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The Killid Group
Karzai: Turf battle with ParliamentWritten by Reza Mohammad Gulkoohi
Saturday, 12 November 2011 12:33
The holding of a Loya Jirga on Nov. 16 has thrown up questions of constitutional propriety and the president's authority.
President Hamid Karzai will be seeking to discuss issues like the strategic treaty with the US and a proposed plan to enhance the power of the president. His opponents say the discussions should be in the National Assembly; there is no place for a Loya Jirga under the Constitution.
Mahmood Saiqal, ex-deputy minister of foreign affairs and political affairs analyst, believes the government is "obliged to outline the draft of the agreement and send it to Parliament." The decision on whether or not the US can establish bases in Afghanistan - for after its withdrawal in 2014 - does not require a special session of the National Assembly, he says.
Esmayel Qasimar, head of the grand assembly and member of the board of the scientists council, who has studied the related laws, says "the president can appeal to the votes of people (in the roughly 2,000-member Loya Jirga) but this appeal will have only consultative aspect not executive authority." He went on to explain that while historically the Loya Jirga (grand assembly) was where solutions were reached and political decisions taken, under the new Constitution the National Assembly is the highest law-making institution."
Article 110 acknowledges the Loya Jirga has the moral authority, and the head of all provincial and district councils, MPs, governors, ministers, judges and attorney generals are members of the grand assembly, and all except the two last categories have the right to vote.
Article 111 equally clearly specifies the three conditions for the holding of a grand assembly. To discuss issues of sovereignty; amend the Constitution; and, the trial of the President.
Under the circumstances, the grand assembly called by Karzai next week fails the criteria. Faizullah Jalal from the Faculty of Law and Political Science, says the government has not held elections to district councils, which is an important element of the Loya Jirga. "The conditions for holding are not complete … the grand assembly is not lawful and legal," he adds.
Executive vs Legislature
Meanwhile, Parliament has also opposed the holding of the Loya Jirga. Only 100 of the 352 members in the two houses have signed the form for participation in the Nov. 16 meeting. A letter circulated by the opposition states, 'The traditional assembly does not have any legal basis. Parliament will not participate … and will investigate the budget allocated for this assembly."
The government is not backing off. Deputy Spokesman, Siamak Herawi, says, "Afghanistan is a traditional country, we cannot ignore these traditions and their roles."
But Saiqal, ex-deputy foreign minister, firmly believes the government should strengthen democracy and "keep itself away from traditional structures, which do not have a place in the Constitution." The last time a Loya Jirga was held was 2007, the so-called Peace Jirga to discuss peace between neighbours Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Leave it to the experts
What if the government was to be opposed by the Loya Jirga, asks Sayed Mohamad Rezwani from the Eqtedar Milli (National Power) party. believes "If the assembly give negative vote for the treaties with America, what will be the reaction of the government?" According to him, the treaties should be studied by parliamentary groups specialising in economic, political and cultural matters and not by tribal leaders whose understanding may be "weak" regarding strategic relations. In addition, the president may be putting up the issue of enhancing his authority in the Loya Jirga. Former deputy foreign minister, Saiqal, said he was "concerned" Karzai would be seeking to bolster his power. "I am concerned that Karzai will request more authority in the coming elections for the agreement on the American bases in Afghanistan …"
Farhad Azimi, first assistant to the parliamentary secretary, says: "If the assembly (Loya Jirga) with its nonprofessional members issued a consultation that is not in accordance with the ideas of the representatives of the people (National Assembly), it would be a waste of the nation's money."
Who is the final authority? The president has the authority to call a Loya Jirga, but the meeting does not have the authority to make or change the law, says Qasimar.