Historical Background of the (Jirga)

By: Professor Habibullah Rafi


                   Nations have reached to democracy through struggling and self-sacrificed and have created favorable context for the protection of national interests. The advents of constitutional and republic governments instead of autocracy and dictatorship are the most crucial steps taken for the achievement of mentioned goal. The rise of a democratic government and parliament are the outcomes of such struggles and self-sacrifice.

Plato ,  one of  the celebrated philosopher of grace in one of his books named ( Law) investigated different types of governments such as one and few individuals ruling  governments . Throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries the governments were divided into two parts Monarchy and Republic governments but, in the mid – twenty century governments were classified as Democratic, Autocratic and Exclusive.

            Parliament was the other way of dominating democracy. The credit for the first established parliament goes to Island,  a small country located in northern Europe in 925. After this the British parliament was established in 1965. In all around the glob there are two types of parliamentary governments, some countries consisted of one parliament and others two named Senate and House of Representatives.

The revolution which took place in 1789 in Franc paved the ground for democracy. The revolution leaders equipped the entire nation and destroyed the Aristocratic rules ; strengthen the ruling of the middle class.

        Above mentioned examples prove that universe has struggled a lot for achieving and reaching to the democracy. Throughout the history  , our beloved country Afghanistan has had establishments named ( Jerga جرګه ( performing the  role of democracy in history of our country .  This booklet is discussing Jerga s’ background, social values, legal base and its impact and role in Afghan society and politics. Jirga has saved Afghanistan in crises and has paved ground for democracy, yet needs to be revived and put in action.

Introduction to the Jerga

        Jerga is an ancient word of Pashto language, pronounced by putting stress on ( ج) and repose of ( ر) . Is pronounced by some pashtoons as ( Jirga and Jorga ). The word Jirga is used for the  gathering of group of people for a specific purpose and taking vital decisions. The same word Jirga means ( wrestler , workshop , and gathering of people ) in Dari language. The same meaning is conveyed in Turkey and Urdo languages too. It has always been problem – solving and decision –making phenomenon throughout the history of our country.

Maraca ( مرکه) is smaller than Jirga , is used for solving smaller conflicts and matters, while Jirga is used for solving the most crucial issues and subjects.

Based on its importance and impact, a chapter of constitution was specialized to Jirga and Issues related to it in 1343.

The need of Jirga

           Afghan society is considered as democratic society. The tribal elders have always been the leaders and decision makers of the society. Since non – urban living,  the society was made up of family , where the father was the suppliers of food and mother the divider of food among family members that was called  family . Next comes Gotra (ګوترا ( a group made up of families who have had shared living . next we have Goshty ( ګوشتی) which is consisted of ( Gotra) which is equal to districts and ( Rasida or Rasia) group of people living together that’s equal to provinces nowadays. Generally Jirga is held in times of encountering political, economic and cultural risks.

Why is Jirga hold

Alien invasion, civil war, power vacuum, and making decisions regarding national and international incidents are all the reasons that Jirga is hold for. Jirga  has always been held  based on specific need and subject.

Participators of the Jirga


          Participators of Jirga are usually the elders of tribes whose responsibilities are to represent their own tribes. The opening of Jirga has always been started with the verses of holy Quran. In addition with the tribal elders, senior officers of government take part in Jirga too. For instance, in the Jirga held for the first time in Amanullah Khan s’ term 872 senior officers took part. In second one 105 and third one 1100 officers were involved. The same in Nader Khan s’ term 301 officers and during Zahir Shah term 1000 officer took part for the first time , 371 second time and 952 for the third session. And 352 officers were involved in a Jirga held during late president Dawood Khan.

Environment and location of Jirga

           In the era of ( Arianna) there were rooms specialized for holding small Jirga named sabha ( سبها ) .The same rooms were used by men and women for practicing sports. Signs of such Jirga could still be seen in our tribes and culture. Later on Jirga’s were held in Masjids too. Those jirgas with large number of participators were usually held in open environments and those participators were called elders. Jirgas are not having special leaders infect all the participators are having equal rights of expressing notions. Different tribal use different places for holding Jirga, mostly participators sit in circulars and the place is considered very holy and sacred.

Security and punish offenders

          Jirga held by government is  secured by the government itself but , thousands of years ago there has always been security guards responsible of  securing the Jirga which was  called Arbakyan ( اربکیان ) who were  responsible for the security of Jirga. Each tribe had security leader, whenever there was any Jirga the leader had to gather strong and young security guards for protecting the Jirga. Arbkyan were responsible for implementation of the rules as well.

Implementation of rules and decision

         Though the decisions of Jirga are not written in books or not saved in files, yet implemented and accepted by all, and all have to obey the rules and decisions of Jirga. Jirga plays key role in lives of our people and is the outcome of many people‘s thought.