Afghanistan's political parties: the future?
Presenter, Open Jirga
Afghanistan's debate programme Open Jirga broadcast its third episode on Monday evening to a great reception from audiences across Afghanistan.
For the first time ever, two prominent Afghan political leaders, whose parties are considered by many to be among those responsible for the country's long-running civil conflict, expressed willingness for a public enquiry.
Mohammad Mohaqiq, Chairman of Hezb-e Wahdat-e Islami Mardom-e Afghanistan, and Suleiman Layeq, a founding member of People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA), accepted that all parties who had a role in the violence must accept responsibility for their actions.
The leaders were two of the panellists on the show – a joint production of BBC Media Action, the BBC’s Afghan Service and Radio Television Afghanistan (RTA) – responding to questions about transitional justice from the studio audience.
"Those accountable should be punished"
The PDPA's Suleiman Layeq, whose party's 1978 coup is said to have been the prelude to decades of civil war in Afghanistan, said that he personally supported tribunals: "It could start with me. I volunteer. A nation has been sacrificed. A nation has sustained damages. It would be good to see who the perpetrators are: who is guilty and who made such bloody decisions, the killing of citizens and brutal grabs for power. Responsibility should be established and those accountable should be punished according to the gravity of their crimes."
While leader of the Shiite Islamic Unity Party of People of Afghanistan (Hezb-e Wahdat-e Islami Mardom-e Afghanistan), Mohammad Mohaqiq, did not reject such a move, he insisted on reconciliation and forgiveness: "There are tribunals and there is reconciliation. Many countries have opted for reconciliation. Vengeance will not lead anywhere. We must forgive one another."
The ground-breaking exchange generated media interest and was covered by Afghanistan's Bakhtar News Agency as a breaking news story. There was news coverage of the exchange on BBC Persian television and the BBC's service for Afghanistan.
There was also a lively Twitter discussion night as audiences started a running commentary on the debate as it was being broadcast.
Several audience members told us that the programme should be longer than its current 60 minutes. For example, @EsmatKohsar tweeted: "I really find the program effective, it’s much needed in Afghan media. It would be great if Open Jirga ran for at least two hours."
Others offered words of praise and encouragement. @Orzala tweeted: "Thanks! Just watching, you are doing a fascinating job!"
Open Jirga brings together men and women from across Afghanistan's diverse ethnic and linguistic communities and provides them with a platform to engage with national leaders on issues concerning the country’s future.
In addition to Suleiman Layeq and Mohammad Mohaqiq, the show also featured three other panellists: Anwar ul-Haq Ahady, Minister of Commerce and current leader of one of the oldest Afghan parties, the Afghan Social Democratic Party Afghan Mellat – meaning 'Afghan Nation'; Shahrzad Akbar, Chairperson of the newly established civic-political youth organisation, Afghanistan-1400 and Nasrullah Stanekzai, legal advisor to President Karzai and professor of law and political science at Kabul University.
From the BBC Media Action blog: