Tag Archives: Karzai

Our Brothers

Outlook Afghanistan op-ed published April 24, 2012

The recent Taliban attacks targeting Western embassies and parliament in Kabul, and government buildings in other provinces on April 15 has caused a revived confidence, support and pride of ordinary Afghans for our National Security Forces. The fact that Special Forces units and police gunned down 36 terrorists with minimum ISAF air support and least civilian and security forces’ casualties show the increasing capability of our forces, particularly the elite Special Forces units who are no less in performance than special operation forces of other regional countries.

It took the Special Service Group (SSG) of Pakistan Army nineteen hours to clear the Generals Headquarters in Rawalpindi when it came under attack in October 2009 by a group of nine militants. Nine commandos and three civilians were killed. Similarly, the bunch of LeT terrorists took Mumbai city hostage for three days killing 164 people in 2008 attacks. Of course the Afghan forces cannot be compared, but we have to keep in mind that It has been just a decade that the Afghan Security Forces were established. The Special Forces units are as new as a few years. But they have been performing extraordinary.

There is a perception that our forces are being trained by the best military mentors—NATO—in the world, but the US strategy of building Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) during the last ten years has had deep flaws, mainly focusing quantity rather than quality. Even now with the rush of withdrawal strategy, they are still reluctant to build our Air Force and provide ANSF with best equipment. The Special Operations units have been trained well and we see the result. It is a separate topic to be addressed.

In the war of perception, the latest attacks in Kabul generated greater support for ANSF among ordinary Afghans. For the first time, I see volunteer youth groups campaigning to cover the walls of Kabul with billboards, posters and banners praising ANSF with pride. The larger public perception was reflected in media reports. The widespread photo of one commando with his bloodied knees after the fight with insurgents has emerged as a symbol of ordinary Afghan’s pride and confidence in our troops. One particular photo viral on social media among Afghans portrayed something deeper than symbolic heroism. A photo of Taliban suicide bomber in women dressing was titled “Karzai’s Brother”, next to the photo of the wounded commando titled “Our Brother”.

Actually it’s not surprising that President Karzai, despite the continued bloodshed of militants, once again called them “brothers”, a day after the April 15 attacks. If I was a soldier with ANSF, I would wonder why I am fighting the “brothers” of my Commander-in-Chief.

In spite of all its problems of lack of professionalism and resources, the ideology and will to fight the enemy is the most important factor to hold our national security forces strong institutionally. Some analysts fear disintegration of ANSF after the US and NATO withdrawal in 2014 and our descent into chaos. With such a Commander-in-Chief, the concerns of fragility of our forces are very valid. When our President calls militants—who our forces are trained to fight—”brothers” in public, the definition of enemy gets blurred. And this cracks the very foundation of our security institutions.

When the news flashed on screens that Kandahar MP Naeem Lalai Hamidzai has taken position on the rooftop of parliament and fighting next to ANA troops against the militants who had stormed an under-construction building beside parliament, I was glad. I thought it was an important but symbolic public message of showing support to our forces by fighting beside them against the enemy.

However, later I watched the video of MP Lalai Hamidzai holding a machinegun, with a cup of green tea put beside him, opening burst of firing to every direction. A group of ANA soldiers and his private guards are laughing, while an officer on walky-talky urging the MP to stop firing as it could kill police who were engaged with militants inside the building, while one of Hamidzai’s guards filming all this drama. Then I realized it was a publicity stunt, as stupid as the Taliban commander in Paktika who had turned self in for $100-reward on ‘wanted’ poster.

President Karzai’s public remarks about his “brothers” are no surprise as he does not trust ANSF. Former NDS Chief Amrullah Saleh in an excellent analysis of politicization of our security forces on BBC Farsi and Al Jazeera has written; “When the president ventures out to pay a visit to a unit of the national police, national army, or intelligence, his personal security detail, called the President Protection Service (PPS), disarms everyone in advance. It sends the message that the only loyal unit to the president and the system is the PPS, comprised of 750 people who guard and protect him.”

The latest Taliban attack is a late reminder that our National Security Forces have been long deprived of the much-important, even if symbolic, public support. It is a reminder that we, ordinary Afghans, need to rally mass awareness campaign of support for our security forces, no matter if our President blurs the difference between “brother” and enemy.

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Our Mobocracy

My op-ed on Outlook Afghanistan Oct 18

It is now more than a year, but the parliamentary elections crises still produce a new chapter each time the older drama reaches its drop-scene. The latest victim of this manipulation is female MP Simin Barakzai. She was among the nine MP’s replaced by the IEC decision after Karzai’s decree. Ms Barakzai went on hunger strike after her plea, asking President Karzai to order review of her case, was ignored. She set up a tent camp near the parliament building. After ten days without food, Health Ministry officials declared her health was in severe condition and she could suffer kidney failure.

On the 12th day of her strike, on October 14, Afghan Police in the dark of night dragged her out of the tent, beating supporters, and took Ms Barakzai to Daud Khan Hospital. Some others who had joined her in the strike were arrested and kept in police station for a night.

The Karzai Administration has had two tactics throughout this crises, bribe and use of force. When they saw people flocking in the tent of Ms Barakzai and other MP’s joining her hunger strike, the geniuses in the Palace came with a new tactic. The Ulema Council issued a statement condemning hunger strike as Haram. They said, “It’s forbidden in Islam to reject drinking and eating. If anyone dies because of hunger strike, they will go to hell. Hunger strike is un-Islamic.”

