Reuters, September 23, 2002

Afghan Alliance Says Karzai Treading a Risky Path

KABUL (Reuters) - Afghanistan´s Northern Alliance, backbone of the U.S.-backed government of Hamid Karzai, has issued a strongly worded criticism of the president and warned he was running risks if he did not change his policies.

The warning was carried in an editorial of the Payame Mujahid Weekly, which reflects the views of the dominant Tajik faction of the alliance. It also questioned the prominent role apparently being played by the 87-year-old former king Mohammad Zahir Shah.

"We are of the opinion that Mr. Karzai still has the opportunity once again to review his acts and correct his policies," it said.

"Otherwise, relying on some American guards and walking without deliberation, can ensure risky consequences for Karzai´s government," it said without elaborating on the dangers.

Karzai´s government came to power after Northern Alliance forces toppled the fundamentalist Taliban regime last year with the help of U.S. air power. The strongest faction of the alliance is the Tajik Jamiat group, which has long opposed Zahir Shah.

Pamaye Mujahid (Message of the Holy Warrior) criticized Karzai´s failure to form a parliament during the June Loya Jirga (Grand Assembly) that picked him to head a transitional government for 18 months.

"We think Mr. Karzai´s hasty measures during the Loya Jirga -- not wanting the establishment of a parliament -- have made his authority vague. Sooner or later he has to clarify this and not let the current atmosphere go toward further darkness," it said.

Payame Mujahid said the assassination of Vice-President Haji Abdul Qadir in July, outbreaks of fighting in various parts of the country, bomb blasts in Kabul and an attempt on Karzai´s life this month showed the weakness of his administration.

It said news about Zahir Shah, given the title of "Father of the Nation" by Karzai, seemed to be given more prominence in state-run media than that about the president.


The former king, who ruled for 40 years until 1973, returned from exile in Italy in April, but has no formal role.

"Recently, he has had meetings with a number of personalities and ambassadors of foreign countries which are far from his defined authority," Payame Mujahid said.

Wednesday, Zahir Shah left Afghanistan for the first time since his return to get medical treatment in France.

Many Afghans believe the United States put pressure on the former monarch not to compete with Karzai for the title of president at the Loya Jirga because of opposition from within the Northern Alliance.

But some Afghan political observers say his son Mirwais Shah plans to muster support from the various tribes to nominate himself as a presidential candidate at elections in 15 months.

The Northern Alliance is dominated by Tajiks from the Panjsher valley, who are traditional rivals of the Pashtuns, the tribe to which both Karzai and Zahir Shah belong.

The Pashtuns, who also produced the Taliban, are the largest ethnic group in Afghanistan and complain that they are under-represented in the government.

Some observers say relations between Karzai and his Takik deputy and defense minister Mohammad Qasim Fahim have been strained. However, both deny this.

The assassination attempt on Karzai on September 5 was foiled by bodyguards provided by the United States. The same day a bomb exploded in Kabul, killing 26 people and wounding many more.

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