'Loya jirga' endorses new Afghan cabinet

By Kathy Gannon
Saturday 18 January 2014 04:28

Hamid Karzai was sworn in as President of Afghanistan for the next 18 months yesterday after reappointing the interim government's defence and foreign ministers for a transitional period and naming a Pashtun governor Interior Minister.

Mr Karzai, who has tried to resolve the contentious issue of his executive cabinet's ethnic make-up, also put forward his most senior adviser, Ashraf Ghani, as Finance Minister.

The appointments address a serious concern of many delegates to the loya jirga or grand council: that the top three cabinet posts were held by ethnic Tajiks from the country's Panjshir valley, one-time members of the Northern Alliance of opposition groups that fought the Taliban militia. The grand council immediately approved Mr Karzai's cabinet appointments by a show of hands.

In his speech to the 1,650 delegates last night, President Karzai named 14 ministers. He also appointed three deputy presidents and a chief justice to the country's highest court. "If Afghanistan does not have a strong central government, nothing will happen," he said.

The interim administration, which took office in late December, has had problems exerting its authority outside the country's capital.

Many delegates, particularly ethnic Pashtuns from eastern and southern Afghanistan, said it would be unacceptable to restrict the leading three ministries to Panjshiris. They had been worried that they might be shunted aside in a Tajik-dominated government. They also feared being lumped together with the Taliban, whose leadership was mostly Pashtun.

One of the three Panjshiris, Yunis Qanuni, was moved to Education Minister. He offered his resignation as Interior Minister last week as the loya jirga convened. An aged Pashtun, Taj Mohammed Wardak, was named Interior Minister in his place. Shortly afterwards, Mr Qanuni refused any position in the new government. (AP)

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