Afghan MPs divided over procedures

Afghanistan's first popularly elected parliament in more than 30 years has struggled with the business of government in its first full session, haggling over procedural issues and failing to select leaders.

    The national assembly was inaugurated on Monday

    The long parliamentary blank was apparent on Tuesday, as the newly seated lawmakers disagreed over procedural matters.

    The debate on how to select the bodies' leaders was to continue on Wednesday.

    Mirahammad Joinda, one of the delegates, described the situation as confusing.

    "Everybody is backing their own side. It's not clear what will happen," he said.

    Human rights abusers

    The body has come under fire for including many regional strongmen, raising concerns over whether it can truly be a positive political force.

    More than 30 delegates made statements before the assembly on Tuesday.

    The Taliban destroyed the
    Buddha statues in 1999

    The session almost broke down at one point, when a delegate called for all of the human rights abusers and "criminal war lords" to be brought to justice.

    Among those in the parliament with bloody pasts are Abdul Rasul Sayyaf, a militia leader accused of war crimes by Human Rights Watch, and Abdul Salaam Rocketi, a former Taliban commander who has since reconciled with the government.

    Another winner was the former Taliban leader who oversaw the destruction of two huge 1500-year-old Buddha statues.

    Transition to democracy

    The national assembly, which was inaugurated in an emotional ceremony on Monday, is this country's final step in its transition to democracy after the US overthrew four years ago the Taliban government.

    Most of the power remains in the 
    hands of President Hamid Karzai

    The country has had no elected national assembly since 1973, when coups and a Soviet invasion plunged it into decades of chaos that left more than one million people dead.

    The Taliban's rule ended in late 2001, when it was deposed by the US-led invasion for sheltering Osama bin Laden.

    Afghans voted for the 249-seat lower house in September, and also elected provincial councils that then chose two-thirds of the 102-seat upper chamber. Hamid Karzai, the president, appointed the remaining 34.

    Most of the government's power is still concentrated in the hands of the president, although parliament will be able to pass laws and veto cabinet selections.



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