Category Archives: Parliamentary Elections 2010

Our Mobocracy

My op-ed on Outlook Afghanistan Oct 18

It is now more than a year, but the parliamentary elections crises still produce a new chapter each time the older drama reaches its drop-scene. The latest victim of this manipulation is female MP Simin Barakzai. She was among the nine MP’s replaced by the IEC decision after Karzai’s decree. Ms Barakzai went on hunger strike after her plea, asking President Karzai to order review of her case, was ignored. She set up a tent camp near the parliament building. After ten days without food, Health Ministry officials declared her health was in severe condition and she could suffer kidney failure.

On the 12th day of her strike, on October 14, Afghan Police in the dark of night dragged her out of the tent, beating supporters, and took Ms Barakzai to Daud Khan Hospital. Some others who had joined her in the strike were arrested and kept in police station for a night.

The Karzai Administration has had two tactics throughout this crises, bribe and use of force. When they saw people flocking in the tent of Ms Barakzai and other MP’s joining her hunger strike, the geniuses in the Palace came with a new tactic. The Ulema Council issued a statement condemning hunger strike as Haram. They said, “It’s forbidden in Islam to reject drinking and eating. If anyone dies because of hunger strike, they will go to hell. Hunger strike is un-Islamic.”

The Ulema Council should be ashamed. They are selling out the little respect left for clerics in the hearts of Afghans. They have never been so quick and active in condemning suicide bombings and slaughter of civilians by Taliban, but a Fatwa against hunger-strike of a female is all a bunch of cowards can do. They are afraid of Taliban intimidation, and none dare to come on TV talk shows to denounce Taliban violence. Isn’t suicide attack Haram in Islam? How about using children for suicide bombing, and killing innocent civilians? How Islamic is that? The Ulema Council needs to look into their conscience. Independent religious scholars should come out to denounce this trend set by Karzai’s Fatwa Factory using the name of Ulema. This Council has become all, but a blackmailing tool of President Karzai being used for his political aims.

Bribing MP’s to form the Coalition of Reformists, or escorting the new ones into the parliament building with help of security forces has been common throughout, but asking the Ulema Council to issue Fatwas about democratic rights is a hit at the core of our crippled democracy and Government’s political cowardice at its lowest.

And that too against a female MP, whose last option was hunger strike, not for a seat in the parliament, which is not worth, but against the manipulation of this system at the hands of those who are in power for the sake of ruling, without any vision and agenda for this country. They could not dare to change a big-shot or any warlord; else we would see how they would threaten to take up arms.

As expected, Daud Sultanzoy did not come late with cheap comments about Ms Barakzai’s strike. He said she is doing it all for publicity. There you go. Someone refuses to eat, announces her will and is ready to embrace death for a cause. For Sultanzoy, it’s all about publicity. It is obviously his own agenda. He wants to get back to the parliament somehow, despite the fact that several reviews by the IEC and ECC could not find any vote rigging in his constituency. He is better off flying an aircraft, not the shameless self-promotion declaring himself as the pioneer intellectual of the nation in a TV talk show. We have not yet forgotten the farce in this ridiculous process of manipulation, when he declared Special Tribunal’s verdict as a Sharia law. Probably Sultanzoy shares the views of Karzai’s Ulema Council on hunger strike being Haram.

I am not arguing whether Ms Barakzai’s disqualification is right or wrong. But she deserves our support because she is setting an example of non-violent political activism by raising voice against a system that is being run with manipulations and force. Something that we have never seen in this country.

The mess started from the day first. President Karzai should have accepted the first ‘final’ decision of Independent Election Commission after the reviews from Election Complaints Commission. We would not have to see the parliamentary deadlock for one year, and crises between the legislature, government and judiciary, setting an example of a system founded with manipulations.

Ms Barakzai’s activism exposes the core problem with our society. We don’t hear about her on media after the tent was removed. Today she is on 17th day of her hunger strike going without food at Daud Khan Hospital. She has not stopped, despite forceful attempts of Government officials to feed her. However, the government should not have feared her. Even if Ms Barakzai dies—God forbidden—it will not make any difference to the dead collective conscience and reaction of our society.

The much gloried Afghan nang and ghairat might tremble, and mark a new example of non-violent resistance in the political history of our country where power struggles have always led to bloodbath. It might fasten the flow of blood in veins of those who still hold their hopes for the future of this country.

Watching the video of Ms Barakzai’s tent being removed amid screams of children, it reminds me of the statement by Rafi Firdous Adviser of Government Media Center who had compared the standoff between President Karzai and the parliament with the tussle between the US Congress and White House. He had said, “It shows the ‘beauty’ of our ‘democracy’.” Some folks have already compared Ms Barakzai’s hunger strike with the recent anti-corruption movement led by Anna Hazare in India. It’s all ridiculous. Ours is not a democracy, it is mobocracy, where rulers have no respect for rule of law and rights.

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Time to Move Ahead

My editorial on Outlook, August 22, 2011

Finally the Independent Election Commission announced its decision to unseat nine MP’s. In a press conference on Sunday, IEC Chief Fazal Ahmad Manawi revealed names of the MP’s to be unseated and their replacements. This was the deal made a day before President Karzai issued the decree authorizing the IEC to finalize the deadlock and crisis on parliamentary elections. Manawi had to surrender, though not to all the demands of President Karzai, and change the results he had said it will be a “dream and impossible” in his defiant interviews since December, when the pity Special Tribunal was set up to alter results.

Those 62 candidates who were declared winners by President Karzai’s Special Tribunal have said they will not accept the decision unless all of them are reinstated. The most outspoken of them, Daud Sultanzoy, was saying in a press conference on Friday that even if one of the 62 MP’s remain, they will not accept the decision. Very ridiculously and sadly, he was saying the decision of Special Tribunal is a Sharia law, and it should be implemented. Seeing his Sharia statements about this crisis and the fact that he is not among the new faces to replace the unseated MP’s, it is obvious he will go on a rant of Jihad against the IEC in coming days.

On the other hand, the sitting MP’s have said Fazal Manawi with changing the election results is making his way to jail. They were saying no change will be accepted. However, there has not been very unexpected reaction from both sides after Manawi announced the changes on Sunday.

