KABUL - Some members on Wednesday staged a walkout from of the Wolesi Jirga, or lower house of parliament, over a National Disaster Management Commission (NDMC) report on preparations for winter assistance to vulnerable families.
Presenting the report before lawmakers, NDMC deputy head Mohammad Aslam Sias said they had worked out plans over the past nine months for dealing with a possible humanitarian disaster during the winter.
An amount of 90 million afghanis ($359,372) had been earmarked for the purpose, he added. In its provincial stores, the commission has 2,895 tons of flour, 1,000 tons of rice, 27 metric tons of wheat, 10,000 blankets and 10,000 tons of other food items.
Public Works Minister Najibullah Awjan informed MPs they had devised emergency plans for areas that were cut off by winter snowfalls. Necessary equipment had been arranged to prevent snow slides on the Salang highway, connecting Kabul with northern provinces, he said.
Medicine for the treatment of winter ailments had been dispatched to all provinces, Public Health Minister Dr. Suraya Dalil said, adding her ministry was ready to treat 1.3 million children suffering from pneumonia.
Minister of Agriculture and Livestock Mohammad Asif Rahimi said they had enough food items for distribution to vulnerable families.
Minister of Refugees Jamahir Anwari said they were working on a policy to rehabilitate displaced people in their areas. He added 85 percent Iran-based Afghan refugees, who were still without legal documents, had been issued visas and passports.
But Hamidullah Tokhi, a parliamentarian from southern Zabul province, rejected the NDMC report as a mere formality. The body had not yet planned even-handed distribution of emergency aid to southern provinces.
Addressing the officials concerned, he remarked: "Since you are guilty of discriminating among the province, we -- the representatives of the southern zone, are walking out in protest." He spurned the document as hogwash.
Nasima Niazi, another parliamentarian from Helmand, said her province faced a whole host of problems during the winter. However, she complained, the report suggested the commission had not paid adequate attention to Helmand.
The commission's uneven aid allocation was unacceptable to them, said Eng. Sahib Khan, a lawmaker from central Logar province. "The report is focused on the provinces liked by the two vice-presidents," he charged.
After a series of objections, 10 members walked out of the assembly. Speaker Abdul Rauf Ibrahimi said every MP reserved the right to leave the house as a mark of protest.
At the outset of the session, a number of legislators said NDMC head and 2nd Vice-President Mohammad Karim Khalili should have been summoned to brief them on preparations for tackling winter-related challenges.
Last year, the Wolesi Jirga had unanimously decided that Khalili should be replaced by a minister as the commission's chief. They alleged the vice-president disregarded his duty to appear before the house and answer members' queries.
Ministers of public works, public health, rural and urban development, agriculture, refugee affairs and transport, as well as heads of six independent organisations are members of the commission. (Pajhwok)