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Globalization - Countries - Afghanistan

Karzai will create 'truth commission'
By Pamela Hess, UPI Pentagon Correspondent 6/13/2002

KABUL, Afghanistan, June 13 (UPI) -- If elected to head the new government of Afghanistan, one of Hamid Karzai's first acts will be to establish a "truth commission" to expose those warlords who committed crimes against the Afghan people, according to his brother and adviser, Qayum Karzai.

"Personally I think crimes have occurred since the invasion of the Soviet Union, and I think it has to be dealt with in order for us to move on," Qayum told a group of reporters on his grape-vine covered terrace. "Some accountability must come about as to who did what and why."

A resident of Baltimore, Md., he is a delegate to the loya jirga and speaks to Hamid Karzai at least once a day, serving as an informal adviser.

In his campaign speech Thursday before the delegates of the loya jirga, Hamid Karzai expressed his desire to differentiate between the warlords, or gunmen, and the freedom fighters.

"The mujahedin is a person who has fought for the freedom of Afghanistan," Hamid Karzai said. "A gunman is a person who wants to destroy our country, bother our elders and burn our gardens and our houses," he said.

Karzai went on to praise a list of men known in the West as warlords, but who he says helped free Afghanistan from the yoke of the Soviets and then the Taliban -- among them Gen. Abdur Rashid Dostum, Berhuddin Rabbani, and Abdurab Rasool Sayef.

Qayum Karzai said despite the fact that these men were responsible for the fighting from 1992 to 1996 in Kabul and elsewhere that killed as many as 50,000 Afghans, the country is ready to move on.

"Every society has its own unspoken aspect of politics," Qayum Karzai said. "There are things you can't say in the United States," he said. "They see the complexity. They are recommending we go slowly, that it is a gradual process. It has taken 20 years to come to this point. It will take a few years to get out of this nightmare," he said.

"This nation has grown enormously pragmatic. They know exactly what dangers they are facing. They know exactly what can go wrong, exactly what the chances are" of civil war, he said. "They'd like to avoid this by any means possible."

That means the slow disarming of regional warlords and their rehabilitiation into productive members of society.

"Obviously there are people forcing their will with guns. They'd like to create a framework in whch they can redeem themselves from this warlordism," he said.

Delegates at the loya jirga began the long, secret ballot-voting process in 16 velvet-draped booths in the main tent on the grounds of the Kabul Polytechnic Institute around 4 p.m. local time. The ballots carry a picture of the faces of the three candidates, with copies provided by the International Peacekeeping Force, according to a U.N. official. Delegates were instructed to circle the face of the candidate they wanted.

"Please don't circle all three!" exhorted loya jirga Chairman Mohammed Ishmael Qasemyar.

The new head of state is expected to be announced at 10 p.m. local time Thursday.

Karzai is running against two other candidates -- Massoda Jalal, a Tajik woman in her mid-30s from Badkhashan province who lectured in medicine at Kabul University and worked for the United Nations in Afghanistan; and Mirmohammed Mafooz Nedayi, a Pashtun from Jalalabad who serves as deputy minister of industry.

Karzai is expected to score an easy victory. He needed only 150 signatures on a petition to qualify to run. He turned in 1,050.

Once the head of state is elected, the loya jirga will turn its attention to approving the Cabinet and a structure of government.

The assembly is not expected to approve the creation of a prime minister under the presidency, according to Qayum Karzai. It was a weak central government that contributed to the downfall of the Rabbani presidency in 1996, he said. Also playing a role: Dostum and warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar had laid siege to the city for two years and the Taliban moved in, promising an end to the civil war.

"They don't seem to want a prime minister. All these things happened since 1992 because the central government was too weak and too divided and they don't want to do that again," Karzai said.

The loya jirga will also create a legislative assembly -- a proto-parliament, according to Foreign Minstry spokesman Omar Samad. It will have between 111 and 150 representatives, comprised of two elected from each of 30 provinces and at least 51 appointed members.

The new head of state or the loya jirga commission -- it has yet to be decided -- will create a commission on the judiciary to reform the judicial system, Samad said.

The procedures are vague for the loya jirga by design, explained Qayum Karzai. The forum is historically organized to solve a particular problem at a single time, and therefore its structure and processes are unprescribed.

The enthusiasm of the delegates for the democratic process, as troubled as it has been by threats, backroom deals and general confusion, is unmistakable -- especially among the female delegates.

"The last six years (of the repressive Taliban regime) would make anyone, man or woman, passionate, but especially the women," said Samad. "For God's sake, they need to express themselves."

Copyright 2002 by United Press International.

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