Mohammadullah Halim Sirat
The writer says he is neutral and doesn’t support any of the presidential candidates. The article has been written, keeping in mind the national interest and promotion of democratic values in Afghanistan.
Qualifications: Dr. Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai has bachelor and master’s degrees in Political Science. He obtained his second master’s degree in International Relations and Anthropology and third in IR from Colombia University. He has been given an honorary degree by the same university in anthropology and holds three honorary doctorates as well. He completed leadership programmes offered by the World Bank (WB) and Stanford University. He went on to complete a one year study in Seerat (the life of Prophet Mohammad).
On the contrary, Dr. Abdullah is an eye specialist; he got his degree from Kabul University and completed short-term courses.
- Past Activities: Dr. Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai taught at Kabul and other leading universities. He was a member of policy and strategy formation for the WB. In addition, he remained advisor to the president, finance minister, Kabul University chancellor and security transition head without salary/privileges.
However, Dr. Abdullah worked in ordinary positions such as translator, spokesman and departmental head with Shura-i-Nizar (led and created by Ahmad Shah Massoud). He became foreign minister based on the Bonn Conference decision in the transitional government.
- Achievements: The creation of new bank notes was Ahmadzai’s achievement; he centralised the revenue collection system and launched the National Solidarity Programme (NSP) for the development of far-flung areas. He devised strategy for the telecommunication sector and led the security transition programme.
He organised the Kabul International Conference which had lot of gains for Afghanistan. Meanwhile, Abdullah seeks credit for establishing a strong opposition but analysts believe he and his team never acted like an opposition. Half of opposition members are part of the government -- Mohammad Yunus Qanuni, Bismillah Mohammadi and others.
According to political commentators, Dr. Abdullah’s frequent visits to the Presidential Palace and his friendly discussions with Hamid Karzai do not reflect the characteristics of a true opposition.
- Publications: Dr. Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai has written many articles in Pashto and Dari languages under the title of the System of Justice, State Making in 21st Century, New Silk Road in Asia, Agenda of National Unity, Failed States and their Reemergence. He has also done research on the 4,000 years old history of Afghanistan, Dari language and literature. But Abdullah doesn’t have any acclaimed publication to his credit.
- Gains for the country: Dr. Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai received the international man, prominent Asian economist, world’s second intellectual, and Syed Jamaluddin Afghan awards. Moreover he was nominated for the secretariat of UN Security Council (UNSC) and presidency of WB.
But, Dr. Abdullah has not received any national and international medal on which the Afghans could proud.
- Patriotism: Dr. Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai has rejected to get salary for his services to Afghanistan in the last 13 years; Ahmadzai has already said that he doesn’t wish anything to get from treasury of Afghanistan rather he would return empty hands after finishing the presidential term.
On the contrary, Dr. Abdullah had signed the Military Treaty Agreement (MTA) with the United States during his foreign ministry, allowing the American forces to conduct operations on their own and free of judicial and legal restraints.
Based on MTA, the US forces had the freedom to enter Afghan houses at any time and torture or detain women, children and elders.
- Prejudice: An individual by the name of Mohammad Nabi Ahmadzai came to Ahmadzai and asked him for promotion when he was finance minister. But he told the applicant from the Ahmadzai tribe not to work in the one ministry. On the contrary, according to information of human resource department, 60% of Panjsheris were recruited to the foreign ministry by Dr. Abdullah.
Similarly, a person came to Abdullah and said: “I don’t have qualifications, but want a job in the foreign ministry because I was an active member during resistance.” Abdullah appointed him as a diplomat in the United Kingdom (UK)!
- Physical and mental fitness: Both candidates are fully fit physically and mentally because 18-20 hours campaigning requires best health conditions.
- Fashion: Ahmadzai is an Islamic and national figure. He also wears a coat and tie at formal ceremonies and local dress on informal occasions. Kabul University students were allowed to wear normal dress when he was chancellor. On the other hand, Abdullah puts on prohibitively expensive suits besides using cosmetics and lipsticks.
- Wife: The wife of Ahmadzai is a Lebanese Arab Muslim; she got Afghan citizenship during the Sardar Daud Khan era. She wears Islamic Hijab and has memorised part of the Quran.
