Old Guard Lining Up to Form New “National Front”

March 15, 2007

BBC Persian reporter Dawood Naji writes from Kabul about the formation of a new political front that brings together what would otherwise be an unlikely cohort of yesteryear’s communist party ranking members (Khalqi and Parchami) and their later Jihadi successors.

The list of founding members features a motley crew composed of known faces from both extremes of the ideological spectrum in Afghanistan: deposed defense minister and the inheritor of Shura-y Nizar Marshall Fahim, comrade Gulabzoy (who has since prefixed his name with “Sayed Mohammad”), friend Nurulhaq Ulumi, former president and head of Jamiat-e-Islami Rabbani, and the group’s speaker Mustafa Kazemi with a dubious political pedigree of his own.

“The National Front,” as the group is called, clearly comprises a powerful bloc within both houses of the Afghan parliament. It is clear that the primary raison d’etre for the newfound unity (“brotherhood” or “camaraderie” take your pick) is the simple fact that within the new political configuration in Afghanistan, people of both above stripes see themselves increasingly marginalized.

Interestingly enough, the new grouping has decidedly shut out figures with the indisputable honorific “Warlord” such as Sayyaf, Muhaqiq, Dustum, and a few others. While the latter mostly sport longer beards and tightly wound turbans, and wear their Jihadi pride on their sleeves, Mustafa Kazemi and crew prefer to go with closer trims and more urbane styles. That in itself ought to place them ahead in the game as far as the American powerbrokers are concerned.

The article in BBC Persian also points out that many of the figures in the new line-up of the “National Front” were disgruntled with the results of the constitutional Loya Jirga, and specifically with the strong presidency. To the end they fought for a parliamentary form of government and an office of the Prime Minister and were clearly unhappy when things turned otherwise. When asked whether the new front would struggle for such structural reforms as the shift to a parliamentary form of government, Mustafa Kazemi deferred to the constitution and change that would be consistent with the stipulations of the constitution. His comrades, however, strongly endorsed such structural reforms.

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“Reconciliation and Accountability”

March 15, 2007

“Healing the wounds of the civil war requires both reconciliation and accountability.”

So argue J. Alexander Thier and Scott Worden of USIP in a recent article in CSMonitor.

The authors point out that “although President Hamid Karzai successfully negotiated a crucial amendment to protect the rights of victims of war crimes, the new amnesty law still favors the powerful warlords who sponsored the bill.”

In what seems to be an intentionally vague bit of phrasing, the new bill signed by the president attempts to appease the anxious MPs bent on self-forgiving while at the same time preserving the inalienable rights of the victims:

“The most controversial and confusing aspect of the bill remains its amnesty provisions. On one hand, the revised bill offers general amnesty from prosecution to all former combatants who agree to abide by the Constitution and laws of Afghanistan. However, a crucial clause restricts this reprieve, stating that the amnesty ‘shall not affect individuals’ … criminal or civil claims against persons with respect to individual crimes.'”

Reconciliation and accountability definitely sound great together. Like Khurma and Sawab. Question is, how can both of these be achieved in Afghanistan given the current alignment of powers?

Again the authors:

“The best way to ensure that the new bill becomes a force for reconciliation is to implement it within the framework of the Action Plan for Transitional Justice, enacted by Karzai last December. The plan sets up several mechanisms to foster forgiveness and accountability, such as a commission to vet high-level government officials and a program to build national monuments of remembrance for victims. But crucially, the plan states, ‘[T]here will [not be] amnesty for war crimes, crimes against humanity and other gross human rights violations.'”

However, all indications seem to suggest that what initially catapulted the MPs into a frenzy of action that led to the drawing up of the amnesty bill in the first place was the announcement of the same Action Plan for Transitional Justice enacted by the president (which coincided rather ominously with the trials and executions of Saddam Hussain and his cohorts in Iraq.) It is not entirely clear how the stipulations of the Action Plan can be reconciled with the political contingencies of the day.


Reconciliation or Accountability?

March 15, 2007

“Reconciliation or accountability?”

It’s one of those choices that in ideality -as opposed to reality- no one should have to make.

Either the one, or the other. Trouble is, both look so damn pretty it’s hard to decide. Like the story of Buridan’s Ass that starved to death unable to decide between the bales of hay.

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Here are a few other ones like it:

1. “Liberty or security?” (pops up regularly in post-9/11 US – and even in Europe!);

2. “Khurma or Sawab?” (Dari proverb meaning “Dates or deeds?”: otherwordly rewards, or instant gratification);

3. “Peace or justice?” (a common one, most commonly heard in relation to Israeli-Palestinian conflict);

4. “To be or, or not to be: that is the question.” (Shakespeare died trying to figure out what it would be like not to be in order to conclusively answer this.)

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“Either/Or”

Title of Soren Kierkegaard’s book in which he refutes the either/or paradigm. It is a refutation of the dialectics of Hegel, who famously had an infectious fetish for either/or. The Victorious Hermit’s choice of the title was ironic, and some say even satirical.

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The short, and correct answer to all of these questions is:

-“Both, please. At the same time.”

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“Reconciliation or accountability?”

It’s one of those choices that in ideality (as opposed to reality) no one should have to make.

Unfortunately, it’s also a choice that confronts Afghanistan today. In all its harsh reality. And so much depends on it.

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I understand the warlords – I do- and their ditch effort to just forgive themselves and be all lovey-dovey and peacey-reconciley.

But then what becomes of so much blood spelt, sons murdered, daughters raped, fathers imprisoned and lost, and mothers left alone and sad?

If something is not done about all so much wrong, the sky would -should- fall down. More realistically, the nation’s soul will be so unclean and tainted at the very moment of its new beginning that it will never be cleansed.

With no accountability, there will be no fresh start, no new beginning -of the kind that Afghanistan needs. With no reconciliation, the cycle will just go on.

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So, reconciliation or accountability?

-“Both, please. At the same time.”