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Disqualification of ministers: Afghanistan can’t afford clash between govt, Wolesi Jirga: Analysts

Executive and legislative must respect Supreme Court’s decision; Govt must focus on capacity building of ministries; Wolesi Jirga’s decision was politically motivated

By M. Nadeem Alizai-KABUL: As the government and the Wolesi Jirga have locked horns over disqualification of ministers, political affairs analysts and legal experts urged the two pillars of the state to resolve the issue either by sitting together or accepting the Supreme Court’s decision in order to avoid the collision.

To assess the current challenges faced by the country, the Rana Think Tank has convened its monthly meeting where the analysts said that the Wolesi Jirga—Lower House of the parliament—has taken the decision of disqualification of ministers in haste because the country is going through most difficult time. The lawmakers were also criticized for what the analysts call ‘double standard’.

Acknowledging the complicated nature of the issue that brought the executive and legislative against each other, Muhammad Sarwar Ahmadzai, a political and legal affairs analyst who was key speaker, said the Wolesi Jirga has no legitimacy but its tenure was extended by President Ashraf Ghani.

Giving background information, the young analyst said the Wolesi Jirga on November 12 sacked the ministers of Foreign Affairs Salahuddin Rabbani, Labor and Social Affairs Nasrin Oryakhil, and Public Work Mahmoud Baligh. Before sacking of the ministers, the Wolesi Jirga has suddenly decided to summon 17 ministers and for spending less than 70 percent of development budget. The lawmakers decided unanimously to introduce those ministers to the Attorney General Office who have embezzled the funds. It was also decided that they would ask the president to fire heads of the 22 independent departments for the same reason.

After the three ministers were sacked, President Ashraf Ghani asked the Wolesi Jirga to halt the impeachment process. The president also directed the ministers not to appear before the parliament. However, the Wolesi Jirga disqualified even those ministers who did not appear. Totally, seven ministers were disqualified, Ahmadzai said.

“The impeachment process has many technical and legal problems. First, the Wolesi Jirga has no legitimacy. Its legitimacy is political rather than constitutional because it has completed its term. The term was extended as result of a presidential decree. Therefore, its legitimacy is under question. Second, the Wolesi Jirga has not gathered and analyzed the data on development budget spending from the ministries. Factors regarding budget spending were not kept in view and discussed properly. Third, the Wolesi Jirga sacked those three ministers who appeared before the lawmakers to provide information about budget spending. But most of those ministers, who did not appear before the Wolesi Jirga to give satisfactory answers, received vote of confidence. This is the reason that the people say the Wolesi Jirga has adopted dual standard,” he elaborated.

He furthered that Afghanistan is facing serious political, security and economic challenges but during the impeachment process the Wolesi Jirga has not kept current situation of the country, public and national interests in view.  “According to the constitution, the Wolesi Jirga is bound to give priority to public and national interests in its decisions,” Ahmadzai opined.

The analyst said that spending of less than 70 percent of the development budget should not be the sole reason for sacking a minister. “The ministries were unable to spend the budget because most of the lawmakers’ relatives and friend are working at key positions there. Most of the high-ranking officials were appointed as result of the parliamentarians influence,” he added.

The ministries lack the capacity to spend the budget because of meddling by the parliamentarians, Ahmadzai said, adding that most of the lawmakers do not have the necessary political, legal and economic knowledge. “They do not have the required knowledge and information. Therefore, their decisions give birth to challenges—in most cases. If all those ministries and head of the independent departments who failed to spend the development budget by 70 percent were sacked, it will create serious challenges for the government,” the analyst said.

Highlighting role of the parliamentarians in the poor-capacity of the ministries to spend the target budget, he said that members of the Wolesi Jirga have given vote of confidence to the ministries without checking their credentials and running a background check. According to Article 92 of the constitution, the Wolesi Jirga can impeach ministers after hearing their arguments, he said, adding, “Unfortunately, this Article regarding sacking of the ministers was not implemented.”

Ahmadzai also blamed the government, saying that several ministers were not appointed based on merit but because of their political and tribal affiliations and ideologies.

Most of the ministries lack the essential capacity to run their affairs smoothly. The government has not paid any attention to this serious problem.

The ministries draft and request more budget than what they can spend. The ministries should request development budget according to their capacity.

According to Ahmadzai, the Wolesi Jirga disqualified the ministers based on the following grounds:

The ministers do not have capacity, qualification and administrative skills. Therefore, new nominees should be introduced.

Failure of the ministries to spend the budget has increased joblessness, poverty and prevented the country from economic growth.

Failure to spend the budget is paving ground for corruption.

However, the government on the other hand says that the budget could not be spent due to insecurity in the country. “It is hard to reach an agreement. It requires more efforts and time to reach a consensus [with donors and implementers] and implement the project.”

Speaking about the negative effects of the political and constitutional battle between the executive and legislative, Ahmadzai said that the two pillars of the state have locked horns. “The clash will land the state in the troubled waters as problems will increase. Continuation of the current process will weaken the government further. The government will come under crippling pressure. Institutional corruption will increase. The government will face difficulties in delivering services to public. Trust deficit between the government and public will increase further. In a nutshell this situation will harm public more,” he elaborated.

Providing solutions to defuse the tension, he said that in order to save the country from falling into a serious challenge, the government and the Wolesi Jirga had to respect decision of the Supreme Court.

“The government and the Wolesi Jirga must avoid confrontation. If the Wolesi Jirga rejects verdict of the apex court, the government must introduce new faces as ministerial nominees,” he suggested.

Ahmadzai said the government and the Wolesi Jirga should give attention to the current situation in the country and national interests. The analyst asked the government to build capacity of the ministries and nominate only qualified people as ministers.

The government should not appoint those at key posts who do not have the required qualification, experience and skills. The ministers shall request budget while keeping their capacity in mind, he said.

He went on to say that the Wolesi Jirga should refrain from illegal interference in appointments of high-ranking officials.

“Sacking ministers for not spending the target budget will not resolve the issue. Both the government and Wolesi Jirga shall work together to explore solutions so the ministries can spend the development budget within one year,” he said.

Emphasizing on need of the parliamentary elections, Ahmadzai said the government should announce polling dates to address the legitimacy questions.

Former governor of Kabul province, Abdul Jabbar Taqwa, said that all three branches of the state, including judiciary, executive and legislative, are responsible for the crisis that the country is facing.

He said that establishment of the National Unity Government (NUG) has brought legitimacy of the judiciary and legislative under question too. “The government was formed without showing any regard to the constitution. As a result the Wolesi Jirga is functional despite completing the term stipulated in the constitution. Therefore, legitimacy of the Wolesi Jirga is under question. The same government which is facing legitimacy question has appointed top officials at the judiciary,” he explained.

The ex-governor said that the legislative and government should build consensus to avoid the constitutional battle that would put the country into a whirlwind of problems.

He said the country is passing through critical juncture and cannot afford legal confrontation, especially when political, security and economic challenges are already hunting Afghans.

Other analysts had mixed views. Some of them were of the opinion that the Wolesi Jirga has taken the right decision by sacking the ministers because nearly 70 percent of the national budget is funded by donors. They said that if the budget was not spent the donors would not provide more financial assistance and as a result of which the nation would be deprived of many developmental projects especially at a time when the international community is gradually forgetting Afghanistan.

Others have criticized the Wolesi Jirga for sacking the ministers. They said that the disqualification of ministers was the outcome of political reasons.

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