House Adjourned Amid Uproar over Summons
KABUL – Speaker Abdul Rauf Ibrahimi on Wednesday adjourned the Wolesi Jirga’s session amid blows traded between two members over the issue of summoning Finance Minister Hazrat Omar Zakhilwal. Ibrahimi asked security officials to expel lawmaker Mohammad Hassan Fahimi after he asked him to expose the names of the members who had allegedly made illegal demands on Zakhilwal.
Lawmakers have accused Zakhelwal of violating the law in five cases, asking him for an explanation. But his spokesman says the minister will not appear before the assembly. The assembly’s decision to summon Zakhelwal came after he accused some legislators of making illegal demands on his ministry.
Under Article 92 of the Constitution, a minister could be summoned if 50 MPs fill out relevant forms with their signatures. If the minister summoned fails to satisfy the house, a no-confidence motion can be considered. Ibrahimi announced some MPs had withdrawn their requests to summon Zakhelwal, reducing the percentage required. He said 61 lawmakers had submitted forms, but later 13 of them dropped their demand.
Syed Mohammad Akhundzada, a lawmaker from southern Kandahar province who also retracted his request, said he had reversed his decision because some colleagues used it to cut deals with ministers. “After this, I will never be part of efforts at summoning a minister.” But his counterpart from central Panjsher province, Zaheer Sadat, claimed those who had reversed their decision had cut deals.
He asked the house administrative board to declare the names of those who had withdrawn their forms. “Don’t submit forms if you can’t stay firm,” Sadat asked MPs. As the debate prolonged, Fahimi, a lawmaker from Sar-i-Pul province, went to Ibrahimi, asking him to reveal the names of those who had made illegal demands on ministers.
Ibrahimi replied he had no such list. “If you have this list, give it to me I will read it out,” the speaker told Fahimi, who shot back at the chair, saying exposing the names would save the image of upright members. “It is your responsibility to find and read out the list,” Fahimi shouted at Ibrahimi, who then ordered security officials to take him out of the house.
As security official moved to expel Fahimi, several lawmakers gathered around him to prevent the move. An MP from western Herat province, Ahmad Behzad, pushed past a security official. It was followed by a physical clash between Fahimi and Kapisa lawmaker Iqbal Sapi, creating panic in the assembly. As the clash continued, Ibrahimi adjourned the proceedings and ordered switching off the media pool.
On Tuesday, the Meshrano Jirga — or upper house of parliament — also decided to summon Zakhelwal to give the names of the lawmakers making illegal demands on the Ministry of Finance. While the lower house accused Zakhelwal of violating the law in five cases and blamed him for failing to take advisors on foreign trips, nepotism in appointments, misuse of authority, giving contradictory budget figures in 2011 and collecting money for President Karzai’s election campaign.
A spokesman for the ministry, Najib Manalai, told Pajhwok Afghan News the ministry had been under pressure during 18 months due to illegal demands from some legislators. On Tuesday, Senator Hafiz Abdul Qayyum said the finance minister had to reveal the names of those who had made illegal demands. If the minister did not expose the names, parliament’s credibility would be damaged, he argued. (PAN)