Afghan worlords hindering Loya Jirga process: HRW

AFP , June 13, 2002

NEW YORK, June 13 (AFP) - Afghan war lords are hindering the Loya Jirga, Afghanistan's traditional assembly, in its efforts to set up a representative government, Human Rights Watch said Thursday.

Delegates to the Loya Jirga are subjected to intimidation and surveillance by Afghan intelligence services, the rights group said in a statement here.

UN envoy to Afghanistan Lakhdar Brahimi says: "Voting for the Loya Jirga has been plagued by violence and vote-buying... There were attempts at manipulation, violence, unfortunately. Money was used, threats were used."

ABC News, June 12, 2002

Women's Affairs Minister of interim governmet says: "This is not a democracy, it is a rubber stamp - everything has already been decided by the powerful ones."

BBC, June 12, 2002

Mir Mohammed, another delegate from Kabul, said: "I was thinking of voting for Karzai this morning but when I heard his speech I realised he can't solve the problems of Afghanistan. He only mentioned the leaders of the armed factions. They all support him. If you see who has destroyed Kabul, killed tens of thousands of people, how can it be possible for them to be in power again? How can they solve the problems of Afghanistan?"

The Independent, 14 June 2002

"We were told that this loya jirga would not include all the people who had blood on their hands, but we see these people everywhere. I don't know whether this is a loya jirga or a commanders' council." said Safar Mohammed, drawing applause from fellow delegates.

The Guardian, June 13, 2002

'The European Union special representative Klaus-Peter Klaiber said he was surprised that warlords were participating in the loya jirga. "I was amazed to see in the first and second rows those so-called warlords sitting together".

Brendan O'Neill, 13 June 2002

"After subverting the voting process in many regions of Afghanistan, the warlords are now trying to hijack the Loya Jirga itself," said HRW's Saman Zia-Zarifi.

"If the warlords succeed in their nefarious quests, the security of the Afghan people will be put squarely in the hands of those most likely to threaten it," the group said. Afghans nominated more than 1,500 delegates to represent them at the Loya Jirga, a traditional gathering of tribal leaders, which was called to fill the power vacuum left after the fall of the Taliban extremists at the hands of Afghan, US and international forces.

The Loya Jirga was convened Tuesday. "On Tuesday, warlords not appointed to the assembly were allowed inside the tent where the Loya Jirga is in session, mingling with the delegates and threatening those who called for their exclusion or opposed their agenda.

"Several delegates, including some women, reported threats when they complained about the warlords participation in the grand national assembly. Other delegates reported alarm at the heavy presence of agents from the Afghan Intelligence Service," Human Rights Watch said in the statement, which was also critical of the US role.

"US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad was instrumental in sidelining the former Afghan king, Zahir Shah. Khalilzads active intervention was in stark contrast to the US government's failure to implement the Bonn agreement's exclusion of warlords from the Loya Jirga," said Zia-Zarifi.

According to delegates interviewed by Human Rights Watch, "A number of the most prominent warlords gathered Monday night to divide power in the next government."

Although the Loya Jirga bylaws prohibit human rights abusers from being seated on the council, HRW said it knows of no war lord's being excluded, "despite the presence of some of Afghanistan's most abusive warlords among the delegates," the report said.

"We are hostages of the people who destroyed Afghanistan. (The warlords) are trying to hold us hostage to their power," said a delegate on condition of anonymity.

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