Afghan President Chooses Cabinet

Afghan President Hamid Karzai announced picks for 14 of his cabinet posts yesterday, only one of which was a woman. In addition, selection of a leader for Afghanistan’s Ministry of Women’s Affairs was conspicuously missing from President Hamid Karzai’s list. Dr. Sima Samar, who heads the Ministry of Women’s Affairs in the interim government and served as vice chair for the loya jirga, has suffered verbal attacks recently from Islamic fundamentalists for unconfirmed reports that she does not believe in Islamic law. Samar has yet to be appointed to a position in Karzai’s government.

Few of the choices differed from those already serving in the interim government including several warlords. “Afghanistan’s warlords are stronger today than they were 10 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.” Representatives of two parties implicated in recent attacks on ethnic Pashtun civilians in northern Afghanistan were appointed to four key cabinet positions while Fazul Hadi Shinwari, who is known for his drastic punishments such as stoning and amputation, was chosen to serve as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

Human Rights Watch believes that the warlords’ presence in the new government is due to the lack of an international security presence in the country. “Instead of creating a 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,” Zia-Zarifi said. The Feminist Majority joins Human Rights Watch in their call to Karzai to launch investigations into intimidation of loya jirga delegates by newly appointed leaders and equip the newly formed Afghan Human Rights Commission with the necessary resources to protect delegates as they return home.

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Human Rights Watch 6/20/02; BBC 6/18/02

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