Thursday, December 16, 2004

What is a loya jirga?

For those who read David Brooks' latest column and were wondering what a loya jirga is, wonder no more.

From the BBC:
What is a loya jirga?

It is a forum unique to Afghanistan in which, traditionally, tribal elders - Pashtuns, Tajiks, Hazaras and Uzbeks - have come together to settle affairs of the nation or rally behind a cause.

The phrase loya jirga is Pashto and means "grand council." The institution, which is centuries old, is a similar idea to the Islamic "shura", or consultative assembly.

Historically it has been used to settle inter-tribal disputes, discuss social reforms and approve a new constitution. Hundreds of men wearing turbans, Persian lamb hats or embroidered quilt coats would pack into a vast hall. Long debates would take place in Pashto and Dari, with the inclusion of the occasional Koranic quote in Arabic.