The shaking pillars of National Unity Government of Afghanistan which was formed out of a highly controversial and allegedly fraudulent elections and a political agreement mediated by the US secretary of State John Kerry and the United Nations, has grown more fragile after recent tough comments of Chief Executive Dr. Abdullah Abdullah.
During the ceremonial gathering for Youth day in Sapidar Palace, Chief Executive of Afghanistan pointed to the President of the country stating that “When, you can’t meet once or twice your Chief Executive in three months, then how and where your time is spent?”
“When someone has no patience for discussions, he is not competent to be president.” Abdullah told the gathering in Kabul on August 11.
Dr. Abdullah criticized his shareholder of power for the first time publicly. He considered Ashraf Ghani unfit to be the President of Afghanistan with such a tone, reminiscing of 2014 electoral campaign era when both the top leaders were battling out for the Presidency.
Dr. Abdullah accused the president of Afghanistan for “monopolizing political power”.
The recent outburst of Afghanistan’s Chief Executive seems to have shaken the fragile political edifice of the country, as it underscores a deep political division within the incumbent Afghan government.
The moot question now is what led Dr. Abdullah to talk bluntly literally chiding the President in front of the media and the public.
Responding to this question an advisor to the Afghan Chief Executive, Fazil Sancharaki stressed that Dr. Abdullah was not scheduled to talk on these issues. But as he said, a series of recent appointments have plunged him.
“The latest appointments have come without consulting Dr. Abdullah. This issue frustrated him and paved the way for uncovering some of internal government challenges. There was no pre-planned program to uncover these issues. But Dr. Abdullah instantly decided to talk these issues since there was no other option.” Sancharaki said.
Appointments that Mr. Sancharaki pointed include designating Hamidullah Faruqi, a campaign spokesperson and close friend of the president as Chancellor of Kabul University and Nader Naderi the advisor on public and strategic affairs to the president as Director General of Independent Civil Service Reform Commission of Afghanistan.
Mr. Sancharaki says that Dr. Abdullah was not in favor of these high profile appointments.
10 Percent share
Based on the political agreement, the National Unity Government was formed on the basis of 50-50 share of power. However, according to some close aides of the Chief Executive of Afghanistan, the statistics of power sharing is lopsided.
Speaking to Khabarnama, a senior associate of Dr. Abdullah underscored that “In contrast to public perception that believe the NUG is formed on 50-50 basis, share of Dr. Abdullah is only 10 to 12 per cent. We are only equal in the cabinet level. But in other areas, this is not true that we don’t have equal share.”
Tensions over political power, however, have been going on during the past two years. There were reports of differences between the two leaders of NUG over various appointments.
A similar reaction came from Dr. Abdullah last year in response to the appointments of a defense nominee and head of Afghanistan Independent Elections Commission. Dr. Abdullah had clarified then that “The position of Chief Executive” was not a gift of someone and that any appointment without his approval is not acceptable.
Monopoly of Power
Based on Dr. Abdullah and his aide, the issue of appointments without consulting the Chief Executive, remains at the core of recent political standoff.
“The president has appointed figures who were accused of corruption as ambassadors and advisors.”
According to Dr. Abdullah’s team, appointment of couple of people accused of corruption including Omar Zakhilwal as Afghanistan’s ambassador to Pakistan and Faruq Wardak, a former minister of education as advisor to the President was not among the right decisions.
At the same time appointment of Yusuf Nooristani former head of Independent Elections Commission as Afghanistan’s ambassador to Spain and Abdul Qayum Kochi the president’s uncle as ambassador to Russia have frustrated the Chief Executive and his team.
Dr. Abdullah’s latest reproach came at a time when Afghanistan’s security forces are engaged in a pitch battle with Taliban and Islamic State Khurasan (ISK) forces in north, east and south of Afghanistan.
Political observers have questioned Dr. Abdullah’s recent remarks and asked if it was better to be remained silent.
Dr. Abdullah’s aides think otherwise, when they said that it was not possible to remain silent against the ‘monopolization of Ashraf Ghani and his team.’
Heshmat Radfar an advisor on media affairs to Dr. Abdullah told Khabarnama “the president has high ambitions for monopoly that should have ended.”
“Dr. Abdullah’s comments were considered as challenges, deficiencies and hardships of the National Unity Government and there are no conspiracy behind this.” Radfar Said.
Based on Chief Executive close circle, Dr. Abdullah has consistently talked these issues behind closed doors with the president and has tried to convince him to implement the National Unity Government agreement but found there was a lack of resolve from Ashraf Ghani for this.
The Political Agreement
The political agreement of National Unity Government is the document that legitimizes NUG formation. The agreement defines formation and leadership of the National Unity Government and was agreed upon by the two leaders.
Although the agreement was signed at a ceremony watched by outgoing Afghan president Hamid Karzai and the former US ambassador to Kabul James B. Cunningham, the vital question remains on the conflicting parts that why the Chief Executive of Afghanistan claimed to be ignored by the President of the country.
