By Steven Otfinoski
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Additional resources for Afghanistan (Nations in Transition)
The Pashtuns, the largest ethnic group, to which Karzai belongs, are underrepresented. There are two women on the Council—Sima Samar, the Commissioner of Human Rights (see sidebar, chapter 10) and Dr. Sohaila Siddeqi, a leading Pashtun surgeon, and Minister of Public Health. GOVERNMENT ■ 47 Unlike the American government, the Afghan government has four vice presidents. The only Pashtun vice president, Hajji Abdul Qadir, was assassinated in July 2002, creating an imbalance of power and representation in the government.
His death may have been related to his strong support for the return of King Zahir, which was opposed by the powerful Tajiks in the government. They feared that his presence would be a rallying point for Pashtuns, a majority in the country, but a minority in the government. On July 6, 2002, Vice President Haji Abdul Qadir, one of the few Pashtuns in the government, was shot to death by two gunmen as he arrived at his office (as of May 2003, his killers remained at large). Less than two months later, on September 5, 2002, President Karzai himself narrowly escaped assassination while attending a brother’s wedding in Kandahar.
The Taliban was in retreat and only retained control over Kandahar. That too fell in a matter of weeks. While many members of the Taliban government were captured and imprisoned, their leader, Mullah Muhammad Omar, escaped. A New Beginning The relief felt throughout Afghanistan was immediate and infectious. The terrible rule of the Taliban had been lifted and the populace rejoiced in its newfound freedom. Courageous women appeared in public without their long burkor. Men lined up at barbershops to have their beards shaved.