Warlords Set to Dominate Afghanistan’s Parliament

Emmanuel Duparcq, Agence France Presse
Publication Date: 
Mon, 2005-12-19 03:00

About two-thirds of the seats in Afghanistan’s first Parliament in 30 years will be filled by warlords from years of bloody conflict but they are unlikely to form a bloc, analysts said.

Instead the diverse backgrounds of the lawmakers and the fact that one-third of all seats are held by independents will likely give US-backed President Hamid Karzai majority support, they said. “The majority of the parliamentarians are warlords or linked to warlords,” said analyst Neik Mohammed Kabuli from the National Democratic Institute (NDI) in Kabul.

“Warlords and parties are a majority in the Parliament,” confirmed Sabrina Saqeb, 25, the youngest of the MPs to be elected to the 249-seat House of Representatives, the Wolesi Jirga.

The fighters rose to prominence when they joined the resistance to the 1979-1989 Soviet occupation. They later turned on each other in the bloody 1992-1996 civil war for which some have been accused of rights abuses.

That they made a strong showing in the Sept. 18 election is not a surprise given their still considerable influence in the provinces. “The Parliament is between 60 and 70 percent former Mujahedeen or related. But they don’t necessarily represent a bloc,” a UN analyst said, requesting anonymity.

Sitting among the one-time fighters on the benches will be several progressives, including many of the women who were reserved 25 percent of parliamentary seats.

Ethnic divisions, exacerbated by the 1990s civil war, could count more in determining the future track of the assembly, analysts said. Close to half of those elected are from the dominant Pashtun group, from which Karzai comes. Pashtuns, who make up nearly 50 percent of the population and dominate in the south and east of the country, were in power without interruption between 1747 and 1978.

“There will be a lot of ethnicity involved,” said political analyst and former minister Hamidullah Tarzi.

But MP Shukria Barakzai was confident this would not be a factor for long.

“In the short term, we’ll see a divide between Pashtuns and others. But soon the atmosphere will change, and a majority will try to work with Karzai,” she said.

Several analysts believed the range of the parliamentarians would allow Karzai, who has the military and financial backing of the international community and represents the progressive camp, to secure majority support.

The only declared opposition force, a coalition led by failed presidential contender Yunus Qanooni, “will be very far from a majority in the Wolesi Jirga”, the NDI said in a report. Karzai’s backing is likely to come from most of the Pashtuns, the independents, democratic intellectuals, women and former communists and Taleban, Kabuli said.

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