It seems that the equal share of power, holding parliamentary and district council elections in a clear-cut timeline and electoral reforms have been the key factors in the agreement.
On the level of implementation of the agreement, the head of oversight commission on implementation of the national unity government agreement, Mohammad Nateqi told Khabarnama that some points have been implemented. “With regards to cabinet power-sharing, there have been quite good developments. Nothing is done for holding elections. With regards to electoral reform, steps like formation of electoral reform commission and decrees about authorities of electoral commissions have been issued, that were not enough.”
Nateqi believes that in the NUG agreement equal rights in government appointments have been clearly stated.
“It is clearly stated in the NUG agreement that with regards to senior appointments the leaders of NUG Ashraf Ghani and Dr. Abdullah consult one another and agree on this. It is highly talked. But, in many cases, the president doesn’t consult Dr. Abdullah on appointments and removals.” He added.
Afghan Chief Executive’s inner circle stress on this issue as well. Even, Dr. Abdullah himself is frustrated about it and call it monopolistic acts of the President; an issue that based on Nateqi’s views “has created the current challenges of the National Unity Government.”
The President’s Reaction
The latest open criticism of Dr. Abdullah on the Presidency has received unexpected reactions from the presidential palace. In a statement the palace indirectly has termed the Chief Executive’s position itself is against the foundations of statehood.
The presidential palace statement says, “Unfortunately, yesterday’s (August 12) talks of Dr. Abdullah Abdullah were not in statehood mood. Because, the foundations of statehood are based on principles and legal platforms, and based on those issues worked out. As a collective, the National Unity Government’s activities will continue. There will be serious discussions about his talks soon.”
Considering the criticisms of Chief Executive, officials in the palace and close aides of the President didn’t comment on the matter.
But, a couple of figures close to president called recent hard stance of Dr. Abdullah shocking and sourced from his immaturity in politics.
Reacting to the Chief Executive, Kabul representative in the parliament, Shinkai Karokhel who is considered a close political figure to the president told Khabarnama, “decisions are taken together. I think Mr. Abdullah has issues on some specific things. Other than that, the president has not acted one-sided.”
Miss. Kharokhel insisted that the president has specific constitutional authorities and has even the authority to suck Dr. Abdullah. Shinkai Karokhel has recently been appointed as ambassador of Afghanistan to Canada by the president but is yet to officially start her new job.
Comments like that if matched with similar mentality in the palace, could make the situation more complicated in the coming days.
At the same time, another legislator Aryan Yun a close politician to the president’s circle told Khabarnama that for the sake of current difficulties Dr. Abdullah should resign from his position. According to Aryan Yun, the one-sided approach of Ashraf Ghani is not a problem; rather the problem is the extra demands of other government figures.
“The president is not guilty. Dr. Abdullah, Mohaqiq, Sarwar Danish and Ahmad Zia Massoud and others are demanding more power. That’s why we are saying that Dr. Abdullah should resign from his position. We should hold elections and one-headed government should be formed.”
But the current realities of Afghanistan tell us that the country is not economically prepared to hold another round of elections and there is no credible elections commission either to hold transparent elections and build confidence among the people. According to some analysts, lack of one of any of these figures in the National Unity Government could lead to fragmentation of the political system and the only solution as Mr. Nateqi aptly said is that “to implement all articles of the National Unity Government’s political agreement.”
Afghan Chief Executive has already initiated the political bargaining with his political allies. On August 12 night, a meeting was held among senior Jamiat Islami party figures who have supported the current stance of the Dr. Abdullah at the former Afghan intelligence Chief Amrullah Saleh’s house in Kabul. Later on, Saleh one of the political allies of Dr. Abdullah during the elections has reportedly said that they would withdraw support of the National Unity Government if their demands were not met.
The meetings continued until August 13 at the Sapidar palace among senior politicians allied with Dr. Abdullah. Senior figures close to Dr. Abdullah say that he was silent for the sake of national interests of Afghanistan.
But the question is if the current situation continues, what will be next moves of the unhappy shareholder of the government in Sapidar palace and his political allies.
The cultural advisor to Chief Executive says, “Our decision is that no longer Dr. Abdullah should allow the president to hold one-sided decisions. He should stand against these decisions and should stop the President. The other decision is to stand with all power against corruption and in support of reforms. He should not let a list of corrupt figures close to the president enter the power spectrum.”
The media advisor to Chief Executive Mr. Radfar also said that in case this situation continues the Chief Executive will consult the people and take “final decision.”
But what is the final decision? No one knows the answer yet. With regards to the question that weather Dr. Abdullah will be able to stand against what he terms as one-sided decision of the president remains a key question. However, it is amply clear now that as Dr. Abdullah mentioned “the time that one could fool someone with candy and cookies – that time is over.”
Moin Marastial a political analyst in Kabul told Khabarnama “the negative impacts of the power struggle would cross into low level of the system and results into more carious of the system.”
Finally, as experts say that if the issue is avarice or one-sided decision, the ordinary people lose their faith on the future with the two senior leaders’ conflicting posturing and power struggle.