KABUL on Saturday rejected a presidential decree, reserving a seat for the Hindu and Sikh minority in the lower house of parliament.
On September 4, President Hamid Karzai signed the legislative decree in accordance 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.
On Saturday, the Wolesi Jirga Legislative Commission placed the decree before the house for endorsement after it was thoroughly debated by different parliamentary panels.
Nazir Ahmad Hanafi, the commission head, said 13 of the 18 permanent house panels had opposed the decree. He claimed the orders were 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.
Hanafi said the Commission for Supervision of the Implementation of Constitution had also found the decree in violation of the basic law.
Several members suggested that Sikhs and Hindus, just like other citizens, should try to find their way to the parliament by contesting elections. They voiced aversion to constitutional exceptions in this regard.
But Health Commission chief, Naqibullah Faiq, favoured a reserved seat for the Hindu and Sikh minority. “If we don’t give them this constitutional privilege, the minorities will never reach the parliament.”
Faiq’s view was supported by lawmaker from Kabul Ramazan Bashardost, who believed that there was nothing wrong in setting aside a parliamentary seat for the minorities.
Of the 130 legislators present, 73 raised their red cards in rejection of the presidential decree.
On July 31, the Council of Hindus and Sikhs in Afghanistan had warned of leaving the country if they were not given proper representation in the lower house of the parliament.
Flanked by civil society representatives, Rail Singh, the council’s deputy head, asked the government to take effective measures to address the problems being faced by the minorities.
In the original draft election law, a seat had been reserved for the Hindus and Sikh, he told a news conference. But the parliament deleted the clause, he regretted.
“We are very much concerned about the abolition of the reserved seat,” remarked Singh, whose community has no representation in parliament. No parliamentarian bothered to discuss the problems being faced by the minority, he deplored.
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