The Ulema Council should be ashamed. They are selling out the little respect left for clerics in the hearts of Afghans. They have never been so quick and active in condemning suicide bombings and slaughter of civilians by Taliban, but a Fatwa against hunger-strike of a female is all a bunch of cowards can do. They are afraid of Taliban intimidation, and none dare to come on TV talk shows to denounce Taliban violence. Isn’t suicide attack Haram in Islam? How about using children for suicide bombing, and killing innocent civilians? How Islamic is that? The Ulema Council needs to look into their conscience. Independent religious scholars should come out to denounce this trend set by Karzai’s Fatwa Factory using the name of Ulema. This Council has become all, but a blackmailing tool of President Karzai being used for his political aims.

Bribing MP’s to form the Coalition of Reformists, or escorting the new ones into the parliament building with help of security forces has been common throughout, but asking the Ulema Council to issue Fatwas about democratic rights is a hit at the core of our crippled democracy and Government’s political cowardice at its lowest.

And that too against a female MP, whose last option was hunger strike, not for a seat in the parliament, which is not worth, but against the manipulation of this system at the hands of those who are in power for the sake of ruling, without any vision and agenda for this country. They could not dare to change a big-shot or any warlord; else we would see how they would threaten to take up arms.

As expected, Daud Sultanzoy did not come late with cheap comments about Ms Barakzai’s strike. He said she is doing it all for publicity. There you go. Someone refuses to eat, announces her will and is ready to embrace death for a cause. For Sultanzoy, it’s all about publicity. It is obviously his own agenda. He wants to get back to the parliament somehow, despite the fact that several reviews by the IEC and ECC could not find any vote rigging in his constituency. He is better off flying an aircraft, not the shameless self-promotion declaring himself as the pioneer intellectual of the nation in a TV talk show. We have not yet forgotten the farce in this ridiculous process of manipulation, when he declared Special Tribunal’s verdict as a Sharia law. Probably Sultanzoy shares the views of Karzai’s Ulema Council on hunger strike being Haram.

I am not arguing whether Ms Barakzai’s disqualification is right or wrong. But she deserves our support because she is setting an example of non-violent political activism by raising voice against a system that is being run with manipulations and force. Something that we have never seen in this country.

The mess started from the day first. President Karzai should have accepted the first ‘final’ decision of Independent Election Commission after the reviews from Election Complaints Commission. We would not have to see the parliamentary deadlock for one year, and crises between the legislature, government and judiciary, setting an example of a system founded with manipulations.

Ms Barakzai’s activism exposes the core problem with our society. We don’t hear about her on media after the tent was removed. Today she is on 17th day of her hunger strike going without food at Daud Khan Hospital. She has not stopped, despite forceful attempts of Government officials to feed her. However, the government should not have feared her. Even if Ms Barakzai dies—God forbidden—it will not make any difference to the dead collective conscience and reaction of our society.

The much gloried Afghan nang and ghairat might tremble, and mark a new example of non-violent resistance in the political history of our country where power struggles have always led to bloodbath. It might fasten the flow of blood in veins of those who still hold their hopes for the future of this country.

Watching the video of Ms Barakzai’s tent being removed amid screams of children, it reminds me of the statement by Rafi Firdous Adviser of Government Media Center who had compared the standoff between President Karzai and the parliament with the tussle between the US Congress and White House. He had said, “It shows the ‘beauty’ of our ‘democracy’.” Some folks have already compared Ms Barakzai’s hunger strike with the recent anti-corruption movement led by Anna Hazare in India. It’s all ridiculous. Ours is not a democracy, it is mobocracy, where rulers have no respect for rule of law and rights.

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New Policy for Negotiations with Pakistan?

Op-ed published Daily Outlook Afghanistan, Oct. 04

The 11-minutes speech of President Karzai to the nation live on RTA last night was expected to announce a strategy or roadmap about the post-Rabbani peace, the strategic partnership with the US, or making a sense of his vague statements regarding direct talks with Pakistan, instead of Taliban. But he repeated the same rhetoric, which he has been saying after the assassination of Ustad Rabbani.

He called another Loya Jirga, to ‘decide’ about the US strategic partnership and fate of negotiations. Listing the recent deeds of the Taliban, whom he used to refer as his “angry brothers”, their serial assassination campaign, including the murder of his own brother, President Karzai said, “one-sided desire and efforts for peace will not bear a result and peace can only be made with those who believe in it.” So, after all these Jirgas, commissions and regional meetings, and to mention the joint commission with Pakistan, now we come to know that everything is in a dead end. However, there was a hint of what the new policy might look like. He said, “We have to fight with determination against those who do not believe in peace”. Though not making it clear what the framework of his “direct talks with Pakistan about Taliban” would be, President Karzai added, “Pakistan has not cooperated with us, which is unfortunate. We need to reconsider peace. In reality, we need to deal with governments, not with their proxy groups.” Clearly he was referring to Taliban’s Quetta Shura and Haqqani Network as proxies of Pakistan. And probably if there is any such direct talk with Pakistan about Taliban, Islamabad will certainly deny presence of the Haqqani Network in North Waziristan and that of the Quetta Shura in Balochistan.

Pakistan has been demanding a “role” in what they call the endgame in Afghanistan. And President Karzai’s “direct talk” is more of an offer, than a reaction for them. But it comes after the failures of joint Af-Pak commissions and exercises of Kabul-Islamabad visits in the past year. More importantly, Rawalpindi would not like to involve the US in such a “direct talks”, resultantly, rest assured not to expect anything positive out of it.