In a video she appears at the Loya Jirga auditorium and recites the Quran in a proper manner that surprises the ulema and audience. Abdullah’s spouse is Afghan; she completed intermediate studies and wears western clothes.
- Moral weakness: Abdullah has been dogged by scandals. He recently had an affair with an Afghan diplomat (Maryam) in France. He employed different methods to marry the diplomat despite her parents’ refusal. After their marriage Maryam knew Abdullah already has a wife and four children. She swiftly demanded divorce. The scandal became town talk in France, embarrassing Abdullah and hurting the image of Afghanistan.
- Choice of 1st vice-president:
Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum is Ashraf Ghani’s choice for vice president. He was known as a leading player during the civil war. Dostum represents the Uzbek tribe and all Uzbeks in Afghanistan respect him.
During Sibghatullah Mujaddedi, Prof. Burhanuddin Rabbani and Hamid Karzai presidential tenures, Dostum has held special positions and was honoured with medals.
He became general during the Mujaddedi presidency and awarded the medal of Khalid bin Walid. Prof. Burhanuddin Rabbani called him his elder son and Gulbadin Hekmatyar entered an alliance with him and fought on the same front. He became chief of army staff during Hamid Karzai’s first term.
Neither Iran nor Pakistan supports him. He is firmly backed by Turkey. Some Afghans blame Dostum for the mass killing of Taliban in the Laila Desert, However, Dostum says it was a Shura-i-Nizar plot.
Abdullah’s choice for first vice-president is Mohammad Khan -- a Hezb-i-Islami Afghanistan (HIA) commander accused of war crimes. Evidence shows that the Jangalak Factory was plundered by Mohammad Khan. He was a representative of the people of Ghazni in Wolesi Jirga, but failed to win a second term.
Mohammad Khan also allegedly spied for Pakistan but evidence is not available in this regard.
2. Second Vice-President:
Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai’s second running mate, Sarwar Danish, holds a doctorate in law and has served as a member of the constitution-drafting commission. He also worked as minister of justice and higher education.
Abdullah’s second VP Ustad Mohaqiq played an active role in the civil war and is said to have chopped off women’s breasts and screwed nails into the heads of Sunnis. For example, after tying up the hands and feet of five Kandaharis and screwing nails into their faces, he sent their bodies to Kandahar, saying: “This is Mohaqiq’s gift to you.”
He says the Hazara tribe has long been oppressed and should be given its rights. He enjoys strong support from Iran and Pakistan. His food expenses are reportedly paid for by Iranian intelligence. His close relative and deputy was detained on the charge of spying for Pakistan, but was released as a result of mediation by Pakistani intelligence.
Being a time-serving politician, he was unable to jointly work with the government since 2001. In the 2009 elections, he supported Karzai. But then he parted ways with Karzai after the passage of two months.
The main concern is if such an opportunistic individual becomes second vice-president, the country will plunge into deep crisis.
3 – Ethnic Support:
Ahmadzai enjoys support from Pashtuns, Uzbeks, Hazaras, Turkmens, Balochs, Arabs, Qazalbash, intellectuals and moderate Tajiks. Contrarily, Abdullah’s support base is among Tajiks.
At the same time, the narrow-minded people in his tribe prefer to vote only for a Tajik candidate. The former foreign minister is also backed by some Hazaras and Pashtuns.
4 – Support from Jihadi factions:
Six Sunni jihadi factions -- Harakat-i-Islami Afghanistan formed by Maulvi Mohammad Nabi, Nijat-i-Millie led by Sibghatullah Mujaddedi, Mahaz-i-Millie led by Pir Gilani, Hezb-i-Islami led by Din Mohammad and a coalition of 14 councils of Hezb-i-Islami led by Wahidullah Sabawoon and Qazi Mohammad Amin Waqad have lent their weight to Ahmadzai.
In contrast, the Jamiat-i-Islami of Afghanistan and Hezb-i-Islami support Abdullah. The Dawat-i-Islami is yet to yet to announce its stance, but Prof. Abdur Rab Rassoul Sayyaf’s recent remarks show he would join Ahmadzai.
5 – Communist support:
Shah Nawaz Tanai, Hezb-i-Watan and other factions and individuals headed by Basharmal Khudai Dad and other figures support Ahmadzai.
