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Cablegate: Parliament Seeks to Strengthen Provincial

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RUMICEA/USCENTCOM INTEL CEN MACDILL AFB FL
RHMFISS/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL
RHMFISS/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL
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UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KABUL 002704

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SENSITIVE

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REL NATO/AUST/NZ/ISAF

TAGS: PGOV PREL PINR KDEM AF
SUBJECT: PARLIAMENT SEEKS TO STRENGTHEN PROVINCIAL
COUNCIL LAW

REF: (A) Kabul 1069, (B) Kabul 2318

1. (SBU) SUMMARY. Both houses of the Afghan National
Assembly have drafted revisions to the Provincial
Council Law, which will be considered by the Wolesi
Jirga upon their return from recess in July. The
revisions would strengthen the role of Provincial
Councils in provincial governance, giving them greater
oversight authority. This move is the first proactive
attempt at legislating by the Parliament to date, and
inserts them into the debate over the role Provincial
Councils should have in provincial governance. END
SUMMARY.

Proposed Changes to Provincial Council Law
------------------------------------------

2. (SBU) Parliament is considering the following
changes to the Provincial Council law:

- Granting Provincial Councils (PCs) authority to
supervise government programs in the provinces. (Both
houses)
- Requiring provincial government departments to
provide quarterly reports (on programs and budgeting)
to the Councils. (Meshrano Jirga/MJ/upper house only)
- Granting PCs authority to approve provincial
development plans. (Wolesi Jirga/WJ/lower house only)
- Adding counter-narcotics and anti-alcohol goals to
the items included in PCs' areas of responsibility.
(Both houses)
- Provincial Councils would be held accountable to the
Office of Administrative Affairs within the Palace, not
the Ministry of Interior. (MJ only)
- Dissolution of a Provincial Council would require
agreement of the President and Meshrano Jirga, not a
decision by the Ministry of Interior. (WJ only)
- In the case of the death of a member of the
Provincial Council, the seat would remain open. (WJ
only)

3. (SBU) In a meeting in May, Kubra Mustafawi, Chair of
the Meshrano Jirga Committee on Provincial Councils,
stated that these changes came out of discussions with
PC members from across Afghanistan during the national
conference of Provincial Councils called by President
Karzai on March 1 (Ref A). She stated that the PC
members gave the MJ permission to make improvements to
the PC law based on the report that came out of the
Committee. Her committee drafted an amended bill and
sent it to the Wolesi Jirga, where, according to the
Constitution, all changes to transitional laws must
originate. The WJ Legislation Committee reviewed the
bill and presented its report on the legislation to the
Wolesi Jirga on the last day of its first session (June
5). The Wolesi Jirga briefly discussed whether to
debate the bill, then decided to postpone substantive
debate until their return from recess (tentatively,
July 23).

Relations between Parliament and PCs
------------------------------------

4. (SBU) Members of Parliament, and the Meshrano Jirga
in particular, have emerged as strong advocates for
Provincial Councils. While their request was not
included in the final budget approved by the Wolesi
Jirga, the Parliament did include a USD2.5 million

KABUL 00002704 002 OF 002


increase in funds for PCs in its budget request to the
President. In addition, in meetings, MPs frequently
put forward requests for the USG to consult with
Provincial Councils in the setting of development
priorities, and seek additional support (from technical
assistance on budgeting to cars) for PC members. Ms.
Mustafawi has begun to attend meetings of the
Provincial Council Coordinating group, chaired by the
Ministry of Interior, and pursues these goals in this
forum as well.

5. (SBU) Members of the Meshrano Jirga - two-thirds of
which were elected from Provincial Councils - have a
particularly close connection to PCs. MJ members
communicate regularly with PC members by phone. MJ
members also receive delegations of constituents from
their provinces on a weekly basis and have participated
in delegations back to the provinces (Ghor, Dai Kundi,
Wardak, Bamyan, Ghazni and Herat)at the request of PC
members.

Comment
-------

6. (SBU) The fact that Parliament independently drafted
amendments to the PC law is significant in terms of its
development, and comes early in the Parliament's
institutional development. While it was not able to
move beyond procedural discussions to debate the
substance of the bill in the final days before recess,
the Wolesi Jirga's move is a sign that it will closely
consider the significant transitional laws it has
before it. It also indicates that Parliament does have
the technical capacity to draft amendments and bills.

7. (SBU) The choice of the PC law as the first bill to
consider is also significant. Parliament has a natural
affinity for its fellow elected bodies, but it will be
interesting to see how the Parliament's interest will
play against an administration unsure how far to
empower the PCs (Ref B). The changes proposed to the
PC law are not dramatic - they do not transform PCs
into miniature parliaments - but they are significant,
making PCs more independent of their governors and
granting them more oversight over provincial policy.
We will be following this issue closely to see which
changes make it through the entire legislative process.
END COMMENT.

NEUMANN

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