There are certain things that President Karzai should make clear with Pakistan. For now, there is no framework or a new strategy on how to proceed. When the Afghan-Pak Joint Peace Commission was established in April after the visit of Pakistani power trio—the Army Chief General Kayani, ISI Chief Shuja Pasha and Prime Minister Gilani—in Kabul, much hopes had been tied, by President Karzai and his advisors who are to be most blamed for a policy which has produced nothing in last six months, except the fact that we have lost many high-profile figures. It was President Karzai who had requested inclusion of military and intelligence officials of both countries in that Peace Commission, of which Ustad Rabbani was also a member. Now seeing the total failure of the Joint Peace Commission, that involved the military and intelligence of Pakistan, what could be a new strategy that President Karzai calls for direct talks with Pakistan, instead of the Taliban? Actually the Joint-Commission was a practice of the same.

Then and now, President Karzai thinks his efforts to persuade militants to denounce violence will only work if the military establishment of Pakistan supports it. It did not work during the last six months, and will most probably not work in future, because the perception of Pakistan’s military-intelligence about their “role” in Afghanistan is like a fifth province of their country.

Kabul says the Taliban leadership of Quetta Shura is hiding in Pakistan, the Haqqani Network has sanctuary in North Waziristan, and most suicide bombers come from that region. But Pakistan is not only in complete denial of these all, they also do not admit the fact that not only Haqqani Network, but terrorists with links from Xinjiang to Chechnya are in North Waziristan, and Pakistan Army has categorically denied any military operations there.

For his new policy of “direct talks with Pakistan instead of Taliban”, most importantly President Karzai needs to make nice with the US. The strategic partnership should be finalized as soon as possible. Calling a Loya Jirga is nothing, but a hurdle and waste of time to discuss the strategic partnership, or policy about Pakistan. There is the Wolesi Jirga and Senate, which must be prioritized for such national decisions.

The new policy should make certain things very clear; Pakistan should be urged to persuade the Haqqani elements and all other terrorists to leave North Waziristan or join negotiations with Kabul, otherwise Pakistan should launch military operations there. They must ask the Taliban leadership of Quetta Shura to either join a respectful peace process with Kabul, mediated by the help of ISI, or leave Pakistan.

Kabul can better deal and fight with determination if these elements have no safe havens in Pakistan. In return, Kabul and Islamabad should discuss the legitimate interests and demands of Pakistan in Afghanistan. Pakistani officials have been talking about a post-US withdrawal Afghanistan. The US has more than 100,000 troops in Afghanistan, and more than 50,000 will remain long beyond 2024, so Pakistan need not to make “strategic depth” plans about a complete US withdrawal.

Afghanistan and the US have similar concerns about Pakistan, and President Karzai’s administration, while in a cold war with Washington, cannot achieve any of the above. It is also important for the US to get serious with their so-called carrot and stick policy towards Pakistan. It has been just the carrot so far, with more than $20 billions of aid, mostly to military, but at the end, a threat from Pakistan that Washington might lose a so-called ally in the war on terror.

To add a note at the end of this column about the inquiry delegation of Rabbani’s assassination, led by Defense Minister Rahim Wardark, the inquiry committee is supposed to visit Islamabad soon, but it seems this will be just another visit, seeing the headlines in Pakistan press that “Pakistan’s Foreign Office laughs on Afghan evidence”. The delegation will achieve nothing by going to Pakistan.

Even if there is strong evidence to prove Quetta Shura and elements from within ISI are behind the assassination of Ustad Rabbani, there should be no expectation that Taliban leaders will be arrested. They can be moved from Quetta to Karachi, or some other place. However, President Karzai has said if Pakistan does not cooperate in the investigations, the case will be taken to the UN, which might produce some satisfactory results.

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Mullah Omar’s Eid Message

Outlook Afghanistan op-ed published on Sept 07, 2011

An Eid message on behalf of the Taliban leader Mullah Omar has been released by the propaganda website of the Islamic Emirate. The Al-Emara website claiming to represent the shadow Islamic Emirate of the Taliban has been very active with propaganda reports and disinformation. Though they are much updated about attacks, and post news reports mixing the content with some true information and more-than-half propaganda, I have rarely taken Al-Emara seriously.

They publish posts in five languages: Pashtu, Dari, Urdu, Arabic and English. I have always doubted those who are behind the online propaganda forums and twitter account of the Taliban are based across the border in Chaman or some other Pakistani city. NDS had told the media recently about many Zabihullah Mujahids, who talk with journalists and spread the Taliban propaganda regularly from Chaman city. Otherwise, how could one believe that the US intelligence agencies and NATO forces would have been unable to trace their calls and locations?

Starting with triumph tales of Taliban, the one-eyed Amir-ul-Momaneen’s Eid greetings was more of a policy speech, in which he is using a different language. There is no criticism of the Karzai Administration, talks have not been denied, and he also ‘assures’ the Taliban government will be a ‘pure Islamic system’ inclusive of all ethnic groups and segments of the Afghan society.

Apparently it sounds an all-optimistic message, but not really. The first reaction I read was from Ahmed Rashid. Recently he has been sounding more like a Taliban apologist than an analyst. Reading his blog post on New York Review of Books, one thought as if the Taliban had taken a 180 degree u-turn, and Ahmed Rashid is all-out optimistic about the process of talks.

