Most Delegates Walk Out Of Loya Jirga

  • From: "Muslim News" <editor_@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <submit@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Tue, 18 Jun 2002 18:56:11 +0100

KABUL, Afghanistan (Reuters) - More than half of the delegates to
Afghanistan ( news - web sites)'s grand assembly walked out of the
gathering on Monday, frustrated by the paralysis that has gripped the
meeting. 

Witnesses said about 1,000 of the 1,600 delegates at the Loya Jirga
joined the walkout, but most of them were expected to return later
Monday to listen to a pivotal speech by newly elected leader Hamid
Karzai at 3 p.m. 

"There's no point hanging around listening to boring speeches so we're
leaving," said delegate Sayed Nimatullah, who said fresh fighting could
erupt in the ethnically divided country if the assembly failed to agree
on key issues, such as a new parliament. 

The assembly, which began last Tuesday, has become bogged down over the
composition of a legislature that will oversee Karzai's government for
the next 18 months, part of a process to restore peace and stability
after 23 years of chaos and war. 

Some delegates have said that the United States and the United Nations (
news - web sites) are pulling strings behind the scenes to achieve their
desired result and they see a U.S. hand behind the election of Karzai as
president, the assembly's only real decision so far. 

They say Washington wants to keep the current balance of power in the
government between the ethnic Uzbek and Tajik-led Northern Alliance,
U.S. allies in the war against the Taliban, and the Pashtuns of the
south, who include Karzai. 

Delegates have also complained of intimidation by former warlords and
provincial governors. 

The U.N.-sponsored Loya Jirga, based on an ancient Afghan tradition, has
gathered delegates from all walks of life across the country and
overseas, from Afghan-Americans in business suits to Muslim mullahs in
turbans. 

In his speech, Karzai will focus on the makeup of a new consultative
parliament. 

"The issue of a new cabinet will not be raised," aide Shahzada Masood
told reporters. "The major issue is the parliament. Karzai is elected
President. He needs to take the initiative over the composition of the
cabinet." 

INTIMIDATION 

The delegates who walked out Monday from the large white tent where the
gathering is being held complained not only of "foreign influence," but
also of intimidation. 

"Governors and officials are telling people what to say in their
speeches," delegate Mullah Abdul Karim told reporters. 

"I myself have been threatened into supporting Karzai and my first
candidate was the former king (Mohammad Zahir Shah). This is just a Loya
Jirga in name only." 

Fatemeh Gailani, daughter of a pro-king tribal leader, did not walk out,
but she said people are scared about the influence of provincial
governors on the proceedings. 

"Karzai is a nice man, but people are frightened about the new cabinet
(lineup)," she said. 

An aide to Karzai said reports that delegates had been intimidated by
powerful warlords and even received death threats would be investigated.


"The language of politics in our country has been high-key," aide Ashraf
Qani Ahmadzai said. "Often people use words that are quite harsh. Of
course this is not an excuse. If there are cases of intimidation, it
requires investigation." 

According to the U.N.-sponsored Bonn accord which brought the
44-year-old ethnic Pashtun to power after the fall of the Taliban last
year, Karzai's cabinet must be approved by the Loya Jirga. 

But some delegates say Karzai might bypass the chamber and wait until
parliament is formed before seeking approval. 

The assembly, entering an unscheduled extra day Monday, is now expected
to end Tuesday. 

Ethnic minorities from northern Afghanistan Sunday supported a proposal
from Loya Jirga head Mohammad Ismail Qasimyar that each group of 10
delegates nominate one member of parliament, delegate Afasar Rahbin told
Reuters. 

But the Pashtuns, the largest ethnic group from the south, favored
another Qasimyar suggestion that two representatives from each province
be chosen. 

The sticking point is that no two provinces have the same size of
population. Rural provinces would be better represented under the
two-representatives-per-province proposal. 

Source:  Reuters

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