Unconstitutional Moves of the President

My Outlook op-ed June 19, 2011 

A commission headed by Sibgatullah Mujadadi has started preparations for the so-called Loya Jirga which is said to be convened after Eid, about two months later, to discuss and decide on the matter of the US long-term military bases in Afghanistan. Members of the Preparatory Commission have been ‘appointed’ by President Karzai to decide participants of the Jirga.
There are several questions on this. Firstly, why is the President by passing parliament on this matter? And secondly, what is the legal mandate or status of the so-called Loya Jirga? When we have a parliament elected by the votes of the masses, we don’t need any Jirga to decide a matter of national interest. But the President has other aims to play with.

Loya Jirga is indeed regarded as a constitutional process, but it has become a joke referred to with disrespectful views by common Afghans because of the ways President Karzai has called so many Loya Jirgas during his two terms in office. According to the Afghan constitution’s Article 110,

Loya Jirga is the highest manifestation of the people of Afghanistan. And the constitution says, “It consists of the following: a) members of the National Assembly, b) Chairpersons of the provincial, and ‘district councils’. c) The ministers, Chief Justice and members of the Supreme Court; they can participate in the sessions of the Loya Jirga without the right to vote”. The constitution makes further specification in Article 111; Loya Jirga is convened in the following situations: 1) To take decision on the issues related to independence, national sovereignty, territorial integrity, and supreme interests of the country. 2) To amend the provisions of the Constitution. 3) To prosecute the President in accordance with the provisions of Article 69 of the Constitution.

Decisions made by such a Jirga become the word of law. But basically with the absence of district councils, any Loya Jirga is unconstitutional and without any legal status or mandate.

And the Constitution does not mention about types of Jirgas with different references like Consultative, Traditional and so on, as Thomas Ruttig of Afghanistan Analysts Network calls it, “Innovative Loya Jirga-ism”. What is this, if not violation of the Constitution by Mr. President? A tradition to make joke of the rule of law, which will be common for successors of President Karzai in inheritance.
The outgoing US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates says President Karzai has privately told him to step down after 2014, when his term ends. According to Afghanistan’s constitution, a president is limited to two terms, and cannot run for the office for the third time. Normally it doesn’t need to be told to the official of another state in private about doing something which is required by our constitution. However, majority of politicians in Afghanistan believe or rather fear that Mr. Karzai is ambitious for third term in office. There have been many other such promises made in private by the President none of which were made. And he can bring changes to the constitution by his unconstitutional moves. Actually most of the steps taken by President Karzai since his second term in office have been in violation to the Afghan Constitution, from his extension of stay in office during the Presidential elections to the games played on the parliamentary elections and establishment of the pity Elections’ Special Tribunal. The Loya Jirga to be convened for ‘consultation’ on the US bases will be another addition to the list.

The ridiculous game of exchanging letters between the Parliament and Elections Special Tribunal is another tactic of the President to blackmail MPs. Where on earth such a national issue of importance takes months for decision? Whenever the Palace faces resistance from the parliament on any issue, the Elections Special Tribunal statements predicting its decision to unseat dozens of MPs come in media. This game of Mickey-Mouse will continue for long, since it’s a good tool for blackmailing the parliament. But MPs should take strong and decisive action to end this ridiculous practice. They have been observing silence in the parliament for days, asking the President to introduce his remaining cabinet members, but President Karzai is acting like a deaf. It has been more than a year and half of the acting-ministers who were rejected by previous MPs for many times of nominations are working in their respective offices. Constitutionally, they are for maximum one month, but it’s now more than 18 months those rejected nominees are working as ministers. President Karzai didn’t give a damn to the will of parliament and appointed those as ministers who were rejected thrice.

The international community has ignored all such manipulations of the rule of law by President Karzai. Members of the Oversight Committee for Implementation of the Constitution are chosen by the President; therefore they have never bothered to question these moves.
Now it is responsibility of the Afghan parliament and political forces to pressurize the President and boycott the coming Loya Jirga objecting to its unconstitutional nature. Historians of the nation will condemn President Karzai for starting a tradition of violating the constitution.

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