KABUL, Afghanistan -- President Hamid Karzai's widely criticized appointment of five new human rights commissioners has become a sore point with the countries that support Afghanistan financially. Major donor nations and the United Nations will call on Wednesday for Mr. Karzai to reconsider the appointments, according to two Western diplomats.
The call will come along with an announcement by the donor countries on Wednesday that Afghanistan has so far met only three of the 17 benchmarks required for it to qualify for billions of dollars in reconstruction aid after 2014. One of those requirements was for an impartial Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission.
Afghan officials and the donors agreed a year ago to tie future aid to progress in improving government and fighting corruption, under the Tokyo Mutual Accountability Framework that established the performance benchmarks. Some $4 billion is at stake.
The announcement on Wednesday will say that while 14 of the 17 benchmarks have not been achieved, they "are works in progress in various degrees by the Afghan government," in the words of one European diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss confidential talks.
On the Human Rights Commission, though, donors appear less disposed to give the Karzai government the benefit of the doubt, after human rights and women's activists reacted angrily to Mr. Karzai's choices for new commissioners, who are supposed to be apolitical and independent and have a background in human rights.
One of the appointees, Qadria Yazdanparast, declared in an interview Monday that she intended to run for president next year. Another, Maulavi Abdul Rahman Hotak, is a former Taliban official who said he believes his background as an Islamic scholar qualified him in human rights.
Ms. Yazdanparast, who resigned only recently from her leadership position in the central bureau of the fundamentalist Jamiat-i-Islami party, took issue with criticism of her human rights record, and described herself as a longtime women's rights activist. She maintained that she had been the original author of Afghanistan's landmark law on the Elimination of Violence Against Women, when it first came before Parliament in 2009.
Women's activists involved at the time said that was not true. To the contrary, according to Shinkai Karokhail, a member of Parliament who was one of the leaders of the effort to pass that law, Ms. Yazdanparast's contribution was to delay passage by six months. "She was an obstacle, actually," Ms. Karokhail said. "Because she is a politically appointed woman doesn't mean she was a women's activist; she never supported women's issues."
Still, the commission's chairwoman, Sima Samar, confirmed that Ms. Yazdanparast would be the commissioner overseeing women's rights cases.
The top United Nations human rights official, Navi Pillay, last week took the unusual step of publicly calling for the Afghan government to "reopen the selection process in line with the requirements" of international human rights standards, known as the Paris Principles.
A spokesman for Mr. Karzai called the appointments "an internal matter" that was none of Ms. Pillay's affair.
The commission is financed almost entirely by international donors, chiefly Canada and several European countries, although not the United States. Its budget for the coming year will increase to nearly $12 million as it takes on additional monitoring duties in connection with election participation, especially by women.
"The donors are furious about the Human Rights Commission, particularly Canada," said another Western diplomat. A spokeswoman for the Canadian Embassy declined to comment.
The donor countries that support the commission are also expected to contribute to the $4 billion in reconstruction aid that was agreed to in Tokyo, contingent on achievement of the 17 benchmarks.
Of those requirements, the three that have been considered to be met are technical in nature -- budgetary and fiscal controls and a plan for Afghanistan to join the World Trade Organization.
Much thornier issues remain, including human rights and two laws to provide for the appointment of independent elections officials for the presidential election in April 2014.
"The time for complacency is gone," one diplomat said, adding that in many Western countries, the government and the public will lose patience with Afghanistan if the goals are not met.
Another sticking point among the 17 benchmarks is one calling for meaningful prosecution of the politically well-connected figures who were responsible for the nearly $1 billion looting of the Kabul Bank. Although 21 people were convicted in that case, Western officials say that penalties for the worst offenders were too lenient and that too little of the stolen money has been recovered.
Habib Zahori contributed reporting.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.