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Saturday, 15 June, 2002, 01:37 GMT 02:37 UK
Loya jirga diary: Day five

Perhaps I have been here too long, but I have become fascinated by the debates at the loya jirga.

Chaotic they may be, but to me they look like the rebirth of a political dialogue, an opportunity for people to air their differences in public using only the power of words rather than of the gun.

Women delegates at the loya jirga
Top of the list for one woman delegate: education for all
Much of this morning was taken up by an impassioned debate over whether the new Afghanistan should have the word "Islamic" in its title.

Under the Taleban it did, and the visa stamp in my passport says it was issued by the "Embassy of the Islamic State of Afghanistan".

This is not an issue that the loya jirga needs to decide on, but it was one that delegates wanted to discuss, so discuss it they did.

Warlords

I could hardly believe my ears when another delegate suggested the formation of a special commission to investigate the wealth of the country's so-called "regional commanders", better known as warlords.

That is not the kind of idea that would have been aired in public a few months ago.

Other speakers called for the setting-up of regional assemblies, to keep an eye on provincial governors.

A woman delegate laid out a detailed 20-point plan for the incoming government. Top of the list: the disarming of local militias and education for all.

Guardedly optimistic

Perhaps none of these speeches will make any difference.

But to me, the fact that they were made at all looks highly significant.

So I leave Kabul to return to London guardedly optimistic about the country's future and deeply impressed by the many Afghans I have met.

Despite everything they have been through, they remain friendly, open and hospitable.

Gun slip

One final thought: how embarrassing it was for the German soldier serving in the Isaf peacekeeping force that when his finger slipped on the trigger of his automatic rifle, as he was on sentry duty outside the Intercontinental Hotel, he ended up peppering the van belonging to Afghan TV with bullet holes.

And all in full view of the reporters gathered at the loya jirga media centre.

No one was hit, fortunately, but I imagine the soldier is now peeling potatoes somewhere far from any loaded weapons.


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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