MADELEINE BRAND, host:
This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Madeleine Brand.
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
And I'm Steve Inskeep.
Afghanistan held its presidential election last August, but still does not have a new government. There's a president, Hamid Karzai, but not a government beneath him. The Afghan parliament rejected most of President Karzai's Cabinet choices last week. The delay in choosing a Cabinet dismays some international officials. Some Afghan lawmakers say they're pressing for honest government after widespread corruption during Karzai's last term. We asked one lawmaker, Daoud Sultanzoy, about some of the jobs that need to be filled.
Mr. DAOUD SULTANZOY (Member, Afghan National Assembly): We have an array of people, similar to the U.S. Then we have ministry of rural development and travel affairs. And since we had millions of refugees and wounded, we have our ministry for them, martyrs and disabled.
INSKEEP: So of President Karzai's 24 nominees, how many did you oppose?
Mr. SULTANZOY: Out of the 24 ministers, I only voted for four.
INSKEEP: So given a chance to vote for 24 different nominees of President Karzai, you voted yes only four times and voted no 20 times. And your colleagues in the parliament were not far behind you. Seventeen out of the 24 were rejected. Why so many?
Mr. SULTANZOY: It's varied. The general reason, I could summarize it. Most of the ministers who came and who were expected to produce a cohesive program based on a national agenda were not able to produce that because there was no national agenda to speak of that hadn't been introduced by the president in the first place.
INSKEEP: Some of these Cabinet nominees were described as warlords. The most famous, perhaps, is Ismail Khan, a man who, for many years, has been very powerful in the city of Herat.
Mr. SULTANZOY: Right.
INSKEEP: Was that part of the objection among some of your colleagues, that they did not want that kind of person involved in the government anymore?
Mr. SULTANZOY: Definitely. When you look at the list of rejected ministers, there was a combination of warlords or ethnic recommendations which were made by warlords. So it was an overall no to all of that.
INSKEEP: You collectively, in the parliament, have rejected 17 of his 24 Cabinet nominees. Do you have a sense that President Karzai is going to be able to send you nominees that you find more acceptable?
Mr. SULTANZOY: He has sent some indication that he might be sending some of these ministers who failed again for other posts, which will be a mockery. I think he wants to break the parliament's determination and show to the people of the country that this parliament is not the parliament that you think it is. I'm going to send these people for other posts, and I'm going to try to get them approved, and then this parliament will lose credibility if that happens. So he is trying to do that right now.
INSKEEP: As you probably know very well, the head of the United Nations mission in Kabul has described this dispute over the Cabinet members as a distraction. There does seem to be a bit of anxiety among foreigners about how long it's going to take the Afghan government to get moving.
Mr. SULTANZOY: I am so sorry that he does not act as the representative of the United Nations, but he acts of the representative of a palace. I think he should've been evenhanded and he should've applauded the achievement of the people of Afghanistan and a parliament that produced something.
I know that this decision can produce some sort of reverberations, but nation building and democracy is a journey that we have to be prepared for. These kinds of journeys have ups and downs. And we have to have the right shock absorbers to absorb these kinds of things. And if Mr. Kai Eide is not happy, his term will be over in March and I hope we can have a person who can be happy with the vote of the people of Afghanistan.
INSKEEP: Is there any way in which you may have been helpful to President Karzai here by rejecting most of his Cabinet nominees?
Mr. SULTANZOY: You asked the $1 million question. Mr. Karzai should celebrate this the same way that the people of Afghanistan are celebrating. He should tell the warlords and those who imposed their people on him, look, I gave you a chance. I send these people to the parliament. I hired you. Now, it's time to create a team that is acceptable to the people of the country.
We have removed a huge pressure from his shoulders if he is able to understand. But Mr. Karzai, because of his lack of recognitions of opportunities, the Afghan nation has lost historic opportunities in the past eight years.
INSKEEP: Daoud Sultanzoy is a member of Afghanistan's parliament. He's on the line from Kabul.
Thanks very much.
Mr. SULTANZOY: Thank you.
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