Factbox: What is a Loya Jirga?

Thu Jan 28, 2010 11:55am EST

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(Reuters) - The Afghan government on Thursday invited the Taliban to a peace council, or Loya Jirga, in a step toward resolving the conflict in Afghanistan.

Following are some facts about a Loya Jirga, or Grand Assembly.

* WHAT IS A LOYA JIRGA?

-- A Loya Jirga is the consultative system that Afghans have used for more than 1,000 years to settle affairs of the nation or to rally behind a cause.

-- The first Jirga met secretly near the southern city of Kandahar in 1709 to plot the overthrow of a despotic governor installed by conquerors from neighboring Iran. He and his army were massacred.

* WHAT DOES IT DO?

-- Afghanistan's constitution recognizes the Loya Jirga -- Pashtu for grand assembly -- as "the highest manifestation of the will of the people of Afghanistan."

-- Under the Afghan constitution, a Loya Jirga made up of parliamentarians and chiefs of district and provincial councils can amend the constitution, impeach the president and "decide on issues related to independence, national sovereignty, territorial integrity as well as supreme national interests."

* CONSTITUTIONAL OR TRADITIONAL:

-- A "Constitutional Loya Jirga" is described formally under Afghan law and is called when the country is facing crisis. A "Traditional Loya Jirga," could have a different make-up of notables and is more a forum for discussion.

-- Karzai will invite the Taliban to be represented at the traditional jirga, a government spokesman said, thereby recognizing the austere Islamist insurgents have a role in deciding the political future of the country.

* RECENT LOYA JIRGAS:

-- In June 2002, seven months after the Taliban were ousted by U.S. and Afghan forces, Karzai, already appointed interim leader, was sworn in as president for the first time at a loya jirga which also approved his choice of cabinet.

-- In January 2004, Afghanistan's opposing factions agreed on a constitution at a loya jirga.

-- In August 2007, the first joint Afghan and Pakistan loya jirga was held in Kabul after relations between the neighbors deteriorated amid Afghan accusations that Pakistan was harboring Taliban and al Qaeda fighters to weaken Afghanistan.

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