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Senate Upholds Decree on Reserved Seat for Minority

Senate Upholds Decree on Reserved Seat for Minority

KABUL – The MeshranoJirga, or upper house of parliament, on Tuesday upheld a presidential decree reserving a parliament seat for the Hindu and Sikh minority. On Dec. 14, the Wolesi Jirga rejected the legislative decree President Hamid Karzai had signed in early September in line with Article 79 of the constitution and the electoral law.

The article says: “During the recess of the House of Representatives, the government shall, in case of an immediate need, issue legislative decrees, except in matters related to budget and financial affairs…” Legislative decrees, after their endorsement by the president, have to be presented to the National Assembly within 30 days of its first session. If rejected by the National Assembly, they become void.

But the lower house spurned the measure as illegal. Thirteen of the 18 permanent house panels opposed the decree as a step in conflict with Articles 22 and 83 of the constitution. Article 22 prohibits any kind of discrimination and privilege between the citizens of Afghanistan. All citizens — whether man or woman — have equal rights and duties before the law.

Similarly, Article 83 says members of the Wolesi Jirga are elected by the people through free, general, secret and direct elections. The election shall be held within 30 to 60 days before the expiry of the term of the Wolesi Jirga. MohiuddinMunsif, the Senate Legislative Commission chief, told lawmakers that a Wolesi Jirga seat be reserved for Hindus and Sikhs and Afghanistan be declared an electoral constituency for the minority.

It was necessary because Hindus and Sikhs living in different parts of the country could not win the required number of votes from one province, he argues. Asked for their opinion, 49 of the 56 members present voted for the presidential orders — forcing the creation of a joint parliamentary commission to reconcile differences between the two houses. (PAN)

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