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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
06KABUL3179 2006-07-17 08:11:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Kabul
Cable title:  

DEPT FOR THE PREVENTION OF VICE AND THE PROMOTION

Tags:   PGOV SOCI PINR AF 
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VZCZCXRO0291
PP RUEHDBU
DE RUEHBUL #3179/01 1980811
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P 170811Z JUL 06
FM AMEMBASSY KABUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1393
INFO RUCNAFG/AFGHANISTAN COLLECTIVE
RHEHAAA/NSC WASHDC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC
RUEKJCS/CJCS WASHDC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 6149
RUMICEA/USCENTCOM INTEL CEN MACDILL AFB FL
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RHMFISS/COMSOCCENT MACDILL AFB FL
RUEATRS/US TREASURY WASHDC
					C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 KABUL 003179 

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR SCA/FO DAS GASTRIGHT, S/CT, SCA/A,
NSC FOR AHARRIMAN
CENTCOM FOR POLAD, CG CFC-A, CG CJTF-76
TREASURY FOR APARAMESWARAN, ABAUKOL
STATE PLEASE PASS USAID FOR AID/ANE, AID/DCHA/DG

E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/17/2016
TAGS: PGOV SOCI PINR AF
SUBJECT: DEPT FOR THE PREVENTION OF VICE AND THE PROMOTION
OF VIRTUE MAKING A COME BACK?

Classified By: AMBASSADOR RONALD NEUMANN FOR REASONS 1.4 (B) AND (D)

SUMMARY



1. (C) The feared Department of the Prevention of
Vice and Promotion of Virtue that existed during and
before the Taliban era may resurface again if Acting
Supreme Court Chief Justice Shinwari has his way. Two
months ago, at a meeting of the National Ulema Council
for Afghanistan, Shinwari and others called for the
reinstatement of this department to combat moral
corruption of Afghan people and to counter Taliban
claims that the Karzai government was "un-Islamic."
The department existed prior to the Taliban without
much public opposition but the Taliban Government
elevated it to Ministry level and gave it harsh
enforcement powers. There is little information on
what its reincarnation might look like. Karzai's
Chief of Staff has stated flatly that Karzai will not
approve any such entity, but NSA Rassoul says no
decision has been made and some "middle ground" must
be found. Some believe if this department does get
established in some form, it will be "earth to sky"
different from Taliban times. We will work with the
GOA to prevent any re-establishment of this hated
vestige of the Taliban era. END SUMMARY.

TIMELINE



2. (C) The proposed reinstatement of the Department
of the Prevention of Vice and Promotion of Virtue
under the Ministry of Religious Affairs and the Hajj
has been in the works for the past two months. Below
is the timeline of its genesis.

- PRE-TALIBAN: The Department for the Prevention of
Vice and the Promotion of Virtue was created prior to
the Taliban takeover. Most did not object to its
original mission and the government felt that it was a
necessary office for an Islamic country.

- DURING THE TALIBAN: The department was converted to
Ministry level and given the power to enforce Taliban
moral codes. The Ministry was loosely affiliated with
the Supreme Court. Men were required to have beards
of a certain length, women were not allowed outside
without a male relative, and roads were closed during
prayer times to ensure attendance. Religious police
employed by the Ministry patrolled the streets and
routinely arrested violators or simply beat them in
the streets.

- AFTER THE TALIBAN: The Ministry was closed and has
remained inactive since.

- In May 2006, members of the National Ulema Council,
including Acting Supreme Court Chief Justice and head
of the Council Shinwari, called for the reinstatement
of the Department of the Prevention of Vice and
Promotion of Virtue as part of the Ministry of
Religious Affairs and the Hajj. The Council was
insistent that the department was a basic requirement
for an Islamic Country.

- According to the Deputy Minister for Religious
Affairs and the Hajj, President Karzai promised to
consider the proposal and responded by convening a
small group to review the proposal and present him a
recommendation. This group was composed of Acting
Chief Justice Shinwari; Ex-Deputy Minister for
Religious Affairs and the Hajj and new member of the
Supreme Court Mr. Qasimi; Chief Justice nominee Mr.
Azimi; and Minister for Religious Affairs and the Hajj
Shahrani.

KABUL 00003179 002 OF 003



- A month ago the group presented its findings to the
Palace. It is unclear who exactly received the
information. It has been said separately that the
President, Vice President, or cabinet had given their
approval.