He says, “Coming at a time when violence is at its worst and bloodshed in Afghanistan being committed both by US forces and the Taliban, this message seems a hopeful sign that talks and a negotiated settlement to end the war are a possibility.” But just a few days later, in a talk at the War Studies Department of Kings College London on Monday, he expressed different views in contradiction to his writings.

The statement on behalf of Mullah Omar was indeed their propaganda at its best. The long message is sub-headlined in different parts addressing all the people of Afghanistan, Afghan Diaspora, writers, students, journalists, Taliban Jihadis and those in Government administrations.

It tells us the ‘military’ success of Taliban against coalition and Afghan forces saying the Badr Operation this year has been the most successful, inflicting huge physical and material loss to ‘the enemy’. It doesn’t mention the Afghan Government in particular, but the word ‘enemy’ is used for the international troops as well as Afghan administration. The statement says, “the extermination of high level officials of the enemy both in north and south of the country, …give us a good news of an imminent victory and a bright future.”

It is clearly pointing to the serial assassinations of high-profile Afghan officials, including the brother of President Karzai. I don’t understand what is positive to Ahmed Rashid, when the US and Afghan Government lobbies at the UN to remove Taliban names from terrorist sanctions list, separates them from Al-Qaeda, but the response is a terror campaign of targeted-killing of the Afghan officials. President Karzai has ordered release of hundreds of notorious Taliban militants from prisons, but Mullah Omar ‘warns’ officials of the Karzai Administration to “join” and “support” the Taliban.

Mullah Omar announced “the Jihad will continue unabatedly” even after the withdrawal of bulk of US troops announced by President Obama. He added that “the presence of foreign invading troops…is the cause of current imbroglio in the country.” The esteemed Amirul Momaneen should tell us, why Taliban provided safe havens to foreign Arab Jihadis? They were invaders on this land for a large part of the population. One should ask him, why the US troops came to Afghanistan in the first place? Contrary to the propaganda that Mullah Omar wants the people of Afghanistan to believe, it was because of him that the US troops had to come to Afghanistan to fight international terrorists and their Taliban hosts.

When the Bush Administration asked Mullah Omar to handover Osama bin Ladin after 9/11, why did he reject? He is saying all those who take part in the process of approving US military presence either through a Jirga or parliament are traitors. What about those who not only approved the presence of foreign Jihadis in Afghanistan, but also provided them with free hand in using Afghanistan as a launching pad for terrorism around the globe.

Today Afghans visiting any country—including the so-called Muslim Ummah leaders who were early financiers and diplomatic supporters of the Taliban—are suspects and doubted for terrorism; we suffer all this humiliation around the world because of the deeds of Taliban and Mullah Omar.

Should we believe Mullah Omar and the Taliban, whom we have experienced for a dark era, with one statement on internet? If they are against foreign presence, Mullah Omar in his next message of Eid-ul-Azha must denounce all international terrorists in Afghanistan announcing disassociation of the Taliban with Al-Qaeda and other terror networks via a public statement, with an honest addition of apology from the nation for the atrocities we experienced under their rule. But it doesn’t exclude them from trials and accountability for the war crimes.

Today Mullah Omar is assuring us that people of all ethnicities will have share in power and the “Islamic Emirate” will have peaceful relations with regional countries and the world. How to believe this? Without the intervention and presence of foreign troops, Afghanistan would have been under an absolute and dark rule of Taliban with a graveyard peace until today, and millions of Afghan taking refuge in other countries. The American intervention in Afghanistan has been more than a blessing to get rid of a terrorist state and government, for the anti-Taliban constituency and peace loving progressive people of Afghanistan.

The people of Afghanistan never want to go through the nasty experience of a dark period under the Islamic Emirate once again. The day Mullah Omar released a statement with a logo of’ Islamic Republic’, it will be considered a change in their mindset, and we can hope for an intra-Afghan debate about a future with Taliban being part of the democratic process and system, otherwise the Eid message is nothing more than another piece of propaganda from Al-Emara websites.

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Time to Move Ahead

My editorial on Outlook, August 22, 2011

Finally the Independent Election Commission announced its decision to unseat nine MP’s. In a press conference on Sunday, IEC Chief Fazal Ahmad Manawi revealed names of the MP’s to be unseated and their replacements. This was the deal made a day before President Karzai issued the decree authorizing the IEC to finalize the deadlock and crisis on parliamentary elections. Manawi had to surrender, though not to all the demands of President Karzai, and change the results he had said it will be a “dream and impossible” in his defiant interviews since December, when the pity Special Tribunal was set up to alter results.

Those 62 candidates who were declared winners by President Karzai’s Special Tribunal have said they will not accept the decision unless all of them are reinstated. The most outspoken of them, Daud Sultanzoy, was saying in a press conference on Friday that even if one of the 62 MP’s remain, they will not accept the decision. Very ridiculously and sadly, he was saying the decision of Special Tribunal is a Sharia law, and it should be implemented. Seeing his Sharia statements about this crisis and the fact that he is not among the new faces to replace the unseated MP’s, it is obvious he will go on a rant of Jihad against the IEC in coming days.

On the other hand, the sitting MP’s have said Fazal Manawi with changing the election results is making his way to jail. They were saying no change will be accepted. However, there has not been very unexpected reaction from both sides after Manawi announced the changes on Sunday.

The replacement of MP’s is not a decision which could change the majority of Karzai-critic parliament. The new faces to come in the parliament are no bigwigs or warlords, nor the unseated MP’s are prominent opposition figures.

