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Institute for War & Peace Reporting, June 27, 2007

Afghan Government Divided Against Itself

"[Karzai] brought them [warlords] to power. Now they have bound his hands and feet and are encircling his throat. Soon they will eat him."

By Hafizullah Gardesh in Kabul

It has been a difficult few weeks for President Hamed Karzai. Not only has his attorney general publicly accused a former interior ministry official of attempting to kidnap him, his law officers have tried and failed to search the home of a former Kabul police chief, and a high-ranking military official is engaged in a violent dispute with a governor in the north.

Meanwhile, parliament ploughs its own course, removing ministers, suspending legislators and refusing to heed the Supreme Court.

The spectacle has left observers scratching their heads and wondering just how long the situation can last before a major explosion.

Jabar Sabet
RAWA: Jabar Sabet, Afghanistan's attorney-general is a dark-minded person who has been a member of the Gulbuddin Hekmatyar terrorist band in the past.

In the first week in June, Abdul Jabar Sabet, Afghanistan's attorney general or chief prosecutor, squared off against a former high-ranking interior ministry official, General Din Mohammad Jurat, in what might have been no more than an example of road rage, Afghan-style.

Sabet was traveling outside Kabul and had got as far as Mir Bacha Kot, about 20 kilometres north of the capital. His car encountered a road block and he got out to investigate.

General Jurat happened to be there at the same time. But this is where things get murky. According to Sabet, when he left his vehicle he was attacked by Jurat's men, who tried to kidnap him.

What is certain is that he was beaten so badly that he required hospital attention.

Jurat denies that there was any plot against Sabet, and for his part accuses the attorney general of instigating the clash.

In an interview with Tolo TV, he implied that Sabet was not quite mentally balanced.

"[Sabet] was out of control; he was not behaving normally," he said. "He hit my driver with a water bottle and used abusive language towards me."

Jurat had his family with him and was, he said, on his way to a picnic.

"A man who is planning a kidnapping does not usually take his family along," he told Tolo.

Jurat also denies that the attorney general suffered any physical harm.

Sabet issued an arrest order for Jurat, who refused to comply, saying that the attorney general had no authority to summon him.

Others in the government line-up also got involved. Ali Shah Paktiawal, head of the anti-crime department at Kabul police headquarters, arrived on the scene soon after the disturbance began. He told IWPR that Sabet had called him several times to get the road opened.

"When I got there, I saw 30 to 40 armed men surrounding the attorney general and his men and beating them," he said. "I did not understand who was against whom, and when I went into the crowd, a man pointed a gun at my head. Then my bodyguard grabbed the gun and the man ran away. We still have his weapon."

Paktiawal said he took Sabet to an armoured police car for his own protection. "While we were getting in, Sabet was shot at six times," he said.

Afghans say corruption is worse now than at any time in the past nearly 30 years, including under Taliban and Soviet rule. About 60 per cent of 1,250 Afghans questioned for the survey by Integrity Watch Afghanistan thought his administration was more corrupt than any since 1970s. Around 93 per cent believed more than half the public services required a bribe.
Zee News, Mar.19, 2007

Zemarai Bashiri, a spokesman for the interior ministry, did not want to go into details about the incident. He told IWPR that Jurat had been sacked from the ministry about five months ago, and now was operating a private security company.

In light of the latest incident, "police have been ordered to arrest Jurat and that is what they are trying to do", said Bashiri. "Shooting at the attorney general and the police is a crime."

Jurat's security company has now been closed, added Bashiri.

But just two days after the fight, approximately 300 community leaders from Panjshir province came to Sabet and apologised on behalf of Jurat, who is from the region.

The attorney general accepted the apology and told the Afghan public on television that as far as he was concerned, the issue was closed.

"I have no further enmity with [Jurat] personally," he said. "But it is not my concern what the law now chooses to do."

Timur Shah Stanekzai, the deputy attorney general, was not so magnanimous.

"The courts, the police, and the attorney general's office do not have the right to forgive someone," he said. "Only the president can decide this case."

