A US and a Canadian soldier were announced killed in hostile action in Afghanistan on Saturday.
In a further blow to the his leadership, the lower house of the Afghanistan parliament rejected 10 of 17 further cabinet nominees put forward by President Hamid Karzai, with 224 MPs present.
Although the lede in most articles about these events will be the slap-down of so many nominees, I suggest below that the 7 who got through are also an important story. Allegedly corrupt ministers of counter-narcotics and of the Ministry of Justice have now been appointed, and the minister of the economy is an old buddy of insurgent leader Gulbadin Hikmatyar! These are three of the most key ministries you could imagine, and many Afghan observers, at least, are extremely uneasy about how they have been filled.
The defeat of a majority of his choices was a further humiliation, following on the rejection of 17 of the 24 names he originally put forward. McClatchy says that the vote was broadcast and took hours, and that Kabulis were mesmerized, with shopkeepers listening on the radio. Karzai’s difficulties are widely thought to reflect feelings in the country that the August presidential election in which he won a further term was tainted.
Iran’s PressTV has a good report on all this– more detailed than anything you will see on American television with analysis not out of line with the mainstream US print media:
It is puzzling that some of the appointees who got through have a reputation for corruption or ties to warlords, the very considerations MPs had cited in their rejection of others. Zarar Ahmad Moqbel got an overwhelming vote of approval as minister for counter-narcotics, one of the more important portfolios, though British officials consider him alarmingly corrupt, a view shared by Western journalists. . McClatchy speculates that the MPs were reacting against foreign diplomats’ campaign against Moqbel
Question marks hang over Habibullah Ghalib, as well, who was approved as minister of justice. The proposed minister of the economy, Abdul Hadi Arghandiwal, also got through, despite his long association with radical Gulbadin Hikmatyar, now a major insurgent leader fighting the US (see below). Minister of the Economy is a central position given the large amounts of foreign aid the Obama administration, the Japanese and others are targeting for Afghanistan, and you worry about Hikmatyar’s friend being in charge of it. The MPs gave the nod to Zalmay Rasul for foreign affairs. Amina Afzali, a woman, was confirmed to head labor and social affairs, which seems a pretty important post to go to a woman in Afghanistan, though two other highly qualified women were rejected, possibly owing to prejudice against women among the overwhelmingly male parliamentarians.
Karzai’s nominees for cabinet positions on communications and IT, urban development, refugees, and border affairs were rejected along with 6 others.
The rejection puts Karzai in a weak position as he prepares to attend a major international conference on Afghanistan.
The USG Open Source Center translated a Pashto article in the pro-Taliban Afghan Islamic Press Agency analyzing the pattern of the rejections, entitled, “Afghan observers say political alliance, money played role in trust vote,” published Saturday, January 16, 2010.
This passage seems important:
‘Abdol Hadi Arghandiwal, (who won vote as the) minister of economy, was a member of the executive council of Golboddin Hekmatyar’s Hezb-e Eslami-ye Afghanistan Party (Islamic Party of Afghanistan) during the jihad era. With the help of some party members he registered the Hezb-e Eslami-ye Afghanistan Party with the Ministry of Justice in 2001 in Kabul and engaged in political activities. Although Hekmatyar has repeatedly condemned Arghandiwal and his colleagues, some people still consider him a member of the Hezb-e Eslami (Hekmatyar) Party. However, one should see what reaction (Hekmatyar-led) Hezb-e Eslami Party will show to the involvement of Arghandiwal in the new cabinet.”
Another view is that political factions blocked some nominations on partisan grounds:
‘Some experts believe that the rejection of the majority of the ministers-designate is due to a coalition in the Lower House. A political expert, Ahmad Sayedi told the Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) that the supporters of the Hezb-e Eslami, Afghan Mellat Party (led by former finance minister Ahadi) and (the supporters of) Dr Abdullah [Abdullah] made a coalition in the Lower House and decided not to give vote of confidence to those (ministers-designate) supporting Gen. Abdorrashid Dostum, Mohammad Mohaqeq and Mohammad Karim Khalili and today they succeeded in their decision.’
The last three named are warlords of the old Northern Alliance, including an Uzbek and a Hazara Shiite. It is alleged that many of those cabinet nominees resoundingly rejected in both these parliamentary votes were connected to these and similar figures, who campaigned for Karzai and wanted a quid pro quo.
Finally, AIP quoted a Kabul University Academic who thought MPs voted for those who promised them money and patronage (would make sense of Moqbel getting through if true):
‘political expert and Kabul University Lecturer, Wadir Safi, describes the promise of money and other promises in the issue of giving vote of confidence to the ministers as “crucial”. Talking to the AIP, he said: “Success or failure had a big relation with money and future promises. Last time, ministries of defence and interior spent plenty of money as an attempt not to lose their seats (ministries). The same thing happened this time. But it does not mean that everything was based on money and promises. But money and promises have seemingly played an important role.”
Safi stresses that Afghanistan law still does not permit political parties, so MPs have to seek their own campaign funding. He pointed out that the parliamentarians face their own election in May, and some of their voting on the heads of the ministries may be intended to win them votes in their home constituencies.
End/ (Not Continued)