Loya Jirga to be held in June

Published April 1, 2002

KABUL, March 31: Former king Mohammad Zahir Shah is to return to Afghanistan on April 16 and inaugurate a 1,500-strong traditional council of leaders charged with choosing a new government in June, officials said on Sunday.

The former monarch, currently living in Rome, will “definitely” return on April 16, in time to open the council, or Loya Jirga, said Mohammad Ismael Qasimyr, head of an independent commission setting up the assembly.

Zahir Shah, 87, has been in exile for almost three decades since he was ousted in a coup.

Some 1,500 Afghans, including 160 women, are expected to take part in the Loya Jirga, which will meet in June to select a government to administer the country for 18 months, Qasimyr said.

The independent commission was set up under the terms of the Bonn accord in December after the ouster of the Taliban. It is required to convene the council by June to choose a transitional leader and government until elections can be held.

The transitional administration is due to begin work when the present six-month administration headed by Hamid Karzai ends its term of office on June 22.

Qasimyr said Zahir Shah was so far expected “just to inaugurate” the assembly and any further role for the former monarch was up to the Loya Jirga participants.

Of a possible 1,501 participants in the Loya Jirga, 1,051 will be chosen through direct elections in almost 400 administrative divisions or districts, he said.—AFP

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