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Afghanistan: Political Machinations

Categories: Afghanistan, Politics

While Afghanistan's so-called “rape law” has garnered a lot of Western press, there is a lot of domestic debate over it as well. The women's marches have been covered admirably by mainstream media, but there are sectarian issues to consider as well.

Registan.net already highlighted [1] some of those problems—namely, that the law restricting women's rights is targeted at a religious minority [2], the Shia—but the problem is serious enough, according to Hazaristan Times, to warrant a high level conference [3] with Hazara Members of Parliament. The Hazara are the most numerous Shia minority in Afghanistan. Their comments were directed at Sheikh Asif Mohsini Kandhari, a cleric they accuse of having ties to Iran:

A group of Hazara MPs criticizing Sheikh Asif Mohsini Kandhari , said the Family Law can and must be amended. Addressing a press conference in Kabul on Friday, some Hazara MPs said a Mullah can not decided on how should a law be.

That isn't the only issue facing Afghanistan's political scene, however. As the August elections approach, there is rampant speculation on who might pose a realistic challenge to President Hamid Karzai. The consensus amongst American analysts seems to be that the opposition is too fractured to pose a threat to Karzai's reelection, but Jengnameh argues this is by design [4]: the West has, he argues, chosen a Pashtun-centric model.

Since 2001, Karzai and the Pashtun ethno-nationalists surrounding him, have used labels like “radical”, “extremist” or “warlord”, to exclude non-Pashtuns from government…

That is why news of a possible alliance [5] between Hizb-e Wahdat and Junbish-e Milli is so significant: it might represent a large enough bloc to out-vote Karzai's mostly Pashtun supporters.

In a press conference in Kabul on Saturday, 18 leaders of both the parties said they would announce their joint support for any candidate by the next week. Head of the Hizb e Wahdat, Haji Muhammad Muhaqiq told “based on broad mutual understanding and cooperation, both the parties have decided to go all along.” Neither of the parties will have presidential candidate from their own party members, but would jointly support any candidate. It may be mentioned, leader of Junbish, General Dostum is in Turkey since last couple of months. He is said to be in self-exile.

To relate to the above, Wahdat is a mostly Shia Hazara party, and during the civil war was a mujahideen group resisting both the Soviets and later the Taliban.

The political issues facing Afghanistan look poised to intensify as the election draws near: even government officials, who before were hesitant to question American policies, have begun publicly voicing their discontent [6] with the new plans to “fix” the military campaign. How this might play itself on the national and local stage is unclear. But it is a safe bet that the arguments will become increasingly impassioned as August 20th draws near.