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Loya Jirga not authorized to pardon, it can just offer advice on prisoners

The Afghan government will seek suggestions for the fate of 400 Taliban prisoners from the Loya Jirga, officials of the Loya Jirga organizing committee said on Wednesday.

The consultative Loya Jirga will not be authorized to pardon prisoners when it comes to the release of 400 Taliban detainees against whom there are claims, said the officials.

Masoom Stanekzai, the head of Consultative Loya Jirga organizing committee said that no foreign individual exists among the 400 Taliban prisoners, adding that some of these inmates have been sentenced to death and that the president does not have the authority to decide on their fate.

Stanekzai said that the government was not pursuing any secret agenda by holding the Loya Jirga.

“Sometimes there are discussions that money is being spent on the Jirga and it is a waste of time or the government is pursuing a secret agenda, I want to clarify that there is no secret agenda and no time wasting,” said Masoom Stanekzai, the head of the Loya Jirga organizing committee.

The 400 Taliban prisoners are also accused of murder, drug smuggling, kidnapping and financial corruption, according to the Afghan government.

Meanwhile, Salam Rahimi, the head of the Loya Jirga’s secretariat said that the Jirga will also help the peace negotiating team to attend potential peace talks with the Taliban with more sufficient information about what the Afghans want.

“The peace negotiating team this time will be in talks with the Jirga committees, they will directly take points from the committees and this will help them to have the demands of the people in their mind when they go for negotiations,” said Salam Rahimi, head of the Jirga secretariat. 

Is Jirga constitutional?

However, legal experts have said that neither the president nor the Loya Jirga have the authority to pardon, which is known as HAQQU ‘L-ABD.

“No one, neither the president nor the Loya Jirga has the right to pardon someone’s crimes,” said legal expert Rohullah Sakhizad.

Previously the Taliban said that any delay in the release of the prisoners will mean a continuation of the war.

Suhail Shaheen, a spokesman for the Taliban office in Qatar, told TOLOnews that the Afghan government’s decision is detrimental to the Afghan people, that the response to the peace process should be honest, and that the decision will complicate the peace process.

The prisoners were named on a 5,000-member list handed to the government by the Taliban. The Afghan government has so far released 4,600 prisoners on this list but has refrained from releasing the remaining 400. President Ghani on Friday said he does not have the constitutional authority to release the 400 prisoners and, therefore, will convene a Loya Jirga to decide on the inmates.

This happens as the High Council for National Reconciliation – which has been built to lead the peace efforts – is on the sidelines and there are rifts between President Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, head of the council, on their pick for the State Ministry for Peace Affairs.

 The Jirga will have 51 working committees. Women constitute 30 percent of the Jirga.