Karzai's pick for parliament speaker accused of atrocities
Added under Afghanistan/Pakistan
An Afghan warlord who's accused of gross human rights violations and was once close to Osama bin Laden has received the backing of President Hamid Karzai for the important post of speaker of the new parliament, which was inaugurated Wednesday.
To the dismay of diplomats and many lawmakers, especially women and those from Afghanistan's ethnic Hazara community, Abdul Rab Rasoul Sayyaf, who's been accused of a string of atrocities during Afghanistan's civil war of the 1990s, is Karzai's early candidate for the speaker slot, members of parliament said.
The new parliament–the country's second since the Taliban regime fell in 2001–like the first assembly contains a gallery of former "mujahedeen" warlords and guerrilla commanders who've been held responsible for the deaths of thousands of civilians.
One member of parliament, who spoke only on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, suggested that Karzai wanted Sayyaf as speaker in order to rile the West.
The opening of the parliament was itself a major rebuff to Karzai, who last week had ordered a month's delay in order to investigate vote-rigging allegations against some members. Karzai backed down under heavy international pressure and parliamentarians' threat to meet in a rump session, and at Wednesday's inauguration he seemed intent on getting even, accusing the West of "unnecessary" interference in his country.
Sources: McClatchy Newspapers
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