The replacement of MP’s is not a decision which could change the majority of Karzai-critic parliament. The new faces to come in the parliament are no bigwigs or warlords, nor the unseated MP’s are prominent opposition figures.

There might be some outcry from both sides in coming days, but this decision will mark the end of a deadlock and crisis caused and provoked by the Government. Whatever reasons, deal or President Karzai’s manipulation, this decision must end the crisis and everyone should move ahead. Already we have become a joke to the world with this ridiculous manipulation.

However, what President Karzai should have learned from this crisis, is the fact that not always all his attempts of manipulation to turn the affairs in his favor work. He gained nothing, but a rival parliament after months of attempts to alter the election results. Though he was successful to replace nine MP’s after several tactics during months of pressure on IEC, but still he could not change what exactly he wanted. Now he faces a parliament that will be more reactionary to President Karzai and his cabinet.

The judiciary got serious damage to it’s not-so-good reputation after the way it was used by President Karzai. The office of Attorney General is now known as a pressure-tool for the political battles of the Palace. The latest episode is allegations of drug trafficking against MP Zahir Qadir.

Waiting for years, the people know it is a political pressure by the Government after the fiery speeches of Zahir Qadir exposing the manipulation tactics in this crisis. The first thing parliament after this replacement has to do is to impeach the Attorney General and bring changes in the legislation about the extraordinary powers granted to the office of Attorney General.

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The Crisis Continues…

My Daily Outlook op-ed published on August 18

The parliamentary crisis with its turns and twists from the day one, has reached to an interesting and important stage where the turning point could either end the year-long political battle among the three pillars of state, or mark the origin of a political calamity that could lead to the unimaginable and irreversible. The protest demonstration of MPs from the Coalition for Support of Law on Tuesday was not what it was expected seeing the fiery speeches of its leaders. But it does not mean it was the ultimate show of street-power by the protesting MPs and their supporters. In Afghanistan, there is no culture of incessant protest. But the crowds get out of control easily, and turns into a mob, or worse than that. The reason protesters were stopped by MPs before they reach center of the city is also the fear that once the situation gets out of control, the loss can be huge. We have witnessed it.

The Palace played well by releasing two different versions of the Presidential Order about the stalemate. The decision announced are same in both versions, however the one released with the signature of President Karzai is more like a Sharia statement from the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. It makes the matter more complex by defining ominous ‘judicial’ authorities of the President. The media version of that Presidential Order was released by the office of Presidential Spokesman. Seeing the unclear wording of the Presidential Order, a deal was imminent.

You needed a constitutional lawyer to translate that order. TVs in Kabul were reporting totally different from each other, some saying the Special Tribunal has been dissolved and the Election Commission assigned to finalize the election dispute, while others were reporting that the President has asked the Election Commission to implement decision of the Special Tribunal. Such was the ambiguity of the statement that both sides of the conflict, MPs in parliament and the ‘protesting candidates’ claimed victory. It was intentional to cause the confusion, keep space for a deal, and depict the ‘order’ in way that seemed like President Karzai has made a very rational decision about all this crisis by assigning IEC to resolve the conflict. But in reality, there is already a deal of sort. I would name it the Plan B of Karzai for this crisis.

The Presidential Order had kept the criminal issues of this dispute exceptional while baring all state organs to cease dealing with this except the IEC. Among the list of 62 MPs, 17 of them come into the category of ‘criminal’. And sources say Karzai after intense meetings with leading political figures and Jihadi leaders have ‘found the middle way’ of this crisis, which is removal of 17 MPs, to be replaced by the ‘protesting’ guys. There was another interesting report by the McClatchy newspaper about UNAMA Special Representative Staffen de Mitsura proposing IEC Chief Manawi about removal of 17 MPs—Karzai’s Plan B for this crisis. This report also mentions that Manawi is looking for removal of ‘five or six’ that might include the rumored names I mentioned in the beginning.

The current battle among the government, parliament and judiciary has many dimensions. This can’t be generalized as a battle between the pro-Karzai camp and opposition, with judiciary, the government, attorney general and the Special Tribunal on one side, and majority of MPs, the Election Commission and Complaints Commission on the other. There are cracks within the divide. For instance, on Tuesday a group of MPs formed another coalition called Reformists.

It included all pro-Karzai folks, who condemned the Coalition for Rule of Law in a press conference that day. Insiders say there was a sale of MPs when players from Karzai-camp were busy buying off their loyalties, trying to split the Rule of Law group. There are different rumors about what IEC might announce in its final verdict this week. Some say five MPs might be unseated. The rumored names include Hafeez Mansoor, Sarwar Usmani, Tahir Zaheer and Simeen Barakzai.

The fun is that it does not include Daud Sultanzoy. If it turns out to be the actual decision of IEC, Sultanzoy might declare the verdict ‘Haram’ and issue a ‘Fatwa’ calling IEC an un-Islamic body. These days he has been making statements defining Islamic Sharia. His fans did not know he was an expert on Sharia. While talking to his group of 200 supporters in Kabul the other day, he said,

“the court decision [Special Tribunal] is binding and enforced by Islamic Sharia law. Nobody can defy the injunctions sanctified by the law. If they stand in the way of implementing this decision they will be considered ‘mumtamarid’ [defying Islamic principles]. We all know that what Sharia prescribes for dealing with such people.”

Mr. Sultanzoy has been very critical of the Independent Election Commission. He is an intellectual, no doubt, but the above Sharia statement and his self-centered stance during this entire crisis shows the ‘pro-democracy’ face of our intellectual.

Daud Sultanzoy’s statement is not just a random rant, but as per the script, this crisis has been shaped to end with such episode. President Karzai has motivated judges and prosecutors in different provinces. Meetings were held with statements in favor of President Karzai. Besides that, the Kabul Appeal Court had also condemned the MPs rejecting the Presidential Order, saying they are opposing Sharia. Ulema Council of Afghanistan in a statement has hailed decision of the Special Tribunal. They all are putting indirect pressure on IEC to follow a certain line this week.

