Political Landscape

Afghanistan’s National Unity Government Rift (2): The problems that will not go away


Chief Executive Dr. Abdullah Abdullah

Chief Executive Dr. Abdullah Abdullah going into the meeting on 13 August 2016. Source: the CEO's Facebook page

The recent public argument between Chief Executive Abdullah and President Ghani is more than an argument over appointments, management styles or how far government reforms should go. The core of the rift lies in the different views both sides have on why the National Unity Government (NUG) came into being and what this means for the balance of power and legitimacy within the partnership. This was brought to a boil in the face of the looming second anniversary of the NUG (on 19 September 2016) – considered by some to be its ‘expiry date’ – and a wish on the part of the Abdullah camp to revive rather than dissolve the political agreement. In this second dispatch, of two, AAN’s Martine van Bijlert dissects the speech that started the scuffle, explores the political context that led up to the fall-out and considers where we might go from here (with input from Ali Yawar Adili).

An earlier dispatch by AAN’s Ali Yawar Adeli and Lenny Linke revisited how the verbal sparring unfolded, how the various sides tried to defuse it and what has so far been agreed.

Abdullah’s 11 August 2016 speech: scathing and conciliatory

The argument between the president and the CEO kicked of on 11 August 2016, when Abdullah publicly accused President Ghani of constantly bypassing him (and others). Rather than simply a swipe at the president’s management style, the speech in which he called Ghani “unfit to be president” seemed to have had three main objectives. The first was to raise several specific grievances, in particular with regard to appointments (and replacements) that had angered him and his supporters. The second aim was to answer the critics in his own ranks and signal he would no longer accept the fact that the National Unity Government (NUG) had not delivered on any of the main commitments that had been negotiated at the time. The third objective was to force the president to engage with these grievances and demands, which included greater inclusion in decision-making and progress on the processes of elections, electoral reform, a Loya Jirga and amendments to the constitution that could allow the establishment of the post of executive prime minister. The speech seemed carefully calibrated to target several audiences – supporters, critics, the president’s camp and the opposition groups waiting in the wings. It was both scathing and conciliatory at the same time (see the annex to this dispatch for the full text).

Abdullah started the substantive part of his speech by defending his support of the NUG, establishing the sacrifice he had made in doing so, and describing the patience he had shown:

The National Unity Government is not the outcome of generosity of one person to another [referring to Ghani and himself], or from one group to another. It is the result of the big sacrifice which we [referring to his election camp, or possibly himself] made. This sacrifice does not mean that it was a deal with the aim of gaining access to a government post. This sacrifice was made to save Afghanistan. Imagine if, God forbid, the elections had led to a conflict, what would have happened in our country today?

He admitted that the government had not lived up to its commitments and pointed to the security situation as a main reason why electoral reform, the elections and the Loya Jirga had taken a back seat. He then discussed a series of concrete gripes related to the president’s lack of consultation: “Some say there are always tensions and disputes between us [Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani] over the distribution of government posts. However, let me tell you that we [Abdullah] have always emphasised on principles and key issues.” He then listed several examples where, in his opinion, the president had violated these principles and had failed to abide by the terms of the agreement (see below) and zeroed in on the president’s refusal to engage with him on the main fundamental issues:

Following a series of developments a few days ago, I phoned the president telling him that I would hold one fundamental meeting with him where we would discuss the bases of all issues. Why were electoral reforms not introduced? Was it my fault? I promised the people of Afghanistan to reform the electoral system. Dozens of other meetings are held, but when it comes to meetings on electoral reforms, one is held today and another four months later. They said they would hold a meeting this afternoon. I told them that I would no longer attend such general meetings unless the main issues facing people are discussed.

Abdullah emphasised that he did not intend to blow up or boycott the National Unity Government and clearly stated that he considered the duration of the national unity government to be “a full election term.”

I should assure everyone that we cannot boycott the government. Some say we should quit the government unless electoral reforms are introduced. [But] we formed this government just as we established the interim administration [in 2001]. We liberated Kabul and the far-flung areas of Afghanistan [from the Taleban]. How can you say we should quit this government?

