Anti-government protests end in Afghan north after appeal of returned exiled Dostum

In this file photo, Afghan president Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai (R) holds up the hand of his vice-presidential candidate Abdul Rashid Dostum during an election campaign rally in Mazar-i-sharif on June 3, 2014. (AFP)
Updated 23 July 2018

Anti-government protests end in Afghan north after appeal of returned exiled Dostum

  • Dostum’s return follows nearly three weeks of mass protests in northern Afghanistan
  • The protests were a major headache for the government amid increased attacks by the Taliban and Daesh

KABUL: Demonstrators who had blocked border crossings and various state facilities as part of nearly three weeks-long anti-government move in northern Afghanistan, ended their protests on Monday after exiled first Vice President Abdul Rashid Dostum made an appeal on his arrival, residents and officials said.

“After what you can call appeal or order of Dostum, we have ended the protests, life is returning to normalcy,” Ahmad Tawab, a protester from the north told Arab News by phone.

Dostum, who was exiled by President Ashraf Ghani’s government over allegations of sexual abuse, returned home on Sunday to a rapturous reception from supporters as well as officials and is set to resume his duties as normal.

Dostum was greeted by hundreds of people, including women, some senior government officials, among them his political allies on a red carpet which was put on the tarmac of Kabul airport next to the stairs of the chartered plane that brought him from Turkey.

Some kissed his hands, others tried to get near him amid tight security with several TV stations showing live his arrival.

But as his convoy of armoured motorcades left the airport, a suicide bomber blew himself up moments later. 

Kabul police chief Daud Amin said that has been 19 killed, mostly security forces, and 60 were wounded.

Speaking to a big crowd in the garden of his spacious office, Dostum said presidential elite force were among the casualties.

Wearing a khaki suit with a necktie, the bespectacled burly former militia leader termed the arrest of his senior commander in the north by government Nizamuddin Qaisari as an “unfair move”. He said will talk with Ghani tomorrow and will raise the issue of the arrest.

Dostum who until recently, spoken against peace talks with Taliban, told the crowd that he was in favor of negotiations with the militants.

“I as the first Vice President, consider peace with the Taliban more important than any other thing,” he said. He called on his fellow ethnic Uzbek supporters to end the protest in north, allow reopening of schools, state institutions and border crossings which they had closed since the start of the protests nearly three weeks ago.

Dostum’s return follows nearly three weeks of mass protests in northern Afghanistan by his ethnic Uzbek supporters, who blocked several border crossings and government institutions, and threatened to boycott the long-delayed October elections.

The protests were a major headache for the government amid increased attacks by the Taliban and Daesh in the north recently.

Dostum’s supporters accuse Ghani of having sidelined him. The protests were triggered by the arrest of Qaisari, accused of severe human rights abuses and threatening to kill provincial officials.

In a video, government troops were seen beating Qaisari’s handcuffed guards during his arrest, stoking further anger. Haroon Chakansuri, a spokesman for Ghani, said Dostum had gone to Turkey for nearly 14 months for unspecified medical treatment.

Accusations that Dostum had ordered his guards to sexually abuse and torture political rival Ahmad Eschi will be handled independently by the courts, Chakansuri said. Dostum supporters say the allegations about Eschi are a conspiracy. Ghani picked Dostum, the self-proclaimed leader of ethnic Uzbeks, as his running mate in the 2014 elections.

Ghani last year blocked Dostum’s return from exile when he tried to fly home to form an opposition alliance including senior government members. The ethnic Uzbek vote is essential for any candidate in the presidential elections slated for next year. Ghani has said he will stand for office again.

“I think the government wants to hunt two pigeons with a shot,” said Inayatullah Kakar, an Afghan researcher.“It (Dostum’s return) will make the north tensions calm … then he will be part of the upcoming elections ...”

Taliban’s Ghazni assault sparks new Pak-Afghan tensions

Updated 18 August 2018

Taliban’s Ghazni assault sparks new Pak-Afghan tensions

  • Pakistan’s Foreign Office says Afghanistan has not shared any evidence to support its recent allegations against Pakistan
  • Imran Khan’s idea of a soft border between Pakistan and Afghanistan may have suffered a big setback in the wake of the Ghazni attack

PESHAWAR: In the backdrop of the Taliban’s brazen assault on the southern city of Ghazni in Afghanistan, President Ashraf Ghani alleged that the bodies of the perpetrators had arrived in Pakistan, though Islamabad maintained that Kabul had not officially shared any information or evidence in this regard.
Soon after that, the Afghan president said in a fiery speech to a jirga in Ghazni: “I have a message for Pakistan. Dead bodies (of the Taliban) have arrived in (Pakistan). Peace cannot be forcefully imposed on Afghanistan. Where did they (Taliban) come from and why are they being treated in (Pakistani) hospitals?”
But Pakistan strongly rejected reports claiming that some Taliban fighters involved in the Ghazni attack had been offered medical treatment in its hospitals.
In the absence of any official communication through regular channels established bilaterally, such reports cannot be given any credence, said Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Saturday.
Haq Nawaz, a senior Peshawar-based security analyst, told Arab News that the newly elected Prime Minister Imran Khan faced a string of daunting challenges, such as economic revival, political stability, tackling corruption, and improving relations with his country’s immediate neighbors.
However, he added that recent developments in Afghanistan, where the Taliban have stepped up violent activities, will probably constitute a much bigger predicament for the new political administration.
He recalled that Khan had mentioned in his victory speech that he wanted a European Union-style soft border with Afghanistan, claiming that the idea had seemingly received a setback after the Ghazni attack.
“The latest bout of allegations will have a negative impact on the process of reviving good relations between the two neighboring countries,” Nawaz noted.
Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa also expressed “deep concern” over the recent surge in violence in Afghanistan and lamented in a statement released by the military’s media wing the loss of precious lives.
Bajwa reiterated that Pakistan was not supporting terrorist activities inside Afghanistan. He added that the allegation about the movement of injured or dead terrorists from Ghazni to Pakistan was incorrect.
However, the army chief noted that there were scores of Pakistanis working in Afghanistan, and that some of them periodically fell victim to acts of terrorism along with their Afghan brothers inside Afghanistan. “Terming such victims as terrorists is unfortunate,” he maintained.
Yet, the Afghan president sought an explanation from Pakistan’s civilian and military leadership on the Ghazni attack.
“Imran Khan, you are the son of Pashtun parents. Investigate this and give me an answer. General Bajwa, you have repeatedly given me assurances over phone calls that special attention would be given to the issue of peace in Afghanistan once elections took place in Pakistan. Now give me an answer,” Ghani said while addressing a group of tribal elders attending the jirga.
Bajwa said that different factions of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan hiding in their sanctuaries in Afghanistan after assuming Afghan identities, were transported to Pakistan for medical help after receiving injuries.
Nawaz said the Afghan government should share relevant evidence with Pakistan in this case, arguing that using the media or social media to deal with such serious and sensitive developments can worsen the situation.
He said it was not just a statement or allegation from an ordinary official since the claim was made by a head of state, adding that both countries should settle such teething issues through dialogue and diplomatic channels.
However, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs noted in its statement: “Such reports can only be viewed as malicious propaganda to vitiate the existing cooperation between the two countries.”