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Wednesday, 12 June, 2002, 18:28 GMT 19:28 UK
Tempers flare at loya jirga
Delegates at loya jirga
Some delegates say the assembly is not democratic
The election of an Afghan head of state has been delayed at the historic grand assembly in Kabul, where the debate has been marked by sharp and sometimes angry exchanges.

Many grievances are being aired at the loya jirga, which brings together hundreds of representatives from across Afghanistan's diverse society, who were largely silenced under Taleban rule.

Supporter of interim Afghan leader Hamid Karzai putting up a poster
Karzai is expected to be chosen to continue as leader
There have been security scares on the second day of the loya jirga, convened in a giant white tent. It is the first such gathering for nearly 25 years.

The International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) apologised for an incident in which bullets were fired at a television broadcast van outside Kabul's Intercontinental Hotel, which houses the international press centre.

Five or six rounds struck the vehicle, but nobody was hurt. Isaf said a machine-gun mounted on a German armoured personnel carrier had misfired.


Earlier, German troops were involved in a scuffle with armed bodyguards who were escorting the Afghan ambassador to Britain, Wali Masood, to the loya jirga.

Loya jirga
2,000 delegates
1,051 elected members
Guaranteed seats for 160 women
53 seats for current government
100 seats for Afghan refugees and six for internally displaced Afghans
25 seats for nomads

According to Isaf, the bodyguards were travelling in two pickups and one of them aimed a cocked AK-47 rifle at the Isaf patrol, who then disarmed them.

Mr Masood told the BBC the guards were licensed to carry weapons and should not have been disarmed.

But an Isaf spokeswoman said they could not allow such behaviour to go unchecked.

The loya jirga is expected to elect the current interim leader, Hamid Karzai, as head of state.

But the vote is now expected to be delayed until Thursday, as delegates have not yet elected a loya jirga chairman.

The current chairman, Mohammed Ismal Qasimyar, is reported to be no longer a frontrunner for the highly influential post.

New government

Later the loya jirga is also expected to appoint a successor administration to the interim government that took office under a United Nations-brokered deal, after US air attacks helped opposition forces to overthrow the Taleban.

There are so many armed people around that we wonder whether it is a loya jirga or a military council

Safar Mohammed
Loya jirga delegate

The head of state will lead the nation up to elections in two years' time.

"If it continues like this I don't think it will be wrapped up in six days as planned," said Gulab Mangal, a delegate from eastern Paktia province.

There was confusion on Tuesday over whether Mr Karzai had already been chosen as head of state, but later officials said this was still to be debated.

Former king's role

There has been bitter criticism of the procedure to elect delegates to the loya jirga, two-thirds of whom were chosen through district elections, with the rest selected by the organising committee.

Ex-king Zahir Shah
Zahir Shah: Bitter arguments over his role
Many attending the gathering said they wanted to nominate and elect the former King, Zahir Shah, as head of state, but he ruled himself out of contention on Monday.

A split has emerged between Zahir Shah's mainly ethnic Pashtun supporters and the powerful Northern Alliance commanders who ousted the Taleban from Kabul.

"There are so many armed people around that we wonder whether it is a loya jirga or a military council," said delegate Safar Mohammed, accusing warlords of defying a weapons ban and intimidating people at the gathering.

Seema Samar, the women's affairs minister, complained that the loya jirga was "not a democracy; it is a rubber stamp - everything has already been decided by the powerful ones".

The BBC's kate Clarke
"Afghan civilians finally have the chance to speak out"
Zalmay Kalilzad, US envoy to Afghanistan
"We see warlords as a threat in the long term"
The BBC's Lyse Doucet
"There have been quite extraordinary scenes"


Political uncertainty






See also:

12 Jun 02 | South Asia
11 Jun 02 | South Asia
11 Jun 02 | South Asia
09 Jun 02 | South Asia
09 Jun 02 | South Asia
15 Apr 02 | South Asia
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