Afghanistan’s Parliament Convenes, Marking Final Milestone
Amidst the excitement over the elections in Iraq and the furor over the NSA eavesdropping revelations, a major milestone has quietly passed in Afghanistan:
Afghanistan’s first democratically elected Parliament in more than 30 years convened today amid heavy security, and was sworn in before President Hamid Karzai, the former king, Muhammad Zaher Shah and foreign dignitaries, in a moment of national pride at the country’s success in emerging from decades of conflict. “This assembly is a sign of us regaining our honor,” President Karzai said in a speech to the 351 members of both upper and lower houses, cabinet members and guests. “This dear Afghanistan has risen again from the ashes,” he said, pausing to gain control of his emotions.
The vice president of the United States, Dick Cheney, and his wife, Lynne, were in the front row of guests to celebrate the occasion. Arriving after Mr. Karzai, their helicopter whipped up a blinding dust cloud that enveloped the National Assembly building and surrounding area. The main streets of the capital, Kabul, were closed to traffic to prevent any suicide bomb attacks, like the one on Friday that exploded just a few hundred yards from the refurbished Parliament building.
The establishment of two houses of Parliament represents the last milestone set under the United Nations-sponsored Bonn Accords in December 2001 after the fall of the Taliban government, and was hailed by the president and legislators as an important step forward for the country.
In December 2001–and certainly on September 11, 2001–the idea of a democratic Afghanistan bordered on fantasy. A remarkable achievement, indeed.