Between the lines, he also indicated that he did not want to fatally derail communication with the president, but instead to jolt the dialogue into action:

From these men and women who have come here [today], to my political allies, they are all unhappy with me, asking why did you not insist on particular issues? I have showed patience and said that the work would be done with prudence. This is all I had to tell you here. God willing, I will hold talks on these issues with the president of Afghanistan on Saturday and I hope that common sense will prevail and the ground realities of Afghanistan will be understood. The time to deceive a person by giving him a piece of pastry is over. One can no longer deceive a person with mere words. The people of Afghanistan know the realities today. Two points: God willing, the NUG will remain intact. And we will continue with our work in the NUG by playing a fundamental role as required.

But at the same time the speech was clearly meant to rankle the president and to stir up of a sense of crisis and animosity, while portraying an attitude of prudence and patience on his side. This ‘crisis’ would then need to be defused and mediated, with the help of his supporters and assorted international diplomats and officials – a pattern that had also characterised the negotiations surrounding the electoral audit and the drafting of the political agreement that led to the establishment of the NUG in 2014.

What had been going on in the days before?

In the days immediately preceding Abdullah’s decision to annoy the president and to signal to his supporters that he would no longer accept being pushed around, there seem to have been at least four issues that were relevant to his decision.

The event that directly triggered the outburst was the appointment of former AIHRC commissioner and senior adviser to the president Nader Nadery as head of the Civil Service Commission on 9 August 2016 – an appointment that Abdullah had sought to block. Nadery replaced Ahmad Mushahed, a Jamiati and son-in-law of late former president Ustad Rabbani. His appointment, according to the Abdullah camp, represented another instance of ‘encroachment’ where the president’s side claimed as its own government positions that should have been divided equally. (1)

But Abdullah also mentioned other instances in his speech, including the introduction of AGO candidates whom he considered unfit (which seemed largely driven by his annoyance over the president’s refusal to appoint his candidate, former IEC chairperson Fazl Ahmad Manawi, to the position) and the awarding of a medal to the finance minister, whom he believes is being given far too many authorities and signs of appreciation. (2)

Secondly, there had been some suggestion of progress in the field of electoral reform and the distribution of the electronic ID cards in the days before. On 8 August 2016 Abdullah told the council of ministers that the new electoral decree was in its final stages. The local media further reported that Abdullah had proposed a compromise solution for the contentious issue of which personal details should be shown on the electronic ID (for background on the controversy, see AAN reporting here). (3) Real progress, however, was according to Abdullah bogged down by the failure of the president to engage (and meet with him). Abdullah now wanted to show that further delays should not be blamed on him.

Thirdly, there were hints that the ‘peace process’ with Hezb-e Islami was about to restart. On 8 August 2016, the Afghan press reported that a Hezb-e Islami delegation had travelled to Kabul to again “finalise the peace agreement” (see earlier AAN reporting here). This development was not referenced in Abdullah’s speech, but will have been watched with suspicion by some in Abdullah’s circle. Some see efforts to bring Hezb-e Islami and the Taleban into the government fold as an attempt to strengthen the Pashtun hand in a political field that is in many ways increasingly organised along ethnic lines (Pashtun/non-Pashtun). Also, relations between Jamiat and Hezb have been tense since the ‘jihadi’ times. (The ‘news’ that Hezb-e Islami is close to a deal was repeated again on 4 September 2016).

Fourthly, the weeks before Abdullah’s speech saw an increase in pressure, both on the government and on Abdullah himself, from the side of Jamiat-e Islami. The party that introduced Abdullah Abdullah as its presidential candidate during the 2014 elections started making public preparations (again) for an upcoming national congress (4). A Jamiat spokesman told Shamshad daily (8 August 2016) that they would discuss whether they should put pressure on the government to finally introduce the promised reforms, or possibly consider an alternative to the government altogether. Acting Balkh governor, and head of Jamiat’s executive council, Atta travelled to Kabul and stayed there. The various possible reasons for his visit – discussions around his possibly impending removal, the wish to put pressure on the government, and the fact that he may be eyeing the Jamiat leadership himself – could all be true at the same time.