There might be some outcry from both sides in coming days, but this decision will mark the end of a deadlock and crisis caused and provoked by the Government. Whatever reasons, deal or President Karzai’s manipulation, this decision must end the crisis and everyone should move ahead. Already we have become a joke to the world with this ridiculous manipulation.

However, what President Karzai should have learned from this crisis, is the fact that not always all his attempts of manipulation to turn the affairs in his favor work. He gained nothing, but a rival parliament after months of attempts to alter the election results. Though he was successful to replace nine MP’s after several tactics during months of pressure on IEC, but still he could not change what exactly he wanted. Now he faces a parliament that will be more reactionary to President Karzai and his cabinet.

The judiciary got serious damage to it’s not-so-good reputation after the way it was used by President Karzai. The office of Attorney General is now known as a pressure-tool for the political battles of the Palace. The latest episode is allegations of drug trafficking against MP Zahir Qadir.

Waiting for years, the people know it is a political pressure by the Government after the fiery speeches of Zahir Qadir exposing the manipulation tactics in this crisis. The first thing parliament after this replacement has to do is to impeach the Attorney General and bring changes in the legislation about the extraordinary powers granted to the office of Attorney General.

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Parliamentary Crisis in Cartoons

The deadlock on election of speaker for lower house (Wolesi Jirga) turned into another ridiculous show today (Wednesday) when the Parliamentary Commission set up to recommend ways for solution of the standoff ended with fighting of words and punches among MPs. Pajhwok has the report here. After five rounds of failed attempts to elect the speaker of the house, a special commission was set to either suggest changes in the regulations of the speaker election, or recommend other solutions. Already the commission had asked for two more days, on Monday, when they were supposed to present their recommendations in the house. But today, the standoff entered another bitter scenario of MPs punching each other.

After weeks of conflict on parliament inauguration blocked by President Karzai, now it seems the MPs, who took a strong united stance against Karzai for the inauguration postponement, are now unable to continue the process. What is the problem? Why they can’t go on with a simple election of a speaker? The answer is known by all, but it is not discussed openly, rather shown by actions, as today when two women MPs started punching each other after Nasima made comments regarding the inter-ethnic bitter accusations of civil war era. The real problems are on ethnic, tribal, linguistic, regional and sectarian lines. This is the most serious problem of Afghanistan with its nation-building, and function of governance institutions. Insurgency, corruption and lack of capacity can all have solutions, but the issue which will keep Afghanistan a crumbling failed state will be the ethnic and tribal rifts in politics. These same factors have been the reasons why Afghanistan never became a stable functioning and successful nation-state in its history. Unless the society comes to a stage where all population is educated and understand the need to compromise the conflicts throughout our history and find a “new way” of going ahead, we can’t hope Afghanistan on the path of stability and a properly functioning democratic state.  I will write further about the “new way” later. Right now i wanted to share with the readers of this blog some cartoons about the parliamentary crisis by Khaliq Alizada, a famous Afghan cartoonist of the Daily Outlook Afghanistan. His works appear on Outlook and Daily Afghanistan (Dari and English papers) everyday. In recent weeks, he had several cartoons about the parliamentary crisis.

 

The banner reads “Independent Election Commission”, the box resembling ballot box and IEC building, which has been locked. This cartoon came the day when Attorney General’s Office raided IEC building with police and seized the ballot boxes on Feb 14.

 

 

“Ouch!” says the guy on the chair, where the text on its side reads “Speaker of Lower House”, and the text on the black-hand that pulls the chair reads “Government elements” referring the speaker-election standoff in lower house, which is partly a Karzai game.

This cartoon is a mockery of the blank votes by MPs during the rounds of election for speaker of the lower house. The sign above reads “Shurai Milli/Lower house”. The guy with white coat is an MP asking “should it be white or black” in response to the offer of money. We say “white vote” for the blank votes. Horse-trading is common in Afghanistan, when MPs are bribed to vote as demanded by the bribing parties, most of the times the Government.

This one is hilarious. The number-plate in front of the vehicle reads “New parliament” and the guy is saying “Its punctured, doesn’t work!”. This cartoon came after the failure of MPs to elect speaker for 4rth round of nominations in lower house.

 

The guy sitting on the edge has a banner hanging on its feet which reads “the winner candidates” of the lower house, saying to the hand “Government” that holds it “Ouch…ouch…don’t shake too much, feeling pain in lungs”. This cartoon is about the Special Court and Attorney General warnings to the winner candidates about cases of fraud in polls and the Government dodging them with parliament inauguration.

The direction sign reads “Parliament inauguration”. The man crying depicts President Karzai asked by the guy “loser candidates” saying “Don’t Go, Mr. President” to the inauguration of the lower house, which President Karzai was compelled to inaugurate after winning candidates warned to go on without him (Next cartoon). The loser candidates were on a 48-hours sit-in strike in the Presidential Palace asking Karzai not to inaugurate the parliament. Karzai in the cartoon says, “I swear to God, i am also not happy with this”.

Text on the vehicle reads “Second term of lower house/Wolesi Jirga” and the driver, depicting Karzai with his typical Afghan national dress and hat, holding the banner which reads “Departure Date; January 26”. The guys riding behind are MPs saying “will you move or…” holding a stick!, referring to the warning of MPs to start the lower house without Karzai’s official inauguration, which has been shown by depicting Karzai as a “driver” of this vehicle.

This cartoon is about the Tom and Jerry game for some days between police and the former MPs who were insisting to enter the parliament building after the term of the house had ended. Heavy police was deployed to avoid their entry. The guy with a flag reads “formers members of lower house” and the police with stick says, “Don’t bother anymore…” The building behind is the “Shurai Milli or Lower House”.

This cartoon is about the fight between Attorney General’s office and Independent Elections Commission on announcement of election results. When the IEC announced election results of lower house, the Attorney General’s office warned them not to do. The button which is “on” is of the election results and the guy in white coat is “Attorney General” saying “turn it off” (the election results) and the guy with stick is “Independent Election Commission” saying “if you have the gut, touch it!”. Literally it reads “if you are male, touch it!”, which is an expression to say “if you have the gut”.

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Karzai Must Quash Decree, Dismiss “Special Court”

My op-ed on Outlook about the parliament inauguration crisis.

After the UN, European Union, US and Canada expressing deep concerns on delay of the parliament inauguration, President Karzai rushed back to Kabul on Saturday. He called on a lunch with all the winning MPs, who had warned to convene the house on Sunday, with or without Karzai. In the meeting, President seems to have relented for a compromise and have offered parliament inauguration on Wednesday. But we are still concerned if it will go on smoothly, since nothing from the Palace comes surely. AAN has a detailed report of the events of past three days.

The winning MPs should have pressed the President hard in Saturday’s meeting at the Palace, which did not end with a clear deal. Though currently Wednesday has been agreed upon for inauguration, but it has not been cleared what will happen to that pity unconstitutional “Special Court” to ‘investigate’ the alleged fraud. The MPs must stand strong against the constitutional maneuvering by the President to avoid future authoritarian extensions of power. The Special Court must be dismissed, as it is not according to the Constitution of Afghanistan, which allows special courts only for three cases; impeachment of the President, cabinet members and Supreme Court judges. President Karzai must respect the Constitutional Oversight Committee’s stance that the Special Court is unconstitutional. The real motives are all authoritarian moves of the President to alter the election results, he seems to be less careful about it being constitutional or unconstitutional.

The United Nations had released a statement of “concern” on Friday about the delay of parliament inauguration. The UNAMA press release said it is “deeply concerned on the recent call to delay the inauguration of the National Assembly”. Though UN statement is late, as it should have come earlier and stricter, but still we welcome the reaction and support for democratic institutions in Afghanistan. The statement recalls the Security Council meeting about timely inauguration of the Wolesi Jirga, but it does not urge President Karzai to stop the mess with constitution. The European Union, United States and Canada are the countries mentioned in the statement. The democratic forces in Afghanistan also expect other major supporters of international efforts in Afghanistan such as UK, Germany and other members of international community to express their position on the current crisis with parliamentary elections.

The UN statement further says it supports “peaceful” resolution to the issue by relevant Afghan stakeholders, with full respect for the Afghan Constitution. The stance of international community should have been clear that if President Karzai violates the constitution by supporting unconstitutional courts to maneuver election results, there will be no support for a vote recount, or new elections, if the results are cancelled, as threatened by the “Special Court”. UNAMA says it will assist all parties to ensure effective functioning of executive, judicial and legislative bodies to prevent conflict.

There were indications that diplomats of these countries might have attended the inauguration today, if Karzai had not come up on a deal with MPs for Wednesday‘s inauguration. Some MPs had also met the two vice presidents who had expressed support for early inauguration. These two show-men have no say in the decision making process of the Presidency. Though they have brought the bulk of votes for President Karzai, but they have no say in all important decisions. The vice presidents must realize their influence and responsibility in this regard and get more active in decision making process. Otherwise we are already being led to a one-man authoritarian rule.

President Karzai must quash his decree, dismiss the election “Special Court” and inaugurate the parliament on Wednesday; otherwise we are doomed to crisis that will eventually lead the country to a chaotic situation at this crucial time when we need political stability and unity direly. Afghan civil society and media have strongly criticized the political motivations behind the formation of Special Court, which is unconstitutional.

Already people are fed up with intensifying insecurity, huge corruption, unemployment and hopelessness for future with ineffective and incapable leadership who instead of leading the country out of the current period of transition from conflict toward normalization, are making a reverse journey toward the chaos of 90s. The little hope and trust left among the masses is evading with the more-than-enough self-centered tribal-mindset, personal-politics of our rulers. And this will ultimately lead toward the collapse of this political setup.

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Wikileaks Afghanistan

The Guardian newspaper has published the Wikileaks cables on Afghanistan. Here i am organizing all Afghanistan-related US Embassy cables on one page.

Iran in Afghanistan

Karzai Insider on How US Could ‘Open the Door’ to Iran

Iranian Influence at Afghanistan Parliament

Iran Busy Trying to Undermine the US in Afghanistan

US in Afghanistan

We are not just another imperialist force in Afghanistan (Ambassador Eikenberry)

US complains about Karzai’s release of prisoners

Germany Protests US military docking millions from Afghan Army fund

Clinton says Afghanistan troops changes are not withdrawal

Obama’s troops reduction were a military recommendation

Karzai and McCain Discuss Progress and Elections in Afghanistan

Afghan Govt. asks US to quash ‘dancing boys’ scandal

UK in Afghanistan

Hamid Karzai Criticizes UK Military

Karzai Questions UK Effectiveness

Helmand Governor Criticizes UK Military Strategy

UK Military Want to Leave Sangin Because of Lack of Popular Support

UK ‘not up to task’ of Securing Helmand, says US

NATO commander criticizes British anti-drug strategy

Gordon Brown urges Karzai not to replace Helmand Governor

Miliband asks Karzai to reassure British public about the Afghan ‘project’

