan),(Al-ban),(Hebron). In torah-words Aran,Ard,Er,Uri,Arodi,Ariel,Aram,Amram,Arnon, Ara, Arah,Areor are mentioned. Also Ibran, Imran and names Ir-an, Ir-aq. Am-man, Ya-men, Yar-dan. This is all Hebrew terminology.
In pashtu suffix yan is used as plural or adjective.(russ-russyan, Punjabi-punjabyan, etc).The people who were the righteous ,who listened to Aaron in absence of Moses and did everything the proper way told by Aaron were called Aaronyan-Aryan.
The new version of ibrahimian religion spreaded and left less room for zoarasterism.Many Hebrews converted back to new version of Aarons and Moses monotheism .Many Egyptians moved to these regions after what happened in Egypt to pharaoh.Also skills and knowledge was trasfered and I am pretty sure the word farsi is from pharesees name(firon).Hewbrew mixed with Egyptian and Assyrian gave birth to farsi, arabi , pashtu and Turkish.. The only languages on earth written from right to left ,Hebrew being the parent language.
(More to come)

Current situation and Quran.

(Their Prophet said unto them: Lo! Allah hath raised up Saul to be king for you. They said: How can he have kingdom over us when we are more deserving of the kingdom than he is, since he hath not been given wealth enough? He said: Lo! Allah hath chosen him above you, and hath increased him abundantly in wisdom and stature. Allah bestoweth His soverienghty on whom He will. Allah is All-Embracing, All Knowing.S2-A247).

This Ayat explains many things.King Saul is in pashto actually Shah awal-the first king, we see many names among pashtuns for saul-shah wali,sayal-equal to others etc. This word STATURE- explains why pashtuns are very handsome,tall, goodlooking, strong, rough tough and sturdy.Also hazrat yousaf being the most hand some man and no wonder yousafzais are famous for this in pakistan. You would clearly see this in karachi - a pashtun walking down the street can be recognised rightaway from other local peoples or even in kabul as compared to tajiks who are relatively short with small stature. The word WISDOM explains what I have explained above that if pashtuns are educated properly we will see worldclass personalities among them such as indian film heroes, squash and cricket players or nuclear scientists.This ayat explains why tajiks and punjabis do every thing to keep them away from power and call them bad names such as besawad, jahil etc. Northern alliance has done everything to seize power from pashtuns considering them inferior, ignorant and unwealthy and same is true for punjabi atrocities against pashtuns in pakistan.This ayat is so true and I am sorry my Tajik and punjabi brothers I cant change Gods decision. Its ALLAH who has chosen pashtuns as His beloved people despite being relatively unwealthy. Its our religious duty to do every thing to keep Afghanistan in hands of pashtuns and liberate pashtun areas from punjabis n pakistan.

The children of Saul should rule pashtunkhwa and no body else.

Pashtana da ALLAHPAK niazbin khalaq dae.

Ya ba da benang malk bagh-e-adan kram , ya ba kram da pakhtanoo kusae ujaray- Ghani khan.


Zangal pa azmaroo khwand kaweena -da ghroona pa meranoo khwand kaweena

pashtun dalta paida, dalta loye shevay-dalta zhwand kaweena

Zaka Afghanistan pa pakhtanoo khwand kaweena


Looking at the above it almost makes want to feel sorry for how pathetic their mentalities are that they can rationalize such conjured tales to themselves. It is a clear sign of an inferiority complex. Then again maybe it is not them - but some other people whom want to use the normal Pushtun for their own goals.
112  General / General Discussion / Khorasan's Future Government on: February 14, 2008, 03:36:44 PM
Why cant we see the existing posts that have been made on this topic? Or is it that there are no posts in this thread?
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