Afghan president says observing law priority in forming cabinet

Kabul, December 19, 2004 (Radio Afghanistan) - Afghan President Hamed Karzai told journalists at a news conference on 19 December that he was taking a long time to form his cabinet because of his commitment to scrupulously observe the law in doing so. He said any mojahedin meeting all these legal requirements would be the first in his cabinet, but said that currently, reports on Taliban in the cabinet were incorrect. The following is text of a news conference broadcast by Afghan radio on 19 December, subheadings inserted editorially.

Announcer - President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan Hamed Karzai held a news conference with Afghan and foreign radio journalists this morning. He answered questions from journalists on various issues, particularly regarding the new cabinet.

At first, answering a question from a Voice of America correspondent about the structure of the new cabinet and the reasons for the delay in announcing the cabinet, he said:

I have been working on the formation of the cabinet since I took my oath. In fact, I have given less attention to other issues over the past two weeks. I have spent most of my time on policy and the formation of the cabinet. With regard to the formation of the cabinet, the first challenge facing us is to obey the country's constitution. Article No 72 of the Constitution stipulates that a minister should have the following characteristics.

  1. Should have only Afghan nationality. It further states that if a candidate for a ministry has the nationality of another country, only the National Assembly Walsi Jerga has the authority to accept or reject him as a minister.

  2. Should have higher education, work experience and a good name.

  3. Should be over 35 years old.

  4. Should not have been convicted of any crimes or violations of civil rights by a court of law. The first thing for us is to obey the law.

All the issues above are clearly stated, except the first part, for which the constitution had left another option - that is if a candidate for a ministry has dual nationality, the National Assembly will decide.

Now, according to the law, we should have people with higher education. according to our laws and according to the questions we have put to experts and other people over the past few days, higher education means at least a bachelor's degree four years, or higher.

Second, dual nationality; we have people who have been to foreign countries. They have obtained higher education and expertise, and now want to serve Afghanistan. They have been with us over the past three years. Some of them were with us even before that, and some of them we now want to bring into the cabinet, particularly in the economic and reconstruction fields. Now we are contemplating how to resolve the stipulation of only Afghan nationality. Should

we leave it for the National Assembly to resolve, or act now? Over the past few days, we have had meetings on this issue with legal experts, those involved in drawing up the constitution and Afghan elders who know about the constitution and the country's needs.

In addition to obeying the constitution on these matter, the characteristics of these people such as honesty, sincerity, faith and patriotism are another issue that should be seriously taken into account. Also, the experts and mojahedin of the country who meet these requirements and have a university education should come from different parts of Afghanistan. Our cabinet should be a cabinet representative of all Afghan people, and other similar issues.

Also, we set certain conditions for joining the cabinet, such as registering and declaring property, assets, income and other expenditure. They should declare what they have today and should sign this declaration and give it to us. They are also bound to declare their property when they leave office, even if they have increased it through legal means. So we have set difficult conditions to make things perfect from the viewpoint of higher education, nationality, capacity for work, talent, sincerity, patriotism and piety.

We have made sure that our cabinet represents Afghanistan as a whole. There must be people from all parts of Afghanistan, insofar as this is possible. These are the issues we have taken into account. In view of these considerations and issues, work on the cabinet is proceeding slowly. I have decided to proceed slowly, but with deliberation and care, to form a cabinet which meets the expectations of the Afghan nation.

Announcer - Another issue is the dual nationality of ministers. With regard to ministers with dual nationality in the future cabinet, esteemed Hamed Karzai said:

Hamed Karzai - I am holding consultations on this issue. I concluded my consultations on the issue of higher education yesterday. I decided that anyone joining the cabinet should meet the requirement of having higher education. Since we are bound by law on this issue, we should adhere to the law. As far as what the constitution says on the issue of dual nationality, this issue should be studied now to see what it means and how we can resolve this matter. If those with dual nationality give up their second nationality of their own accord, all well and good. We shall see how the problem of those who do not give up their nationality can be resolved. My deputies and I and other brothers have been working on this issue for many days. We shall take measures once we reach a conclusion on this matter. We are tackling this issue seriously, taking every aspect into account.

