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 PUK and KDP haven't solved their disputes in oil-rich Kirkuk: Governor

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PUK and KDP haven't solved their disputes in oil-rich Kirkuk: Governor  8.5.2012  

Najmaldin Karim, the governor of Kirkuk. Photo: Rudaw.
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May 8, 2012

KIRKUK, Iraq's border with Kurdistan region, ó Najmaldin Karim, the governor of Kirkuk, sat down with to discuss the specific challenges facing the region and how the government has changed with the involvement of the Turcoman community. A senior leader of the PUK, Karim also discusses the balance of power and rights of Kurds in a city known for its multiculturalism, security issues and when the province can expect the next election.

Q: Compared to several years ago, Kirkuk is seeing more development projects. Is this the work of the joint Kurdish-Turcoman administration or your own as governor?

Najmaldin Karim: Many projects are underway in the cities and towns of Kirkuk province. In the past, the process of implementing service projects was slow. From my first day as governor, I emphasized that all government branches had to work together to implement the projects.

We are serious about following up development projects. We provide food and transportation for the project engineers and supervisors to avoid wasting time and corruption. Before I took office, most of Kirkukís budget used to be returned to the central government because of disputes. For the first time, we have been able to invest the full amount of the budget on implementing service projects.

The most important point for us is to follow up on projects and make sure they are done well. We hold everyone involved in the projects accountable, including contractors, engineers and the heads of government offices.

Q: Have you conducted any investigations into the previous administrationís negligence?

Najmaldin Karim: Absolutely, we have evaluated their work. We will change the members of previous committees who supervised the contractors and find capable people to replace them. We will not put people in charge based on favoritism. We will try to eliminate these problems. We asked everyone to inform us of these kinds of problems when they notice them so that we can take disciplinary actions.

Q: What have you done regarding the previous administrationís corruption?

Najmaldin Karim: We have reevaluated those companies that were given projects by the previous administration. We have withdrawn projects from some companies and eliminated some others. We have also sent people to the transparency committee for investigation and to the courts to be tried.

Q: What were the advantages of the Turcoman community joining the Kurds in running the city?

Najmaldin Karim: I believe it was a necessary step because the Turcoman are one major ethnic group in Kirkuk. They suffered under dictatorship. Their ethnicity was even denied by previous regimes.

Q: Some Turcoman are not happy with your administration. They believe they are ignored by your administration. Is this true?

Najmaldin Karim: We have to differentiate between those who seek trouble and ordinary people. Our goal in offering development projects is to serve the Turcoman people. We canít make everyone happy. It is their right to criticize; even the Kurds criticize.

Q: The Kurdish population in is larger than any other group in Kirkuk, but there are fewer Kurdish employees compared to Arabs. Why?

Najmaldin Karim: This is the outcome of the central governmentís policy. Only the central government can employ people in Kirkuk's government offices. The Kirkuk provincial council made a mistake when they decided on a 32 percent employment share for each ethnic group in Kirkuk. The Kurdish population in Kirkuk is 54 percent, which means around 22 percent of Kurds are denied their employment rights. We have to change this policy. We have worked at resolving this issue.

We believe the Kurds must have a larger share of the employment in Kirkuk. In addition, Kurds were denied this right in the past. We at the Kirkuk governorate have been trying not to follow this policy and have asked the provincial council not to implement this policy. I personally will not implement this policy.

Q: The Kurds control both provincial council and the governorís office. Who agreed to this policy in the first place?

Najmaldin Karim: The law was passed in the previous parliamentary round. The president vetoed it. Despite that, this policy has been implemented here.

Q: Who is responsible for this mistake?

Najmaldin Karim: The brotherhood bloc has 26 of the 41 seats in the Kirkuk provincial council. It is their responsibility to correct this.

Q: Kirkukís provincial election has been long delayed. Will this election happen soon?

Najmaldin Karim: Having an election will reduce the Kurdish seats in the provincial council, but it is very important for several reasons. First of all, the current provincial council was established in 2005 and there havenít been any changes. It is not healthy for people to remain in a position for such a long time because they can lose peopleís trust.

