AFP, February 19, 2008

Feared Afghan strongman suspended from government post

Another Dostum ally, Latif Pedram -- head of a small political party, was also called in for questioning and banned from leaving the country.

KABUL - Afghanistan's attorney general has suspended militia leader Abdul Rashid Dostum from his government post for not cooperating with an investigation into a raid on a rival, an official said Tuesday.

Dostum, one of the most ruthless warlords to emerge from Afghanistan's decades of conflict, holds the largely symbolic post of chief of staff to the military's commander-in-chief, President Hamid Karzai.

"Warlords with records of war crimes and serious abuses during Afghanistan's civil war in the 1990s, such as parliamentarians Abdul Rabb al Rasul Sayyaf and Burhanuddin Rabbani, General Abdul Rashid Dostum, and current Vice President Karim Khalili, have been allowed to hold and misuse positions of power, to the dismay of ordinary Afghans."
Human Rights Watch, Sep. 27, 2006

The leader of Afghanistan's ethnic Uzbek minority, Dostum has been accused of assaulting, with his men, a former ally and rival, Akbar Bai, and some of the man's relatives on February 3, said Rahmatullah Nazari, head of documentation in the attorney general's office.

The incident led dozens of police to surround Dostum's house in a tense standoff which authorities said ended only when the general agreed to cooperate with an investigation.

"Based on a petition by Akbar Bai and police reports, Dostum is accused of attacking and beating Akbar Bai," Nazari said.

"We had ordered him to come for investigation. Since he did not turn up, the attorney general has suspended him from his government post until his case is finalised," he added. Dostum could be arrested if he fails to cooperate.

Attorney general Abdul Jabar Sabet also ordered Monday that two parliamentarians associated with the strongman present themselves for questioning over the raid, Nazari told AFP.

That General Dostum is head of the Afghan armed forces and Deputy Minister of Defence is in itself a symbol of the bankruptcy of our policy. Dostum is known for tying opponents to tank tracks and running them over. He crammed prisoners into metal containers in the searing sun, causing scores to die of heat and thirst.
The Mail, July 21, 2007

Another Dostum ally, Latif Pedram -- head of a small political party, was also called in for questioning and banned from leaving the country.

The incident has illustrated the power of warlords and powerbrokers, whom Karzai's government has tried to rein in as part of efforts to stabilise Afghanistan.

Confirming the suspensions, Karzai's spokesman Homayun Hamidzada told reporters that the government and police were able to maintain the rule of law.

"The law will be applied to everyone equally," he said.

Dostum, a one-time Soviet ally, reacted in a statement that said the attorney general's decision "is not in line with the law" and he would call on Karzai to intervene.

Such "accusations and orders" could stir up "social incompatibilities," he said, apparently referring to ethnic divisions that run deep in Afghanistan.

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