Cabinet choices a test for Karzai

Lawmakers want role in process

Associated Press / December 8, 2009

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KABUL - Refusing to be a rubber stamp, Afghan lawmakers demanded a full list of President Hamid Karzai’s new Cabinet yesterday - the first test of the embattled leader’s commitment to clean up graft and bribery in his government.

Karzai, who won a second term after an election marred by ballot stuffing, is under intense international pressure to assemble a Cabinet of reformists. That is a tall order in a country where Afghans pay bribes for everything from driver’s licenses to police protection.

The mayor of the capital, Kabul, was sentenced yesterday to four years in prison on corruption charges. Mir Abdul Ahad Sahebi was charged in connection with contracts on city projects, said Deputy Attorney General Fazel Ahmad Faqiryar.

Members of Parliament must approve Karzai’s picks for his team, but in the past they have overlooked ministers with unsuitable qualifications and in some cases, ministers have served without being approved.

This time, lawmakers appear to be playing a larger role in the process of seating a new 25-member Cabinet in hopes of ensuring that presidential cronies don’t slip through.

Despite the demand for a full list, an official close to Karzai, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information, said the president would release the names of only six nominees today.

In his inauguration speech late last month, Karzai vowed to end the country’s “culture of impunity.’’ At the same time he owes favors to friends who helped him get reelected.