Ghani addresses Afghan elders, calls for durable peace

Afghan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani

Kabul, (Samajweekly) Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Friday called for durable peace and stability while addressing the Loya Jirga, a grand assembly of the country’s elders, who have gathered in Kabul to decide the fate of the remaining 400 Taliban inmates in government prisons.

“We need peace, real and durable peace and stability in our country. A national peace that must be accepted by all,” Xinhua news agency quoted Ghani as saying while addressing the gathering which included more than 3,000 elders, chieftains and delegates from across the country.

According to officials, the 400 prisoners are involved in major crimes and terrorist activities including deadly bombings, kidnapping and killing of government employees and civilians.

“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,” the President added.

As per the US-Taliban agreement signed in Doha in February, the Afghan government has so far freed 5,100 Taliban inmates.

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

But the group has warned of continued bloodshed if these inmates are not released.

The Taliban has so far released 1,005 government inmates.

Meanwhile, the US State Department welcomed the Loya Jirga in Kabul, saying it will consolidate national support for peace in Afghanistan, reports TOLO News.

“The US commends the participants of the Loya Jirga 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,” it said in a statement.

The US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad in a series of tweets on Friday welcomed the holding of the consultative Loya Jirga and said that it offered 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.

“Afghans have waited far too long for this moment…,” he said.