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Traditional grand council of elders set to decide fate of prisoners Friday

06 Aug 2020 Ariana News

A traditional consultative council, or Loya Jirga, will convene in Kabul on Friday to decide the fate of the last 400 Taliban prisoners who have not yet been released in accordance with the US-Taliban Doha agreement.  The agreement called for the release of 5,000 Taliban prisoners and 1,000 government personnel that were being held captive by the Taliban.  To date, the Taliban has released its captives and the Afghan government has freed over 4,500 Taliban prisoners.  The last 400 are seen as extremely dangerous by Afghan officials and some Western allies.   The release of the final 400 has however so far been a major stumbling block in starting peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban and on Sunday President Ashraf Ghani called for a Loya Jirga to resolve the issue.  This Loya Jirga is made up of a cross-sector of the population and at least 2,000 people – mostly elders, community leaders and senior politicians will attend.  The Jirga is expected to run over two days and security measures in Kabul have been vastly stepped up. Many busy roads in the city will be closed to normal traffic and thousands of security force members have been deployed to maintain safety. On Wednesday, the Taliban issued a statement rejecting the Loya Jirga as having no legal status.  In the statement issued on the group’s website, the Taliban said: “That the Kabul administration has decided to summon a supposed Loya Jirga under the pretext of deciding the fate of 400 prisoners and could possibly use it as a tool against peace and wishes of the nation, hence, convening such a Jirga before reaching comprehensive peace and political settlement can in no way be representative of the people or hold any legal status because the Kabul administration itself is illegitimate.” But the Loya Jirga will go ahead and the 2,000 participants who will attend are the same elders and political leaders invited to a similar council meeting held last year.  Ghani’s spokesman, Sediq Sediqqi, said this week that the Jirga will also decide “what kind of peace it wants.” The Jirga comes even though the government’s health minister, Jawad Osmani, said at a press conference this week that a survey conducted, in collaboration with the World Health Organization, has found at least a third of the country’s population has been infected with COVID-19. This amounts to about 10 million people.  In addition, the survey found that at least half of Kabul’s population had been infected – despite official figures countrywide being at just under 37,000.  Meanwhile, AP reported that Ghani’s critics have accused the president of stalling peace negotiations with the Taliban to retain power as president because it is widely speculated that negotiations could seek a neutral interim government.  Ghani, who has insisted he will finish his five-year term, was elected in controversial presidential polls held last year. He and rival Abdullah Abdullah battled over the results, which Abdullah alleged were deeply flawed. Washington intervened warning the squabbling leaders to find a political compromise.  That led to Abdullah being named to head peace efforts as head of a High Council for National Reconciliation. The Taliban meanwhile have said they are ready to hold negotiations within a week of the final prisoners being released. 

Original Link: https://ariananews.af/traditional-grand-council-of-elders-set-to-decide-fate-of-prisoners-friday/

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