As I mentioned above, the Presidential Order twist with two different versions was part of this script. The one released with sign of President Karzai include a long paragraph not included in the version of the Order released by the Office of Presidential Spokesman for media. Below is the translation of that paragraph by AAN;

Given that ruling no. 22 (13/05/1390) of the Civil Affairs and Personal Status Division of the Appeal Court of Kabul province on the disputes arisen from the parliamentary elections of 1389 [2010] determined that the right to be an MP (hagh-e wekalat) in the Wolesi Jirga is a right of political privilege and representation (hagh-e emtiazi-ye siasi-ye eghtezai) and the use of this right, in the face of the current tensions that are running high in the country and in view of the highest national and social interest of the community, country and nation, has been vested within the authority of the person of the president, as the judge who has the authority to inaugurate the judiciary, the Ol-ul-Amar [the Amir whose authority is not given by people but is based on religious principles], and the leader of the national policy of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, so that the implementation of whatever decision he deems best serves the interests of the country and the nation and matches the realities of the society, may put an end to the existing confusion.

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Rumors of Emergency Rule and the Parliamentary Crisis

my Daily Outlook Afghanistan op-ed published on August 08

The rumor and news reports of President Karzai thinking to impose emergency rule in the wake of standoff with parliament spread fast among the political circles of Kabul. There were quick reactions, but before it became more of a credible news, sources from the Palace jumped in and denied. It was the International Crisis Group report which predicted that Karzai might announce emergency rule to end the tussle with Parliament. MP from Kabul, the youngest in lower house, Baktash Siawash in a speech in the house said the President could not impose emergency rule without consultation with the parliament. He went too far saying, “If the President imposes an emergency, he will meet the same fate as Egypt’s former dictator Hosni Mubarak”.

This statement came on media with reports about former Egyptian President being shown behind bars, with the news of his trial. He added, “The imposition of emergency rule is a fanciful dream of those sitting in the Presidential Palace.” All such rumors are result of the ridiculous drama with parliament. The next morning when I was in taxi, the driver made a humorous comment.

He said, “Karzai says he has not even dreamt of emergency rule, the MP’s have already seen it happening in next few days.” But more funny was a comment from a friend on twitter. She quoted a Palace insider saying, “President Karzai did not even discuss declaring emergency. He might not be aware that he has that option. International experts coined this concept.”

I don’t believe if Karzai did not know about his options of emergency rule authority. There were such speculations in the beginning of all this drama when the crisis on results of parliamentary elections emerged for the first time. However, Karzai is not in a position to declare emergency. As a friend said, “It will be like declaring a war with all opposition.” It’s too early for the President to impose emergency. He will keep that option for 2013, when the second term ends and Karzai will not be eligible for third time as per the constitution.

The current crisis with elected and loser MP’s is producing uglier episodes, latest of which is the wandering rumor about emergency rule. This is getting very ridiculous. It’s more than a year now, the election results still being manipulated. What could we expect from this administration regarding the huge responsibility of transition and coming 3 tough years ahead? The Government itself is creating problems making the crisis deeper.

President Karzai is having intensive meetings with MP’s and former Jihadi leaders to ‘find out’ a solution. Talk of a political deal is getting out of the palace meetings nowadays. In the latest of these meetings on Saturday, Vice President Qasim Faheem, Chief Justice Abdul Salam Azimi, National Assembly Speaker Rauf Ibrahimi, Senate Chairman Fazal Hadi Muslimyar, Attorney General Ishaq Aloko, Chief of High Peace Council Burhanuddin Rabbani and Sibghatullah Mujadedi, Chief Mullah of the Ulema Council Maulvi Qiyamuddin Kashaf, Head of the Constitutional Oversight and Implementation Comission gul Rahman Qazi, Judicial Board Director Nasrullah Stanikzai, Minister of Parliamentary Affairs Humayon Aziz and others. Previous meetings were held separately with different groups of the protesting candidates and MP’s who are declared unseated by the Special Tribunal. What I want you to see by listing all the names is the fact that none of these ‘elders’ and former Jihadi leaders are relevant to the crisis. For instance, what the Ulema Council chief got to do with this at all?

President Karzai is trying his old tactic by making a deal using the group of ‘compromise people’, and the so-called elders who are irrelevant on the political landscape. On the other hand, he is holding separate meetings with the MP’s who have been declared unseated, trying to split them by making offers to some, while ignoring others. Already we have seen the difference. A big shot from the opposition, Dr. Mehdi is apparently taking a very soft stand on this crisis after the parliamentary break.

The loser candidates are also once again active with daily press conferences nowadays. The other day Daud Sultanzoy, the politician-turned-TV anchor , was saying the verdict of special tribunal is ‘final’ and must be implemented. TOLO TV should not let its platform be used by Sultanzoy to discuss the crisis in his talk show. Regardless of the legal aspect and eventual outcome, he is part of this crisis, thus biased against the MP’s who have been declared unseated by Karzai’s Special Tribunal.

It was joke of the week when Adviser of Government Media Center Rafi Firdous compared the standoff between Karzai and the parliament with the recent tussle between the US Congress and White House. He was saying this shows the ‘beauty’ of our ‘democracy’. What can be more ridiculous to compare the fraud and manipulation in our system with the process in the Congress of mother of all democracies?

Where in the world we find an example that Chief Justice and several judges of the Supreme Court continuing working beyond their constitutional tenure, and nobody gives a damn about it? The parliament says all decisions and verdicts coming through the current judges and Chief of Supreme Court have no legal credibility, while the Government says all resolutions and demands passed in the current parliament have no legal basis since the decision about 62 MP’s are pending. It all happens only here in the ‘beautiful’, as Rafi Firdous says, ‘democracy’ of Afghanistan, a state in deep crisis, of which the international community expects great responsibilities to be achieved in the coming 3 years of transition process. There is a local slang that goes like, “What have you done today, that you claim to do tomorrow”. Seeing the state of affairs in the current administration, where the system is cracked up from within, there is less hope for the transition.

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Filed under Parliament, Parliamentary Elections 2010

Parliamentary Crisis in Cartoons

The deadlock on election of speaker for lower house (Wolesi Jirga) turned into another ridiculous show today (Wednesday) when the Parliamentary Commission set up to recommend ways for solution of the standoff ended with fighting of words and punches among MPs. Pajhwok has the report here. After five rounds of failed attempts to elect the speaker of the house, a special commission was set to either suggest changes in the regulations of the speaker election, or recommend other solutions. Already the commission had asked for two more days, on Monday, when they were supposed to present their recommendations in the house. But today, the standoff entered another bitter scenario of MPs punching each other.

