Uncertainty lingers over Afghan Parliament

Afghan President, lawmakers are arguing over legality of SC special tribunal.

Last Updated: Jan 24, 2011, 09:10 AM IST

Kabul: A constitutional stand-off in Afghanistan between President Hamid Karzai and lawmakers that has delayed the opening of Parliament looked set to drag on Monday.

The two sides are arguing over the legality of a Supreme Court special tribunal, which is charged with ruling on cases of electoral fraud during Parliamentary Elections four months ago.

Karzai wants MPs (Members of Parliament) to accept its authority as a condition for his inaugurating the new Parliament on Wednesday. But the MPs fear it will throw some of their number out and insist it is unlawful.

Lawmakers claimed on Saturday that an agreement had been struck between the two sides, which would see Karzai open Parliament on Wednesday, following pressure from the US and UN.

Under that deal, the MPs would accept the authority of the Supreme Court, rather than its special tribunal, although it is not clear whether the court can rule on election results.

But further tensions emerged as lawmakers held talks on the details of the deal on Sunday, which seemed to put the agreement in jeopardy.

An official source, speaking anonymously as he was not authorised to talk to media, said Karzai was unlikely to open Parliament on Wednesday if the lawmakers did not pledge to respect the tribunal.

"What`s being said about the opening of the Parliament on Wednesday, that`s conditional," the official source said.

Asked whether Karzai will open Parliament on Wednesday if MPs fail to accept the tribunal, the source added: "I don`t think so."

"The MPs said that they will accept the outcomes of the legal process that is currently under way. The President sent them to write this down, sign it and bring it back to him. So far, they have not returned."

Meanwhile, lawmaker Molawi Rahman Rahmani said a fresh round of talks between Karzai and MPs was set to be held on Monday.

Karzai`s office has declined to comment on the situation since announcing on Wednesday that the inauguration, originally scheduled for Sunday, was being delayed for a month.

Lawmakers said he U-turned on that decision after the talks on Saturday.

But an agreement now looks uncertain, with lawmakers calling for parliamentary immunity from the special tribunal, according to Ahmad Behzad, an MP active in the negotiations.

"The elected members of the Parliament do not recognise any court under the name of special tribunal, which is illegal," he said.

September`s elections to Afghanistan`s Wolesi Jirga -- the lower house of Parliament -- were hit by massive fraud.

Around a quarter of the five million votes cast were thrown out and 24 early winners disqualified.

Bureau Report