Daily brief: Afghan parliament rejects Karzai’s electoral decree

No rubber stamping Yesterday, the lower house of Afghanistan’s parliament nearly unanimously rejected Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s attempt to tighten his control over the country’s electoral watchdog, after his February decree giving himself the ability to appoint all five members of the body (AP, BBC, NYT, WSJ, Wash Post, McClatchy, Pajhwok). However, this significant rebuke ...

SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images
SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images
SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images

No rubber stamping

Yesterday, the lower house of Afghanistan's parliament nearly unanimously rejected Afghan President Hamid Karzai's attempt to tighten his control over the country's electoral watchdog, after his February decree giving himself the ability to appoint all five members of the body (AP, BBC, NYT, WSJ, Wash Post, McClatchy, Pajhwok). However, this significant rebuke to Karzai's power grab and signal of a more activist legislature does not necessarily mean the end of his decree: the upper house still has to vote.

Karzai, meanwhile, is now claiming that U.N. and European Union officials interfered in last summer's presidential contest to cause "vast fraud" and force the elections to a runoff (AP, Reuters, AFP). The London Times writes that Obama administration officials have given up trying to persuade the Afghan president to force his controversial brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, out of power, after issuing an ultimatum last year to force the removal of the Kandahari leader (Times). And Pajhwok reports that the former Afghan minister for Hajj, Sediq Chakari, has been indicted and arrested in London for allegedly embezzling $360,000 from a contract for a private airline to fly Afghan pilgrims to Saudi Arabia (Pajhwok). 

No rubber stamping

Yesterday, the lower house of Afghanistan’s parliament nearly unanimously rejected Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s attempt to tighten his control over the country’s electoral watchdog, after his February decree giving himself the ability to appoint all five members of the body (AP, BBC, NYT, WSJ, Wash Post, McClatchy, Pajhwok). However, this significant rebuke to Karzai’s power grab and signal of a more activist legislature does not necessarily mean the end of his decree: the upper house still has to vote.

Karzai, meanwhile, is now claiming that U.N. and European Union officials interfered in last summer’s presidential contest to cause "vast fraud" and force the elections to a runoff (AP, Reuters, AFP). The London Times writes that Obama administration officials have given up trying to persuade the Afghan president to force his controversial brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, out of power, after issuing an ultimatum last year to force the removal of the Kandahari leader (Times). And Pajhwok reports that the former Afghan minister for Hajj, Sediq Chakari, has been indicted and arrested in London for allegedly embezzling $360,000 from a contract for a private airline to fly Afghan pilgrims to Saudi Arabia (Pajhwok). 

March Madness

Pentagon officials are planning to give about $50 million in funding to Georgia, Croatia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia in a program designed to provide more equipment and training for the coalition’s smaller allies in Afghanistan (AP). And the New York Times looks at the massive logistical operations involved in supplying the conflict in Afghanistan, a move military officials have dubbed "March Madness" (NYT).

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Adm. Mike Mullen, currently on a trip to Kabul, is worried about Iran’s growing "negative" influence in Afghanistan, citing as an example a recent shipment of weapons from Iran into Kandahar (Reuters, Pajhwok). The DEA says that opium seizures in Afghanistan went up a whopping 924 percent between 2008 and 2009 because of better cooperation between Afghan and international forces (AP).

NWFP by any other name

A Pakistani parliamentary committee for constitutional reforms has reached a tentative deal to rename Pakistan’s Northwest Frontier Province "Khyber-Pukhtunkhwa," as part of a larger bill to reduce the powers of the presidency, to gain the support of the Pashtun nationalist Awami National Party, which leads the NWFP’s provincial government (AP, Daily Times, Dawn). The name change must still be approved by Pakistan’s parliament. The bill, agreed on by Pakistan’s major political parties, strips the president of the power to dissolve the government and appoint military leaders (Bloomberg). Salman Masood rounds up the latest conflicts between Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and the country’s judiciary (NYT).

As Pakistani ground and air operations continue in the northwestern tribal agency of Orakzai, the Pakistani Army confirmed for the first time that the military is carrying out operations in the militant stronghold of North Waziristan (AP, McClatchy). The general in charge of the Frontier Corps in the FATA said that the FC are conducting "small operations" in North Waziristan while engaged in a "major offensive" in Orakzai. Mullah Toofan, a Taliban commander in Orakzai, escaped an IED blast between Mir Kalamkhel and Arkhanjo (Dawn).

The site of 18 months of major military operations, Bajaur is in desperate need of reconstruction and economic aid, but bureaucratic battles between the U.S., which insists on accountability and oversight for civilian aid it gives, and Pakistan, which objects vociferously to conditions-based funding, are slowing the process (LAT). And Indian officials blame the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba militant group for February’s attacks on a guest house used by Indians in Kabul, claiming the LeT is operating out of Afghanistan’s Kunar province (AP).

Pistachios for poppies

A Spanish reconstruction team has completed a project planting pistachios in place of poppies in western Badghis (Pajhwok). The local communities are responsible for maintaining the small nut trees.

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