After weeks of conflict on parliament inauguration blocked by President Karzai, now it seems the MPs, who took a strong united stance against Karzai for the inauguration postponement, are now unable to continue the process. What is the problem? Why they can’t go on with a simple election of a speaker? The answer is known by all, but it is not discussed openly, rather shown by actions, as today when two women MPs started punching each other after Nasima made comments regarding the inter-ethnic bitter accusations of civil war era. The real problems are on ethnic, tribal, linguistic, regional and sectarian lines. This is the most serious problem of Afghanistan with its nation-building, and function of governance institutions. Insurgency, corruption and lack of capacity can all have solutions, but the issue which will keep Afghanistan a crumbling failed state will be the ethnic and tribal rifts in politics. These same factors have been the reasons why Afghanistan never became a stable functioning and successful nation-state in its history. Unless the society comes to a stage where all population is educated and understand the need to compromise the conflicts throughout our history and find a “new way” of going ahead, we can’t hope Afghanistan on the path of stability and a properly functioning democratic state.  I will write further about the “new way” later. Right now i wanted to share with the readers of this blog some cartoons about the parliamentary crisis by Khaliq Alizada, a famous Afghan cartoonist of the Daily Outlook Afghanistan. His works appear on Outlook and Daily Afghanistan (Dari and English papers) everyday. In recent weeks, he had several cartoons about the parliamentary crisis.

 

The banner reads “Independent Election Commission”, the box resembling ballot box and IEC building, which has been locked. This cartoon came the day when Attorney General’s Office raided IEC building with police and seized the ballot boxes on Feb 14.

 

 

“Ouch!” says the guy on the chair, where the text on its side reads “Speaker of Lower House”, and the text on the black-hand that pulls the chair reads “Government elements” referring the speaker-election standoff in lower house, which is partly a Karzai game.

This cartoon is a mockery of the blank votes by MPs during the rounds of election for speaker of the lower house. The sign above reads “Shurai Milli/Lower house”. The guy with white coat is an MP asking “should it be white or black” in response to the offer of money. We say “white vote” for the blank votes. Horse-trading is common in Afghanistan, when MPs are bribed to vote as demanded by the bribing parties, most of the times the Government.

This one is hilarious. The number-plate in front of the vehicle reads “New parliament” and the guy is saying “Its punctured, doesn’t work!”. This cartoon came after the failure of MPs to elect speaker for 4rth round of nominations in lower house.

 

The guy sitting on the edge has a banner hanging on its feet which reads “the winner candidates” of the lower house, saying to the hand “Government” that holds it “Ouch…ouch…don’t shake too much, feeling pain in lungs”. This cartoon is about the Special Court and Attorney General warnings to the winner candidates about cases of fraud in polls and the Government dodging them with parliament inauguration.

The direction sign reads “Parliament inauguration”. The man crying depicts President Karzai asked by the guy “loser candidates” saying “Don’t Go, Mr. President” to the inauguration of the lower house, which President Karzai was compelled to inaugurate after winning candidates warned to go on without him (Next cartoon). The loser candidates were on a 48-hours sit-in strike in the Presidential Palace asking Karzai not to inaugurate the parliament. Karzai in the cartoon says, “I swear to God, i am also not happy with this”.

Text on the vehicle reads “Second term of lower house/Wolesi Jirga” and the driver, depicting Karzai with his typical Afghan national dress and hat, holding the banner which reads “Departure Date; January 26″. The guys riding behind are MPs saying “will you move or…” holding a stick!, referring to the warning of MPs to start the lower house without Karzai’s official inauguration, which has been shown by depicting Karzai as a “driver” of this vehicle.

This cartoon is about the Tom and Jerry game for some days between police and the former MPs who were insisting to enter the parliament building after the term of the house had ended. Heavy police was deployed to avoid their entry. The guy with a flag reads “formers members of lower house” and the police with stick says, “Don’t bother anymore…” The building behind is the “Shurai Milli or Lower House”.

This cartoon is about the fight between Attorney General’s office and Independent Elections Commission on announcement of election results. When the IEC announced election results of lower house, the Attorney General’s office warned them not to do. The button which is “on” is of the election results and the guy in white coat is “Attorney General” saying “turn it off” (the election results) and the guy with stick is “Independent Election Commission” saying “if you have the gut, touch it!”. Literally it reads “if you are male, touch it!”, which is an expression to say “if you have the gut”.

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Karzai’s Parliament Inauguration Speech, and the Special Court

My Outlook op-ed on Jan 27.

The parliament inauguration which had become a ridiculous lead story in every news hour around the world for days was resolved yesterday. President Karzai had to give in finally and do what the Constitution requires him to do. Actually our rulers are so stubborn in pushing the issues for a favorable situation that always underestimate the scenario and outcomes. Even when the official statement was released from Presidential Palace confirming Wednesday’s inauguration, I was still fearful of another dramatic episode erupting out of nowhere. Though there were some, like the sit-in of losing candidates in the Presidential Palace for a day, as a protest asking Karzai not to inaugurate the house. They were sitting until 11am when the house was inaugurated and their hopes ruined. This fearful perception more alerted me when some Senators walked out of the house just before the inauguration. Then it was clear that they are walking out because of lack of seats reserved for them.

President Karzai said some important stuff in his inauguration speech, while some sentences were the same reiteration. He again blatantly accused foreigners of meddling in elections and pushing him to open the house today. The diplomats of different countries sitting in the house that time might have smiled with themselves without making the amusement appear on their faces on Karzai’s accusation. General Petraaeus and Ambassador Eikenbery might have very much felt this sentence of the President. Besides the usual accusations that are now habitual from President Karzai, he said some very important points. “Afghanistan must have sovereignty without any limits and conditions”, he said while emphasizing on “legalization” of the presence of foreign troops in Afghanistan. “PRTs and other unnecessary offices of international organizations are serious hurdles for governance and state building”, this was quite confusing from the President adding that “the Government must abolish these governing and security parallels step by step.” These were tough messages to the US and NATO countries, who are in a rush of withdrawal from 2014, which President Karzai said “the Afghans are capable of security transition”.

