While many have given up hopes of stability in Afghanistan based on the daily mayhem of terror attacks and road side IEDs, the democratic processes ongoing in Kabul after the Presidential elections have been overlooked. Mr Hamid Karzai after some delay has provided the Wolesi Jirga, the lower house of the Parliament, a list of 25 ministers which requires its approval. The process of confirmation of the ministers has begun and the ongoing debate in the Parliament gives much hope for democracy in the country.
Under the Afghan Constitution, ministerial appointments are the president's sole discretion but each nominee has to win a vote of confidence from the lower house. The Afghan ministers have been quick in identifying their priorities and designating the key objectives as far as the finance and the economy are concerned. The ministers who are technocrats are well qualified for instance Obaidullah Obaid the higher education minister is a well known academic though from the medical stream and has vast experience thereby enabling him to make effective contribution to the allotted portfolio. Similarly Mr Abadi is well qualified to look after his portfolio of economic affairs and will also receive the support of the Jirga as well as the international forces.
There are again old masters of their respective trade Mr Spanta a foreign minister and Mr Wardak the Defence minister, the latter is likely to be approved but Mr Spanta is facing resistance due to his dual citizenship and thus his name has not been formally announced.
Article 72 of the Afghan Constitution, in addition to laying down other conditions for the nomination of cabinet members, states: "An individual appointed as minister shall have the citizenship of Afghanistan alone." It adds: "If the ministerial candidate also has the nationality of another country, the Wolesi Jirga reserves the right to approve or reject his/her nomination" Thus the issue of confirmation of the ministers will also depend to an extent on the dual citizenry. As a large number of ministers have kept the option of dual citizenry some of the prominent personalities have been staying outside the country for long, the system may not really reject all those with a dual citizenship and a compromise may be achieved.
The appointment of the Foreign Minister Mr Spanta has thus become a point for some debate. Since he is a dual citizen Spanta holds dual German and Afghan citizenship the parliament is insisting on having all ministers who are totally indigenous Mr Spanta may find himself short. Is Mr Karzai attempting to wear out the opposition to Mr Spanta remains to be seen with the London conference providing a good point for delaying the appointment?. The Wolesi Jirga has some say in these matters and Mr Spanta may face a tough time ahead though not necessarily the axe as there is leeway in the Constitution for appointing those with dual citizenship as well.
There is another problem though the number of members attending the sessions has come down thus one member each of the 18 parliamentary commissions have been nominated to pose questions to the nominees for cabinet slots. Thus even as the formal process of the Wolesi Jirga confirming the ministers has commenced but the interest shown by many MPs in the process appears to be low and this may mar the overall process in the long run. For there is a reason to believe that this will only be successful in case there is a more intense querying on the performance which the Wolesi Jirga is well within its rights to do so. However this has not come about thereby leaving the process weak.
The provision of the ministers requiring the approval of the Wolesi Jirga should be used to advantage by the Afghan parliamentarians to shape government policies and functioning. However this has not been effectively used as a tool to exercise control over the government as the attendance at such meets of questioning the ministers has been reportedly poor. The same is however being used as a political tool by raising resistance to those who are not acceptable to some group or the other in the Parliament as such as the not yet nominated but acting foreign minister Mr Dafdar Spanta who holds a dual citizenship of Germany and Afghanistan.
The Wolesi Jirga can also interview ministers and question policies during the tenure of the government something which has been used from time to time in the past but again not to improve governance but only by some parliamentarians to get back at their political opponents. Employing all tools for effective governance is essential and the western states who are looking for improved governance need to also address their minions at the members of the Parliament rather than focusing the guns all the time on Mr Karzai thereby increasing personal pressure on him, which has to yet show any major outcomes.
While all these issues may be subsumed by the overall violence occurring in the country, as benchmarks of hope for democracy it seems an important beginning.