Amid probe, Afghanistan’s vice pres­i­dent flies to Turkey

The Washington Post Sunday - - THE WORLD - BY PAMELA CON­STA­BLE pamela.con­sta­ble@wash­

kabul — Afghanistan’s con­tro­ver­sial first vice pres­i­dent, who has been un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion for months on ac­cu­sa­tions of as­sault and sex­ual abuse, flew to Turkey un­ex­pect­edly late Fri­day for “med­i­cal tests,” ac­cord­ing to his aides and Afghan gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials.

But hu­man rights groups, Afghan an­a­lysts and oth­ers said they sus­pect that Ab­dur­rashid Dos­tum, 63, an eth­nic Uzbek mili­tia leader and former army gen­eral, had flown into ex­ile to avoid pros­e­cu­tion, pos­si­bly in a deal with the gov­ern­ment. He has not been charged with any crime.

“Vice Pres­i­dent Dos­tum does have a ju­di­cial case pend­ing, but he has gone to Turkey for health tests. We pray for his health and re­turn,” Shah Hus­sain Mur­tazavi, a spokesman for Pres­i­dent Ashraf Ghani, told jour­nal­ists Satur­day af­ter­noon.

In De­cem­ber, an el­derly Uzbek politi­cian named Ah­mad Eschi ac­cused Dos­tum on na­tional TV of or­der­ing his mili­tia guards to im­prison, beat and rape him. The pow­er­ful war­lord claimed the charges were a po­lit­i­cal plot, but the in­ci­dent put Ghani un­der strong for­eign pres­sure to bring him to jus­tice.

Since then, the at­tor­ney gen­eral’s of­fice has been try­ing to in­ves­ti­gate the case, but Dos­tum has re­fused to be ques­tioned and has only al­lowed sev­eral of his guards to sub­mit to of­fi­cial re­quests.

In pri­vate, mean­while, Dos­tum’s rep­re­sen­ta­tives have re­port­edly met with pres­i­den­tial aides, seek­ing a po­lit­i­cal so­lu­tion. Although es­tranged from Ghani, Dos­tum has not been removed from of­fice and re­mains first in line to re­place the pres­i­dent, who is 68 and has heart prob­lems.

At the same time, Dos­tum’s plight has inspired large ral­lies by Uzbek sup­port­ers in sev­eral north­ern prov­inces, where he re­mains a cult fig­ure de­spite his rep­u­ta­tion for abu­sive be­hav­ior to­ward ad­ver­saries and un­der­lings. Some have called on him to stage a re­volt against the gov­ern­ment.

“Gen­eral Dos­tum has al­ways been with his peo­ple, in bad and good situations. He will re­turn to Afghanistan as soon as the tests are done,” his chief of staff, Enayat Far­man, said in a Face­book post Satur­day.

Crit­ics were quick to de­nounce Dos­tum’s unan­nounced de­par­ture. He re­port­edly left late Fri­day in a plane sent from Turkey, where he has long his­toric and of­fi­cial ties and has fled sev­eral times pre­vi­ously dur­ing po­lit­i­cal tu­mult.

Pa­tri­cia Goss­man, a long­time Afghanistan re­searcher for the New York-based group Hu­man Rights Watch, tweeted Satur­day that the “Dos­tum case shows Ghani’s in­abil­ity to en­sure jus­tice” and is an “ex­am­ple of the power strong­men wield over Afghanistan.”


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