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Monday, 26 November, 2001, 23:14 GMT
Analysis: Tribal voices 'left unheard'
Afghan child
Afghan tribes want a greater say in the country's future
Kate Clark

Haji Mohammad Tahir worked as a clerk during the Taleban era - although he had been a mujahideen commander in the fight against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s.

He is now the head of the shura - or council - of Logar province - about 30 minutes drive south of the Afghan capital, Kabul. He was chosen by consensus by the elders of the province.

Mostapha Zaher arrives at Rome airport
The Afghan ex-monarch is being represented in Bonn by a nephew
Haji Tahir is a softly spoken man, wearing a turban and fur-trimmed cloak.

I met him and the other members of the shura in the provincial capital where they have been meeting daily since the fall of the Taleban.

There is not an untrimmed beard in sight or a man without a turban. It is a mixed Pasthun/Tajik province and the shura reflects that - its members shift easily between Persian and Pashto languages.

I am the first foreigner to come since the fall of the Taleban and I receive a warm welcome.

"We have brought security to Logar. You are our witness," Haji Tahir tells me, "We are now calling for a United Nations-sponsored loya jirga."

That is a meeting of leaders from all over Afghanistan to determine who should rule the country in the post-Taleban era.

Tribal anger

Instead, Afghanistan's future is being mapped out in the German city of Bonn by Afghan exiles and commanders, including representatives of the Northern Alliance and those involved in earlier moves for peace, such as former king Zahir Shah.

We could remove Rabbani with one slap of our hand

Tribal elder

As one Afghan peace activist said to me: "Why is the world talking to warlords and people who haven't lived here for 10 years? Don't we deserve something better after 20 years of fighting?"

Inside Afghanistan, in Logar province and elsewhere, Afghan-style democracy is already in action.

The fall of the Taleban has breathed new life into the old structures of clan and tribe and traditional mechanisms of reaching decisions by discussion and consensus.

It is an impressive thing to witness. After two decades of war, Afghan social institutions are still strong and vibrant enough to ensure a bloodless transition of power in Logar.

When Kabul fell, the Taleban and the foreign militants fled the province - further east, they were disarmed and sent packing by the tribal elders.

New institutions

Since then, the elders have been meeting daily, taking over security and forming new political institutions.

This could be our last chance for peace

Afghan activist

Afghan peaceniks - who were previously organising against the Taleban clandestinely - have been encouraging the political process.

"I fled Kabul in the last days when the Taleban were trying to arrest me," one activist - a famous Afghan sportsman - tells me, laughing that he escaped with his life.

"But I came to the tribal areas. I have to do what I can for my country. This could be our last chance for peace," he says.

In some provinces, society is more war-damaged. Rival commanders are seeking control of the Jalalabad shura, for example. Security has broken down, and there has been looting and the killing of four journalists.

However, in the provinces of Logar, Paktiya, Paktika, Khost, Ghazni and Wardak-all to the south and east of Kabul in the mainly Pashtun tribal belt - shuras are being set up and new provincial governors selected.

With encouragement, most of Afghanistan could come under some form of consensus local government.

Traditional kingmakers

The newly established shuras to the south and east of Kabul are calling for a UN-sponsored peace process and a loya jirga.

Burhanuddin Rabbani
Rabbani is not everyone's choice for president

The Pashtun tribes in this region are armed, powerful, organised and have Afghan history on their side - they are the traditional kingmakers of Afghanistan.

They are speaking to other factions and groups throughout the country and are offering to host a loya jirga - if no one else will.

People are angry that one faction of the Northern Alliance - Jamiat-I Islami, lead by the former president, Burhanuddin Rabbani - has entered the Afghan capital Kabul and, as they see it, attempted to usurp power.

"We could remove Rabbani with one slap of our hand," one elder told me. However, at the moment, they have their eyes set on peace.

See also:

25 Nov 01 | South Asia
Serene setting for hard Afghan talking
24 Nov 01 | South Asia
Rabbani 'to accept Bonn decision'
24 Nov 01 | South Asia
EU and Pakistan back political process
20 Nov 01 | South Asia
Q&A: What will Afghan talks produce?
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