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.