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Yunus Qanooni / Muhammad Yunus Qanuni

An ethnic Tajik from the Panjshir Valley, Yunus Qanuni [Qanooni and Qanouni], is married to a Pashtun. When the mujahedin captured Kabul in 1993, Qanuni was appointed joint defense minister in the government of President Burhanuddin Rabbani. During the time of Taliban rule, Qanuni represented the interests of the Northern Alliance abroad.

Before they died, Commanders Ahmed Shah Masood and Abdul Haq agreed to support the Loya Jirga process, and during their June 23, 2001 meeting in Dushanbe, Masood stated his personal view that the Islamic State of Afghanistan should step aside when the Loya Jirga process creates a broadbased interim government to replace the Taliban in Kabul. After this meeting, Commander Masood sent one of his senior political advisors, Yunus Qanuni, to meet former Afghan monarch Zahir Shah in Rome to decide on arrangements for the Loya Jirga process. Qanuni visited Rome twice before Masood's assassination.

Qanuni returned to Rome following Masood's assassination to complete agreement between the Northern Alliance and Zahir Shah on formation of a Supreme Council as the first step leading to a Loya Jirga. Qanuni became political head of the Jamiat-e Islami of the Northern Alliance, and was appointed interior minister when the Northern Alliance entered Kabul in November 2001. Interior Minister Yunus Qanuni announced November 22, 2001 that he would lead the Northern Alliance delegation to the Berlin conference on the future of Afghanistan.

Yunis Qanuni was one of three members of the Northern Alliance's Shura-e Nazar faction from Panjsher Province who obtained a powerful cabinet post through the Bonn accords of late 2001. The others -- former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah and former Defense Minister Qasim Fahim -- also used their de facto control of Kabul at the time of the Bonn meeting to negotiate for ministry posts. The triumvirate of Fahim as defense minister, Qanuni as interior minister, and Abdullah as the foreign minister was -- in the beginning -- representive of the three main factions of Shura-e Nazar.

Following the June 2002 Loya Jirga he stepped down as part of a compromise to balance the ethnic representation of the Afghan cabinet in favor of Pashtuns. Hamid Karzai, as interim president, reduced Qanunis political influence by moving him to the education ministry.

In 2004, the major non-Pashtun candidates concentrated on demonstrating their popularity among their own ethnic group. Qanuni ran against Karzai in the 2004 election, placing a distant second. Karzai and his pan-ethnic slate topped Yunus Qanooni, the Tajik runner up, by 38 points. Former president Rabbani remained the most important power broker in Afghanistan. During the presidential elections in 2004, Rabbani threw his lot in with Hamid Karzai against Qanuni and got his son-in-law, Ahmad Zia Mas'ud, positioned as first vice president.

Qanunis loss to Karzai diminished his influence in national politics. Following the presidential election, Qanuni formed a coalition of 11 different parties (National Understanding Front/Jabha-ye-Tafahhum-e-Milli) to oppose Karzai and attempt to change the constitution to a parliamentary rather than presidential system.

Both Lower House Speaker Yunus Qanooni (Kabul, Tajik) and Upper House Speaker Sebghatullah Mojaddedi (Kabul, Tajik) won five-year terms upon Parliament's first seating in 2005. After backdoor political maneuverings and a heated contest, Mohammad Yunos Qanuni, head of the New Afghanistan Party and the unofficial leader of the National Understanding Front -- the largest opposition bloc -- was elected speaker of the Afghan National Assembly's People's Council (Wolesi Jirga) on 21 December 2005. Qanuni was elected speaker after facing serious competition from former president Burhanuddin Rabbani and abd al-Rabb Sayyaf. Rabbani eventually endorsed Qanuni, providing the victory over Sayyaf by a margin of 122 to 117. Following his election as speaker, Qanuni resigned his position as head of the opposition coalition, though he retained leadership of his own political party, Hezb-e Afghanistan-e Nawin (New Afghanistan Party).

Shortly after the National Assembly opened in 2005, the Lower House's small grouping of pro-Western democrats coalesced around Shukria Barakzai's (Kabul, Pashtun) Third Line movement. Although the more than 25 MPs originally associated with this group positioned themselves as an alternative to Karzai and Qanooni, the bloc found itself frequently supporting the president's positions, especially as more conservative elements in the Lower House lashed out against Foreign Minister Spanta or sought to curtail personal freedoms guaranteed in the Constitution.

In early September 2008, Lower House Speaker Yunus Qanooni (Kabul, Tajik) surprised the administration by quickly holding votes on several bills vetoed during the last legislative session. Qanooni easily gathered the required two-thirds majorities necessary to override the president's vetoes. These legislative defeats revealed a growing gap between Karzai and a broad swath of MPs once thought to be natural allies. Although Karzai has assigned one of his closest allies -- Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Farooq Wardak -- to manage relations with legislators, he has few MPs he can turn to for support in the Lower House, and no one bloc willing to consistently advance legislation he favors or stop initiatives he opposes.

Furthering Karzai's poor relations with MPs, Qanooni ran the Lower House as a foil to the executive branch and invested more energy, via his United Front coalition, into assembling an opposition bloc than in leading the business of the Lower House. In order to maintain his grip on the Lower House's agenda, he kept hours short and ended sessions early when divisive rhetoric boiled over. Bills languished in committees few MPs attend and the house's leadership often defers difficult decisions to non-parliamentary commissions. Thus, parliament rarely held close votes that would ordinarily encourage MPs to self-identify with factions and allow a more predictable measurement of pro- and anti-government forces.

MPs allied with Hezb-e-Islami Afghanistan (HIA) and Afghan Millat, parties dominated by Pashtuns, are frequently at odds with Qanooni and the United Front's rule in the Lower House. This should create natural allegiances with the Pashtun Karzai. However, Karzai's engagement with Pashtun nationalists seemed more geared to shoring up support for his 2009 re-election and not for mobilizing support in parliament.

In May 2009 Lower House Speaker Yunus Qanooni cut off action on a version of the Private Security Companies (PSC) Law that would have placed restrictions limiting the number of armed personnel allowed for each PSC. Over the objections of many MPs, Qanooni tabled debate on the law, referring it to a Commission on the Implementation and Oversight of the Constitution. Qanooni has recently referred several bills to this commission, which does not yet exist due to a constitutional disagreement between the Lower House and President Karzai. Qanooni effectively killed parliamentary action on the PSC Law for the time being and has allowed Interior Minister Hanif Atmar to proceed with his plans to address PSC issues through executive branch regulations.

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Page last modified: 21-08-2012 12:37:43 ZULU