In the meantime circles around the president continued to explore alternatives that involved him completing his term possibly without Abdullah, or in a different arrangement. Options that were reportedly discussed, other than making this format work despite its apparent problems, included giving Abdullah a new non-executive position (such as senior adviser, senior minister, head of the council of ministers, or even have him replace General Dostum as first Vice President) or getting rid of him all together. The fact that these options were still on the table will also have stirred Abdullah to signal the political price of such a move. Opposition groups, in the meantime, continued to challenge the NUG altogether, as it approached its two-year anniversary which its detractors see as the agreement’s ‘expiry date.’

The pressure on Abdullah – whether from the party of from the looming NUG ‘expiry date’ – has galvanised a greater cooperation between the chief executive and his erstwhile backers, at least for the moment. Apart from focusing on the specific of who gets to decide what inside the government, there also seems to be a concerted effort to force the president to now seriously engage with the demands included in the NUG agreement: elections, electoral reform, Loya Jirga and the possibility of a prime ministerial position. The desire for these processes to take place may be genuine, despite the immense practical and political difficulties involved in each of them. But the push is also aimed at changing the discussions that surround the NUG’s upcoming two-year anniversary in an effort to use the date to revive rather than dissolve the agreement.

What went on in the days after the NUG ‘crisis’?

After Abdullah and Ghani exchanged barbs and refused to meet, prominent Jamiat members – respectively former water and power minister Ismail Khan, current foreign affairs minister Salahuddin Rabbani and Atta Muhammad Nur – met with the president where they spoke in support of Abdullah’s stance. High-level US and other diplomats sought to mediate between the two men. When the two leaders finally agreed to meet – the first of several meetings was on 17 August 2016 – sources within the palace, rightly or wrongly, indicated that the president would take the opportunity to review the NUG agreement to see what shape it should take beyond its two-year mark.

Since then, public communication has been dominated by the chief executive’s office. It has released a string of statements indicating that the two leaders have agreed on the full implementation of the NUG agreement (including clauses that had so far been left unfulfilled, such as the establishment of a commission to draft amendments to the constitution) – just as Abdullah had demanded. The palace has however been silent. According to deputy presidential spokesperson Zafar Hashemi, it was agreed that Abdullah’s office would brief the press, but the reason is not immediately clear. It may have been a concession to Abdullah to allow his office to frame the discussions the way it wants to, but it is more likely that the president has simply chosen to refrain from comments until it is clear what the outcome of the discussions is. This also means that the president has, up till now, in no way publicly committed to any of the agreements the two leaders may have reached. Whatever the case, for the moment we have been spared the conflicted messaging that has accompanied much of the electoral reform process, and similar negotiations, in the past.

In the meantime pressures on the president increased. An increasing chorus, in the media and in his own circles, complained about his management style and tendency to micromanage. Also politically he is currently bearing the brunt of much of the pressure the government is under.

The Enlightenment Movement continues to call on the president, rather than the joint government, to heed their demands: the rerouting of an industrial-grade electricity line through Bamyan (for background see here) and the conducting of a proper investigation into the 23 July 2016 terrorist attack on the movement’s mass demonstration. Activists have threatened to “try the president in the court of public opinion” if he fails to do so. In the week preceding 2 September 2016, the 40th day after the attack that left over 80 people dead and hundreds injured, the president sought to ease tensions and preempt large-scare demonstrations by visiting Bamyan to inaugurate several projects (most of which had already been inaugurated in the past). The visit was overshadowed by protests and reports that activists had been detained in an attempt to prevent the demonstrations (see also this Human Rights Watch report). As an attempt to placate the Hazaras and prevent further mobilisation, it seems to have backfired. There is a concern that the diaspora branches of the Enlightenment Movement may seek to publicly embarrass the president while he is in Brussels (as was done during the president’s visit to London). (5)

Although the Enlightenment Movement is not related to the Abdullah campaign – several of its prominent members are former Ghani supporters – there is potential for common cause. Among Hazaras, but also other non-Pashtun groups, there is a latent suspicion that Ghani’s unilateralism, rather than representing a personal leadership style, in reality stems from an unwillingness to share power based on a Pashtun nationalist outlook. There is also a strand among Tajiks and Hazaras (although among Tajiks seemingly more limited to the political elites than among the Hazaras) that views the current period as a unique historical opportunity to finally establish a political system in Afghanistan where Pashtun rule is not an automatic given.

