President Ghani said the Jirga has been convened to specify the framework for peace and reconciliation with Taliban.
President Ghani further added that the participants of the Jirga will define peace process and discuss ways to achieve peace, emphasizing that the peace process should be Afghan-led.
Pointing towards Fatwa (ruling) of the Islamic scholars of Afghanistan and other Islamic nations, President Ghani emphasized that the ongoing war in the country has no religious basis.
President Ghani also urged the participants of the Jirga to openly speak regarding peace process as he promised that the government will consider the views of Jirga participants in its policies.
He added: “It is a proud moment for me to have representatives from all over the country here and today we are gathered to speak about the peace talks.”
Although Ghani invited the Taliban to the Loya Jirga, they have urged people to boycott it, denouncing it as an attempt by the Western-backed government to deceive the country and extend what the Taliban see as its illegitimate rule.
This week’s meeting, being attended by 3,200 trial elders, and community and religious leaders from all 34 provinces, aims to set out Kabul’s conditions for any peace deal.
But opposition political leaders and government critics, including former president Hamid Karzai, are boycotting the assembly accusing Ghani of using it as a platform to boost his status as leader in an election year.
The U.S. talks with the Taliban in Qatar are part of President Donald Trump’s efforts to end America’s longest war, which began when U.S.-backed forces ousted the Taliban weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.
Since October, U.S. and Taliban officials have held several rounds of talks aimed at ensuring a safe exit for U.S. forces in return for a Taliban guarantee that Afghanistan will not be used by militants to threaten the rest of the world.
But the Taliban have refused to talk to Ghani’s government, denouncing it as foreign “puppet”, and intense fighting is going on in various parts of the country, with the Taliban controlling and influencing more territory than at any point since 2001.
“Do not participate in the enemy’s conspiracy under the name of Jirga, instead find ways to further sideline the shaky administration of Kabul,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement.
In the past, the Taliban have fired rockets at the Loya Jirga tent, and much of Kabul was under virtual lock down on Monday, amid a massive security operation for the meeting.
Ghani, who hopes to secure a second term in presidential election set for September, is feeling isolated from the peace process and the Loya Jirga was a bid to broaden his support, Western diplomats in Kabul said.
“He wants to prove that he has the ability to secure a peace deal and also enjoys the support of Afghans,” said one diplomat.
“Ghani fears the opposition is using the Taliban refusal to engage with him to undermine him politically,” the diplomat said.