Announcer - When asked by a BBC radio correspondent about pressure to include certain people in the cabinet, Mr Karzai said:

Hamed Karzai - After the elections in Afghanistan, the issue of pressure is out of the question. The people of Afghanistan elected a president by their votes, and the president is answerable to the nation and to God. Therefore, he should take responsible measures. So there is no pressure or force; this is out of question. We shall work bearing in mind our responsibility towards the Afghan nation and the constitution of Afghanistan. The mojahedin have rights. They have served this country. They have waged jihad and remained in Afghanistan during its most difficult times. They have made sacrifices. They are the deserving group. They should be given priority. In view of the constitution, if our mojahed brothers have higher education, a good name and have no problem criminal record they will be the first to be in the Afghan cabinet.

We have taken this into account and shall do this. Thus, there is no question of pressure or force, nor shall we allow any such thing. But deserving people will be given their rights. What does compromise mean? Does it mean compromise for the sake of national interests and the country's peace and stability? If so, this is indeed important for us. It is important for every Afghan as well.

We should take measures bearing in mind national interests. Yes, national interests, not individual or party interests. National interests are of great importance to us and we are bound by national interests.

No Taleban in cabinet – Correspondent - I have two questions; first you explained the traits your cabinet should possess, such as being devout, Muslim and without criminal convictions. Are you not being too idealistic? Can there be people with such qualities in Afghanistan to join your cabinet? Second, there are reports that you have contacts with the Taleban and that you will probably invite some moderate Taleban, those who as you say are not involved in the killing of people or crimes, to join your cabinet. At what stage are your negotiations with the Taleban, and will you give the Taleban a share in your cabinet?

Hamed Karzai - Piety, honesty, a good name and having no criminal record are the issues stipulated in the constitution. No one can disobey the provisions of the constitution. During my inauguration, I swore on the Holy Koran to obey and uphold the constitution of Afghanistan. It is my first duty to obey the Constitution of Afghanistan. Therefore, this will be done. The cabinet and anyone in the cabinet or in other government posts should obey the Constitution of Afghanistan in every sense. No relationships, friendship or contacts will be taken into consideration. Only the constitution will be taken into account. Hence, we shall work in accordance with the provisions of the constitution.

With regard to the Taleban, we have said many times that the Taleban, ordinary Taleban, those who are not involved in crimes, are the sons of this country. They are welcome in their country to be with their families. Reports of Taleban participation in the cabinet are not correct at the moment.

Announcer - Esteemed Hamed Karzai said that new ministers must register their property.

Hamed Karzai - Ministers must register their property and assets before they begin work. Their property must be declared. Ministers should do this within two weeks of being appointed.

Drugs - Correspondent Esteemed Karzai, you have been very determined on the issue of drugs. You have even declared that you will wipe out poppy cultivation regardless of whether foreign friends help the Afghan government. Also, there are reports that you will establish a Counter-Narcotics Ministry in the cabinet. People are concerned that in the case of such a ministry being established, the narcotics issue will be prolonged. At the last round table discussion we held on Radio Ashna, foreigners warmly welcomed your determination regarding narcotics. What other measures have you taken in this respect since holding the national conference on drugs ?

Hamed Karzai - We have continued our measures through the Ministry of Internal Affairs and other organs working against narcotics. Operations to destroy opium-processing laboratories are continuing, the destruction of poppy fields is continuing. We should have dignity and respect as a nation, but narcotics tarnish Afghanistan's reputation. The nation should be freed of the humiliation and shame which narcotics represent. We should be a society earning its living through legal means. Our religion as well as our national dignity demands this.

I am planning to establish a ministry because if we only have a committee, it is difficult for this to find its place in the government structure in the way that other ministries do. They also cannot approach me as easily. I want this to be a ministry so it can be responsible for organizing everything related to the counter-narcotics campaign. In this way, I can ask the minister how work is proceeding every week at the cabinet meeting. Otherwise, I might sometimes remember and sometimes forget. Hence, I want a consistent and serious effort to this effect. Therefore, I want to establish a ministry.

Correspondent - That means it will have a vast structure?

Hamed Karzai - No, No, that is not the case. It will be a coordinating organization. It will be a coordinating and harmonizing department. It will not have a structure like other ministries.