The Hazaras are politically the most organised group. They can, despite in-fighting when it comes to their leaders, count on a sophisticated volunteer network, financial support from the diaspora and a base of supporters that can be mobilised around substantive demands and grievances.

A second pressure point was the reburial of the remains of former king Habibullah II aka Habibullah Kalakani and a number of his supporters that were summarily executed in November 1929, on the 87th anniversary of this event – an issue Abdullah had already raised in his 11 August speech. The act was obviously symbolic and the timing was poignant. Other than Ustad Rabbani in the early 1990s, Habibullah is the only non-Pashtun ruler Afghanistan has had. The demands for reburial and greater respect coincided with the re-energised demands by Abdullah and his supporters that the electoral and government system be changed in ways that could create space for a non-Pashtun head of state. The event itself was chaotic and difficult to control and the fact that the streets of Kabul were full of armed un-uniformed men, reminiscent of the days of Kabul’s civil war, will have escaped nobody. When the ceremony moved from the hastily assigned burial ground to where they had initially meant to bury the former king, a shoot-out ensued between supporters of the reburial and security forces linked to first Vice President General Dostum. The proceeding provided was an opportunity to portray a show of force and to send the kind of implied threat that has by now become familiar.

Where do we go from here?

Although there is no mention of an expiry date in the NUG agreement, some take the clause that calls for a Loya Jirga within two years – “to consider the post of an executive prime minister” – to mean that the current set-up was supposed to be dissolved after this date (rather than the event). Some in Ghani’s circle would like to argue that beyond 19 September 2016 (6) they no longer need to share the government with Abdullah and his supporters. Opposition voices argue that the expiry of the deadline means the whole government should be replaced, either through new elections, a ‘traditional’ (as opposed to ‘constitutional’) Loya Jirga and/or an interim administration. US State Secretary John Kerry sought to lay the matter to rest during his visit in April 2016 (for more background, see AAN reporting here), but did not fully manage. But although the issue has not been definitively settled, it is unlikely there will be serious sustained calls for the government to step down for this reason. This is particularly the case as the international donors have been clear that this is the government and set-up they support – a position that will be reiterated at the international donor conference on 5 October 2016 in Brussels.

For now the crisis between the two leaders seems to have been a successful political tactic by Abdullah to reposition himself vis-à-vis the president and the critics among his own allies. It was also a way for his supporters to try to strengthen their hand at a time when the international community could be counted upon to rush to the rescue in the face of an upcoming international donor conference. It is however not clear to what extent they will have succeeded in the long run, as the president has so far shown little indication of how he views the talks that have come out of the crisis. (7) So far, the president seems to have maintained the status quo in which Abdullah is the demanding party and the president decides how much he will give or give in.

And although the direct ‘crisis’ has been averted and the two leaders are expected to work with each other again, going forward, the fundamental issues remain: a deep disagreement over how the elections went, why the NUG came into being and what this means for the balance of power and legitimacy within the partnership – complicated by the (ebbing and waning) conviction that the other side is not acting in good faith. (8)

 

(1) The appointment of Nadery had been part of a complex negotiation between the two camps that involved several interlinked moves, including the possible swapping of ministries between the two sides (Finance and Foreign Affairs) and the removal of Atta Muhammad Nur as acting governor of Balkh. One of the reasons Abdullah opposed Nadery’s appointment was that,  according to him, it represented another instance where government agencies (in this case the independent organs) that should have been equally divided between the two sides, were being taken over by the president. In this view, the president already had the National Directorate for Security (NDS) and the Independent Directorate for Local Governance (IDLG), had recently also taken the Attorney General’s Office and the Supreme Court, and was now claiming the IARCSC too.

Abdullah had this to say about Nadery in his speech: “When someone who has not [even] worked in a government agency for four days is appointed as head of the whole administrative reform of the country, we definitely [should] have a say in that. This is not because of rivalry or for the sake of our election team. It is because we made promises to the people.” Nadery, who had earlier also been given the title of Ambassador for Freedom of Expression, replaced Ahmad Mushahed, an Abdullah ally, who had headed the Civil Service Commission since the early Karzai years, presiding over an organisation that was accused of rampant corruption and nepotism. Mushahed was subsequently appointed presidential adviser for administrative reform on 12 August 2016.

