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2020-08-07 › Ghani Addresses Loya Jirga, Calls for Decision on Prisoners

Amid a growing controversy over the fate of 400 Taliban prisoners accused of major crimes, President Ashraf Ghani in his inauguration speech to the members of the Loya Jirga in Kabul on Friday reiterated that neither he nor the country has the legal authority to decide on their future.

“Based on the Constitution, the release of these 400 prisoners is not within the authority of the president of Afghanistan. We have passed through major hurdles to reach this point, we have reached a very sensitive and critical moment. The holding of this Jirga demonstrates my commitment to the implementation of the Constitution,” said Ghani in his opening remarks at the Loya Jirga.

Ghani said that the Loya Jirga members have an important responsibility when it comes to the release of these prisoners.

According to Ghani, the Taliban have said that they will start direct talks with the Afghan government and civil society faction in three days if these 400 prisoners are released.

Ghani also said that the Taliban have warned of continued bloodshed if these inmates are not released.

Ghani also welcomed the US’s initiatives for peace.

“We commend the efforts of the United States government to restore peace and find a political settlement. We respect any decision by the United States about a possible of withdrawal of their military forces from Afghanistan,” said Ghani.

The Afghan president said that Afghanistan seeks to be a strategic partner to everyone in the region.

“We will be a strategic partner to everyone, but this partnership will be based on mutual interest and respect,” he said.

On the importance of the Jirga, he said: “The Loya Jirga is a place where the people come together in an environment of solidarity and restrictions, exchange their views and submit their decision to the system,” Ghani said.

The event was disrupted for some minutes as according to videos on social media, Belqis Roshan, a delegate of the Jirga, was dragged out of the Jirga during Ghani's speech after she protested the release of Taliban prisoners, holding a banner.

Ghani said that the Afghan people want economic development and peace.

President Ghani said that the Afghans will protect their democracy and Constitution at any cost.

“We are gathered here to destroy the bad dreams others want for us, we are here to strengthen the pillars of the system to reach real stability,” Ghani said.

“Unfortunately, over the course of history, our country has witnessed the fall of governments, but no foreign conspiracy managed to affect our principles as a nation,” he said.

He stated that a river of blood is flowing in the country and every Afghan has been affected by violence.

President Ghani added that Afghanistan's ties with the Islamic world and the United States are quite important and that the Afghan government welcomes the US's recent statement on Afghanistan.

President Ghani noted that Afghanistan is an Islamic country and that the government strongly believes in women's rights. He stated that Afghans do not accept preconditions when it comes to the rights of women.

President Ghani says that the first ceasefire in Afghanistan happened because of the meeting of the great religious scholars of Afghanistan.

Abdullah Abdullah, the head of High Council of National Reconciliation and chairman of the Loya Jirga, said the decision of Jirga members is very important for the Afghan people and the country.

Abdullah stated that no one will be able to win through war. He says that the Afghans have a unified voice for peace.

"Those who think they can win through war are wrong and mistaken. I urge them to re-think.The only way forward for resolving the current crisis is through honest and direct talks. It is our religious and national obligation to put an end to the suffering of our people," he said.

Loya Jirga to Consolidate National Support for Peace: US

Meanwhile, The US State Department in a statement welcomed the Loya Jirga in Kabul, saying the Jirga will consolidate national support for peace in Afghanistan and determine the fate of the remaining Taliban prisoners which are a major obstacle to starting the intra-Afghan talks.

“The United States commends the participants of the Loya Jirga to be convened on August 7 to consolidate national support for peace.  We understand that they will decide on the expeditious release of the remaining Taliban prisoners from their list, the last obstacle to the start of intra-Afghan negotiations,” said the statement.

The statement says that following the timely release of these prisoners, the Taliban have committed to enter talks with the national team "representing the strength and diversity of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan."

The US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad in a series of tweets on Friday welcomed the holding of the consultative Loya Jirga on peace and said that the Jirga offers a historic platform to remove obstacles in the way of intra-Afghan talks.

“It is a historic opportunity to remove the last hurdle to direct peace talks. A positive outcome will mean a reduction in violence and Afghans immediately coming together at the negotiating table,” Khalilzad tweeted.

“Afghans have waited far too long for this moment. We wish the Jirga participants success in their discussions and urge them not to allow those who prefer the status quo and seek to complicate the path to peace to manipulate the process,” he said.

The 400 prisoners:

The prisoners were named on a 5,000-member list handed to the government by the Taliban. The Afghan government has so far released 4,600 prisoners on this list but has refrained from releasing the remaining 400. President Ghani on Friday said he does not have the constitutional authority to release the 400 prisoners and, therefore, will convene a Loya Jirga to decide on the inmates.

However, legal experts have said that neither the president nor the Loya Jirga has the authority to pardon, which is known as HAQQU ‘L-ABD.

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