[R-G] Afghanistan: New Political Bloc Unites Old Adversaries
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Thu Apr 5 12:20:30 MDT 2007
Afghanistan: New Political Bloc Unites Old Adversaries
By Ron Synovitz
Afghanistan -- Former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani speaks
during a ceremony in Kabul, 03Apr2007
Ex-President Burhanuddin Rabbani will lead the grouping
April 5, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- A political bloc has been formed in
Afghanistan that brings together members of the current government,
opposition parliamentarians, former communists, anti-communist
mujahedin fighters, and even the grandson of Afghanistan's former
king Zahir Shah.
Called the United National Front of Afghanistan, the group has
selected conservative Islamist and former Afghan President
Burhanuddin Rabbani as its first leader.
Founders say the alliance is not meant to be a political opposition
group. But the bloc has selected the key opposition figure Rabbani as
its leader. Rabbani was the president of Afghanistan until 1996, when
the Taliban seized Kabul. He also is the leader of Jamiat-e Islami,
an Islamist faction from northern Afghanistan that had fought on the
side of U.S. forces against the Taliban after the terrorist attacks
in the United States on September 11, 2001.
Rabbani tells RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan that the United
National Front was formed to fight corruption and address other
threats to Afghanistan's security.
"The weakness of the government in resolving crises and the emergence
of corruption are serious threats to state security," Rabbani says.
"Watching this situation, a group of parties and politicians decided
not to remain on the sidelines regarding solutions to national
problems anymore. So they decided to create a means of cooperation by
forming the United National Front and starting joint work."
Finding Common Cause
Other members of the United National Front also have said that they
want to change Afghanistan's internationally backed constitution.
They argue that the powers of parliament should be strengthened and
the powers of the presidency reduced. They have proposed a
parliamentary system of government in which the legislature elects a
powerful prime minister. And they want the powers of President Hamid
Karzai to be reduced to mostly a ceremonial role.
Among those who have joined the bloc are some of Karzai's own aides
and leading members of his cabinet. They include Water and Energy
Minister Ismail Khan, Army Chief of Staff General Abdul Rashid
Dostum, and First Vice President Zia Mas'ud, who is the brother of
the late mujahedin leader Ahmad Shah Mas'ud.
A leading opposition figure in the Afghan legislature --
parliamentary speaker Mohammad Yunos Qanuni -- has declared his
membership of the new bloc.
Former Afghan Defense Minister Marshal Mohammad Qasim Fahim also is a
Another bloc member, Sayed Mohammad Gulabzoi, had been an enemy of
the former mujahedin commanders when he was the interior minister of
Afghanistan during Afghanistan's communist era.
Also joining the bloc is the head of the country's environmental
commission Mustafa Zahir. He is the grandson of Afghanistan's former
king, the ailing Zahir Shah.
Ali Ahmad Jalali, a former interior minister in Karzai's
administration, tells RFE/RL that Kabul has failed to form a unified
bloc to enact the plans of Karzai's administration. Jalali says
different groups are coming together in a bid to gain more power in
"This coalition remaining united is impossible."
"At the moment, people are a bit disappointed in Afghanistan," Jalali
says. "Taking that disappointment into consideration, this group has
gathered together to introduce themselves as a political front that
will address the desires and wishes of the people in the future."
What Time Frame?
But political analysts and other observers predict the United
National Front will not last long.
Sardar Mohammad Rahmanoaghly is a member of the Afghan parliament who
has not joined the bloc. He says the bloc's members have competing
political agendas and no common ideology. He says he thinks the
group's dissolution is inevitable because its aims are for short-term
That view is shared by some ordinary Afghans interviewed by RFE/RL.
Yusifi, a middle-aged man who lives in Kabul Province, says he does
not expect the United National Front to stay together for long. "I
think...this coalition remaining united is impossible," he says.
"They already have deep conflicts with each other. And the interests
of their parties are mostly in contradiction with each other."
Jalalabad resident Gul Rahim Sher also says the aims of the bloc
appear to be short-term political gains.
"This is a combination of groups with contradictory agendas," he
says. "It is not clear whether they will remain united. There are
indications that they are controlling power right now.... From the
time of the interim administration and the transitional government up
to now, they have been ruling the country. I don't know what they are
trying to achieve now -- whether they want to keep their powers or if
they have another purpose. But I think nothing will come out of this
in the end."
Zia Urahman, a resident of the eastern Nangahar Province, says he
thinks there is no reason to strip the Afghan presidency of its
powers. But he says the idea of a united political bloc could have
prevented much death and suffering in the country if it had been
implemented immediately after the withdrawal of Soviet forces from
Afghanistan in 1989.
"If this coalition between mujahedin and communists had been formed
20 years ago, Afghanistan would not have experienced the bloodshed
and so much misery in the last [several] decades," he says.
The United National Front says Rabbani will lead the group for six
months. Other members of the bloc will take on the leadership role in
(RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghansitan contributed to this report.)
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