An earlier appointment that had also represented a ‘takeover’ by the president’s camp and that had angered Abdullah was the recall of Ambassador to Spain Massud Khalili, a Jamiati and former confidante of Ahmad Shah Massud (who was injured in the attack that killed Massud). As an added irritant Khalili was replaced by IEC Chair Yusuf Nuristani in July 2016, whom the Abdullah camp hold responsible for the 2014 “fraudulent election.” The appointment of Nuristani as Ambassador to Spain had been rumoured ever since he resigned as IEC Chair in March 2016 (although Nuristani at the time vehemently denied he had been promised a position). The appointment was widely seen as a reward for services delivered. Abdullah, however, did not refer to this in his speech – it may have been too long ago.

(2) With regard to the Finance Minister Eklil Hakimi Abdullah said, “We know where the problems are and what has caused them. Ministries are paralysed by nepotism. A minister was conferred the medal of Wazir Akbar Khan. The question is whether he really deserved it or not. The cabinet must discuss whether that minister has truly achieved something.” Hakimi, who received the medal on 7 August 2016 for “outstanding services,” is a close confidant to president who is often tasked with responsibilities that exceed his position as minister. Abdullah, irritated by the ‘special treatment’ Hakimi and other ministers that are appointed and trusted by Ghani receive, referred to the finance minister again in his speech when he said, “Most ministries are being run by acting ministers and a minister does not have the authority to even appoint an acting official. Once it was said that the minister of finance should appoint the heads of the finance departments of all ministries, but later it was realised that this was against the Afghan Constitution.”

(3) The compromise solution involved registering the person’s ethnicity on the chip of the electronic ID without printing it on the card itself. The person would then receive a printout of all the registered data (described in the media as “mentioning a person’s ethnicity on a separate document.”) The proposal was criticised by both Mandegar and Shamshad, two media outlets that are on opposites sides of the controversy.

(4) The Jamiat congress should, strictly speaking, have been held years ago, as the party’s constitution called for the election of a new permanent leader within a year after the assassination of its original leader Burhanuddin Rabbani in September 2011. His son, foreign minister Salahuddin Rabbani, has in the meantime been acting as head.

(5) In their statement (no 32) released on 2 September 2016, 40th day of the attack, the Enlightenment Movement announced 27 September 2016 as the starting date for another round of “indefinite demonstrations” across the country and internationally in front of the offices of the United Nations. By that time the political agreement will have completed its second anniversary (19 September 2016), but the international donor conference in Brussels, on 5 October 2016, may be affected.

(6) There has been some confusion over the date, but generally 29 Sonbola 1395 (which is 19 September 2016), ie two years after the original agreement was signed is considered to be the two-year anniversary – or, alternatively, the end date – of the agreement.

(7) President Ghani, however, did seem to refer to the arguments with Abdullah and others, in his – eloquent – address to the Joint Coordination and Management Board (JCMB), a high-level meeting that met on 4 September in Kabul to prepare for the Brussels conference:

The wounds of our bloodshed, displacement, and conflict are ever-present and they are important. But our population is reformist. They are looking for hope. They hate the bad press our country gets for corruption, for narcotics, and, I am sorry to say, for the fighting amidst our elites. And, here I do not exempt myself and our administration.. … Turning the thing of shreds and patches into a powerful set of instruments for ending poverty was never going to be an easy task. Replacing fragmentation with coherence was always going to bring with it broken eggshells and wounded egos. But we will not be stopped. … Pulling the civil service out from the spoils system is going to be a difficult and painful challenge. There will be howls of protest and pain as the noose against corruption grows ever tighter. Ignore them. We cannot afford a civil service of arrogant appointees who do not know their job, do not come to office, and do not show the Afghan people that service to the community is their right and obligation.