President Karzai talked of Afghanistan’s good relations with Saudi Arabia, Russia, Turkey, India, Iran and Pakistan. But he mentioned the last two countries particularly that Afghanistan will never be used against Pakistan and Iran. “To our brother country Pakistan I say Afghanistan will never be used against Pakistan security and sovereignty. Peace without mutual cooperation is impossible.” Talking about corruption, Karzai against focused more on foreign contracts, rather than the corrupt ruling elite.

However, the only part of President Karzai’s speech I liked was when he addressing the Taliban said they are responsible for trees and jungles’ destruction by foreign troops’ bombardment. “You must stop fighting, so that villages are not destroyed, trees are not burnt by foreign troops,” he said. In interesting to note that in his parts of speech particularly about Pakistan and the US, he spoke in Pashtu, while the rest in Dari. President’s former election rival Abdullah Abdullah was also present, and warmly congratulated Karzai for inauguration by shaking hands.

Now that the parliament has been inaugurated, the real battle starts. The crisis is avoided just temporarily. Because the Special Court is still a controversial issue. Besides that, election of the Speaker of the House will be the first battle of the house. Abdullah Abdullah publicly announced his support for former speaker Younas Qanooni, while other potential candidates include Abdul Rasool Sayyaf, Mirwais Yasini, Muhiuddin Mehdi and probable candidates like Ahmad Behzaad and Mansoor. However, political bargaining has yet to begin from today.

Aside from the world headlines, the parliament inauguration crisis had started a heated debate on TV talk shows in Afghanistan. But in countries like Afghanistan, people know one good trick to bring a sudden complete change in the course of public opinion and the concerned debate. Here when someone has no logic and reason for argument, they take refuge in references of “Islamic Sharia” and bring about provocative religious terms which are, in most cases, totally irrelevant to the debated topic or issue. Same is happening nowadays. The other day, Mr. Marastyal in a talk show on ToloNews was saying “Afghanistan is an Islamic country, and Sharia rules are our preferences”. He mentioned this sentence with emphasize on the word “Islamic Sharia” in the middle of a discussion about the Special Court, which I think, was completely irrelevant, rather a negative approach in discussion when you are weak in argument, and bring about “Sharia” which the person sitting opposite to you cannot dare say a word in disagreement. Because then it becomes a matter of public sentiments with religious terms, where people are easily outraged or convinced with.

Despite the inauguration, the real problem is still not resolved. The issue is still whether Special Court is constitutional or not? Well, all those sitting in the Constitution Implementation and Oversight Commission are the most respected legal experts of the country. They have said, though not officially in response to the IEC letter yet, that the Special Court is unconstitutional. The Independent Election Commission and the Electoral Complaints Commission have repeatedly said the Special Court is unconstitutional. It is not about whether fraud has happened or not, but those allegations must be proceeded with normal courts. Setting up a Special Court for elections with selected judges is very much unconstitutional. As I have been mentioning in my previous columns on this page, there are only three cases in which the Constitution allows formation of a Special Court. I had also quoted those articles 69, 78 and 127 of the Constitution which explains the three cases for Special Court, which are impeachment of the President, cabinet members and the judges of the Special Court. Those arguing against this give references of other articles about right of taking part in elections or other irrelevant stuff, but fail to provide Constitutional reference particularly on Special Court. And in case of public debate, try to disrupt with references of “Islamic Sharia” rather.

Even if it is not about the constitutional discussion, why didn’t the Attorney General or President Karzai didn’t ask for a Special Court during the vastly rigged and controversial Presidential elections? Even continuing the fraud allegations after the investigations by IEC and ECC, it is undermining these two election bodies, and then there is no space for further debate.

The Constitutional Oversight Committee is under intense pressure from the Palace after IEC officially requested them to file their response on legality of Special Court. They must be bold and say what they have said in private that the Special Court is unconstitutional and must be dismissed. If the MPs fail to do this, rest assured for future extensions of authoritarian power by the palace.

 

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Karzai Must Quash Decree, Dismiss “Special Court”

My op-ed on Outlook about the parliament inauguration crisis.

After the UN, European Union, US and Canada expressing deep concerns on delay of the parliament inauguration, President Karzai rushed back to Kabul on Saturday. He called on a lunch with all the winning MPs, who had warned to convene the house on Sunday, with or without Karzai. In the meeting, President seems to have relented for a compromise and have offered parliament inauguration on Wednesday. But we are still concerned if it will go on smoothly, since nothing from the Palace comes surely. AAN has a detailed report of the events of past three days.

The winning MPs should have pressed the President hard in Saturday’s meeting at the Palace, which did not end with a clear deal. Though currently Wednesday has been agreed upon for inauguration, but it has not been cleared what will happen to that pity unconstitutional “Special Court” to ‘investigate’ the alleged fraud. The MPs must stand strong against the constitutional maneuvering by the President to avoid future authoritarian extensions of power. The Special Court must be dismissed, as it is not according to the Constitution of Afghanistan, which allows special courts only for three cases; impeachment of the President, cabinet members and Supreme Court judges. President Karzai must respect the Constitutional Oversight Committee’s stance that the Special Court is unconstitutional. The real motives are all authoritarian moves of the President to alter the election results, he seems to be less careful about it being constitutional or unconstitutional.

The United Nations had released a statement of “concern” on Friday about the delay of parliament inauguration. The UNAMA press release said it is “deeply concerned on the recent call to delay the inauguration of the National Assembly”. Though UN statement is late, as it should have come earlier and stricter, but still we welcome the reaction and support for democratic institutions in Afghanistan. The statement recalls the Security Council meeting about timely inauguration of the Wolesi Jirga, but it does not urge President Karzai to stop the mess with constitution. The European Union, United States and Canada are the countries mentioned in the statement. The democratic forces in Afghanistan also expect other major supporters of international efforts in Afghanistan such as UK, Germany and other members of international community to express their position on the current crisis with parliamentary elections.

The UN statement further says it supports “peaceful” resolution to the issue by relevant Afghan stakeholders, with full respect for the Afghan Constitution. The stance of international community should have been clear that if President Karzai violates the constitution by supporting unconstitutional courts to maneuver election results, there will be no support for a vote recount, or new elections, if the results are cancelled, as threatened by the “Special Court”. UNAMA says it will assist all parties to ensure effective functioning of executive, judicial and legislative bodies to prevent conflict.

