Afghanistan’s New Parliament: Premonitions and Reality

May 5, 2006

Remember those exciting days in the run-up to the parliamentary elections in Afghanistan?
Remember when people were concerned about the parliament’s future make-up?
And about the infamous Single Non-Transferable Voting (SNTV) mechanism that prevented the emergence of viable political parties with real agenda, but that was insisted upon by the country’s Joint Electoral Management Body (JEMB) ?
And about the independence of the JEMB itself?
And about the process of vetting of candidates with histories of human rights abuses and other crimes?
And remember the embarassment that followed after the voting was over, resulting in weeks of delay in announcing the outcomes, and the dismissal of tens of election workers on charges of fraud and ballot-stuffing?
And remember when people were concerned about the disproportionate strength of the executive vis-a-vis the legislative branch, as laid out in the constitution?
Or about the fact that the new parliament would be a largely symbolic, ceremonial, rubber-stamp, weakened, divided, disorganized assembly of ragtags, warlords, political appointees, and other assorted scoundrels and incompetents?

Well, you don’t reckon those concerns probably meant…

1. That the new parliament would include in its make-up such criminal figures as those who oversaw the massacre of innocent civilians (as documented by the HRW), the indiscriminate shelling of the capital Kabul (as evidenced by one MP’s illustrious last name!), and the barbaric destruction of the Buddhas, as well as other ex-commanders, Taliban figures, and warlords. (Profile of an Infamous Member) and (more on this disappointment)

2. That the parliament would be strong-armed and then completely sidelined in its advise and consent role in cabinet appointments.
When the parliament objected to the position of a “senior minister” on constitutional grounds, the executive just shrugged it off and appointed the minister regardless. It even said that the senior position was open to the prerogatives of the president and that the advise and consent role of the parliament’s was irrelevant in this case! (more on this outrage)

3. That nobody would show up!
It seems that when I wrote a few days back about classes being cancelled on account of the ill-named National Education Day, it was not only the students who thought they had the day off. The speaker of the parliament forgot to tell the MPs that the parliament was in session, and so a mere 20 out of more than 350 MPs showed up to see the session cancelled and a crucial budgetary debate delayed. (more on this embarrassment)

It turns out those concerns were not so baseless after all. Some who just don’t give up on squeezing good PR juice out of it have likened the new parliament to a “newborn baby”. All indications seem to suggest to me that this one must be an awfuly grotesque newborn riddled with deformities.

And all of this, in its first few months…betcha ya ain’t heard the last of this baby!


The Surayanarayana Saga: Curiouser by the Day

May 3, 2006

The Surayanarayana Saga is finding newer twists. It is usually not a good sign when stories like this find a life of their own, and I am getting suspicious that there is more to it than we know. It was not good to begin with. It was tragic, shameful, and barbaric how this Indian telecom worker was held hostage and later beheaded on the highway between Kabul and Kandahar- Taliban remnants claimed responsibility.

What has ensued is a chaotic blame-game: everyone blaming everyone else -India blaming Pakistan, who is blaming both India and Afghanistan, who is blaming Mr. Surayanarayana for being neglectful and not heeding to cautions from the security personnel, who are being blamed for not providing neither security nor precautions.

Add to this the questionable practice of many international agencies in dispatching expats into the dangerzone assorted by skin-tone and country of citizenship -as suggested by expat aid worker and blogger Vasco-Pyjama (who, by the way, is in turn blamed for and has been getting negative reviews for suggesting something so distasteful.)

And to top it all off, the intrigues of a newly exposed marital triangle has engulfed the Suranarayana posterity as a woman and child have come forward to claim part of the compensation for Surayanarayana’s death, thus prompting Mrs. Surayanarayana (the first) to down a bottle of some strong insecticide in a failed attempt to committ suicide.

With the case getting fast out of hand, I guess we all understand how a journalist compatriot of Mr. Surayanarayan felt when -presumably because of the national significance of this story- decided upon an emergency suspension of certain rules of English grammar and reported that “Suryanarayana’s death gets curiouser“.

Sign the Petition about Freedom of Speech on the Israel Lobby

May 1, 2006

I hope this does not overshadow the important question that I have raised in the previous post, but it is also important that I pass the word along on this one.

This is my third post on the subject of Mearsheimer & Walt’s study on the power of the Israel lobby. I posted on the subject at first because I was taken by the authors’ intellectual honesty and courage -given the subject, a rarity in the American ivory tower. Now, however, it is clear that an insidious attempt is underway aiming at character assasination and branding of the two scholars as antisemites.

The intention is clear: to teach a lesson to anyone in the future who would be naive enough to venture off the charted course.

The danger is clear too: that might very well happen, and the American academia will thread even more carefully -and one-sidedly- on this subject. And not only on this subject: this will be a slippery slope that will end only in the academia’s total subjugation to pressure groups and lobbies. (In fact, the situation is already so desperate that Prof. Cole has complained of a general neglect of the petition by academic bloggers.) That state of affairs is something that nobody can afford regardless of what side of any question you are on.

Therefore, it is important that you take about half a minute of your time to sign Prof. Cole’s petition:
“Freedom of Speech on the Israel Lobby”
For some of my fellow blogistanis, here is a summary of Mearsheimer & Walt’s study in Farsi:
سياست خارجي آمريکا زير سايه لابي های اسرائيل

Hijood ?!

May 1, 2006

I was recently censured for saying that this thing looked “rediculous.” While I concede that I should have employed different phrasing such as: funny, silly, hilarious, or buffoonish, my position remains.

Tell me what you think.

Depending on your answers, I will do one or more of the following:
a) Pat my back and say I was right all along,
b) Concede that you have a point, but give you the reasons why I think it looks rediculous,
c) Close down this blog, change my location and I.P. address, be thankful that I wrote this blog under a pseudonym all along, and go into hiding.

No seriously, I would like to know what everybody thinks: