President Hamid Karzai was expected Wednesday to open Afghanistan's second post-Taliban parliament amid tight security and in the wake of political wrangling between the president and lawmakers that plunged the country deeper into crisis.
Extra police were deployed around the parliament building in western Kabul while more checkpoints were seen throughout the city. The stepped-up security was imposed after the Taliban carried out attacks across the country during the Sep 18 elections.
Karzai had postponed the opening of the session until Feb 22, but he eventually agreed to preside over an opening Wednesday after lawmakers, allegedly backed by Western countries, threatened to go ahead without him.
The president said Tuesday during a meeting with losing candidates, who rejected the final results announced by election authorities, that he agreed to the new date after he felt that western countries were trying to create a crisis in the country by provoking legislators against him.
The United Nations' top envoy to Afghanistan, Staffan de Mistura, held meetings with the winning candidates in the three days running up to parliament's opening and had called on Karzai to open the new session "as soon as possible." Similar demands were also made by the United States and NATO officials.
Against the will of newly-elected parliamentarians, Karzai has vowed to keep a special tribunal he formed to look into allegations of fraud.
A quarter of more than five million votes were thrown out as phony by election commissions before the final results were declared in November.