Afghan Journal

Lifting the veil on conflict, culture and politics

Afghan crisis had five-star lining for MPs

January 26, 2011

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By Hamid Shalizi

For Afghanistan’s recently elected MPs, a political crisis that threatened to stop some of them ever taking up their seats had a silver lining – they all moved into a five star hotel.

Nearly all 249 MPs booked rooms in one of Kabul’s most luxurious hotels, the hill-top Intercontinental, after President Hamid Karzai said he would delay the inauguration of parliament by a month.

The government will foot the bill for the stay by an army of MPs and their families’ – with full board – at the $150 to $400 a night hotel, hotel sources said. The move was to ensure they were together at one place so they could make collective decisions about the inauguration crisis, MPs said.

So for a week the hotel, more often home to visiting business groups and once the top tourist lodging in the Afghan capital, was packed with parliamentarians.

They packed the halls and conference rooms, debating, delivering long speeches then huddling in small packs in the smoke-filled coffee shop to dissect the latest moves.

In the lobby, children ran up and down in between gorging on continental food. Room service managers said the over-excited children made a lot of noise at night, prompting complaints from MPs trying to recharge for a busy next day.

Security was tightened up, with journalists banned and up to five checkpoints between the main building and the road – but slightly haphazard. I made it in by pretending to be a member of parliament from my home province.

Now parliament is finally being inaugurated, the party has moved on. But the stay is unlikely to endear MPs to ordinary Afghans already disillusioned with the violence and corruption of the country’s politics.

(A member of Afghanistan’s parliament enters a meeting hall at the Inter-continental hotel in Kabul.Reuters/Ahmad Masood)

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