US-backed interim leader of Afghanistan Hamid Karzai was selected last night to serve as Afghanistan’s President for the next two years. He won the position after delegates at the traditional loya jirga council handed him an overwhelming majority of votes, largely ignoring two last-minute challengers.
One of these challengers was World Food Program employee Masooda Jalal. She was the first Afghan woman to run for president in the country’s history—a milestone that has yet to be reached in many western countries, including the United States.
Karzai’s victory at the loya jirga comes as little surprise. Former King Mohammed Zahir Shah withdrew his candidacy under US pressure. Karzai then declared himself the chosen leader before a vote had even taken place.
Dozens of Afghan delegates walked out of the Loya Jirga assembly on Wednesday, furious at the lack of a free vote to choose the next leader of their country.
Delegates also report being intimidated and coerced by warlords, and surveilled by agents of the Afghan intelligence service. One female delegate told Human Rights Watch, "We are hostages of the people who destroyed Afghanistan. [The warlords] are trying to hold us hostage to their power."
Fariba Nawa is an Afghan born journalist who lives in the US. She is in Kabul to cover the loya jirga for Free Speech Radio News and several Western papers.
- Fariba Nawa, Free Speech Radio News reporter in Kabul