London, Asharq Al-Awsat- Ammar al-Hakim, Secretary-General of Al-Mihrab Martyr Foundation has stated to Asharq Al-Awsat that that his father was in good health and was carrying out his duties in leading the Islamic council.
He said that he himself was performing some of the tasks his father assigns to him, saying, “I am always at the service of Iraq and my father, and I carry out what he asks of me to serve my country and people”.
Al-Hakim spoke with Asharq Al-Awsat in a telephone interview from his office in Al-Najaf regarding the blueprint for federalism in the Central and Southern Province, which his father proposed and which was enthusiastically supported by the Supreme Islamic Council. Al-Hakim is presently promoting the blueprint for the province which extends from Al-Kut and ends in Al-Basra.
It comprises nine provinces: Al-Kut, Al-Diwaniya, Al-Sammawa, Al-Nasiriyah, Al-Amarah, Al-Hallah, Al-Najav, Karbala, and Basra. “What we say about the Province of the Center and South is not new as we have been saying it since the referendum was held on the Iraqi Constitution,” Al-Hakim said. “The Constitution stipulates that Iraq is a federal, democratic state.
It entitles the Iraqi provinces to form special federations under the federal or central government.” He denied that the “project of the Province of the Center and South has anything to do with the Biden proposal which divides Iraq into three sectarian and ethnic federations, one of them Kurdish in Iraq’s Kurdistan in the North, a Sunni one in the center, and a Shiite one in the south”. “We act out of our responsibilities toward our Iraqi people, and we believe that forming federations inside Iraq will solve many political, security, and economic problems, by giving these federations or provinces wide prerogatives and budgets to rehabilitate the towns of the center and the south that have been treated unjustly and deliberately ignored throughout the rule of Saddam Hussein.” Al-Hakim added.
These provinces will reduce the internal tensions and the conflict over positions. They will provide real work opportunities for the unemployed. Instead of focusing all responsibilities in Baghdad, the people of the center and south will be able to build their provinces and implement major projects in them, thus contributing to a solution of the country’s crises”.
The Secretary-General continued saying “we know that if any weight or responsibility is shared among others, this will make it easy for everybody to bear the weight and perform in the best manner. It will also be easy to rehabilitate what was destroyed for our people during the past 35 years and compensate them for the deprivation they suffered”. Al-Hakim added that “the federal system is applied in more than 70 world countries reputed for social and economic prosperity and political stability. We want to apply the federal system within the framework of national unity, a cohesive people, and a strong government”.
commenting on accusations that the Province of the Center and South will be tied to Iran, which has wide influence in South Iraq, al-Hakim said, “I believe there is a lot of distortion about this issue, and this is due to the relationship of the Shiites with Iran, especially in the regions of the south that are close to Iran. I want to make it clear that we are Iraqis and that our family has provided a big, long caravan of martyrs who were executed by the Saddam regime while defending the freedom and dignity of the Iraqi people and of Iraq, to which we belong. This fact is known by everybody. We are concerned for the independence of the Iraqi decision and the will of the Iraqi people. We deal with Iran as a neighboring state that has its own decision and its independence. We are also concerned to a greater extent about building intimate and deep relations with the rest of the Arab neighborhood states, especially the countries of the Arab Gulf. We are working continuously to build solid relations with the countries of the Gulf, and we are going to respond to any invitation that we receive from them, out of our concern for building bridges of collective work and trust to serve our people”.
Al-Hakim rejected terming the Province of the Center and South as the Shiite province, clarifying that “Yes, the Shiites number more than our brothers the Sunnis. But there is no classification on the level of Iraq that makes this town Shiite and another Sunni. The Shiites, Sunnis, Christians, Sab’ia, Yazdis, Kurds, and Turkomen are found everywhere in Iraq as Iraqis”. He pointed out that Al-Basra Governorate has Sunni and Shiite Arabs as well as other religions and ethnic groups.
Al-Hakim continued “for example during my latest visit to Al-Anbar Province, which gave me great pleasure, the elders of the Sunni clans there asked me for the return of thousands of Shiite families that used to live in the town of Al-Ramadi for many years. It is known that the town of Al-Ramadi is Sunni. This is why I say there is no Shiite town and another that is Sunni in Iraq. We want to establish a non-sectarian Iraqi federation comprising all Iraqis. Consequently, we emphasize on the administrative foundations of the federal system in Iraq and on its being within the framework of a single and unified Iraq”.
Al-Hakim expressed admiration for the Kurdistan Province. “We look with great respect and extreme admiration at the experiment of the Kurdish brothers in the Kurdistan Province, where they have managed to ensure a stable security situation and investment and work opportunities on the basis of the principle of coexistence and tolerance. The Kurds have accomplished a lot, and their federalism is special. They are a people with ethnic nationalism, culture, and traditions, but at the same time they are an Iraqi people. We hope that all areas in Iraq will benefit from the Kurdish experiment to further security and stability.”
Al-Hakim expressed surprise at worries in some neighboring states about the establishment of a federation in southern Iraq. “Iraq is a natural part of the Arab world–with due respect to the Iraqi Kurds who have their uniqueness.
I do not know any reason for the apprehensions by the neighboring states. We assure them here that we are going to be the protective shield for them against any problem that might occur to them. We are linked by good relations with all the Arab brothers, and we seek to build good relations with the Arab brothers, whether those from the neighboring countries or the other countries.” The son of the leader of the Supreme Islamic Council admitted that the existing situation in Iraq was certainly not ideal. “There is feet-dragging on the security situation, and I believe the essence of the problem is to convince all parties to join in the political process and the [be convinced of the] need to defend the Iraqi political blueprint; that if there are shortcomings in the Government’s performance it should be treated from within the council of ministers or under the dome of parliament, through civilized dialogue. We are waiting for the return of those who have pulled out of the Government”.