(8) According to Ghani’s people, they were the real winners of the election. They moreover argue that the president heads the NUG and that, of the two leaders, he is the only one whose position is constitutionally mandated. Abdullah’s people on the other hand believe that they were the winners of the election, that the outcome was stolen from them through fraud facilitated by a partisan electoral administration, that it was their sacrifice and willingness to compromise that prevented the country from spiraling out of control and that this should be acknowledged and rewarded. To complicate matters, the two sides do not trust each other to be of good faith. Ghani’s side sees (or portrays) the Abdullah camp as interested mainly in positions and privileges, while Abdullah’s camp does not trust that the circles around the president are serious when it comes to safeguarding the security of the country, particularly (but not exclusively) in the Northern non-Pashtun areas.

 

Annex. Text of CEO Abdullah’s speech on 11 August

Below are excerpts from Abdullah’s remarks at a function on World Youth Day in Kabul broadcast on private Tolo News TV on 11 August. The text is based on a translation by BBC Monitoring, with minor amendments for clarity.

[Passage omitted: Abdullah talks about the importance of the youth in rebuilding Afghanistan, the efforts of his government to tackle youth unemployment, the increasing role of educated Afghans in different walks of life, and the government’s commitment to deal with security and economic challenges.]

[Abdullah continues] I would like to shed light on a few other points which are linked to your lives, destiny and the days and night you pass.

First – about the National Unity Government [NUG]. You hear comments that the term in office of the government is two years and will expire within a week or two. You know that NUG has been formed as a result of election, despite the fact that the ballot had its own particular problems later. Our young brothers and sisters played a major role in this. The NUG represents the votes of all the people of Afghanistan. We made a lot of commitments to the people of Afghanistan.

Of course there were shortcomings as well during these nearly two years, which I will point out now.

The term of the national unity government is a full election term. The next presidential elections will be held in the fifth year of the current government. Under the accord, commitments were made, such as holding parliamentary elections. Commitments were made to first introduce electoral reforms and then hold parliamentary elections and call a Loya Jirga in line with the Constitution to confirm the post of the chief executive officer as the executive prime minister. I mean under the NUG accord the post of the chief executive officer would change to an executive prime minister after amending the Constitution in a constitutional Loya Jirga. Until the Loya Jirga is held, the CEO post cannot change to an executive prime ministerial post. We had hoped that the elections would be held on time followed by the constitutional Loya Jirga. This is because, without the election, the constitutional Loya Jirga could not be held. Unfortunately, we have fallen short in this area, maybe mostly because of the security problem. The enemies of Afghanistan thought that last year would be the year of Afghanistan’s collapse and the full return of the Taleban and terrorist groups. If you look at the issue from the viewpoint of priority, the most important priority was to rescue of Afghanistan and to safeguard its survival. [applause]

Since the elections have not been held yet, the constitutional Loya Jirga cannot be held on the planned date. So, all our efforts should be focused on holding the elections so that the entire terms of the NUG accord could be implemented, God willing. I just wanted to shed light on the essence of NUG. This is because a lot of debates are held and comments are made on the accord and some knowingly or unknowingly comment on it.

The second point is about the nature of the work of NUG. The NUG is not the outcome of generosity of one person to another, or from one group to another. It is the result of the big sacrifice which we [referring to his election camp] made. [applause] This sacrifice does not mean that it was a deal with the aim of gaining access to a government post. This sacrifice was made to save Afghanistan. Imagine if, God forbid, the elections had led to a conflict, what would have happened in our country today – while fighting was continuing after 2014 and terrorists mobilised all their forces and launched attacks with the idea of overthrowing the government in 2014 and 2015. What would have happened if we [the two election camps] had entered into another conflict? God forbid, Afghanistan would have faced a crisis with no path to survival. What would have happened to the fate of millions of people, both women and men, who had made sacrifices for the sake of relative peace and stability, and for the fate of the country? This was the situation when the NUG was formed. It was formed based on an accord and the commitment to this accord is mandatory and necessary.

Let me refer to a couple of points. Some say there are always tensions and disputes between us [Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani] over the distribution of government posts. However, let me tell you that we [Abdullah] have always emphasised on principles and key issues. We claim that we believe in meritocracy and that competent people should be appointed in government posts. So, if a person who has not even worked in the government for four days is appointed to be responsible for reforming the entire administration of Afghanistan, we [should] definitely have a say in that [applause]. This is not because of rivalry or for the sake of our election team. This is what we promised to the people. Reforms were our main promise. When reforms are undermined under the pretext of reforms, we must take a stance and express our opinion. Unfortunately, these points sometimes cause concern to our people.

