Afghan factions reach deal on new government
By Brian Whitmore, Globe Correspondent, 12/05/2001
KOENIGSWINTER, Germany -- Afghan factions hammered out a deal today to share power, choosing Pashtun leader Hamed Karzai to lead a provisional government in their ravaged nation.
After nine days of discussion and 11 exhausting hours of negotiations, the four factions and UN representatives put the final pieces of the historic agreement together with hopes that it would trigger a speedy and smooth transfer of power from the victorious Northern Alliance.
The administration would take power Dec. 22 and serve for six months. Former King Mohammad Zaher Shah would then convene a traditional tribal council to pick a permanent government.
Details of the makeup of the Cabinet were unclear early this morning. Several candidates still had not been notified of their new posts.
It was revealed, however, that the new ministers include two women, who would head up the departments of women's affairs and of health.
The Northern Alliance retained the powerful defense, foreign, and interior ministries. Yet the rebels' insistence on also holding a clear majority of the Cabinet seats created an impasse that delayed the deal until early this morning.
"They wanted defense, interior, foreign affairs, and 14 more seats out of 28," said Anwar ul-Haq Ahadi, a delegate from the Pakistan-backed Peshawar Group. "This is clearly unacceptable."
UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi met separately with the four factions last night and early this morning. With ethnic balance as a key criterion, Brahimi whittled down the list of 150 candidates for the Cabinet posts.
In the end, his efforts succeeded.
A signing ceremony was planned for this morning at the stately hilltop Petersberg hotel overlooking Bonn, where the factions have been meeting. Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer were expected to attend, said UN spokesman Ahmad Fawzi.
The provisional government will be supported by a multinational peacekeeping force. The size, structure, and deployment date for the peacekeepers will be decided by the United Nations.
Karzai, a prominent Pashtun tribal leader from southern Afghanistan, whose troops are fighting Taliban militias in Kandahar, emerged as a leading candidate late last week. His chances to head the Cabinet got a huge boost yesterday afternoon when the other contender, Abdul Sattar Sirat, an adviser to the former king, withdrew his candidacy.
"No single individual or structure can resolve all of Afghanistan's problems, but what happened here was a big step in the right direction," said Daoud Yakub, an adviser to negotiators supporting Afghanistan's former king.
Karzai, delegates here say, enjoyed support from the two largest delegations here: the alliance and the so-called Rome Group, which supports the 87-year-old Shah. He is also acceptable to two smaller delegations of exiles: the Pakistan-supported Peshawar Group and a group of exiles based in Cyprus backed by Iran.
Karzai, 46, was deputy foreign minister from 1992 to 1994 after the mujahideen defeated the Soviet Union.
He had spent much of the 1980s in the United States -- where his family ran Afghan restaurants in, among other cities, Boston.
An accord creates what is formally described as an Interim Authority for Afghanistan.
The authority includes an executive of about 29 people, called the Interim Administration, which will rule Afghanistan for half a year.
It also includes a commission that will prepare for the convening of an emergency Loya Jirga, or Grand Assembly; and another commission that will reconstruct Afghanistan's justice system and appoint a Supreme Court.
A prime minister and five deputies will lead the executive, participants said. One of the deputies must represent each of Afghanistan's four largest ethnic groups: Pashtuns, Tajiks, Uzbeks, and Hazaras.
The government will take power in Kabul and occupy Afghanistan's seat in the United Nations. It would also replace former president Burhanuddin Rabbani, who was toppled by the Taliban in 1996 but is still recognized by the United Nations.
Brahimi was prepared to travel to Afghanistan this weekend to begin preparations for the transfer of power from Rabbani, Fawzi said. Rabbani is portrayed by Western diplomats as reluctant to be shunted aside by a younger generation of leaders.
When the Interim Authority's six-month term is over, the former king will convene and preside over a Loya Jirga, which would appoint a new transitional government.
The new government would rule Afghanistan for two years and draft a new constitution. Another Grand Assembly would then convene to ratify the new constitution and free elections would follow.
The final text of the accord includes language saying the Afghan people have the right "to determine their own political future in accordance with the principles of Islam, democracy, pluralism and social justice."
Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.
© Copyright Globe Newspaper Company