There were indications that diplomats of these countries might have attended the inauguration today, if Karzai had not come up on a deal with MPs for Wednesday‘s inauguration. Some MPs had also met the two vice presidents who had expressed support for early inauguration. These two show-men have no say in the decision making process of the Presidency. Though they have brought the bulk of votes for President Karzai, but they have no say in all important decisions. The vice presidents must realize their influence and responsibility in this regard and get more active in decision making process. Otherwise we are already being led to a one-man authoritarian rule.

President Karzai must quash his decree, dismiss the election “Special Court” and inaugurate the parliament on Wednesday; otherwise we are doomed to crisis that will eventually lead the country to a chaotic situation at this crucial time when we need political stability and unity direly. Afghan civil society and media have strongly criticized the political motivations behind the formation of Special Court, which is unconstitutional.

Already people are fed up with intensifying insecurity, huge corruption, unemployment and hopelessness for future with ineffective and incapable leadership who instead of leading the country out of the current period of transition from conflict toward normalization, are making a reverse journey toward the chaos of 90s. The little hope and trust left among the masses is evading with the more-than-enough self-centered tribal-mindset, personal-politics of our rulers. And this will ultimately lead toward the collapse of this political setup.

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The Year in Review

"Happy New Year" says NATO to Taliban. Cartoon by Alizada

I know i am too late for this post and there are already too many commentaries on blogs about Afghanistan regarding the year in review. I am trying to review the year from an Afghan perspective, which might be a bit different from the ones you have read on western media outlets and blogs by foreign journalists.

For the U.S and NATO, 2010 was another bloody year of failure to speed up transition in Afghanistan. We remained on downward spiral, not only from security perspective, but also governance, nation-building and the socio-economic change. The year ended with stories of corruption at its worst, such as the bags of cash coming from Tehran to the Presidential Palace. The uniqueness and peculiarity of this corruption story was that both Karzai and Tehran confirmed the reports. The promises of a holy war  against corruption made by the President while taking oath for his second term in office was not in action in 2010. Favoritism and tribal political centralism was still a phenomenon at a time when Afghanistan needs promotion of merit and nationhood the most. But alas we are the unluckiest of nations on earth, faced up with the most corrupt and inefficient leaders, who rather than leading us towards a hopeful future, are becoming crisis mongers buried in their personal interests and tribal mindset.

In 2010, many more provinces in North and South East went to militants. The major military operations in Helmand and Kandahar have not proved the expected results. Nor the insurgents are on a position of hide-and-run to be compelled for negotiations. While the efforts of our President who had made the fight against corruption and efforts to persuade Taliban for talks as his prime tasks of the year, brought no success. The story of talks about talks with the Taliban culminated with a beautiful imposter fooling the entire Government of Afghanistan and NATO which exposed the whole episode of talks about talks with insurgents.

It started with hope, but all those London to Kabul conferences, the Jirga and then finally producing the Peace Council has not shown a positive outcome so far.  Besides the civilian casualties, increasing insurgency, rampant corruption and talks about talks with Taliban, below are some other important incidents of 2010 for Afghanistan.

Salang Pass Catastrophe

Over 160 people died in the catastrophic avalanches of the 12,700-feet-high Salang Tunnel on Feb 08. That was a deadly catastrophe, but the Government has learnt nothing from it. Salang Pass is the only road connecting capital Kabul to Northern parts of the country. It goes through heavy snowfall every year and dozens of people die during January and February. The tunnel built by the Soviet Union is now in a deplorable condition, and can bring any tragic catastrophe again, if the Government does not pay attention for repair and reconstruction work. There should be an Emergency Committee ready for any unexpected incident, and the Government should have learnt from the tragic incident of last year.

The Acting-Ministers

The cabinet nominees of President Karzai were rejected for three times from the Parliament, but still after one year, many ministries are run by acting ministers. It seems these acting ministers will complete the whole tenure of five years. The previous parliament, that rejected them could not compel the President to respect their mandate and the Constitution.

First Parliament

The very ineffective first parliament of the democratic history of Afghanistan completed its tenure in 2010. They could not even implement their own resolutions, while the Presidency could easily and completely bypass them. They will be remembered as the first parliament of Afghanistan, who were most disorganized, divided, rubber-stamp and weak house of ragtags. Quorum was not complete for many of the important sessions of the house. Members were not seen once during the entire year in any session of the parliament. The story of bribery to MPs for buying up their votes was the story of every town after nominations, impeachment of ministers of some important voting session. It was this first infamous and ineffective parliament that approved the shameful drafts like the “Rape Law”—the so-called “Shiite Personal Status Law”—which allowed marital rape of women. The hottest discussions of our first parliament was all about banning TV serials, talking about ban on jeans and paint for boys and girls.

Now the new parliament is again with a similar fate. We don’t know what will happen with the constitutional crisis. The rulers are taking the country toward a crisis by their efforts to alter the election results.

The Kuchi-Hazara Dispute

Do you remember that blood Friday in Kabul in the holy month of Ramazan when an armed clash between the Kuchis and Hazara claimed several lives? Every year there is a bloody episode of Kuchi-Hazara conflict in Behsud, but 2010 brought it to the edge of catastrophe when the conflict reached in capital Kabul. That Friday the firing of Police and civilians pelting stones was terrifying for Kabulities. Police failed to control the situation that day, as angry mob burnt down a police station. Half a dozen people died that Friday. The Karzai Government has not been serious about the resolution of the Kuchi-Hazara conflict. Every year dozens die in the dispute between the two groups in Behsud, which reached Kabul in 2010. It can still become a burning fire this summer, the time every year conflict starts. The Govt. and all parties need to get serious for a permanent resolution of the issue.

The Kabul Bank Saga

The Kabul Bank crisis had panicked masses, as well as the Government and international community, but now it seems nothing had happened. I am not sure to credit the Central Bank for its success to manage the crisis, at a time when thousands of people were lining up in front of branches of the bank across the country to withdraw their deposits, but actually it was the Government that created the panic and mayhem with the sudden takeover of Kabul Bank and public announcement of it.

And those responsible in the crisis went unpunished. The shareholders of the bank were bigwigs and allies of President Karzai including one of his brothers. Their corruption and luxurious villas in Dubai caused the crisis that almost brought a financial crisis in the economy and banking meltdown.