Let me assure you that the NUG has never been engaged in any dispute over supreme national interests, such as national defence, protection of the territorial integrity of the country, restoration of nationwide peace and public welfare. But, as I told you earlier, problems do emerge sometimes when it comes to decision-making. This government has been formed and a person has become the president whom we call the president of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan based on a political accord, meaning that we have proven our commitment to the accord from the very outset and we will continue to do so. We consider it the achievement of Afghans and the outcome of their sacrifices. But when a person becomes the president of a country, one must also remember that the accord as other terms as well. If all terms of the accord had been implemented as agreed, we would have had fewer problems today. For example, a mayor was appointed in a province without our knowledge where up to 400,000 people had voted for us. He was appointed without us being informed and without people being consulted. But, today his case has been referred to the prosecution department for questioning. As a result, people of the province had to miss one year. Our insistences are because of our past and current commitments to reforms. There are many other examples of this. Someone, who could not define the duties and responsibilities of an attorney-general was referred to me for this post. The referral letter is in my hand. I was told that he was more experienced and professional than every other candidate interviewed so far. I conducted a simple interview with him in the presence of the serving chief justice and the second vice-president. But, if we insist that such appointments are a serious betrayal of the legal and judicial department, it is then said that this is a two, three or five-headed government [applause]. We have promised to the people and the international community about [reforms].

Tomorrow [ie in the near future] we will go to the Brussels conference where we will have to talk about the commitments. It is very easy to write on a piece of paper that we have done the following things. But it is futile unless they are fulfilled. The essence of a government calling itself democratic is to keep its promises with the people and to respect the views of people. Millions of people are behind the state and the NUG. We have included them in the government and are here to support them. We are not regretting it, as this was a very informed rather than an emotional decision. And it was not made under any pressure. We made this decision in the light of the situation at the time, we decided what we would do then and in the future. The main reason for the nationwide stability when we came to power was the fact that millions of people lent their ear to our calls, from Herat to Torkham and from Spin Boldak to Faryab. Noone should underestimate this. No one should take it lightly. [It is wrong] to consult only a few irresponsible persons with no roots and bases in this country who have come here with the idea of turning Afghanistan into the scene of their selective approach. [It is wrong] to consult those, who do not have a star in the sky and nothing on earth. He has ignored the views that represent the views of millions of people. I very clearly speak to the people of Afghanistan.

Following a series of developments a few days ago, I phoned the president telling him that I would hold one fundamental meeting with him where we would discuss the bases of all issues. Why were electoral reforms not introduced? Was it my fault? I promised the people of Afghanistan to reform the electoral system. Dozens of other meetings are held, but when it comes to meetings on electoral reforms, one is held today and another four months later. They said they would hold a meeting this afternoon. I told them that I would no longer attend such general meetings unless the main issues facing people are discussed [applause]. We must remain committed to the people rather than saying at meetings in the palace that everywhere in Afghanistan the situation is rosy. We have a deep knowledge of the problems facing our people and Afghanistan. We know where the problems are and what has caused them. Ministries are paralysed by nepotism. A minister was conferred the medal of Wazir Akbar Khan. The question is whether he really deserved it or not. The cabinet must discuss whether that minister has truly achieved something [applause]. There are dozens of other such issues. Actually, ministers are not allowed to have a say at meetings. We have witnessed this and we will carry forward the state affairs with patience and prudence.

We will continue to exercise patience. The responsibility we have before the people is not easy to fulfil. This is an extremely huge and historic responsibility. Hundreds of thousands of people are discontented with us thinking that we have struck a deal and have forgotten their wishes. [But] we have dedicated the entire time of our lives to the people, the past one and a half years was little compared to that. [But] more needs to be done. There are many fundamental issues. The government is paralysed. Actually, cabinet ministers are not allowed to have a say. [The president] lectures the cabinet meeting for over an hour. He should also give a minister 15, 30 or at least 10 minutes to have a say to lend an ear to his problems. Most ministries are run by acting ministers and a minister does not have the authority to even appoint an acting official. Once it was said that the minister of finance should appoint the heads of finance departments of all ministries, but later it was realised this was against the Afghan Constitution.

