Afghan lawmakers: Karzai to name Cabinet Saturday

AP News
Posted: Dec 08, 2009 2:55 AM

Afghan President Hamid Karzai will submit a full slate of his new Cabinet to lawmakers this weekend in what will be the first test of his commitment to clean up graft and bribery in his government, two parliament members said Tuesday.

Karzai had said earlier he would present a partial list of his picks for the Cabinet, but Afghan lawmakers demanded a complete list from the palace.

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, Kabul, was sentenced to jail Monday on corruption charges.

Arif Noorzai, a member of parliament from Kandahar, said Karzai had planned to submit his picks for six of 25 ministers in his government to the assembly on Monday. Noorzai said that after much opposition from parliament members, the president and the assembly leadership reached an agreement for a full list to be handed over to the lawmakers Saturday.

Babrak Shinwari, a member of parliament from Nangahar province, also said Karzai would submit his Cabinet list Saturday. He said lawmakers had been told that at least five members of Karzai's current team _ the ministers of defense, interior, finance, commerce and agriculture _ would remain in the Cabinet, but it was unclear whether they would keep the same positions.

Members of parliament must approve Karzai's picks, but in the past they have rubber-stamped 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.

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 whether Karzai hands out Cabinet posts as rewards.

"We want a complete list of the Cabinet," said Mohammad Nahim Farahi, a 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.

"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 whether 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.


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