Afghanistan A New Be­gin­ning

Although both Dr. Ashraf Ghani and Dr. Ab­dul­lah Ab­dul­lah have agreed on mak­ing a na­tional unity gov­ern­ment, the road ahead for them is in­deed tricky.

Southasia - - CONTENTS - By Daud Khan The writer con­trib­utes to the Christian Sci­ence Mon­i­tor and Sun­day Times.

As the elec­tion im­passe in Afghanistan ends, the coun­try faces new and tougher chal­lenges.

It may or may not last long, but the deal on the for­ma­tion of a na­tional unity gov­ern­ment has fi­nally brought Afghanistan out of the dead­lock it was fac­ing fol­low­ing the al­le­ga­tions of ‘in­dus­trial-level’ fraud in the June 14 runoff polls by one of the pres­i­den­tial hope­fuls.

With­out giv­ing the vote fig­ures, Chair­man of Afghanistan’s In­de­pen­dent Elec­tion Com­mis­sion Ahmad Yousaf Nuris­tani de­clared Dr. Ashraf Ghani Ah­madzai as the win­ner. Hours later, a state­ment was is­sued from Hamid Karzai’s Pres­i­den­tial Palace that wel­comed the deal be­tween Ashraf Ghani Ah­madzai and Dr. Ab­dul­lah Ab­dul­lah, con­grat­u­lat­ing the for­mer over his vic­tory as the new Afghan pres­i­dent.

Com­mend­ing both Ghani and Ab­dul­lah, U.S. Sec­re­tary of State John Kerry said in a state­ment that this was a mo­ment of ex­tra­or­di­nary states­man­ship. “Th­ese two men have put the peo­ple of Afghanistan first, and they’ve en­sured that the first peace­ful demo­cratic tran­si­tion in the his­tory of their coun­try be­gins with na­tional unity.”

Although Ashraf Ghani was lead­ing his ri­val Ab­dul­lah with more than a mil­lion votes, the re­sult was kept pend­ing till an agree­ment was reached with Dr. Ab­dul­lah, who re­fused to ac­cept the va­lid­ity of the elec­tions.

The fi­nal out­come is the deal un­der which Dr. Ghani has be­come pres­i­dent while Dr. Ab­dul­lah is the chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer, a newly-cre­ated po­si­tion with func­tions almost like a prime min­is­ter.

Although the power-shar­ing deal be­tween the two ri­vals has re­solved the po­lit­i­cal stale­mate in Afghanistan for the time be­ing, the key ques­tion is how this setup led by the pres­i­dent and the CEO, who are poles apart in their think­ing and strate­gies, will work and for how long?

One of the ma­jor tasks be­fore the new Afghan pres­i­dent is the sign­ing of the Bi­lat­eral Se­cu­rity Agree­ment with the United States, which al­lows a small num­ber of U.S. sol­diers to stay in Afghanistan beyond 2014.

Pres­i­dent Hamid Karzai, who had de­vel­oped se­ri­ous dif­fer­ences with the United States – they key backer of his

gov­ern­ment – in the last years of his rule, had re­fused to sign the agree­ment. In their elec­tion cam­paigns, both Dr. Ah­madzai and Dr. Ab­dul­lah had spo­ken in the fa­vor of this agree­ment and promised to sign it after com­ing to power.

Many Afghan an­a­lysts are of the view that the sign­ing of the BSA will en­sure the flow of money for re­con­struc­tion projects and the de­fense needs of the coun­try. In fact, it will also prove a morale-booster for the Afghan se­cu­rity forces, which are fac­ing the resur­gent Tal­iban in sev­eral ci­ties and prov­inces in the south­ern and east­ern re­gions of the coun­try.

Point­ing to the sign­ing of the BSA, John Kerry said in his mes­sage of fe­lic­i­ta­tion that this “will open a new chap­ter in our en­dur­ing part­ner­ship with Afghanistan.”

The BSA apart, there are sev­eral vis­i­ble glitches as the two for­mer ri­vals move ahead with their gov­ern­ment of na­tional unity. Ac­cord­ing to some de­tails made pub­lic, Ashraf Ghani, as pres­i­dent of Afghanistan, will be chair­ing his two deputies, the cen­tral cab­i­net and the CEO, while the CEO will be chair­ing the new coun­cil of min­is­ters.

While the CEO will be an­swer­able to the pres­i­dent, he will have a rea­son­able share in mak­ing ap­point­ments to key po­si­tions. In fact, the au­thor­ity to ap­point peo­ple to se­nior po­si­tions was one of the key de­mands of Dr. Ab­dul­lah dur­ing the ne­go­ti­a­tion process.

Eth­ni­cally too, both ri­val-turned­part­ners be­long to dif­fer­ent parts of Afghanistan. Ghani is an eth­nic Pash­tun who won more votes in the Pash­tun majority ar­eas in the south and east­ern re­gions, while Ab­dul­lah is an eth­nic Ta­jik whose vote bank ex­ists in the Ta­jik majority ar­eas in the west and north­ern zones. It is likely that both rulers will strive to fo­cus more on their re­spec­tive eth­nic­i­ties in­stead of the coun­try as a whole.

It is a fact that the po­lit­i­cal dead­lock had caused eth­nic ten­sion in the coun­try where eth­nic and clan ri­val­ries date back to the civil strife and the Tal­iban regime in the 1990s. Since the majority of the Tal­iban be­longed to the Pash­tun parts in the south and east, the Tal­iban regime was seen as a Pash­tun move­ment by their Ta­jik coun­try­men. Be­sides, the Tal­iban atroc­i­ties against the Shia (Hazara) mi­nor­ity also sowed the seeds of ha­tred among mem­bers of th­ese com­mu­ni­ties.

One of the key points of Ashraf Ghani’s agenda dur­ing his elec­tion cam­paign was ad­min­is­tra­tive re­forms. How­ever, now that he has to share power with Dr. Ab­dul­lah, it is dif­fi­cult to say whether the plan will be a suc­cess.

One of Dr. Ab­dul­lah’s key sup­port­ers dur­ing his elec­tion cam­paign was Gov­er­nor of Balkh Atta Muham­mad Noor – a for­mer war­lord run­ning the prov­ince since 2001 who paid lit­tle heed to some of Pres­i­dent Hamid Karzai’s or­ders. Many won­der if Ghani will be suc­cess­ful in rein­ing in Noor who is pop­u­larly known as Us­tad Atta.

In the same to­ken, Ghani’s key sup­porter was Uzbek war­lord Ab­dul Rashid Dos­tum, who will be his deputy for the next five years. Both Us­tad Atta and Rashid Dos­tum are known for their bit­ter ri­valry. How the two part­ners in the new na­tional unity gov­ern­ment will man­age the ri­vals in their clos­est cir­cles is a mat­ter of con­cern for many.

While the agree­ment on the for­ma­tion of a na­tional unity gov­ern­ment has re­solved the cri­sis and paved the way for the sign­ing of the BSA, an­a­lysts be­lieve that only a very high de­gree of pa­tience and tol­er­ance on the part of the new team can en­able the gov­ern­ment to com­plete its fouryear term.

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