Published on 18 Jul 2011 at 10:48
In the wake of a controversial decision by the Special Court for the adjudication of electoral fraud, Afghanistan’s Lower House has put aside its differences to force the executive branch to conform to the nation’s Constitution.
The normally fractious and ineffectual Parliament is experiencing a rare period of unity and cooperation in the turbulent aftermath of the Special Court’s decision regarding electoral fraud. Up to 200 representatives in the 249-member body have come together to resist what they call “bullying” and “illegal acts” by the president and his team. In contrast to the largely ad hoc nature of the Parliament up to now, this group says they have long-term goals and a carefully thought-out agenda.
On June 23, a Special Court established by the executive branch to investigate claims of fraud in last September’s Parliamentary elections ruled that 62 members of the legislature were to be excluded from the body. The MPs reacted furiously, calling the decision a “catastrophe” and refusing to adjourn for their summer recess.
In short order, they issued a vote of no confidence in the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Abdul Salaam Azimi, along with five members of the Court. They had previously punished the Attorney General, Mohammad Ishaq Aloko, in a similar manner.
But aside from threatening street protests and refusing to leave on their summer recess, the legislature seemed incapable of any coherent action.
Now figures are emerging who say they can unite the deputies to defend the rights of the legislative branch against encroachment by the executive branch.
The undisputed head of this coalition so far is Haji Abdul Zahir Qadir, a Member of Parliament from Nangarhar and the son of slain mujaheddin leader Haji Abdul Qadir. The family is a powerful one in eastern Afghanistan, with deep roots in service to the Afghan state.
Abdul Zahir Qadir was jailed during the Taliban Time, but escaped, along with Mohammad Ismail Khan, the former governor of Herat Province, who is now the Acting Minister of Water and Energy.
Qadir is the chairman of the Coalition for the Support of the Rule of Law in the Parliament. The group boasts 200 members, and was formed immediately following the Special Court’s decision on June 23.
In a short time the group has gained significant influence within the legislature, and appears to be shaping up as an instrument of pressure on the executive branch.
It was the Coalition that played a key role in summoning the Attorney General and members of the Judiciary to appear before the legislature, as well as inviting the Ministers of Defense, Interior, Border and Tribal Affairs, and the acting chief of the National Directorate of Security to give testimony before Parliament about recent rocket attacks on Afghan soil by Pakistan.
It was Haji Zahir Qadir who was asking the questions on July 2, when these officials appeared before the legislature. Some MPs who were not in the Coalition attempted to intercede, but they were ignored. The Ministers left the chamber without being subjected to any questioning other than from Qadir and his Coalition.
Mohammad Naim Lalai Hamidzai, a deputy from Kandahar and a member of the coalition, said that the group had been formed to defend the rule of law.
“There are two types of MPs in the Parliament,” he said. “One type supports the government and the second one supports the people.”
According to Lalai, the first group defends the “dictatorship of the executive branch”, along with its bullying tactics and illegal acts. The others are working for democracy, national unity and rule of law.
“We will defend the people’s rights to the death,” said Lalai.
In addition to Haji Abdul Zahir Qadir, the Coalition includes Dr. Abdul Qayum Sajadi from Ghazni, and Haji Mirdad Khan from Kapisa, who serve as Qadir’s deputies.
Shah Gul Razayee of Ghazni and Saleh Mohammad Saleh from Kunar are the secretaries. And Abdul Latif Pedram from Badakhshan, along with Dr. Obaidullah Kalimzai of Wardak, Baktash Siawash of Kabul and Assadullah Saadati from Daikundi function as the spokespersons.
The Coalition has formed six working groups, including a Political Committee headed by Sayeed Ishaq Gailani from Paktika; a Cultural Committee, headed by Abdul hafiz Manoor from Kabul; an International Relations Committee, headed by Sharifullah Kamawal from Kandahar; an Internal Relations Committee, headed by Mohammad Naim Lalai Hamidzai from Kandahar; a Study and Research Committee, headed by Abdul Rahman Shidayee from Bamian; and a Public Relations Committee, headed by Abdul Rahman Rahmani from Balkh.
Analysts say that the Coalition was merely a reaction to the Special Court; but Lalai Hamidzai disputes this interpretation.
“We formed the Coalition before the Court’s final decision,” he said. “We have long-term goals and objectives.”
One of the major aims of the Coalition, according to a statement released by the group, is to pressure the executive branch to stop violating the law, to stop bullying the legislature, and to agree to allow the Parliament to proceed with its internal mandate to monitor the executive branch.
In the short term, the Coalition seeks to stop the Loya Jirga that is being convened by the executive branch.
The Loya Jirga is to be held in the near future, and will discuss various issues, including the long-term presence of international troops on Afghan soil.
The Lower House of Parliament, or the Wolesi Jirga, has labeled the Loya Jirga an “illegal act” and refuses to participate.
“This Traditional Loya Jirga has no legal basis,” read a statement issued by the Wolesi Jirga on June 29. “The MPs will not participate in it and will make inquiries about the funding of the Jirga.”
While the Coalition is riding high at the moment, it is far from clear whether it will be able to maintain its unity and cohesiveness far into the future. Political formations have been very fragile in Afghanistan, owing to the constantly shifting political situation.
According to Sarwar Jawadi, a political analyst and a former MP from Bamian, the Coalition’s main reason for existence is the Special Court’s decision, and it will not hold together once the crisis is over. Even now, he said, some Coalition MPs are feeling trapped by the dispute with the legislature and are seeking a solution.
“This Coalition will not last if the president does not show flexibility on the Special Court’s final decision,” he said. “The Coalition does appear to be very strong, and the government might try to break it.”
But Assadullah Saadati, one of the spokespersons for the Coalition, insists that the group will persevere despite the government’s best efforts.
“Millions of afghani have been spent to try and break the Coalition,” he said. “But the government will never succeed in its goal.”
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