Jirga against BSA
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Jirga of Ulama and Intellectuals on the BSA on 10 November 2013 in Mumtaz Hotel, Kabul.
One of the largest anti-American events witnessed over the past years has taken place in Kabul with 3000 politicians, mullahs and students coming together from across Afganistan to voice their adamant opposition to Afghanistan signing a Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) with the United States. It comes just days before the government is due to hold its own jirga to decide on the BSA which open the way for foreign troops staying on Afghan soil after 2014.
Haji Ahmad Farid, an ex-MP from Kapisa, ex-Hizb member and talented orator, and Ahmad Shah Ahmadzai, a wealthy ex-mujahed, former prime minister under Burhanuddin Rabbani and deputy of Abdul Rab Rassul Sayyaf’s Ittehad-e Islami (renamed Dawat-e Islami, meanwhile) and now head of his own party, the Islamist Hezb-e Eqtedar-e Islami, had organised what they called a ‘jirga of ulama and intellectuals on the BSA'. It was a way for them to strongly condemn the upcoming government’s ‘consultative loya jirga’ and its probable outcome – support for the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) with the US. The BSA, among other things, would guarantee continued US basing rights on Afghan soil and the immunity of US soldiers from Afghan courts (they would continue to fall under sole US criminal jurisdiction).
Farid and Ahmadzai were aiming for a show of ‘popular’ opposition to the BSA and they got it. Political events in Afghanistan are frequently boring, with guests sitting for hours quietly listening to long-winded speeches. This one was neither boring or quiet. Participants kept rising to their feet shouting: “Death to the traitors,” “Death to the sell-outs,” “Death to the slaves,” “Death to America” and “Allah-u Akbar!” Many were mullahs who had come in large delegations from provinces such as Nangahar, Badakhshan, Parwan, Logar, Ghazni, Kapisa and Paktia. Tribal and community elders also showed up, along with hundreds of youths and students who had apparently been alerted to the event by universities and madrassas with links to the organisers. (Ahmadzai – ironically married to an American – runs his own university, the Mashal University, in Kabul.) Posters on the wedding hall’s walls read “A Loya Jirga called by the government in the current situation of insecurity cannot represent the people of Afghanistan” and “The people of Afghanistan will never allow foreign soldiers to rule their land and do whatever they want.”
The organisers all belonged to the so-called Front for National Unity and Opposition to US Military Bases (Jabha-ye Wahdat-e Melli wa Mukhalefat ba Paigah-ha-ye Nezami-ye Amrika) and included not only followers of Ahmadzai, but also members of Jamiat-e Eslah and Hezb-e Islami. The Hezbis did not officially represent their party - but it is interesting that this specific agenda managed to bridge several political movements.
Farid and Ahmadzai’s movement was founded about five or six years ago and, while it is still on the fringes of politics, it is interesting. It channels the very vocal criticism of the US military presence of well-known and influential public and political figures. Moreover, this agenda looks aligned with aspects of the Taleban’s. Indeed, the Taleban promptly welcomed the anti-BSA jirga, saying “The Islamic Emirate appreciates the big meeting of respected ulama and intellectuals convened yesterday in Kabul in opposition to the BSA.” The Taleban statement also threatened participants of the government jirga: if the BSA was signed, it said, they would all be put on a list of “national traitors” who would be targeted and eliminated one by one.