AFP, June 30, 2009

Afghan group slams Karzai’s ‘warlord’ vote ticket

Another "ruthless warlord" Mohammad Muhaqiq came out in public support for Karzai because he was promised two provinces and at least three ministries in government, ARM said.

An Afghan rights watchdog on Tuesday slammed President Hamid Karzai's choice of two "notorious warlords" for his August re-election bid and accused him of promising ministries to supporters.

In a report, the independent Afghanistan Rights Monitor (ARM) called on the United States and United Nations, which are bankrolling the landmark election, to intervene in defence of democracy.

Karzai has successfully squashed challenges to his two vice president running mates, Mohammed Qasim Fahim and Karim Khalili, ARM said.

Hamid Karzai with Fahim and Khalili
Human Rights Watch: "He [Fahim] is widely believed by many Afghans to be still involved in many illegal activities, including running armed militias, as well as giving cover to criminal gangs and drug traffickers."

Both are believed to have links with illegal militia and criminal groups, it said, adding Karzai "has chosen two notorious warlords as his election mates in a bid to win votes from former mujahideen militias."

Human Rights Watch and Western diplomats have complained in particular over Fahim, a former anti-Soviet and anti-Taliban military commander alleged to be involved in past and present crimes.

In its report "The Winning Warlords," ARM said challenges were registered to bar Fahim and Khalili from standing on August 20 over alleged war crimes and crime but a "corrupt procedure" allowed them into the vote.

The poll is the second presidential election in Afghan history but ARM said pre-election deals to sew up the result had dashed hopes it would allow Afghans to exercise new-found democracy.

"Undemocratic forces that have constantly gained power and wealth over the past several years seem to be hijacking the election process to ensure their future interests and legitimise their grip on political and public institutions.

He (Karzai) has chosen as his vice-presidential running mates former guerrilla leader Mohammad Qasim Fahim, a Tajik from Afghanistan's second-largest ethnic group, and Hazara leader Karim Khalili. Kabul-based ARM said warlords and other factional leaders had become rich after helping U.S.-led forces topple the Taliban and that such people had "no respect for democratic principles and will block reforms and modernity".
Reuters, Jun. 30, 2009

"These forces which include former and current warlords, militia commanders and human rights abusers have money, power and influence across the country which make them incomparably stronger than the ordinary voters," it said.

The report claimed that criminal charges pending against infamous Uzbek warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum and his suspension from a senior army post were dropped in exchange for the votes he would bring from his party.

"Those close to President Karzai and Dostum say the warlord has been promised at least three ministries in Karzai?s future government," it said.

Another "ruthless warlord" Mohammad Muhaqiq came out in public support for Karzai because he was promised two provinces and at least three ministries in government, ARM said.

It called for election authorities to investigate "suspicious deals and trade-offs" and for the United Nations to intervene in defence of democracy.

"It is not enough for the US and other major donors to only bankroll the electoral operations with funds -- they must do every effort to ensure the meaningfulness and fairness of the process," it said.

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