Afghanistan Analysts Network – English

Rights and Freedoms

Guest Blog: Right and Justice Party – possible trail-blazer for an Afghan centrism (AMENDED)

Ahmad Shuja 4 min

We have already reported about the latest addition to the Afghan political party landscape, Hezb-e Haq wa Edalat (Right and Justice Party), which had been launched in Kabul on 3 November. This is an Afghan take on the new party, by our guest blogger Ahmad Shuja* who argues that it is stepping into new territory and might create an Afghan political centrism.

The Haq wa Edalat Party, launched amid considerable buzz recently (see our initial blog about the event here), has a diverse set of leaders and attempts to position itself as a centrist party. It boasts leaders from all major ethnic groups and is neither decidedly with Karzai nor with his opposition. These two characteristics of the party – its diversity and its centrism – are its biggest assets as well as its Achilles’ heel.

Arguably Afghanistan’s most successful experiment with multi-ethnic parties occurred in the 1970s and 1980s, when the communist-inspired parties were able to attract and put in power figures from traditionally underrepresented ethnic groups. Individuals like Sultan Ali Keshtmand (in the Peoples Democratic Party of Afghanistan/PDPA) and Akram Yari (in the Maoist movement) rose to political prominence, working at the helm of their respective parties; Keshtmand even served as Prime Minister. This experiment effectively ended with the termination of Soviet aid, the withdrawal of its troops, increased friction between, and within, these parties and a strong challenge from the mujahedin.

What followed was the civil war of the 1990s, fought along very clear ethnic lines, with factions claiming to represent particular ethnic groups. The militant Taliban movement and their militant opposition parties also had very clear ethnic overtones.

Beyond this short historic window, organized political parties in the modern sense of the term did not exist in Afghanistan. Therefore, to see a major political party that attracts figures from various ethnic groups and does not have a strong political polarity is a welcome development.

But Afghanistan hasn’t really had a strong tradition of political centrism. You were either with the King or against him, or either with the Khalq or with the Parcham faction of the PDPA. Similarly, polar alignments have also been true in the case of Jihadi factions and the Taleban – if you weren’t with the Taleban or one of the multitudes of tanzim, you were effectively against them. As a consequence, few current Afghan leaders are used to, or adept at, manoeuvring at the centre. Even fewer have broad popular appeal.

Under such circumstances, it is difficult to imagine that the motley leaders such as Hanif Atmar, Kabir Ranjbar and Jalaluddin Shinwari – with their leftist and Taleban pasts – will always agree on the deeply divisive issues that their new party is going to face. Even when there is consensus, a group with four spokespersons has too many cooks for one pot.

On top of that, the new phenomenon of political centrism in today’s Afghanistan with its democratic trappings faces the challenge of clearly defining the issues and finding their constituency that can translate into votes. For example, it is hard to see that they can mobilise voters in Bamian and Panjsher with “negotiations with the Taleban” on their platform, particularly when these provinces have fought the Taleban tooth and nail, and already have populist leaders who oppose negotiations. On the contrary, Haq wa Edalat appears to oppose federalism or a stronger parliamentary system, ideas that have at least some support in these areas because they stand to gain from a devolution of power.

Owing to Afghanistan’s polarised past, its people have also generally exhibited polarised attitudes. As a survival tactic, significant blocks of people have often tacitly or actively backed certain armed groups. The political culture that has thus arisen is not positively predisposed to electoral centrism because the same ethnic lines that once defined the civil war are now manifested in the polls.

Perhaps, then, the biggest contribution of Haq wa Edalat is that it exists – that a miscellany of leaders can abandon their polar leanings and converge around a centre. To be sure, other groups in today’s Afghanistan have attempted to do the same, but this new party might gather the critical mass that can help pull the discourse away from the extremes.

Haq wa Edalat has stepped into new territory, attempting to blaze a trail where none existed. But when its strength is also its weakness, progress can become a Sisyphean struggle.

(*) Ahmad Shuja is an Afghan writer, blogger and analyst based in the United States. In addition to writing for the UN Dispatch and contributing to the Huffington Post, he maintains his own blog, Afghanistan Analysis.

Amendment (9 November)

The Right and Justice Party has meanwhile published the list of the 56 members of its Interim Council (find the original list here):

Members of interim council of Right and Justice Party of Afghanistan

by Right and Justice Party of Afghanistan on Monday, November 7, 2011 at 10:53pm

  1. Sheikh Ali Fukkur
  2. Azita Raf’at
  3. Maulana Jalaluddin Shinwari
  4. Fatema Hufyani
  5. Sharifa Zurmatai
  6. Kobra Dehqan
  7. (Pohanmal) Mu’in Mrastyal
  8. Eid Muhammad Arefi
  9. Abdul Ahad
  10. Eng. Najjaf Ali Khudayar
  11. Sakhidad Ebrar
  12. Muhammad Sulaiman Kakar
  13. Eng. Muhammad Salim Qayyum
  14. Ahmad Jawed Qazizada
  15. Ghulam Hossain Reza’i
  16. Dr Frahmand
  17. Amir Fuladi
  18. Eng. Assadullah Falah
  19. Eng. Khial Shah
  20. Dr Muhammad Alam Zirak
  21. Muhammad Hassan Talwar
  22. Sayyed Abdullah Gharib Shah
  23. Wakil Ghazi Waziri
  24. Haji Gul Ahmad
  25. Muhammad Amin Omarkhel
  26. Muhammad Yunos Fukkur
  27. Prof. Shujauddin Khorassani
  28. Ahmad Sa’idi
  29. Abdul Karim Bahman
  30. (Pohanmal) Sayyed Abdul Ghaffur Ghaffuri
  31. Abdul Wahed Ahadpur
  32. (Pohanmal) Habibullah Shafaq
  33. Dr Mu’in Gul Chamkanai
  34. Wakil Zarin Zarin
  35. Nasrullah Qazizada
  36. (Pohandui) Ali Hossain Nadam
  37. Eng. Eshaq Ali Zirak
  38. Ra’is Abdullah Anwari
  39. Asef Ashna
  40. Sardar Muhammad Roshan
  41. Dr Kabir Ranjbar
  42. Mir Ahmad Joyenda
  43. (Prof.) Hamidullah Faruqi
  44. Muhammad Alem Kohkan
  45. Assadullah Walwalji
  46. (Prof.) Ezzatullah Hamed
  47. Khudainazar Sarmachar
  48. Muhammad Ehsan Zia
  49. Eng. Hakim
  50. Muhammad Hanif Atmar
  51. Eng. Abbas Noyan
  52. Assadullah Munalai
  53. Saifuddin Nezami
  54. Ahmad Fahim Hakim, as Advisor to the Party on Human Rights
  55. Dr Azam Dadfar, as Advisor to the Party on the Fight against Administrative Corruption
  56. Dr Sima Samar, as Advisor to the Party on Human Rights


Government Justice