- The Washington Times - Monday, June 17, 2002

KABUL, Afghanistan The grand council fashioning Afghanistan's new government erupted in argument and accusations yesterday about what kind of legislature should represent a fragmented population with competing interests jockeying desperately to be heard.
With a deadline today for ending deliberations, delegates assigned to cobble together a lawmaking body to work with newly elected President Hamid Karzai were choosing between an assembly based entirely on geography and one based on population roughly equivalent to picking between the Senate and House of Representatives in the United States.
But that basic choice tapped into a variety of fears from groups wary of leaving the loya jirga, or grand council, without the levels of representation they demand. The ensuing brouhaha lasted most of yesterday and prevented little but squabbling from being accomplished.
"This whole process of appointing a parliament is a mess. No one has any control," said Mohammed Hashim, a Pashtun delegate from Paktia province in eastern Afghanistan.
"If the grand council leadership says, 'We have appointed our own parliament,' then all of this loya jirga even the election of Karzai will mean nothing. It will be illegitimate," he said on the floor of the enormous tent where the council is being held.
The loya jirga, based on Afghan tradition, was convened Tuesday under a U.N.-guided blueprint to chart the country's immediate future. It drew more than 1,600 Afghan delegates from around the country and abroad in a two-step selection process that critics said was rife with intimidation and harassment.
But Afghans and the nations that have poured millions into the country's reconstruction have seen only one major task accomplished choosing a president, which was done Thursday night.
Still unresolved are the shape of the executive Cabinet and the form of the legislature a task the loya jirga technically is not required to undertake under the agreement struck in Germany in December dictating the grand council's mandate.
Initial attempts yesterday to resolve the legislature question degenerated into shouting and finger-pointing after loya jirga chairman Ismail Qasim Yar offered delegates a choice of ways to select it either two representatives for each of 32 provinces, the initial idea endorsed by the loya jirga commission, or one representative for every 10 of the more than 1,600 delegates.
"They want some kind of formula," said Gulbadan Habibi, a delegate representing Afghans from the East Coast of the United States. "One says, 'OK, if my district's population is 2,000 people and this other one is 500, it's not fair if we have the same representatives.'"
But confusion about the instructions produced hours of chaotic scenes. Late in the afternoon, Mr. Qasim Yar adjourned the session for the day and said Mr. Karzai would attend today's session to discuss options.


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