Second, the 2005 election was based on blocs, so people voted for the blocs instead of individuals. Third, the Arabs didnít participate in the 2005 election so they believe they donít have enough representatives in provincial council as they should. There are currently efforts in Iraqi Parliament and we have met with political parties regarding holding an election in Kirkuk.

Q: Is there any timeline for the election?

Najmaldin Karim: If everyone reaches an agreement, it would be ideal to hold an election at the same time as Iraqís provincial elections at the beginning of next year. However, the Arabs want the election to be held alongside the provincial election in the Kurdistan Region in September. I really donít think there will be enough time to hold an election by September.

Q: Will you run for the governorís office again?

Najmaldin Karim: It depends on whether the political parties want me to run again. I must have a say in choosing candidates on the list. There must be professional candidates for the list, and if that is the case, then I will decide. But the main decision is of the political parties.

Q: Has the PUK asked you to run again?

Najmaldin Karim: We have not discussed this yet.

Q: The security situation in Kirkuk is bad. Recently, we have seen many explosions and robberies there. Despite that, we still donít see any changes in security protocols in Kirkuk. Why?

Najmaldin Karim: Terrorists are always targeting Kirkuk because of its diversity. We must remember that the former regime had a strong foundation in Kirkuk and they still exist. In addition, Al-Qaeda terrorists are coming to Kirkuk from other cities in Iraq.

The other issue is that security forces were deployed in Kirkuk based on political agreements so they are not professional in their jobs. They also donít have proper training. Lack of equipment and a security system with surveillance cameras is another issue. We donít have a system to gather intelligence. We have asked the provincial council to provide a budget for this.

Q: What can you tell us about the prison break in Tafsirat?

Najmaldin Karim: So far, 20 prison guards have been detained for interrogation. An investigation committee came from Bagdad to investigate the situation, but we have not yet received the results of their investigation.

Q: You visited Prime Minister Nuri Maliki at the peak of tensions between Maliki and Barzani. What was the purpose of your visit?

Najmaldin Karim: We discussed the tensions, but our visit was specifically about Kirkuk.

Q: Relations between the governor and provincial council have been bad in the past. How is your relation with the provincial council?

Najmaldin Karim: The tensions between the governor and the provincial council were high in the past to the point that they didnít even want to see each other. This wasnít in the best interest of the people of Kirkuk. As a result, the service projects were very slow and the designated budget was always returned to Bagdad. We currently are working on correcting the previous errors.

Q: The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) have not yet solved their political disputes in Kirkuk. As a result, there are two administrations, two security forces and two departments of education in Kirkuk. As a senior leader in the PUK and Kirkuk governor, what have you done in this regard?

Najmaldin Karim: It is a good question. The disputes exist. There are people who cause trouble between the political parties for their own gain. The partiesí leadership must not allow these people in Kirkuk. They shouldnít allow individuals to use political disputes for their own interests. We have discussed this issue. It is important to reorganize the security forces. We face criticism from other political structures regarding lack of cooperation between us. The intelligence information we receive canít be useful due to lack of cooperation. Unfortunately, there are disputes between the political parties, especially the PUK and KDP. You mentioned education. Kurdish education here has not progressed. We have discussed this issue with our friends in Erbil and we will soon meet with the minister of education to discuss this issue.

Q: What about having two different security forces?

Najmaldin Karim: We have also discussed this issue. Both sides have promised to solve this issue not just in Kirkuk but throughout Kurdistan. The security forces must belong to the government and be directly supervised by the government. If we do not deal with this issue then forces would continue to be run by political parties and they canít be trusted by people.

Q: Has the fact that there are two security forces caused you trouble?

Najmaldin Karim: Problems have emerged as a result of the two security forces. Sometimes, someone is arrested, but later released without a proper investigation. We have police and administration. We can legally investigate suspects and later send them to the court. It is embarrassing for us when people refer to illegal activities committed by a certain partyís security. This is not good for the security situation. The security forces sacrificed a lot and they are important to Kirkuk but they must be reorganized.

By Adnan Hussein

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