12/19/2005, 00.00
AFGHANISTAN
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New parliament inaugurated after 30 years of violence

The inaugural session has ushered in a new rebuilding phase in Afghanistan. However many analysts accuse Kabul of not doing enough against warlords' illicit activities and for respect of human rights.

Kabul (Asianews/Agencies) – In Afghanistan, after 30 years of violence arising out of military occupation and civil wars, the first popularly elected parliament since 1973 has been installed. The inaugural sitting, attended by the American Vice-President Dick Cheney among others, started with the reading of the Koran by some MPs. It was held in a well-fortified Kabul, semi-paralyzed by an impressive security cordon in place to tackle possible attacks by militants of the former Taleban regime.

The new Afghan parliament consists of 351 members overall: 249 elected to the Wolwsi Jirga (national Assembly) and 102 in the Meshrano Jirga (Senate): the organisation must prove it can manage a country on the brink of economic collapse and divided along ethnical, political and religious lines.

"It is a great honour to ascertain that after years of violence and misery, Afghanistan is taking its first steps to determine its future, said the head of the parliament secretariat, Azizullah Ludin. President Ahmid Karzai and the former king Zahir Shah – deposed in 1973 by his cousin Daud Khan who carried out a coup d'etat and dissolved the first freely elected parliament – also addressed the inaugural session.

The situation in the country is still very tense: suicide attacks and violence are the order of the day and internal security management remains in the hands of the multi-national force in the territory. Analysts say the democratic process in Afghanistan is weakened by a central government as yet unable to reduce the political and military influence of warlords who have made their money in smuggling and trafficking drugs.

Sam Zia-Zarifi, Asia research director of Human Rights Watch (HRW) said: "Many Afghans do not see the opening of the parliament as a positive step but a potential disaster, given that many politicians come from the apparatus of the old regime." Throughout the past year, HRW has denounced numerous human rights violations and accused several top officials within the structure of the new Afghan government of being involved in drug smuggling and trafficking activities.

Saman Zia-Zarifi claimed that eminent political personalities of the new Afghanistan were among those who were behind these illicit activities, among them the Defence Minister, Mohammed Fahim, warlord and leader of the Northern Alliance, Abdul Rasul Sayyaf, head of one of the powerful armed militias active in the country, and Abdul Salama Rocketi, former military head of the Taleban regime.

Meanwhile, violence continues in the country, perpetrated by groups linked with the old Taleban regime: a few hours before the inauguration of the parliament, a police station was set in fire in a rural area in Kunar province in the east of the country. Three policemen were killed in the attack and a fourth is missing.

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