Loya jirga (Pashto: لويه جرګه, "grand assembly") is a code of laws of the Pashtun peoples living in areas of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and neighboring countries in the Pashtunwali. It is a special type of jirga (assembly) that is mainly organized for choosing a new head of state in case of sudden death, adopting a new constitution, or to settle national or regional issue such as war. It predates modern-day written or fixed laws, and is mostly favored by the Pashtun people but to a lesser extent by other nearby groups that have been influenced by Pashtuns (historically known as Afghans).
In Afghanistan, loya jirgas have been reportedly organized since at least the early 18th century when the Hotaki and Durrani dynasties rose to power.
There is a myth in the sense that the ancient Aryan tribes, who are hypothesized to have spoken Proto-Indo-Iranian, came down in intermittent waves from Central Asia and Afghanistan. They practiced a sort of jirga system with two types of councils – simite and sabhā. The simite (summit) comprised elders and tribal chiefs. The king also joined sessions of the simite. Sabhā was a sort of rural council. In India it is referred to as Samiti and Sabha.
It was used over time for the selection of rulers and headmen and the airing of matters of principle. From the time of the great Kushan ruler Kanishka to the 1970s, there were sixteen nationalloya jirgas and hundreds of smaller ones. The institution, which is centuries old, is a similar idea to the Islamic shura (consultative assembly).
In the Afghan society, the loya jirga is still maintained and favored, mostly by tribal leaders to solve internal or external disputes with other tribes. In some cases it functions like a town hall meeting.
When the Afghans took power they tried to legitimize their hold with such a jirga. While in the beginning only Pashtuns were allowed to participate in the jirgas, later other ethnic groups like Tajiks and Hazaras were allowed to participate as well, however they were little more than observers. The member of the jirgas were mostly members of the Royal Family, religious leaders and tribal leaders of the Afghans. King Amanullah Khan institutionalized the jirga. From Amanullah until the reign of Mohammed Zahir Shah (1933–1973) and Mohammed Daoud Khan (1973–1978) the jirga was recognized as a common meeting of regional Pashtun leaders.
The meetings do not have scheduled occurrences, but rather are called for when issues or disputes arise. There is no time limit for a loya jirga to conclude, and the meetings often take time because decisions can only be made as a group and arguments can drag out for days. Various issues can be addressed such as major disaster, foreign policy, declaration of war, the legitimacy of leaders, and the introduction of new ideas and laws.
September 2001 – Four different loya jirga movements anticipating the end of Taliban rule. Little communication took place between each of them.
The first was based in Rome around Mohammed Zahir Shah, and it reflected the interests of moderate Pashtuns from Afghanistan. The Rome initiative called for fair elections, support for Islam as the foundation of the Afghan state, and respect for human rights.
The second was based in Cyprus and led by Homayoun Jarir, a member of the Islamic Party of his father-in-law, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. Critics of the Cyprus initiative suspected that it served the interests of Iran. The members of the Cyprus initiative, however, considered themselves closer to the Afghan people and regard the Rome group as too close to the long-isolated nobility.
June 13, 2002 – July 13, 2002, The 2002 loya jirga of Afghanistan elected Hamid Karzai to oversee it. This was possible only because in the fall of 2001, Karzai was able to successfully lead one of the largest southern Afghanistan tribes against the draconian rule of the Taliban. The Loya Jirga was organized by the interim administration of Hamid Karzai, with about 1600 delegates, either selected through elections in various regions of the country or allocated to various political, cultural, and religious groups. It was held in a large tent in the grounds of Kabul Polytechnic from June 11 and was scheduled to last about a week. It formed a new Transitional Administration that took office shortly thereafter.
2006 – Afghan president Hamid Karzai said that he and the Pakistani president will jointly lead a loya jirga to end a dispute over border attacks.
December 2009, after his disputed re-election, President Hamid Karzai announced to move ahead with a plan for a loya jirga to discuss the Taliban insurgency. The Taliban was invited to take part in this Jirga, but they declined.
June 2010, at Kabul, in which around 1,600 delegates of all ethnic groups attended for a peace talks with the Taliban.
17 November 2013, at Kabul, in which around 2,500 Afghan elders approved the presence of a limited number of US forces beyond 2014.
On June 21, 1947, in Bannu, a loya jirga was held consisting of Bacha Khan, his brother Chief MinisterDr Khan Sahib, the Khudai Khidmatgars, members of the Provincial Assembly, Mirzali Khan (Faqir of Ipi), and other tribal chiefs, just seven weeks before the Partition of India. The loya jirga declared the Bannu Resolution, which demanded that the Pashtuns be given a choice to have an independent state of Pashtunistan composing all Pashtun territories of British India, instead of being made to join either India or Pakistan. However, the British Raj refused to comply with the demand of this resolution, in response to which the Khudai Khidmatgars boycotted the referendum.