Allies’ praise for Helmand Governor

Taliban

US Doubts over Afghan Reintegration Plan

Moderate Taliban Distance themselves from Regime

Former Taliban say peace is now only option for Afghanistan

Karzai’s brother on preliminary Taliban peace talks

Deradicalisation programme would undercut the Taliban

No power-sharing with Taliban, Holbrooke pledges

Karzai

Hamid Karzai on the Taliban, Iran and drugs in Afghanistan

Karzai feared US intended to unseat him and weaken Afghanistan

Afghan Finance Minister calls Karzai an ‘extremely weak man’ (Finance Minister Zakhilwal)

Kazakh President’s concerns over ‘weak’ Karzai

Karzai asks Defence Minister: ‘can you manage without the US?’

President Karzai’s half-brother is ‘kingpin of Kandahar’

Canadian Ambassador expresses serious doubts about Karzai

Karzai’s attempt to appoint known warlord and criminal (Akhunzada)

Hamid Karzai Threatens a ‘tribal solution’ in Helmand

Corruption

Money Smuggling Out of Afghanistan (Vice President Massoud with $52m cash in Dubai)

Corrupt Governor in Eastern Afghanistan (Governor of Paktia)

Ghazni Governor Accused of Widespread Corruption

Elections

Holbrooke meeting with Kai Aide

Karzai accuses US of funding Abdullah Abdullah

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Federal System Only Option for Taliban, U.S.

My CNN blog post.

Why is it that every policy change is doomed to failure in Afghanistan? From the community-security and reach-out policy to the fight against drugs, all have shown little success so far.

Gen. Petraeus has come to Afghanistan with the latest commitment of success. After fierce opposition from the Afghan government, his proposed Public Protection Force has been approved by the Afghan cabinet. This approach is based on the successful model of Iraq, where Sunni militia groups were armed to fight against al-Qaeda. In the Afghan government, there was intense opposition to the program of arming locals as a Public Protection Force to avoid Taliban insurgency spreading. President Karzai’s ambitions are more of setting a ground for the post-American Afghanistan, regardless of whatever results. There are no signs of success so far that his proposed reintegration of Taliban will work out.

Coming to Arg (the Afghan Presidential Palace) for a second term in a controversial election, Karzai has been moving close to Iran and Pakistan. In June, when the interior minister and intelligence chief were asked by the president to resign, the most common commentary in Kabul newspapers were that the move is to placate Pakistan regarding the Taliban reconciliation, as NDS (National Directorate of Security) Chief, Amrullah Saleh was the fiercest Pakistan-critic voice in the Karzai Administration. Some politicians in Kabul even fear Karzai will attempt to grab power for long after NATO withdrawal, by calling a National Jirga and bringing some amendments in the constitution. And it’s quite possible!

Again the fundamental question is: why after billions of dollars spent and thousands of lives sacrificed, is Afghanistan becoming a quagmire for the U.S. and NATO? Why is it that Iraq is gradually getting stability while Afghanistan is deteriorating with a new story each day of failure? Recently there have been talks about a de facto division of Afghanistan. The U.S. policy thinkers are now discovering the options suggested nine years ago by many in Afghanistan. And it comes at a time when the situation is at its worst. If there was such serious thinking in Washington in 2001, things would have not been at its worst.

Renowned Pakistani journalist Ahmad Rashid in an article on the Financial Times website has mocked former U.S. Ambassador Robert Blackwill’s suggestion of de facto partition of Afghanistan in volatile Taliban-influenced South and peaceful North and Hazarajat. Ahmad writes “Not a single Afghan will ever support such a demand.” Really? Ahmad Rashid analyses from his world of knowledge about post-Taliban Afghanistan, which he has not visited for the last couple of years. He should know that the slogan of Latif Pedram, a presidential candidate rival of Karzai in last year’s election, was for a federal system in Afghanistan demanding division of regions in the country. And there are ethnocentric “nationalist” groups even advocating for a full partition.

Today Gen. Petraeus is applying the Iraq model of Sunni Awakening under the label of Public Protect Force in Afghanistan after years of growing insurgency. Pentagon and Washington know now that the insurgency is of the same nature in Iraq and Afghanistan, ideologically and operationally. But the strategy will only work when other parallels are successful, too.

The political system and civilian government is a measuring parallel for the success of military operations in Afghanistan. The administration in Kabul is a fragile and corrupt one, and fundamentally very different from the system successfully working in Iraq. The key of success in Iraq in fighting insurgency was Sunni Awakening in addition to a stable federal parliamentary political system. Amidst the discussions of alternatives in Afghanistan, federal parliamentary system would be the best way to avoid a bloody partition. As Mr. Blackmill says, “there is no quick, easy and cost-free ways to escape the current deadly quagmire.” Leaders from Afghanistan had suggested it long ago in 2002 during the Bonn Conference and later. And recently, it has not only been Latif Pedram calling for a federal system, but the strongest rival of Karzai in the election – former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah was calling for a parliamentary system. And allies of Karzai in election, who left Karzai’s side recently, Muhaqiq and Dostum, have been calling for a fundamental change in the system. Recently in a TV talk in Kabul, Muhaqiq was saying “we demand decentralization of power, you name it federal system, parliamentary or whatever…”

A central system is against the nature of Afghanistan for centuries. A strong central government has never had control over all parts of the country in history. Even today, under a strong presidency and central government, Karzai due to his political weaknesses cannot remove a rival Governor of Balkh, Mr. Ata, who often talks against Karzai in public.

