Afghan election soap opera turns tearjerker

Ballot staffing on the sides of both contenders is undeniable; if the unconstitutional threats of Abdullah, a leader of the old anti-Taliban Northern Alliance remains unconstrained, the situation may spill over into an internecine civil war

Amid allegations of massive fraud on both sides, the preliminary results of June 14 run-off election in Afghanistan gave a commanding lead to Ashraf Ghani by winning 56.4 per cent of the vote to his rival Abdullah's 43.4 per cent.  In the first round of the election, Abdullah finished with 45 per cent vote, about 13 points ahead of his rival. Abdullah was quick to reject the results and declared himself undisputable "winner" and threatened even formation of a breakaway government.
Ballot stuffing on the sides of both contenders is undeniable; if the unconstitutional threats of Abdullah, a leader of the old anti-Taliban Northern Alliance remains unconstrained, the situation may spill over into an internecine civil war.

The run-off election has polarised the country along the ethnic lines that caused the pendulum to swing against Abdullah. The Pasthun dominated east and south of the country saw heavy turnout where Ghani draws much of his support.  According to Afghan sources in some parts in the south, even Taliban encouraged voters to cast their ballots in favour of Ghani. Abdullah had the same problem in 2009 presidential election when he lost to Karzai.  He accepted Karzai's presidency because he knew that Karzai would pose no hurdle to the political dominance of NA in Afghanistan.  

At the heart of the Afghan electoral crisis lies the Western strategic mistake that after overthrowing the Taliban medieval regime allowed the warlords of the Northern Alliance (NA) — initially a creation of Russia, Iran and India in order to counter Pakistan backed Taliban in the 1990s — to claim the lion's share of the state machinery in Afghanistan.

In late 2001, with the help of the US special forces and B-52 bombers, the jubilant hordes of the NA overrun the Afghan capital Kabul and ever since have micromanaged all power centres in the country and using outgoing Karzai as a Pashtun figurehead.

Billions of aid dollars poured into Afghanistan have been continuously stolen by leaders and warlords of the NA.  Let us not forget the active role the NA played in the ethno-sectarian carnage of the Afghan civil war during (1992-1996).  Western policy makers have always overlooked warning calls and the growing dangers of the dominance of the NA over the Afghan state that turned it into one of the most corrupt in the world.  

The NA with its irredeemable sectarianism alienated the country's majority Pashtuns. The rate of poverty and illiteracy is alarmingly among the Pashtuns in comparison to other Afghan ethnic groups and the cycle may continue for generations to come. The lack of meaningful Pashtun representation in the central government was well articulated by the International Crisis Group on August 5, 2003. It gave stern warning to the West about a systematic "violence" and "heavy-handed operations" against Pashtuns which were underway in different parts of the country.  Tens of thousands of Pashtuns were internally displaced who still live in abject poverty.

"We need a favour from the international community.  If they could bring giant airplanes and takes all the Pashtuns on in the ocean, then we would get rid of this situation," said a Pashtun tribal leader who was quoted by Carlotta Gall in her book, The Wrong Enemy: America in Afghanistan, 2001-2014.

However, Abdulla and other moguls of the NA live in their feverish delirium.  They think that the Western soldiers will be for ever patrolling villages on their behalf and sacrifice their lives just to guard them from the Taliban, who will be knocking at the gates of Kabul, once the Nato forces leave the country.  

In an emotional speech, he boasted to his followers that he can "change the entire Afghan political scene by dropping a hint." And his closes ally Atta Noor, a notorious warlord, declared that he would only accept Abdullah as the leader of Afghanistan.

"From now on I declare a legitimate government under Dr Abdullah, and I am obliged to obey him," he said.  What these sulphurous statements signify is not difficult to understand.  It is the shadow of the NA behind him, which has hoarded power by controlling the defence, interior and intelligence portfolios.  Succumbing to Abdullah's demands trigger chaos in Afghanistan.

Recently US Secretary of State did his magic to broker a power-sharing deal between two rivals which will not last.  At best, the deal was a short term pleasure for long term pain.  

Though the NA is militarily an insignificant force, but its leaders would be a thorn on the side of the new government whether it chose to continue fighting with the Taliban or making peace with them.

The Afghan national narrative suggests that the warlords of the NA and Abdullah need to be disciplined and straightened.  Any American mediation that may strike a power-sharing deal with Abdullah and Ghani will just defer the implosion of the country into ethnic conflict.

Whoever is the ultimate winner of the election, clearly the presidency would be without a honeymoon. From day one, the new president would be facing two great challenges — how to deal with the Taliban and how to stop ceaseless meddling by the Pakistani army — which is sheltering and supporting anti-Afghan and anti-Western insurgency.  However, curbing the dominance of the NA could bring a positive change in the present juncture.

The author is a lecturer at the University of New South Wales, Australia. All the views and opinions expressed in the article are solely those of the author and do not reflect those of Times of Oman.


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