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Tuesday, 11 June, 2002, 21:24 GMT 22:24 UK
Loya jirga diary: Day two

Well, better late than never. And what's a 24-hour delay when you are trying to rebuild a nation after more than 20 years of war?

Yes, the loya jirga has started, and I wish I could say I was there.

Women delegates at the loya jirga
Women now have a political role to play
But I wasn't. We journalists are kept well out of harm's way - we have to watch the proceedings on a giant video screen in the gloomy ballroom (I wonder when the last ball was actually held here?) of the Intercontinental Hotel.

That wouldn't matter too much, except that when the key speech came - from the 87-year-old former king - the video link was mysteriously cut.

The screen went blank and all was confusion. A blown fuse, said embarrassed UN officials. A conspiracy, said everyone else.

But let's be fair. Two thousand delegates, from all over this mountainous, war-destroyed land, arrived on time and were in their places when the loya jirga finally got under way.

What's more, the mood tonight is remarkably upbeat: the ex-king (a Pashtun) has said he won't be head of state, and the interior minister (a Tajik) has said he's ready to step down.

Women overjoyed

It's like a fiendishly complicated game of chess, except that I suspect no non-Afghan can have a hope of understanding the rules.

In the hours before the loya jirga got under way, I went out to talk to a few Afghan women to hear their thoughts about post-Taleban Afghanistan.

There was nothing complicated about their message - they're thrilled to see the back of the black turbaned Islamic fundamentalists.

One teacher who wasn't allowed to work during the Taleban era told me she cried every day they were in power.

Now, she can't stop smiling.


to listen to Robin Lustig's reports from Afghanistan for The World Tonight on Radio 4.

Read earlier instalments of Robin's Kabul diary below:

Day five: Rebirth of political dialogue
Day four: Out of Kabul to the Salang tunnel
Day three: Red-hot rhetoric
Day two: Slow start for loya Jirga
Day one: Giant tent awaits delegates


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11 Jun 02 | South Asia
10 Jun 02 | South Asia
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