Cablegate: A Tale of Two Kabul Mayors

DE RUEHBUL #0062/01 0071320
ZNY SSSSS ZZH (ADX08F306 MSI7676 532A)
O 071320Z JAN 10 ZDS

S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 KABUL 000062



E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/05/2020

REF: 09 KABUL 4066

KABUL 00000062 001.4 OF 002

Classified By: Polcouns Annie Pforzheimer, reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)

1. Summary: (C) President Karzai has appointed a new mayor
of Kabul, Engineer Mohammad Yunos Novandish. This follows the
December 7, 2009 'mismanagement of authority' conviction and
the December 8, 2009 release pending appeal of former Kabul
Mayor Abdul Ahad Sahebi (Reftel.) The Novandish appointment
portends controversy because he is not from Kabul; the Sahebi
case suggests kangaroo court justice. Bio information on
Novandish is in paras 3 and 4. End Summary.

New Mayor - Old Ties

2. (C) President Karzai issued a January 3 decree appointing
Engineer Mohammad Yunos Novandish the new mayor of Kabul.
Controversy over the appointment may arise for two reasons:
First, according to Article 141 of the Constitution, mayors
shall be elected, not appointed. Some Afghan MPs went on TOLO
TV January 5 to challenge the appointment on constitutional
grounds. Second, according to embassy contacts among the
National Democratic Front (NDF), Mayor Novandish is not a
native Kabuli and the NDF is planning to try and organize
protests within the month. (Note: The NDF is a loosely
organized coalition of urban civil society groups and members
of parliament.)

3. (U) According to media reports and embassy contacts,
Novandish, an Uzbek from Saripol, graduated from the
engineering faculty of Kabul Polytechnic University in civil
engineering and did post-graduate studies in the Ukraine. He
served as a lecturer at Balkh University from 1994 to 1996,
lived primarily in Central Asia during the Taliban years, and
was Deputy Minister of Water and Energy from 2004-2006.
Novandish resigned his post when Ismail Khan was appointed
Minister of Water and Energy. After 2006 he worked as a
consultant for USAID-funded programs such as International
Development Relief and Development, Inc. (IRD) and Advanced
Engineering Institute Associates (AEIA). In 2009 he opened
his own engineering firm, Energy and Power Construction
Company, which has allegedly done extensive subcontracting
work in the energy sector. (Note: alternate transliterations
of his name include Noandesh, Novandesh, and Nawandaish.)

4. (S/NF) Sensitive reporting indicates that warlord and
leader of the Junbesh Party General Dostum pushed Novandish
for the Kabul Mayor appointment. Although Novandish claims
publicly that he is politically independent, this reported
Dostum support has credibility given that Novandish was
Deputy Minister of Water and Energy when current MP and
Junbesh Party member Shakar Kargar (Uzbek, Jowzjan) was
Minister. Kargar reportedly owed his own ministerial
appointment at that time to Dostum. Although Kargar is an
intra-party rival of Dostum, they often unite to further
party interests. Dostum has been publicly vocal in his
criticism of the January 2 ministerial confirmation process
in which all three Junbesh nominees were rejected. The
appointment of an apparent Dostum supporter to the mayor's
office may well be President Karzai's attempt to placate
Dostum and Junbesh.

Old Mayor - Yesterday's News

5. (C) Media coverage of the new mayor's appointment has
included condemnation of his predecessor, Abdul Ahad Sahebi,
for "massive embezzlement of funds and brazen misuse of
authority." The ex-mayor's December 7 conviction and almost
immediate release from jail on bail pending appeal generated
a media frenzy and intense speculation over President
Karzai's role in Sahebi's release. (Reftel.) USG officials
met with Sahebi on December 25, 2009 and January 2 and 3,
2010. Sahebi produced the December 6 summons he received to
appear at primary court and obtain a date for his preliminary
hearing. Sahebi contended that normal procedure requires a
minimum of 5 days between summons and hearing date, but when
he presented himself to the court on December 7, his lawyer
was handed not a hearing date, but his sentence - four years
in jail and a USD 16,000 fine.

6. (C) Concerning the actual charge of poor oversight of
contracting authority, Sahebi laid out his version of the
case: In 2007 Sahebi's predecessor signed a one-year
contract leasing some city property to two individuals who
had shops on the site. When the contract came up for
renewal, the City Hall financial department assigned three
people to study the continued use of the land. The financial
department recommended the contract be renewed, with mention
of the city's future plans for the site. Sahebi's deputy

KABUL 00000062 002.2 OF 002

signed the renewal. Three months later, a higher bid for the
site came in. Had that bid been accepted, the city would
have gained about USD 16,000 more for the lease and this
"loss" was the basis of the case against him. Embassy
officials have not been privy to the prosecution's case
against Sahebi.
7. (C) Regarding his job perfomance, Sahebi also mentioned
to USG officials that in his less than two years as mayor he
had found files for approximately 32,000 applicants who paid
for non-existent plots of land in Kabul city. He said he
ordered a halt to the distribution of residential and
commercial land until claims could be sorted out and
invalidated the illegal claims of some important people like
Engineer Ahmed Shah, who is close to the fundamentalist
former warlord MP, Rasoul Sayyaf (Pashtun, Kabul). This
claim supports information reported reftel that some of
Sahebi's official decisions may have antagonized powerful
people who then sought to use the power of the state to
discredit him.

Karzai's Motives Still Unclear

8. (C) Comment: Metaphorically speaking (there is no jury
trial in Afghanistan) the jury is still out on Sahebi, the
first high-profile case of official corruption following
Karzai's re-election. Sahebi's case is on appeal, but no
hearing date has been set. Unfortunately for the former
mayor, he has already been tried in the press and condemned
as an embezzler, a charge that apparently was not even
brought and for which we have seen no evidence. As for the
formal process itself, it appears that Sahebi may have been
convicted without having been accorded what little due
process there is under Afghan law.

9. (C) The Novandish appointment may indicate that Karzai
concluded, despite his initial forceful defense of Sahebi,
that it was more politically expedient to sacrifice him.
Karzai may hope both to satisfy international expectations
that he will act to clean up his government and at the same
time to placate powerful Afghan players who wanted the
ex-mayor gone for their own mercenary reasons. End Comment.


© Scoop Media

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