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"Being close to arms distances me from the public": Siawash

"Being close to arms distances me from the public": Siawash

Aug 15, 2011 - 11:43

KABULinfo-icon (PAN): Baktash Siawash, a young, outspoken, anti-Karzai Kabul MP, does not keep armed guards because he believes that being close to weapons distances him from the public.

He says he follows Mahatma Gandhi's principle of non-violence, and claims he is not affiliated with any armed, political or parliamentary groups and detests weapons.

Born in Ezatkhel village of Kohistan district in Kapisa province in 1983, Siawash graduated from Abdul Hadi Dawi high school in 2004. His native language is Dari, and he also speaks Pashtoinfo-icon, English, and a little Urdu.

He began his career as a journalist in 2002, contributing to a publication called Nawnehalan while he was still in school. He later served as reporter, editor, and then managing editor of Armaghan-e-Meli. He also worked for Tolo-e-Afghanistaninfo-icon and Watandar newspapers. He is perhaps best-known for his programs on Tolo TV, including Sia-wa-Sapid, Kankash, Sad-roze-Nokhest and Intekhabat.

The MP was trained in conflict reporting and online media in the UK, Sri Lanka and Pakistaninfo-icon in 2007, he added.

He said his campaign was modeled on that of US President Barack Obama, and said that as an African-American Obama had fought racism and gone on to the White House.

Siawash attracted criticism from some MPs when he compared the Wolesi Jirga, or lower house of Parliament, to a classroom and said that house proceedings should no longer be broadcast live. His statement provoked verbal attacks in the house from Kandahar MP Mulla Said Muhammad, among others.

A member of the Legislative Affairs Commission, Siawash believes his statements are constantly attacked by people with links to the Presidential Palace, which he claims has cultivated an anti-Siawash mentality in the house.

He is one of the harshest critics of the government, particularly President Karzai. He claims that President Karzai will try to stay in power after his second presidential term, despite constitutional term limits. He said the special election court, and plans for a national assembly, were attempts by Karzai to pave the way for amending the constitution.

The special court was established with the recommendation of the Supreme Court and the approval of President Karzai to investigate alleged vote-rigging in the 2009 parliamentary elections when the Attorney General’s Office called the election results illegitimate. On June 23, the tribunal disqualified 62 sitting parliamentarians. The court’s authority is still a matter of dispute, and President Karzai recently referred the matter back to the Independent Election Commission, Afghanistan’s ultimate electoral authority.

Amending the constitution would allow Karzai to run for a third presidential term or even create and then occupy the position of prime minister, Siawash predicted.

Karzai recently announced that he would not seek a third term as president.

The MP, who is still single, secured his seat in the Wolesi Jirgainfo-icon with 4500 votes from Kabul. He was not among the 62 MPs disqualified by the special court.

Siawash believes that the security transition process, which is expected to be completed in 2014, is also a pretext for Karzai to remain in power. He said that after 2012 Karzai might declare the situation unsuitable for a new election, and would then hold a national assembly or Jirgainfo-icon that might offer him a turban as a symbol of his continuing power.

He blames the special election court and the failure of the Karzai administration to introduce ministers to Parliament for the ongoing tension between the three branches of government, and says that the tension has prevented him from keeping promises to his constituents.

The MP rejected allegations that he had received political support from Abdullah Abdullah, head of the Change and Hope coalition, and Younis Qanoni, former speaker of the house. He said his friends had helped him with campaign posters and his campaign office.

Siawash could not afford to invite voters to lunches or dinners like other MPs, he said. He claimed the public voted him instead because of his background and his ability to pose hard questions to government officials during his interviewsinfo-icon as a TV presenter.

The MP does not have a secretary and plans his schedule himself; he said there were no restrictions on meeting his constituents. He says, "If it is about anyone's rights, I am ready to seriously struggle to ensure it."

Siawash received no support from any other country and he criticizes almost all countries, he reiterated.

He criticizes Iran for unofficially providing cash to Karzai, Pakistan for rocket strikes, Russia for meddling in Afghanistan’s internal affairs, China for its ambiguous policy, the US for its individual-centered support toward Afghanistan, Germany for staying idle in the north and not supporting peace in other parts of the country, India for using Afghanistan in its rivalry with Pakistan, France for leaving the Sarobi district of Kabul and Britain for leaving Helmand the biggest producer of opium despite their 9500 troops.

No Afghan is happy to see a foreign soldier standing on his head, he elaborated, but out of desperation Afghans have accepted the military presence of over 40 countries rather than be occupied by Pakistani, Iranian and Russian forces.

He stressed that Afghanistan’s problems will not be solved by negotiations with the Talibaninfo-icon alone and that negotiations must include an international perspective. "Negotiations must be held with ISI, because the ISIinfo-icon is source of terrorism, and it finances and equips the Taliban," he said.

His interests include reading the books and writings of young politicians – he recently finished reading US President Barack Obama’s book “The Audacity of Hope.”

He enjoys exercising and watching documentaries, but cannot make time for either because of his busy schedule, he said. He likes the songs of Ahmad Zahir and Indian artist Sonu Nigum.



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