London, Asharq Al-Awsat- Iraqi Justice Minister Hashim al-Shibli told Asharq Al-Awsat that he resigned from his post because his political views differed from those of the government and the Iraqi National List, headed by former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi.
He told Asharq Al-Awsat by telephone that the Iraqi National List had been dictating to him what positions to adopt and that the government had failed to implement the program on which they had agreed. Spokesmen for both the INL and the government denied his claims, however.
Al-Shibli told Asharq Al-Awsat, “I resigned of my own free will and did not come under any pressure to do so.” He pointed out, that “There were reasons for my resignation, reasons involved with the INL, which originally nominated me for the post of justice minister. I also had objections to the government’s performance in the political, security, and economic fields and also in the service sectors. I held different views regarding the efforts to get a national reconciliation process underway. I had other reasons connected with my demands for improving the ministry’s performance, particularly in connection with military affairs and the militias. There were many other issues.”
Iyad Allawi, leader of the Iraqi National List, nominated Al-Shibli for the justice portfolio although Al-Shibli is not an INL member but a senior member of Nusayr al-Jadirji’s National Democratic Party. In this way Allawi forbade any official of his party to fill this post to emphasize the party’s opposition to the political or sectarian power-sharing quotas. He wanted the right person to be chosen for the right post.
Al-Shibli explained: “My positions are different and distinct from those of the Iraqi National List. I have been in disagreement with them since I took my post as justice minister. The INL wanted to dictate certain positions to me. I explained to them my position in a statement released by the National Democratic Party, of which I am a senior member. My position conflicts with the INL’s positions. So I could not remain in my post.”
Al-Shibli said: “The INL did not consult with me before nominating me for the post and I was surprised when it did so because I was nota member of the party. I had earlier refused to accept the post of human rights minister because it was offered to me on sectarian grounds, which I oppose. Although I was surprised by the INL’s nomination, I accepted the post and agreed to work with the government on the grounds that it was a national unity government. Its platform was clear and was regarded as an umbrella for all the parties that were participating in the political process. I felt that Iraq was facing fateful challenges and the government and its platform needed backing to enable the country to get safely through this stage. However, certain interpretations were made about the cabinet’s policy statement and the way in which it should be implemented that conflicted with my stands.”
He clarified that “my personal relationship with Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is good” and that “the man is doing the best he can to get through this difficult stage.”
Al-Shibli affirmed that his resignation is not at all connected with his insistence on implementing Article 140, which pertains to Kirkuk. He is chairman of the governmental committee charged with implementing this constitutional article.
He said: “There is no connection between my resignation and the government committee charged with implementing Article 140. The committee, under my chairmanship, passed important decisions that the government endorsed. The committee is still continuing its work.”
However, Izzah al-Shabandar, official INL spokesman, denied that the “INL or any of its members had dictated anything to Al-Shibli or put pressure on him.”
He pointed out that “Al-Shibli did not contact the INL or any of its members and we have not contacted him from before he took up his cabinet post.”
Al-Shabandar added that, “Al-Shibli submitted his resignation to the prime minister in which he said that he was not committed to the government’s policy.”
He told Asharq Al-Awsat, “Although Al-Shibli is not part of the INL, he was nominated for the justice portfolio because we oppose sectarianism and political power-sharing quotas. We are not involved in the political lists’ game. At the same time we have many persons within the INL, lawyers and former judges, who are able to occupy the justice minister’s post.”
Ali al-Dabbagh, official Iraqi Government spokesman, revealed that “Al-Shibli was one of the ministers who were going to be replaced in the upcoming cabinet reshuffle.”
He said,that “Al-Shibli learned about this and so he resigned.”
“Al-Shibli is a respectable and virtuous man and successful in his work. He was named chairman of several government committees and succeeded in these endeavors.” He added.
Al-Dabbagh told Asharq Al-Awsat, “The Justice Ministry could not handle the prisons issue that was assigned to it purely for objective reasons stemming from the prisons themselves. This caused some violations in some prisons, including the violations at Badush prison.”
He continued, “Regarding Al-Shibli’s remarks about the government and his blaming it for being a government of power-sharing quotas, he could have said this immediately after accepting the justice minister’s post. However, when this ministry failed at a certain task, and I repeat for objective reasons stemming from the task itself, which involves great challenges and requires working in a team spirit, he should not have said these things. Everyone knows that the government is a national unity government that is made up of various political blocs.”
Al-Dabbagh explained that “Al-Shibli resigned for personal reasons, not because the government is incompetent or a government of quotas.”