Afghan lawmakers demand full Cabinet list

AP News
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Posted: Dec 07, 2009 12:46 PM

Refusing to be a rubber stamp, Afghan lawmakers on Monday demanded a full, not partial, list of President Hamid Karzai's new Cabinet _ the first test of the embattled leader's commitment to clean up graft and bribery in his government.

Karzai, who won a second term after an election marred by ballot-stuffing, is under intense international pressure to assemble a Cabinet of reformists _ a tall order in a country where Afghans pay bribes for everything from driver's licenses to police protection and the mayor of the capital of Kabul was sentenced to jail Monday on corruption charges.

Members of parliament must approve Karzai's picks for his team, but in the past they have overlooked ministers with unsuitable qualifications and in some cases, ministers have served without being approved. This time, lawmakers appear to be playing a larger role in the process of seating a new 25-member Cabinet in hopes of ensuring that presidential cronies don't slip through.

Despite the demand for a full list, an official close to Karzai, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information, said the president would only release the names of six nominees Tuesday. The official said the list would include ministers of defense, interior, finance, commerce, agriculture and public health.

Karzai is in a tight spot. In his inauguration speech late last month, the president vowed to end the country's "culture of impunity." At the same time he owes favors to friends who helped him get re-elected. The international community is watching to see if Karzai hands out Cabinet posts as rewards.

"We want a complete list of the Cabinet," said Mohammad Nahim Farahi, member of parliament from Farah province in western Afghanistan. "A partial list of the Cabinet is not acceptable for us."

He and other members of parliament, who discussed the Cabinet in Monday's session, expressed concern that a partial list would not permit them to make sure all ethnic groups in Afghanistan were represented. They also want Afghan citizens to be able to review a full list and make their views known to lawmakers.

Farahi also said lawmakers want Karzai's complete list of nominees accompanied by resumes so the backgrounds of the prospective ministers could be vetted.

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"Today the stand of the parliament made me very hopeful that a corrupt Cabinet will not be approved by the parliament," said Gul Pacha Majedi, a lawmaker from Paktia province in eastern Afghanistan.

Asked in an interview with The Associated Press last week if the Cabinet would get the nod from the international community, Karzai replied, "It has to be a Cabinet that the Afghan people are happy with."

The president will be hard-pressed to erase the image of the government that he portrayed in early November when he was proclaimed the winner of the presidential election. While Karzai promised to stamp out corruption, he was flanked that day by his two vice presidents _ both former warlords widely believed to have looted Afghanistan for years.

An Afghan court sentenced the mayor of Kabul, Mir Abdul Ahad Sahebi, to four years in prison for corruption in connection with contracts on city projects, said deputy attorney general Fazel Ahmad Faqiryar.

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Associated Press writers Amir Shah, Kathy Gannon and Deb Riechmann contributed to this report.