Afghan opposition factions join hands against Ghani

Afghan police officers keep watch at their forward base on the outskirts of Kunduz province, Afghanistan, in this November 26, 2017 photo. (REUTERS)
Updated 18 December 2017
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Afghan opposition factions join hands against Ghani

KABUL: An Afghan faction which is a key partner of President Ashraf Ghani’s government has threatened his plan to fire a leading member of the party who has been a long-serving governor for northern Balkh province.
The development adds further to the already deepening political tension in the US-backed government while Taliban insurgents and Daesh affiliates make gains on the battlefield and with growing calls for convocation of a grand traditional assembly which may decide on the formation of an interim government and on the fate of US forces in Afghanistan.
The leadership of Jamiat-e-Islami party held talks with the powerful governor of Balkh, Atta Mohammad Noor, on the government’s decision and unanimously said that “it will confront any move that removes Atta from office,” party members told Arab News on Sunday.
“Jamiat unanimously has put forward two options to ARG (presidential palace): Jamiat is ready for understanding to settle this problem, but if it does not go for this option and issues order, decree (for dismissing Atta), then we will not accept that,” Abdul Hafeez Mansoor, a senior member of Jamiat, said.
“And Jamit is ready for confrontation. We do not have a government based on elections criteria. This government is based on an understanding of two sides, and no one can get rid of the other side.”
Another party member said any unilateral move on Ghani’s part will lead to Jamiat totally boycotting the government that came to power in late 2014 under a US-brokered deal after controversial election results.
Under the US-brokered deal, the Jamiat faction which has dominated the government since Taliban’s ouster in 2001 became a key partner in Ghani’s government.
Ghani has gradually reduced the role of Jamiat figures in recent months and in summer blocked the arrival of his first vice president General Abdul Rashid Dostum, another factional leader, to Balkh to announce the formation of an opposition alliance with Atta and another senior member of Ghani’s government.
Dostum lives in exile in Turkey for allegedly ordering the detention and sexual abuse of a political rival.
Weeks ago, Atta accused Ghani’s government of barring his plane from traveling to Kandahar, where a group of opposition parties and parliamentarians had gathered to discuss shortcomings in the government and spoke about their concern over alleged government meddling with next year’s parliamentarian and the 2019 presidential polls, when Ghani is highly expected to run for office again.
Dostum, Atta and many of those who had gathered in Kandahar accuse Ghani of power monopoly and nepotism. Ghani, who is under US and Western donors’ pressure for bringing reforms in his government, denies the allegations.
Mansoor said Jamiat had informed Ghani through a senior party’s leader who serves as CE in his administration, Dr. Abdullah, about the outcome of a unilateral move on the president’s part for planning to fire Atta.
Shah Hussein Murtazawi, a spokesman for Ghani, neither confirmed nor denied the president’s plan for dismissing Atta.
“Replacement and change of governors is an ordinary matter and we expect they will not turn this into a political or dignity issue. Maybe he will or will not be fired or decide to resign,” Murtazawi told Arab News.
Najib Mahmoud, a professor of political science at Kabul University, said the latest tension was “serious” for the Afghan government and “shrewd” action was needed to control the situation.
“The government has been under pressure from politicians and leaders who are members of the very administration in recent years and no doubt local and foreign opponents have benefited from this (in the past) and will do so this time too if both sides (Atta and Ghani) reach the end of the line,” he told Arab News.
“In normal countries if coalition governments fall apart, they call snap elections, but in Afghanistan if this happens the situation can be very different. There will be tension and problems.”


Taliban rejects pleas by Afghan elders for a cease-fire extension

Updated 39 min 21 sec ago
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Taliban rejects pleas by Afghan elders for a cease-fire extension

  • Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid dismissed the peace “slogans”
  • The success of such local initiatives is mixed and may stand little chance as military operations pick up

KABUL: The Taliban on Monday rejected pleas by Afghan elders and activists for an extension of this month’s cease-fire and said they amounted to a call for surrender to foreign forces.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid dismissed the peace “slogans” and urged civil society activists and others not to join movements he said played into the hands of US and international forces the Taliban wants to force from the country.
“They are not speaking about the occupation or the withdrawal of foreigners. Their objective is that we lay down our weapons and accept the regime imposed by the invaders,” he said in a statement.
A truce over the three day Eid Al-Fitr festival this month, during which unarmed Taliban fighters mingled with soldiers and civilians in the capital Kabul and other cities has given fresh impetus to the calls for peace, although many also dismiss the cease-fire as a Taliban trick.
A small group of peace marchers who came to Kabul on foot from the southern province of Helmand this month have also gained prominence, with pleas to all sides to end a conflict which has now lasted for 40 years.
“Tribal elders may not be able to bring about peace and create a cease-fire to the whole country but they can for their own districts and they will,” said Dawlat Wazir, an elder in Jani Khil district in the eastern province of Paktia.
In Jani Khil, elders held a meeting that drew hundreds of people at the weekend, calling on the government and Taliban forces to refrain from fighting in their area.
“We are so fed up with operations by government forces in our areas that trigger fighting for days,” said Malek Sakhto, one of the elders behind the meeting. “We’re pleading with the government and the Taliban to agree on a cease-fire and stop killing each other and civilians.”
The success of such local initiatives is mixed and may stand little chance as military operations pick up.
President Ashraf Ghani ordered government forces to stop offensive operations against the Taliban for another 10 days after the end of the cease-fire but there has since been fierce fighting in several areas.
In Logar, to the south of the capital Kabul, local elders and religious scholars have been trying to arrange a cease-fire in Azra district, according to Abdul Wali, a member of the Logar provincial council.
He said an informal accord had been reached but local people were still waiting for an official announcement from the Taliban shadow governor for Logar, Muallah Ismail Akhondzada.
In Kunar province, on the border with Pakistan, another group of walkers is making its way to Kabul, a statement from the governor’s office said.