A Loya Jirga (Pashto: لويه جرګه, Persian: جرگه بزرگ) is a "grand assembly," a phrase taken from the name of large meetings held among certain Central Asian peoples, such as in Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Mongolia. In Afghanistan, the loya jirga was originally attended only by Pashtun groups, but later included other ethnic groups.
The words loya (great/grand) and jirga ("council", "assembly", "dispute" or "meeting") are of Turco-Mongolian origin and originally it means in the Mongolian and Turkic language "great tent" (jirga meaning tent).
Such meetings originate from the Altaïc cultures from the Mongolian Empire. In a Loya Jirga in the year 1206, the Mongolian tribal leaders proclaimed the warrior Timujin their new leader, giving him the name Ghengis Khan (universal ruler).
In the Afghan (Pashtun) society the Loya Jirga is still maintained and very strongly practiced, mostly in front of tribal chiefs or with them to solve internal and external tribal problems or disputes with other tribes. The Pashtun tribe of the Zadrans were originally a Mongolian tribe that became Islamized and with it Pashtunized. Today they are Pashtunized descends of the Mongolian tribe Zadran that became lost in Central Asia. Some other non-Iranic tribes are the Ghilzais and the Zazais who are descends of the Turco-Mongolian Khaljis and the Jajis. The Zadrans and the Zazais are still known by non-Pashtuns as Jajis and Jadran, in Afghanistan.
When the Afghans took the power they tried to legitimize their power with such a Jirga. While in the beginning only Pashtuns were allowed to participate in the Jirgas, later other ethnic groups like Tajiks and Hazaras were allowed to participate as well, however they were little more than observers. The member of the Jirgas were mostly members of the Royal Family, religious leaders and tribal chiefs of the Afghans. King Amanullah Khan institutionalized the Jirga. From Amanullah until the reign of Mohammed Zahir Shah (1933-1973) and Mohammed Daoud Khan (1973-1978) the Jirga was recognized as a common meeting of regional Pashtun leaders.
The meetings do not have scheduled occurrences, but rather are called for when issues or disputes arise.
There is no time limit for a Loya Jirga to conclude, and the meetings often take a long time because decisions can only be made as a group and arguments can drag out for days. Many different problems are addressed, like foreign policy, declarations of war, the legitimacy of leaders, and the introduction of new ideas and laws.
Loya Jirgas in the history of Afghanistan
- 1747 -- at Kandahar, attended by Pashtun representatives who appointed Ahmad Shah Durrani as their new leader.
- 1793 -- calling up of Timur Shah Durrani, the son of Ahmad Shah Durrani, who wanted to transfer the capital of the Durrani Empire from Kandahar to Kabul
- 1880 -- called by Abdur Rahman Khan
- September 1928 -- at Paghman, called by King Amanullah: the third Loya jirga of his reign (1919-1929) to discuss reforms.
- September 1930 -- a meeting of 286 called by Mohammed Nadir Shah to confirm his accession to the throne.
- 1941 -- called by Mohammed Zahir Shah, to approve neutrality in World War II.
- 1947 -- held by Pashtuns in the Tribal Agencies to choose between joining India or Pakistan.
- 1949 -- called during a dispute with Pakistan, declared that it did not recognise the Durand Line forming the border between the two countries.
- September 1964 -- a meeting of 452 called by Mohammed Zahir Shah to approve a new constitution.
- July 1974 -- a meeting with Pakistan over the Duran Line
- January 1977 -- approved the new constitution of Mohammed Daoud Khan establishing one-party rule in the Republic of Afghanistan.
- April 1985 -- to ratify the new constitution of the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan.
- September 2001 -- there were four different loya jirga movements anticipating the end of Taliban rule. There was little communication between each of them:
- The first was based in Rome around Mohammed Zahir Shah, and it reflected the interests of moderate Pashtuns from Afghanistan. The Rome initiative called for fair elections, support for Islam as the foundation of the Afghan state and respect for human rights.
- The second was based in Cyprus and led by Homayoun Jarir, a member of the Islamic Party of his father-in-law, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. Critics of the Cyprus initiative suspected it of serving the interests of Iran. The members of the Cyprus initiative, however, considered themselves closer to the Afghan people and regard the Rome group as too close to the long-isolated nobility.
- The most significant was based in Germany, which resulted in the Bonn Agreement (Afghanistan). This agreement was made under UN auspices, established the Afghan Interim Authority, and paved the way for the later jirgas that established the Constitution of Afghanistan.
- A lesser initiative based in Pakistan.
- 2002 -- organized by the interim administration of Hamid Karzai, with about 2000 delegates, either selected through elections in the various regions of the country or allocated to various political, cultural and religious groups. It was held in a large tent in the grounds of Kabul Polytechnic from June 11 and scheduled to last about a week. It formed a new Transitional Administration which took office shortly afterwards.
- 2003, December -- to consider the Proposed Afghan Constitution. See 2003 Loya jirga.
- 2006 - Afghan president Hamid Karzai said that he and the Pakistani president will jointly lead Loya jirga to end row over border attacks.
On April 29
, former Balochistan Chief Minister Taj Muhammad Jamali
offered to arranged a meeting between President of Pakistan Pervez Musharraf
and a Loya Jirga (grand jirga) for peace in Balochistan
. A Grand jirga was held at Kalat
in September 2006 to announce that a case would be filed in the International Court of Justice
regarding the sovereignty and rights of the Baloch people