Also in June, police attempted to search the house of Amanullah Gozar, a former Kabul police chief who is currently advisor to President Karzai on security issues.

According to official sources, Gozar's men would not allow the police inside; instead, they fought back, wounding one policeman and disarming dozens of others.

The interior ministry's Bashiri was not forthcoming on this matter, either.

"It was a misunderstanding," he told IWPR. "The police wanted to arrest a suspect and this resulted in a clash between them and Gozar's men. The case is being investigated. I can't say anything else right now."

These two incidents, while not directly related, point to growing tensions between central government and the newly-launched National United Front, NUF, a political grouping dominated by former Northern Alliance commanders, many from the Jamiat-e-Islami party.

The Northern Alliance was a loose association of militia commanders who fought Soviet troops and then battled the Taliban. But many Afghans associate them with the ravages of the civil war years in the early Nineties, when Afghanistan was all but torn apart by internecine fighting and general criminality.

The problems have not been restricted to Kabul. As reported earlier by IWPR, ("Playing with Fire in Afghanistan's North" ARR 256), supporters of General Abdul Rashid Dostum, a member of the NUF, staged a protest in the northern province of Jowzjan against the Karzai-appointed governor, Juma Khan Hamdard. Eight people were killed and dozens injured in the ensuing clash with police.

Analysts say that unless they are checked, these tendencies could soon pose a serious threat to President Karzai.

"This National Front and its members from the Northern Alliance are trying to pressure the government and gain influence," said Fazel Rahman Oria, a political analyst in Kabul. "The government is weak, and Karzai's policy of letting everyone into the government has paved the way for this type of activity."

Oria also sees the hand of foreign governments in the incidents. Specifically, Iran and Russia, he said, are anxious to keep Afghanistan from regaining stability. But most worrisome is the Northern Alliance, which now sees a chance to regain power.

Oria believes Northern Alliance figures were behind several recent squabbles between the government and the legislature, as when parliament voted in May to sack Foreign Minister Rangin Dadfar Spanta, only to have the Supreme Court later reinstate him.

A staunch democrat, Ms Joya has sought to illuminate the role of warlords, criminals and drug traffickers in Afghanistan's fledgeling political process. "I am just the voice of innocent people who don't have guns and don't have power," Ms Joya says
The Times, June 7, 2007

Also, said Oria, the alliance is the driving force behind the suspension of female politician Malalai Joya from parliament, and the passage of a controversial amnesty bill that would exempt most of those accused of atrocities during the war years from prosecution.

"Karzai must think of the realities and take practical steps," he said. "These people are the main cause of the lack of security, corruption, and drug smuggling. He should remove them and fill their places with people from other political parties."

The time is right, added Oria, because Afghans now realise how dangerous the Northen Alliance is, and would support moves to marginalise the grouping.

"If [Karzai] does not do this, he will face a very dangerous future," added Oria.

But presidential spokesman Karim Rahimi does not agree that the recent incidents, however annoying, have any wider significance.

"These are not challenges to the government," he told IWPR. "They just represent the abuse of democracy, and that's only natural. All countries that are moving from crisis towards democracy face these problems. But the security agencies can control things. We will never return to the past."

Political analyst Habibullah Rafi is worried about the erosion of the central government's authority within the country.

"These problems are being created by the National Front, which is composed of Northern Alliance members," he said. "And the Northern Alliance is backed and supported by those countries that have problems with the Americans."

The NUF was growing in power, he added, and was pushing for even greater influence over the country. "It is trying to weaken the government to the extent that it can take over," he said. "And the government is already weak. All of this will have very bad consequences."

For the people of Kabul, the prospect of the return of the "warlords", as they were known, is not a happy one.

"Karzai should have killed these snakes in his bosom," said Saifullah, a shopkeeper in Kabul. "Instead, he brought them to power. Now they have bound his hands and feet and are encircling his throat. Soon they will eat him."

Hafizullah Gardesh is an IWPR editor in Kabul.

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