Afghan President Hamid Karzai defended his cabinet minister choices on Sunday amid rising criticism that his selections will do little to solve the country’s problems. Many international observers and Afghan officials saw the selection of a new cabinet as the first test of Mr. Karzai as he begins his second term.
After Karzai’s reelection was marred by widespread fraud allegations, the Afghan leader is working hard to prove his ability to overcome the country's rampant corruption and appease disillusioned Afghans and Western partners. Nearly half of Karzai’s 23-member cabinet will carry over from his last term, and it will include a former warlord, and only one woman, the minister of women’s affairs.
Several of Karzai’s nominees have been accused of wrongdoing, poor performance, and corrupt practices. Karzai has pledged to bring anyone in his cabinet to justice if they are found guilty of corruption or other unlawful practices, however, he said he would allow the justice system to take it’s course rather than taking independent action. Al Jazeera reports that amid such criticisms, Karzai is likely feeling pressure from all sides.
“You have the Afghan people and some members of the Afghan parliament saying that, by his choices, Karzai is betraying his commitments ... on ending the culture of corruption, which has been so pervasive in Afghanistan,” said [Hashem Ahelbarra, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Kabul]. "It seems that this is going to be a government of appeasement because he is beholden to the warlords who endorsed him in the election. At the same time, he has to answer some of the demands of the international community.”
Despite concerns though, many Western governments and international organizations have expressed guarded, but generally positive statements about Karzai’s choices. The Los Angeles Times reports that the general consensus is that while the new cabinet is less than ideal, it “could have been much worse.”
The list "is certainly a step in the right direction," said Aleem Siddique, a spokesman for the U.N. mission here. "The signs are encouraging."
On Saturday, Karzai removed two of his cabinet choices from the list due to corruption allegations against them, which Iran’s Press TV reports was an initial step toward alleviating the concerns of Western governments. Subsequently, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen commended Karzai’s nominations on Sunday, praising the new leaders “stated commitment to fighting corruption.”
The cabinet nominees still must undergo parliamentary confirmation. In his continued defense of his picks, Karzai said that he will demand accountability from his cabinet members and remove anyone who violates the law. He added that he made the cabinet a “mirror of the Afghan people,” representative of all slices of life, reports Deutsche Presse-Agentur.
Throughout Afghanistan though, there seems to be little hope that the new government will effectively eradicate corruption or bring about any significant changes. Aside from having only one woman to represent the nation’s women, other Afghans have opined that if these same people could not fix the nation’s problems over the last eight years, it is unwise to expect that they will do much in the coming five years, reports Xinhua.
"These faces have failed to bring a change in our life over the past eight years; and so, their remaining in office would not change our life in the next five years particularly in the face of reduction to world community's contribution," an ordinary Afghan citizen Farooq Shah guessed.