Afghan lawmakers pettifog in first postwar parliament

The first full session of Afghanistan's new parliament almost broke down Tuesday after a lawmaker demanded that all warlords, some of whom are delegates, be brought to justice. Meanwhile, a suicide bombing in the western city of Herat wounded six people, three of them Italian peacekeepers and the rest civilians, underscoring the continued security threat to the fledgling democracy.

Herat police chief Gen. Mohammad Ayub Salangi said the civilians included a woman who was hospitalized in critical condition. He said the NATO peacekeepers were on their way to the airport when the bomber's car pulled up next to their vehicle and exploded. The bomber was killed. The attack occurred as the national assembly in Kabul, which was inaugurated in an emotional ceremony on Monday, convened its first working session. Good feelings quickly gave way to a stormy debate over procedural matters, as well as the potentially explosive issue of warlords sitting among the elected representatives.

One delegate, Malali Joya, called for all of Afghanistan's human rights abusers and "criminal warlords" to be brought to justice. Delegates responded by pounding their fists on the tables to demand she sit down. Joya refused, shouting that it was her right as an elected official to speak her mind. She rose to prominence with a similar display at the 2003 loya jirga, or grand council, under which Afghanistan's constitution was hammered out.

Another delegate, Sayed Mubat Shah, appealed for calm, saying, "We have a big responsibility. We all have equal rights. We are the voice of the Afghan people." The popularly elected parliament marked this country's final step in its transition to democracy after the ouster four years ago of the hardline Taliban, reports the AP. N.U.

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