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Analysis of New Cabinet: Warlords Emerge from Loya Jirga More Powerful Than Ever

20 June 2002

Afghanistan's warlords emerged from the loya jirga with greater power and a new claim to legitimacy, said today.

Many delegates representing civil society told Human Rights Watch that they had been excluded from any real decision-making. As the loya jirga nears its end, they expressed fears about the resurgent power of the warlords who were active, and at time abusive, participants in the loya jirga process.

Afghanistan's warlords are stronger today than they were ten days ago before the loya jirga started, said Saman Zia-Zarifi, senior researcher for Human Rights Watch. Short term political expediency has clearly triumphed over human rights.

The cabinet just named by Hamid Karzai, head of the transitional government, differs only slightly from that of the interim administration. The predominantly Tajik Jamiat-e Islami party holds three key cabinet posts while the Shi a Hazara party, Hizb-e Wahdat, gained a seat. Both parties have been implicated in the recent attacks on ethnic Pashtun civilians in northern Afghanistan following the collapse of the Taliban. Jamiat has also been involved in an ongoing conflict with General Abdul Rashid Dostum's Junbish party in northern Afghanistan, where fighting and general insecurity have imperiled international humanitarian aid operations.

The appointment of Fazul Hadi Shinwari to the post of Chief Justice of the Supreme Court also raises serious human rights concerns. Shinwari was quoted in press interviews in January as saying that Shari a punishments including stoning and amputation would be retained, albeit with stricter due process guarantees than under the Taliban. His position contradicted Karzai's assertion during a visit to the United States that same month that Shari a punishments could only be imposed in a society in which social justice and freedom from hunger prevailed.

Karzai did not announce who would lead the Ministry for Women's Affairs. Given the history of discrimination that Afghan women have suffered and the continuing insecurity in the country, this ministry is key to promoting and achieving Afghan women's rights.

The framers of the Bonn agreement recognized that an interim administration for Afghanistan, established immediately after the collapse of the Taliban, would have to include warlords who had reestablished themselves as effective authorities in most of the country in the fight against the Taliban. However, the selection of the transitional government to lead Afghanistan during reconstruction, by the delegates of the emergency loya jirga was supposed to reflect the voice of civilians, not warlords.

Instead of creating the space for civilian leadership to emerge during the six-month interval, the lack of an internationally enforced security arrangement meant that warlords used that time to rebuild their military and political networks, said Zia-Zarifi.

A delegate from Kabul told Human Rights Watch, Warlords who bombed Kabul are not supposed to be here in the loya jirga. People who are contaminated with the blood of Afghans should not be elected as ministers.

One group of delegates planned to submit a slate of candidates to fill the cabinet. None of the candidates on the lists were warlords or affiliated with them. Before the delegates had the opportunity to present their slate at the loya jirga, at least three members of the group received death threats over the phone.

Vikram Parekh, Kabul
Published by Human Rights Watch © HRW 2002

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