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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Commission Sets Rules For Afghan Loya Jirga

KABUL, Afghanistan -- When 1,450 Afghans from all corners of the country gather in the June heat to choose Afghanistan's future leadership, 160 seats will be set aside for women and six for Islamic scholars.

The loya jirga, Afghanistan's best hope for peace, will convene under a huge tent in June to name a leader and government acceptable to the country's disparate ethnic and tribal groups. If it fails, Afghanistan risks a return to war.

A special commission released details Sunday about how the loya jirga members will be chosen. But some questions remained, notably on how security for the selection process could be assured and how fairness could be guaranteed in a country where provincial warlords dominate their regions like medieval fiefdoms.

The ultimate prize is power, and before the council begins, various factions are expected to jockey for control of the most influential posts -- defense, interior forces, Foreign Ministry and police.

"Of course, it's hard to expect that in a short time, after 23 years of fighting and bloodshed and all these appalling situations, that we have settled everything and all the problems have been tackled," conceded Ismail Qasimyar, chairman of the special commission.

"Every possible effort will be made to create an atmosphere conducive to free and fair elections," he said.

Afghanistan is ruled by an interim government put in place at a December summit in Germany. The leaders selected at the June meeting also will be transitional, serving for 18 months. During that time, the loya jirga will convene again to adopt a new constitution and procedures for democratic elections.

With no broad popular election of loya-jirga delegates, some Kabul academics were disappointed that the process would not be more democratic from the outset.

The council will include 399 members representing the interim administration, the special commission on the loya jirga and groups such as women, refugees, academics and nomads. The remaining 1,051 members will be indirectly elected from Afghanistan's 32 provinces. Each province will choose a pool of representatives by consensus, and they will in turn elect delegates to the loya jirga from among themselves.

Regional teams, which will include international representatives, will monitor the procedures and settle disputes.