After days of squabbling and delays, the head of Afghanistan's grand council offered a blueprint Tuesday for the country's legislature, saying it would draw representatives from each province and include others chosen from among delegates assembled at the loya jirga.
The decision, announced by the meeting's chair, Ismail Qasim Yar, is an apparent compromise to ensure that all ethnic groups, especially majority Pashtuns, feel represented in the legislative branch of Afghanistan's transitional government.
The new parliament will also reserve 15 seats for women, Qasim Yar said.
Delegates immediately took to the microphones after his announcement to express their views, with some arguing passionately against the decision. Within minutes, the emotional uproar led Qasim Yar to adjourn the raucous morning session until the afternoon.
"Brothers, let's talk. It should go to a vote. That would be a democracy," said one delegate, Sibghatullah Mojaddidi, who briefly led Afghanistan during a rotating presidency in the 1990s.
The six-month transitional administration, which is drawing to its end this week, has no legislative body.
Also unresolved — and ethnically contentious — is an executive Cabinet. Many Afghans have complained that the interim administration's Cabinet is dominated by ethnic Tajiks from the Panjshir Valley, former members of the northern alliance of opposition groups. Panjshiris now control the country's three most influential ministries — defense, foreign affairs and interior.
Karzai was expected to announce his choices for key Cabinet posts Tuesday morning, but his address to the loya jirga was delayed until later in the afternoon.
Karzai's spokesman, Tayyab Jawad, said the Cabinet posts would be announced, not submitted to the loya jirga for consideration. "Approval is not necessary," he said.
Frustration among the 1,650 delegates has been mounting as days pass without major accomplishments — or, for that matter, much to do. Though some remain outwardly enthusiastic, many have started expressing disgust at a process of government-shaping they complain is bypassing them entirely.
In other developments: U.S. forces came under fire in two separate incidents while on patrol in southeastern Afghanistan, killing at least two people who fired on them but suffering no casualties themselves, the U.S. army said on Tuesday. The al Qaeda network is as dangerous as ever and is seeking new ways to attack America, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said at a Pentagon press conference Monday. Tightened security at places where America already has been vulnerable – such as commercial aircraft – is forcing terrorists to find other ways, and other places, to attack, Rumsfeld said. After a car bomb attack Friday that killed 12 people and injured 50, the U.S. Consulate in Karachi, Pakistan was to reopen Tuesday with "enhanced security." The consulate will only provide service to U.S. citizens in the near future. Authorities are questioning a man already in custody for leads on the group that has claimed responsibility for the bomb attack. The three Americans killed in a military plane crash in Afghanistan last week arrived Monday at a U.S. base in Germany, where they were received with military honors before resuming their journey home. The three were killed when their Air Force MC-130H, a version of the cargo plane outfitted for special forces missions, crashed and caught fire after taking off from an airstrip in southeast Afghanistan on Thursday. Two Air Force service members were killed: Tech. Sgt. Sean M. Corlew, 37, of Thousand Oaks, Calif., and Staff Sgt. Anissa A. Shero, 31, of Grafton, W.V. Also killed was Army Green Beret Sgt. 1st Class Peter P. Tycz II, 32, of Tonawanda, N.Y.
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