Conscript Military Service

There was an intense debate on electronic and print media, as well as among people about the idea of conscript military  service proposed. President Karzai talked about it first time in Munich Security Conference. Afghanistan had conscript army service mandatory prior to 1992. After the fall of the central government and eruption of civil war, the military structure was destroyed. In the wake of difficulties for recruitment for army, the idea of conscript service was proposed. But the history of forced military service is not very positive in Afghanistan. People used dozens of tricks to escape their service, while the influential tribal people and those having ‘good-relations’ with officials were always let go without service. However, the discussion did not come up with something, nor the Government pursued the idea.

Hope for 2011?

I don’t see prospects of any improvement this year too. President Obama announced his last year’s review and there was no change in the policy, nor he indicated any strong support for the talks with Taliban that is being pursued by the Peace Council nowadays. I hope the surge strategy under the leadership of General Petraeus will weaken the insurgency and help the process of talks. But the US and NATO should not close their eyes in hope of talks, while the Northern provinces become the next Helmand and Kandahar. I am also very skeptical of any success regarding the talks with Taliban. Unless the leadership of Kandahari Taliban, mainly the so-called Quetta Shura, and the Haqqani Network under any divine miracle change their Jihadi agenda and thinking, things won’t work. I am skeptical that even if Pakistan’s military and intelligence establishment try to support the talks and attempt to persuade these elements, its hard to make a political compromise with them. The Obama Administration should press hard Pakistan, giving the military establishment its wishing ‘role’ in talks with Taliban on some conditions, for the last chance. If even then, such a strategy does not work, the only way  is ultimate defeat of Taliban leadership, which is possible through more successful ground operations, drone attacks on the leadership hideouts of Taliban in Pakistan’s tribal areas, and increase of intelligence on ground to chase and track the insurgent leadership.

Websites of the Year!

At the conclusion, i am also telling the readers of this blog the two best websites of year about Afghanistan for me. The Afghanistan Analysts Network is my website of 2010, with the best analysis about Afghanistan. Though not as known as the mainstream media reporting on Afghanistan, but their writers are most accurate and unmistakable, even compared to those breaking reports of NYTimes or Washington Post and BBC. My second best is the AfPak Channel, not only for the great AfPak news links they share on twitter, and daily briefs, but also the quality of commentary on Afghanistan by their contributors.

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Blaming Foreigners for Implementation of the Constitution

My Outlook column this week.

Our President always comes up with brilliant statements that hit the headlines around the world, sometimes crying in public for the future of his son, the other threatening the international community to join Taliban. I had seriously thought it was an April Fool hoax when President Karzai said the insurgency could become ‘national resistance’ if the foreigners continue meddling in Afghanistan’s internal affairs. In that same statement, he had said foreigners also don’t want the parliamentary elections to go ahead.

The latest such statement came from the President on the seventh anniversary of the Constitution last Tuesday. As every year, a symbolic official gathering marked the anniversary, where President Karzai said, “fortunately we have had some success in our work in the past seven years, but of course there were some failure in implementing the constitution.” The President took credit for the success of ‘implementing’ the constitution, but when it came to failures, he added “the foreigners should stop interference in implementation of constitution, which they have been meddling.”

In his typical style, the President painted the picture by fairly admitting for a bit of the failure giving the example of District elections, as demanded by the Constitution, which the Government has been failed to conduct so far. I was surprised how he didn’t blame it too on the foreigners. What amazes me more than anything is his ‘diplomatic language’ criticizing the ‘foreigners’, a word that does not give a particular sense which foreign country is he talking about. Though, like giving the example of District elections for his Govt.’s failure of implementing the Constitution, the President could also make it clear which foreign country is making what interference in the implementation of our constitution? It sounds very odd that foreign countries have the influence to even interfere in the ‘implementation’ of the Constitution. But what specific, our President does not bother to tell us.

The fact is that the Government of President Karzai has been violating the Constitution more than several times. The Constitution demands creation of District Councils’ elections, which the Government has failed to conduct. It is also violation of the Constitution when the President completely ignores rejection of cabinet members by the parliament for several times, but still ministries are run by acting ministers. Some laws approved from Parliament were being delayed by President, which have not been implemented.

When the President extended his tenure before the controversial Presidential elections, it was a violation of the Constitution by himself, who blames foreigners for his own deeds. Even in the wake of the parliamentary post-election crisis, there is violation of Constitution. The five-member Special Court “approved” by the President on recommendation of the Supreme Court is very controversial bringing the very legitimacy of the Special Court under question, and violation of Constitution in case.

There are three circumstances under which special courts are formed. They are all about impeachment of the President, cabinet members, Chief Justice or any member of the Supreme Court. The Constitution makes it clear that only the above three circumstances merit formation of a Special Court.

According to Article 69 of the Constitution, “Accusations of crime against humanity, national treason or crime can be leveled against the President by one third of the members of the Wolesi Jirga. If two-third of the Wolesi Jirga votes for the charges to be brought forth, the Wolesi Jirga shall convene a Loya Jirga within one month. If the Loya Jirga approves the accusation by a two-third majority of votes, the President is then dismissed, and the cases is referred to a special court. The special court is composed of three members of the Wolesi Jirga, and three members of the Supreme Court appointed by the Loya Jirga and the Chair of the Meshrano Jirga.”

Article 78 of the Constitution says, “If a Minister is accused of crime against humanity, national treason or criminal act of crime, the case shall be referred to a special court in accordance with the article 134 of this constitution.

Article 127 of the Constitution says, “when more than one-third of the members of the Wolesi Jirga demand the trial of the Chief Justice or a member of the Supreme Court due to a crime committed during the performance of duty, and the Wolesi Jirga approves of this demand by a majority of two-third votes, the accused is dismissed from his position and the case is referred to a special court.

The above-mentioned three circumstances are the only cases to form special court. Thus the very legitimacy of the current panel for Special Court to investigate the accusations of candidates for parliamentary elections is under question and a violation of the Constitution by the President. The above articles of the Constitution that I have quoted also mention the process of how to appoint members of the Special Court. But the way members of the current Special Court have been appointed, it makes the political motives behind it very clear. The respected election watchdog organization, the Free Election Foundation of Afghanistan has already said the special court is “unconstitutional”.

The masses unaware of the Constitutional specifics can easily believe the accusation of President Karzai blaming foreigners for his own failures and violation of the Constitution. And what punishment does the law explain for someone who violates the Constitution?

