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Cablegate: A More Hands-On Approach to Parliament Relations

VZCZCXRO0954
PP RUEHPW
DE RUEHBUL #2909/01 3061144
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 011144Z NOV 08
FM AMEMBASSY KABUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6044
INFO RUCNAFG/AFGHANISTAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KABUL 002909

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR SCA/FO, SCA/A, S/CRS
NSC FOR JWOOD
OSD FOR MCGRAW
CG CJTF-82, POLAD, JICCENT

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV AF
SUBJECT: A MORE HANDS-ON APPROACH TO PARLIAMENT RELATIONS

REF: A. KABUL 2837
B. KABUL 2714

1. (SBU) SUMMARY. After some confusion at the Ministry for
Parliamentary Affairs following the transfer of former chief
Farooq Wardak to the Ministry of Education and the reluctance
of a named successor to accept the job, the office's deputy
has taken charge indefinitely, with hopes of dedicating more
attention to President's Karzai's often tenuous relationship
with the National Assembly. Karim Baz assumed acting
responsibilities for parliamentary affairs last week, and
brings with him a management style wholly different than
Wardak's. Baz is more of a technocrat, with little of the
personal connections and flash Wardak employed, but more
potential to dedicate himself to the details of legislative
lobbying than his predecessor. Baz has said he aims to
improve relations with the Lower House's leadership and speed
through an ambitious agenda of legislation that has sat
dormant for more than a year.

Wardak Moves On, and So Does the New Nominee
----------

2. (SBU) Karzai transferred Farooq Wardak to the Education
ministry two weeks ago as part of a long-anticipated Cabinet
shuffle (ref A). Wardak had worn many hats for Karzai's
administration, often giving short shrift to his
responsibilities for managing the president's legislative
agenda. Typical of his style, Wardak utilized a last-minute
slew of arm twisting and likely pay offs to win votes for the
president's Cabinet nominees. But on routine legislative
issues, he was often absent, pre-occupied with negotiations
with Pakistan, managing Cabinet meetings, or other duties
Karzai had assigned him. The result was an administration
frustrated by its inability to move legislation and caught by
surprise when Karzai's vetoes were overridden in September
(ref B). Wardak's relationship with Lower House Speaker
Yunus Qanooni (Kabul, Tajik), in particular, was often
strained.

3. (SBU) As part of the Cabinet shuffle, Karzai came under
pressure to find a place for former Kandahar Governor
Assadullah Khalid. Khalid and his supporters, including
influential MP Abdul Rassoul Sayyaf (Kabul, Pashtun), had
hoped for a major Cabinet assignment, but Karzai was
unimpressed by Khalid's stewardship of his home province and
offered him what many now see as an offer the president knew
he would refuse. After a week of ambiguity, Khalid's true
feelings about the new job offer became clear as he left the
country rather than accept the helm at Parliamentary Affairs.
Karzai then named Wardak's deputy Dr. Karim Baz as acting
minister. Although rumors of a second round of Cabinet moves
abound, few versions include replacing Baz. Baz himself
guesses he will be in the job for the remainder of the
president's term.

A Technocrat With a Medical Background
----------

4. (SBU) Baz, an orthopedic surgeon by training, brings
with him just six months' experience as Wardak's deputy, plus
18 more months as the president's liaison to provincial
councils with IDLG. However, initial evidence shows he is
ready to dedicate far more attention to the details of the
job than Wardak. Baz said he is preparing a list of more
than 20 bills of top priority for the government and intends
to work with Qanooni to develop an agenda to move through the
bills one by one. Baz kicked off this initiative last week,
bringing the ministers of justice and mines to Parliament to
help get a water usage bill on the Lower House's agenda.
Qanooni, more willing to listen to the less-politicized Baz
than he was with Karzai's right-hand man Wardak, agreed, and
MPs worked their way through the bill within three sessions.
The last bill addressed while Wardak was at the helm took
nearly five weeks to pass. Baz told PolOff he hopes to pass
two more bills before the current legislative session ends in
December and work through the remainder of his priority list
during the next session. For our part, we will meet again
soon with Baz to seek his help on our legislative agenda,
particularly a number of long-stalled economic and commercial
reform bills.

5. (SBU) Despite his meticulous approach to advancing
legislation, it remains to be seen whether Baz has the
charisma to win over the dominant personalities in a
Parliament often less concerned with legislating and more
pre-occupied with political theater. Wardak had a clear

KABUL 00002909 002 OF 002


advantage in this regard, and often exploited his personal
connections and ability to make deals on the president's
behalf in order to win support. Baz has few of his own
resources and not nearly the standing with Karzai to bring to
this aspect of the job. Instead, he will have to rely on
less-flashy tactics of moving bills through committees and on
to votes by the whole house. If he is successful, he will
help this young Parliament mature into a better-functioning
body. If he's not, Karzai's reputation and agenda in
Parliament will continue to suffer until a more dynamic
personality comes along to line up votes and move legislation
through the chaotic legislature.
WOOD

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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