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Jirga – A Traditional Mechanism of Conflict Resolution in Afghanistan

Wardak, Ali
June 4, 2015

Source: Centre for Criminology, University of Glamorgan, United Kingdom. Downloaded 3 September 2004.

This paper examines the institution of jirga, its main forms, and the different social contexts in which each form operates as a mechanism of conflict resolution in Afghanistan. It is argued that jirga as a traditional Afghan institution is closely bound up with the social and economic realities of every day life in Afghanistan and is deeply rooted in the culture and history of the people of the country. The focus of analysis, in this paper, is the Pashtun model, which is more elaborate and emulated to varying degrees by non-Pashtun Afghans (Carter and Connor1989; Glatzer 1998). It is argued that jirga as a time-honoured institution does not only resolve many local, tribal, and national conflicts efficiently and in cost-effective ways, but also acts as a powerful channel of communication among the people of Afghanistan. It, therefore, plays a central role in strengthening social solidarity among Afghans and contributes significantly to the maintenance of social order in Afghan society. However, the extent of the effectiveness of jirga as a mechanism of conflict resolution depends on the extent to which it is perceived as legitimate by the various segments of the Afghan population. It is maintained that there is a continued need for jirga in resolving many contemporary local, tribal and national conflicts in post-war Afghanistan. But, at the same time, this traditional Afghan institution needs to adapt to the new global cultural milieu that is being created by the forces of globalisation; it needs to be a more inclusive institution that represents both men and women and to be more sensitive to the universally accepted principles of Human Rights. Both past and current experiences show that there is reason to believe that jirga has the capacity to bridge tradition with modernity and to face the challenges of the 21st century. Author’s abstract.


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