The Constitutional Oversight Committee should make sure the Constitution is observed and respected. It has the authority to oversee implementation of the Constitution by all three pillars of the state, as well as highlighting cases where it has been violated and bring those responsible to justice. In case of the Special Court, the Oversight Committee has been quiet. But even if they take notice, they can only refer the case to another court, or Supreme Court, which itself has recommended the Special Court.

Our Constitution needs amendments and provisions, after the crisis such as the post-election and in many other aspects. It is the responsibility of the parliament and public intellectuals to hold extensive debates on all aspects. But we cannot afford chaos and crisis. The current game pushed by the Palace regarding the change in election results is leading the country towards such a situation, where things can get on an irreversible stage.

President Karzai wants us—the masses—to believe that foreigners are meddling in implementation of the Constitution, but the facts are that the Government has been the hurdle and violating. The western allies of Afghanistan who are spending billions of dollars, and sacrificing blood of their young men and women to bring peace and stability in this doomed country, have been helping with implementation of the Constitution, from assistance in conducting the elections to supporting the governance infrastructure. Blaming them for your own failures is too naive.

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The Drama With Election Results

Media outlets in Kabul have been running stories these days that the Election Commission has been pressurized to alter results. Initially the moves had started from the day when there was postponement of preliminary results again and again. Now it seems like the President himself has stepped in to turn everything upside down. On November 07, the President met the Chief of Independent Election Commission Fazal Ahmad Manawi asking him to remove names of three candidates from the list of winners. They are Ahmad Behzad from Herat, Dr. Latif Pedram from Badakhshan and Dr. Mehdi from Baghlan. They have been staunch critics of President Karzai and now secured huge votes in the second parliamentary elections. The reason why President Karzai is trying to remove these three names from the list is clear. He wants to punish his critics, and block their way into the parliament.

Fazal Ahmad Manawi is under intense pressure from the Palace. The Election Complaints Commission spokesman Ahmad Zia Rafat while talking to journalists on Tuesday has said some ‘circles from within the Govt.’ are pressurizing them to alter the election results. BBC Persian report about him is here. He added these ‘Govt. circles’ want their favorite people, who have lost, get into the parliament. He said the Commission warns these ‘circles from within the Govt.’ through media to stop ‘interference’ in the work of the Commission. He also committed the Complaints Commission would not let these pressure circles to influence and change the results, at any cost.

What Ahmad Zia Rafat has said is a slap on the face of Presidential Palace exposing the truth. Though he didn’t directly reveal the ‘circles from within the Government’ but we know who they are. When the President himself openly expresses concerns on the election results, ask the Election Commission to make extra care in the review process, it tells the whole story. I praise Fazal Ahmad Manawi for his firm stance, honesty and sincerity with his job. But it is extremely shameful that Government is trying its best to ruin the whole process. There is intense discussion about this in local Dari newspapers and electronic media, but the international press is silent, or unaware. The champions of democracy, international organizations, the United Nations and embassies are all silent watching how far our cheap leaders will go in their addiction of ruining law and constitutions for personal interests.

The President had also expressed concerns over the entire results from Ghazni province saying such a result will undermine the ‘national unity’. Why? Because the violence and fear of Taliban caused very less turnout in areas of a particular ethnic group, while all the candidates belonging to a minority ethnic group won, thus making all out representation from Ghazni. This is not a blow to the so-called national unity. Should those winners be punished for their ethnicity and the so-called ‘national unity’ at the cost of democracy? Indeed very shameful and ridiculous logic.

The ‘circles from within the Government’ mentioned by Ahmad Zia Rafat are none other than President Karzai’s Chief of Staff Daudzai, who was in international headlines for taking bags of cash from Iran recently, and Minister of Education Farooq Wardak. They are the closest guys to President Karzai in the cabinet and palace.  But we know that these ‘circles from within the Government’ cannot dare ask the Election Commission to alter results, unless President Karzai ask them to do so. What the spokesman of Election Complaints Commission did not reveal was the direct involvement of President in this whole saga. Rather he said the President himself is not ‘interfering’ in this process. Then who are ‘the circles from within the Government’ and how dare they can pressurize the Election Commission?

Now that the Election Commission and Complaints Body didn’t succumb to the demands from Palace, some other tactics are being used. Some candidates who have lost blatantly with low votes have been protesting in Kabul against the Election Commission. Some of these candidates are the favorites of the Palace and they are being encouraged to keep the protest demonstrations in order to pressurize the Election Commission.

Even this is not working. Rulers are very angry on the Election Commission Chief and Complaint Commission’s honest officials. Now another tactic is being used. Attorney General has been dragged into this drama. Very ridiculously, The Attorney General’s office has given an ultimatum deadline to Independent Election Commission for allowing it to investigate the invalid votes. The Attorney General, who is as loyal to the Palace as a watchman to the Chief Executive in any office, had said IEC officials will be summoned through security personnel if they did not allow access to invalidated ballots. Initially it was a sundown deadline, but praise to the courage of Fazal Ahmad Manawi and other sincere officials of the Election Commission and Complaints Commission that they have not succumbed to the demands yet. Yesterday Late afternoon the deadline was extended for 48 hours. The Attorney General’s office says under Article 5 of the Government Employees Act, IEC officials will be dismissed!

The ultimatum of the Attorney General’s office is damn ridiculous and condemnable. They have no authority and legitimacy to interfere in the work of the Independent Election Commission or Complaints Commission. But the AG’s office is being used from the Palace.

IEC Chief Fazal Ahmad Manawi has already called on UN head in Afghanistan Steffan de Mistura and notified him of the pressures about the election results. Apparently the UN envy has assured all out support to the Election Commission against any interference from the Presidential Palace, but it seems they will keep watching the drama and stay mute. Their silence so far is very much discouraging. The United Nations office could at least release a statement voicing support for the independence of the Election Commission, condemning the pressure from the Government circles, which has now been officially confirmed by Ahmad Zia Rafat in a press conference.

The Government must take some breath of conscience and come to their minds. This is going too much beyond the limits of public patience. If the Election Commission and Complaints body was kept being pressurized, either they would succumb or there will be a blow to the Government. Mr. Manawi will come in front of media and expose the entire drama. Then there would be no chance for the Palace and others to defend their deeds.

 

 

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