April 6, 2009 was supposed to be the date that the new provincial council in Diyala was to be seated. That was prevented when police raided the council building in Diyala’s capital Baquba. According to authorities and council members, the out going provincial chief, as well as three new members all have arrest warrants for them.
The out-going Diyala provincial council was elected in January 2005. Despite 52% of the population being Sunni, a coalition of the Shiite Islamic Dawa party and the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council won 20 of the 41 provincial seats. This was due to the Sunni boycott that was only half adhered to in Diyala as the Iraqi Islamic Party came in second with 14 seats. The Kurdish Arabic Turkmen Democratic Coalition won the remaining seven positions.
As this council was about to step down an arrest warrant was issued for the provincial chief Ibrahim Hassan Bajilan. Bajilan, a member of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, was accused of stealing $130 million from the provincial government. Bajilan claimed that he was the one that called the police on the matter, and that the authorities were looking for someone else with the same name. A council member from the Islamic Party however, said that Bajilan was asked to reimburse the money he stole. He refused and an arrest warrant was put out for him as a result.
At the same time there are other warrants for three incoming members of the provincial council. In the January 2009 election the Sunni Accordance Front won nine of twenty-nine seats, followed by the Iraqi National Project of parliamentarian Saleh al-Mutlaq with six, the Kurdish Alliance with six, former Prime Minister Ilyad Allawi’s Iraqi National List with three, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law list with two, the Supreme Council with two, and former Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari’s National Reform Party with one. On the day that these new members were supposed to take office the police raided the provincial council building in Baquba, the capital. No names or parties were mentioned, but the provincial police chief said three were wanted for connections to the insurgency. They were not arrested, and no other details were given.
These series of warrants are not the first time the Diyala provincial council has been embroiled in controversy. In April 2009 it was announced that government officials, employees, contractors, and companies in the province had diverted 40% of Diyala’s investment money to insurgents to protect against attacks. IraqSlogger also reported that most of the police positions in Diyala were given out through secret deals between the police chief and tribes. The head of the agriculture committee in the council also said that $2.6 million had disappeared from the farming department. He continued by claiming prices for farm projects were being exaggerated to scam money.
Corruption is a major problem throughout the Iraqi government. It denies services and infrastructure to the people, and undermines their support for the authorities. Many Sunni politicians have also been accused of having ties to the insurgency. Rival groups have used this against them, while usually overlooking the Shiite and Kurdish militias that were integral parts to most of their own major parties. Whether these warrants will be followed through with, and anyone punished for their alleged crimes is unknown. Very few high officials have ever been prosecuted, so it’s unlikely that anything will happen to these members of the Diyala council.
Agence France Presse, “Iraqi Outgoing Provincial Chief Suspected Of Embezzling $130 Million,” 4/6/09
Associated Press, “Iraqi provincial election results,” 2/19/09
Aswat al-Iraq, “$2.6 million disappears in Diala,” 11/6/08
- “Police prevent Diala council from holding first session,” 4/6/09
IraqSlogger.com, “Official: Illicit ‘Deals’ in Police Hiring,” 11/13/08
Knights, Michael and McCarthy, Eamon, “Provincial Politics in Iraq: Fragmentation or New Awakening?” Washington Institute for Near East Policy, April 2008
Al-Sabah, “Iraq: Funds Invested in the Rehabilitation of the Diala Province Went to Terrorists,” MEMRI Blog, 4/4/09
Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, “Quarterly and Semiannual Report to the United States Congress,” 7/30/08