Ghani calls for ‘durable peace’ at grand assembly

Kabul: Afghanistan’s President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani stressed achieving viable peace in his militancy-battered country through dialogue in the much-awaited consultative Loya Jirga or traditional grand assembly of elders and chieftains inaugurated here on Monday.
“I want to have lasting peace in Afghanistan and not the loose and shaky one. I am calling upon you people to define the peace talks and guide on how to talks with the Taliban and achieve viable peace,” Ghani said at the gathering.
About 3,200 delegates across the country gathered at the four-day traditional assembly to discuss the measures on how to initiate dialogue with the Taliban to find a negotiated settlement to Afghanistan’s prolonged conflict, Xinhua news agency reported.
Taliban militants have repeatedly refused to talk with Afghan government, saying there will be no dialogue with the Kabul administration in the presence of foreign forces in the country.
However, US special envoy for peace in Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad has held series of talks with the Taliban representatives in Qatar’s capital Doha since November 2018.
But the last round of talks slated for April 19 had been cancelled on the ground of introducing a 250-member negotiating team by the Afghan government.
Ghani in his address categorically stated that all Afghans earnestly want to end the war and restore lasting peace in their country, calling upon the participants of the Jirga to debate freely and prepare a comprehensive guideline for the government to initiate negotiation with the Taliban that could yield the desired results.
The consultative Loya Jirga was opened amid tight security as the government put all security measures in place and declared one-week public holiday for the capital city in efforts to check any untoward incident.
However, the critics including opposition politicians — above all the government Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah and former President Hamid Karzai — have boycotted the Jirga, arguing the consultative jirga has not been held in unity environment.
Slamming the ongoing insurgency and conflict in Afghanistan as against Islamic teaching and illegitimate, Ghani noted that both sides had been paying a huge price in the war and “it is the time to give up fighting” and join hands for achieving peace in the country.
Earlier in his opening remarks, head of the Jirga Mohammad Omar Daudzai, called upon all the opposition sides including the Taliban group to attend the Jirga and play their due role in ending the war and finding the way to achieve peace in Afghanistan.