Coming back to the electoral reforms, the question is whether we should again hold the same election. Do you call that an election? Are we satisfied with the previous election? No one is satisfied. [But] I should assure everyone that we can not boycott the government. Some say that we should quit the government unless electoral reforms are introduced. [But] we formed this government just as we established the interim administration [in 2001]. We liberated Kabul and the far-flung areas of Afghanistan [from the Taleban]. How can you say we should quit this government? Our leader Ustad [Burhanuddin Rabbani], who was the head of the state for 10 years [1992-2002] and who suffered serious problems following the martyrdom of [Ahmad Shah Massud], did not enter the presidential palace. Instead, he established his office in another building and said he did not come to build a government of his own again, but a government representing everyone. He said the enemies of Afghanistan had deprived the country of such a chance in the past and had imposed a war, but the international community would again focus its attention on Afghanistan. So, he said, he would do other work instead.

[Passage omitted: Abdullah says partner countries and donors at the recent Warsaw summit praised the two Afghan leaders for working together in the NUG. He says he has shown a tremendous amount of patience so far and that he vowed not to comprise the aspirations of the people. He says electoral reforms must take place. He blames the president for delay in the electronic ID card project and vows not to allow anyone to undermine the project. He says he will also hold talks with the president on the people’s request to rebury the remains of former king Habibullah Kalakani].

Well, should we allow the NUG to be challenged? I said that I was the first one who gave legitimacy to the government. I signed the paper saying Mohammad Ashraf Ghani is the president of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. I was the first person who did this. That was the beginning of the legitimacy of the current system. As to what happened after that, I should say debates and discussions happen even in governments which are not coalition governments or which have a different background.

[Abdullah jokes and laughs after receiving a letter] These guys sometimes cause disturbances. They said it would be better if I mentioned one issue. [He continues] Debates and arguments do take place in a government and this is normal. However, if a person does not have the patience for a discussion, he is also not fit for the presidency. [applause] If a person does not have the patience to listen to someone, he will not listen even to the language and literature that I use when raising issues. I do not say that they should listen to everything I say. [Passage omitted: A quote from former President Hamid Karzai]. With all due respect, the presidential position is a respected position. I have respected the president and I want him to be respected by the Afghan people. But respect is not thing that is given as a gift [just] on paper.

[Passage omitted: Abdullah accuses Ghani of failing to win his and the people’s trust and praises several senior security officials for joining the frontlines in Helmand amid escalating conflict.] We are facing such a situation in our country, but our leaders are interested in something else, as if nothing is happening here. We are fighting terrorism and facing dozens of other challenges, such as narcotics, the problem of refugees, poverty, unemployment. Today I sought the views of a person who has a specialisation in financial affairs. He said the country’s GDP and per capita income has declined. This is unfortunate. In such a situation, we must pay attention to our problems and priorities. We must try to properly use our time, energy and ability. Is it worth to call into question the entire NUG and the accord by making decisions without consultation? Is this what the people expect of us? If the NUG accord does not mean vetoing the president’s order, it also does not mean acting arbitrarily. [applause]

From these men and women who have come here, to my political allies, they are all unhappy with me, asking why did you not insist on particular issues? I have showed patience and said that the work would be done with prudence. This is all I had to tell you here. God willing, I will hold talks on these issues with the president of Afghanistan on Saturday and I hope that common sense will prevail and the ground realities of Afghanistan will be understood. The time to deceive a person by giving him a piece of pastry is over. One can no longer deceive a person with mere words. The people of Afghanistan know the realities today.

Two points: God willing, the NUG will remain intact. And we will continue with our work in the NUG by playing a fundamental role as required. If we look at the opportunities our people have, I really regret the current situation. The people of Afghanistan have very good opportunities, but they face very big challenges as well. [Passage omitted: He talks about youth unemployment, violence against women and gives an overview of his lifetime activities]

Source: Tolo News 11 August 2016 in Dari

 

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Thematic Category: Political Landscape