Such a system would be the only solution for the so-called reconciliation and reintegration program with insurgents. Taliban want a share in power, and they fight under the slogan of Sharia and religion. Some ministries and offices in Kabul would not bring them for a settlement. If local people of an area want to be ruled by Taliban, billions of U.S. dollars and the least-corrupt official appointed from Kabul would never win the hearts and minds of people. It’s impossible for Taliban to burn down girls’ schools, if the majority of local people are against it. Simply, let people be ruled by Taliban in the areas the people want them. And the little population who don’t want to live under Taliban can move to other provinces. Some of the southern provinces could go under Taliban if they take part in elections in a federal system with provincial autonomy. And this can be the only possible deal for workable negotiations.

Taliban insurgency is now spreading to the peaceful parts of country. Most peaceful provinces like Bamyan, Badakhshan and Daikundi were in headlines the past week for casualties. The Iraq model of Gen. Petraeus is incomplete unless the political system in Afghanistan is like that of Iraq. For saving Afghanistan and the efforts made in the last nine years, it’s extremely important to bring fundamental changes in the whole strategy and system in Afghanistan.

Already there is a rise of ethnic sentiments in Afghanistan after the calls of reconciliation by Karzai. Political leaders in North and Hazarajat are saying to launch a mass campaign. The best way to avoid a bloody partition like that of Ahmad Rashid’s country (partition of Bangladesh from Pakistan) in 1971 is to change the system in Afghanistan. The attempts of negotiations with Taliban will not work unless they receive an attractive offer of rule in some provinces of South under a federal parliamentary democratic system. It’s an honorable roadmap for the U.S. withdrawal from a stable Afghanistan.

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Afghanistan Needs More Than Conferences

My blog post for CNN.

The one-day Kabul Conference concluded last week with reiteration of promises made by the international community. There was nothing very new – except the fact that insurgents could not succeed in firing any rockets that day in Kabul, contrary to previous such events. Though the conference was given much coverage in the international media, Kabulis didn’t have any expectations about the meeting. Heavy security prevented any untoward incident and foiled some plans by those arrested a day before the conference.

All foreign ministers and representatives were given four minutes each to speak. And it was full of repeated words of promises. Former Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai organized the Kabul Conference. I liked some of the speeches, including the four minutes of Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski, who talked about decentralization of power in Afghanistan as a factor toward solution of conflict. Many of the speakers praised the Karzai administration and had a strong belief in his government as if everything will go smoothly.

The only critical speech came from the head of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, Dr. Sima Samar, who expressed concern on the process of Taliban reconciliation and criticized the government for the state of human rights in Afghanistan.

President Hamid Karzai said Afghanistan will take responsibility of security by 2014. It was more like a wish than a pledge. And what if Afghan National Security Forces are unable to take control by then? Karzai also demanded more control over the aid from the international community, up to 50 percent. But according to a recent media report published in Daily Outlook Afghanistan – the newspaper I am affiliated with – most of the ministries could only spend 70 percent to 80 percent of their annual budget for last year due to lack of capacity and mismanagement. Lack of capacity and mismanagement are the causes. Although the reports and presentations looked impressive at the Kabul Conference, the fact is that the practical situation is way different.

All spoke of good governance, but nobody talked specifically about the huge corruption in Kabul. Karzai said he will fight against administrative corruption. But there have not been any practical achievement of this since he was re-elected in a controversial vote last year.

A recent report said $4.2 billion in cash has gone out of Kabul International Airport, most of which has been brokered into safe accounts and luxury villas of Dubai. The fight against corruption was top priority of Karzai while taking the oath for a second term. In the first weeks of his new term, there were some symbolic moves. Soon after the Cabinet formation, a new anti-corruption task force was established, but with no achievement so far.

The U.S. media and Congress should pressure the Obama administration for accountability and transparency of the Karzai government in Kabul. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had once – during the controversial presidential election count in Kabul – said the U.S. civilian aid to Afghanistan in the future will be tied to reform in governance. The international community should pressure the Afghan government for more responsibility and accountability. There has to be serious efforts against corruption.

All the plans and projects presented at the Kabul Conference were within the framework of the Afghanistan National Development Strategy. But this entire strategy needs a full review. The international community should ensure that development aid should also go to peaceful areas. The places with military presence have received the entire development budget, but the most peaceful areas have been neglected. And troubles are increasing now in central and northern peaceful areas.

After the Kabul Conference, state media said the international community supports Karzai’s reconciliation efforts with Taliban. Karzai called the insurgents “angry brothers” at the peace jirga in June. But he used the term “our common enemy” at the Kabul Conference.

The “reconciliation efforts” are complex and unclear. And most importantly, there is not a national consensus on this. Political leaders from other ethnic groups in Afghanistan are already leaving Karzai. For instance, former intelligence chief Amrullah Saleh has started a grass-roots campaign against Karzai’s approach in “reconciliation” efforts. Important ethnic political figures such as Haji Muhammad Muhaqiq and Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum already have turned away from Karzai, and they supported him in the presidential elections.

The U.S. is victim of wrong steps taken in 2001 and later. Afghanistan has been a complete failure during the last decade. Change of command or fancy conferences will not bring success, but a fundamental change in the whole process and strategy might.

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