- According to the Deputy Minister for Religious
Affairs and the Hajj, the proposal was discussed by
the Cabinet on at least two occasions when he was
present. Minister Shahrani has been in Saudi Arabia
and unavailable for comment.

- President Kazai's Chief of Staff told the Charge on
July 11 that reports concerning the establishment of a
Vice and Virtue Department were false and that Karzai
would approve no such institution. However, the Deputy
Minister told PolOff on July 13 that the proposal had
been accepted by the Cabinet and will go before
Parliament when it comes back into session on July 23.
No information has been released on the Department's
name, structure, mission, or mode of operation as of
yet. According to the Afghan Independent Human Rights
Commission, these matters should be resolved through
the Office of Administrative Affairs in the Office of
the President.

- National Security Advisor Rassoul told A/DCM on July
16 that no decision had been made but that the GOA
would have to hew a "middle ground" on this issue.

PUBLIC SENTIMENT



3. (C) PolOff spoke to several Afghans in the media
and NGO communities. All were against a Taliban-style
department and most were against an office of any
kind. The media community is especially concerned
with the department's potential impact on media
freedom. Human rights contacts were also concerned
about the comeback of the department, but were waiting
for more information to be circulated before they act
formally.



4. (C) Most of our interlocutors, although concerned,
were confident that public outrage over the office
would sink this ship before it sailed. However,
several well-educated Afghans told PolOff this could
be a very helpful department and actually wanted it to
be created. They said that more could be done to curb
consumption of alcohol by Afghans and the presence of
prostitution and pornography in the country. Some
also suggested that this would be an opportunity for
the GoA to fight allegations by the Taliban that the
government was not sufficiently Islamic and had failed
to protect the State's religious character.
Parliament's response to such a proposal remains
unclear. Based on previous debates on related issues,
this proposal could be approved.



5. (C) Chief of Staff Jawed Ludin's statement to the
Charge flatly denying that the GOA had made any
decision to do this indicated that the GOA is aware of
the sensitivities, but this does not appear to be the
end of the story. MP and journalist Shukria Barkhzai
(protect) told A/DCM that she had heard nothing to
suggest that the GOA was planning to move forward with
this and said it "would never happen." However, she
added that if the matter came to Parliament, most
Parliamentarians would feel compelled to support it
publicly, even while privately disliking the idea. A
prominent member of a civil society NGO (protect) told
A/DCM that he thought the Ministry of Religious
Affairs and the Hajj might open an office of limited
size which would not be very powerful.

KABUL 00003179 003 OF 003



SHINWARI'S POWER PLAY



6. (C) Many Afghans believe that Shinwari is trying
to secure more power for himself after losing his
position as Chief Justice, after the Parliament vetoed
his nomination (KABUL 2468). Although he does not
lead the Ministry of Religious Affairs he is head of
the National Ulema Council and would potentially have
a say in the department's function. The timing and
actions fit, but it is still too early to tell how
much he could gain from the establishment of such a
department. Moreover, he does not enjoy good
relations with Minister Shirani, in whose ministry the
proposed office would reside. In the past, Shinwari
has spoken publicly about his conservative beliefs and
raised the conservative standard, calling for women to
be banned from performing on television, calling for
the death of Christian convert Abdul Rahman, and for
the imprisonment of women's magazine editor, Mohaqeq
Nasab.

COMMENT



7. (C) Many agree that reinstatement of a Department
of Vice and Virtue would be a mistake, primarily due
to its extremely negative history. A different name
would need to be proposed, at the very least, to bring
the public on board, and its powers would need to be
circumscribed. However, there is a widespread
perception, more frequently voiced in recent weeks,
that something must be done to defend Afghanistan
against promulgation of the seamier side of "Western"
culture, particularly by the media. There is already
an "Anti-Moral Corruption Office" in the MOI that
routinely deports prostitutes and confiscates alcohol.
NSA Rassoul's comments reflect political pressure on
Karzai to deny the Taliban a propaganda victory by
squelching the idea altogether. The international
community will need to engage strongly behind the
scenes with the GOA to prevent the re-establishment of
an entity that could harm Afghanistan's image abroad
or reinstate practices that undermine human rights and
human dignity. END COMMENT.
NORLAND