KABUL, Afghanistan – The Afghan parliament delivered another rebuke to President Hamid Karzai on Saturday when it rejected 10 of the 17 ministers he proposed on his second try at forming a government – the latest sign that his fraud-tainted election victory has weakened his leadership.
Karzai secured parliamentary approval for his longtime national security aide, Zalmay Roussel, as foreign minister. He also won approval for two other key posts – justice and counter-narcotics. But he went down to defeat in a host of areas that affect the daily lives of Afghans – from health to telecommunications.
For a country in a U.S.-backed war of survival against a fast-spreading Taliban Islamist insurgency, the vote will slow the establishment of an effective government, but it also signaled the first democratic stirrings in a body that previously had achieved little of note.
Members of parliament said they voted down candidates who were closely affiliated with former warlords or were unknown here. But some of those defeated had been viewed with high esteem by leading figures.
“I was in tears,” said Sima Samar, director of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, referring to the defeat of two women candidates. “I’m really distressed that two good ones lost.”
Samar was critical of Karzai’s successful pick for the Justice Ministry, Habibullah Ghalib, as “a backwards step,” and European officials are strongly concerned that Zarar Ahmad Moqbel is now minister of counter-narcotics. British officials in particular have been critical of Moqbel, and one European diplomat called him “a very corrupt man.” But the selection was apparently an IOU by Karzai to Moqbel, who’d campaigned for him in provinces north of Kabul.