In contrast, the national coalition executive council chief, Noorul Haq Ulumi, a son of soviet backed late president, Babrak Karmal, Gen. Baba Jan, Latif Pidram and those whose most had earlier affiliated the communist Parcham and Sitam parties.
6 – Non-Communist Parties, Jihadi Parties and their Support:
Ahmadzai benefits support of Afghan Millat, Haq wa Adalat, Democrats, Millie Tehrik, Afghan Millie Movement, Wolesi Tehrik and other political parties and movements. In contrast, Abdullah benefits support of Kangara-i-Millie party led by Latif Pidram and other small factions and movements.
7 - Fascist, Extremist, Fanatic and Country’s Division Willing Elements Support:
No fascist element is available in Ahmadzai team, but some individuals accuse Ismail Youn of fueling discrimination against other tribes. But Ismail Youn say, supporting Islam and Afghan is not discrimination, saying keeping someone from speaking on his own language is discrimination.
For example, calling a person as a terrorist when he present a latter by Pashto language to a government department for resolving his problems, is discrimination.
Extremist is a person who ignores Afghanistan’s name and call founder of the big Afghanistan, Ahmad Shah Abdali and Amanullah Khan traitors, refuse writing name of Islam in electronic identity cards.
These groups claim Ahmadzai benefits support of Gen. Abdur Rashid Dostum who earlier involved in civil war. In fact, Dostum said he joined forces with Ahmadzai’s team to keep the county from division and boost unity among Afghans. He apologized for his past dark deeds.
In contrast, Abdullah is a key member of the northern alliance. I have to mention in the time of jihad against soviet troops, some extremists from (Parcham and Sitami Parties) from among the Jamiat-i-Islami party set up Nizar council (Ahmad Shah Massoud led created Front) who aimed to end rule of Pashtun tribe in the country.
Some extremists backing Abdullah such as Fazlur Rahman Orya and others in their life television debates many times gave threats. Another supporter of Abdullah Malim Atta Mohammad Noor, Ahmad Behzad, Mehdi, Latif Pidram, Hafiz Mansoor and Rahimi support division of the country.
8 – Pakistan and Iran Intelligence Support:
In the first round, Iran’s intelligence announced, if Ahmadzai won the ballot, their interests in Afghanistan will come under threats, with Pakistani side severally expressed its concern about Ahmadzai.
After announcement of 50-percent results of the first round ballot, Pakistani medias declared Abdullah as next president of Afghanistan, with ISI ex-director general, Gen. Hamid Gul has said Abdullah succession will be the succession of Pakistan.
He said ISI gave millions of dollars to Abdullah to proceed his electoral campaigns, saying Pakistani spy network assured Abdullah it will disrupt election environment in areas where Ahmadzai having more voters.
9 – Support of Foreign Countries:
So far, other foreign countries yet to made public their stance, they did support Ahmadzai or Abdullah apparently, but both runners have drawn international attention and one thing is clear for the world if Abdullah grab presidency, the power will be concentrated in the hands of Nizar council, which is unacceptable to other Afghans.
On other hand, the country will plunge into deep crises, with human and financial sacrifices suffered by foreign countries in Afghanistan will be lost. Some documents shows Russia has kept its support continued for Abdullah.
10 – Overall Support:
Ahmdzai benefit support of residents of south, east, southeast, southwest and northeastern parts of the country. In contrast, Abdullah is not acceptable to residents of northeast, southeast, southwest, east and southern parts of the country.
11 – Difference in Supporters:
Analysts and religious scholars believe Afghan voters back Ahmadzai because he has good academic past, good personality and is a good Muslim, who deserved the capacity to lead the country toward development. In contrast, Abdullah benefit supports of fascists elements or those willing the power be grabbed from Pashtun tribe or might work for Abdullah on behest of Iran or Pakistan.
Third Part, Stance:
1 – Islamic Knowledge:
Dr. Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai performed Haj, he is a big scholar and have strong Islamic studies, he has good plan for realizing the sacred principles of Islamic values. He always said “we were, are and will be Muslim.
For example, Ahmadzai say he will eliminate the gap between school and seminary, university, mosque and presidential palace or “Arg”, politician and religious scholar. He said he will build big seminaries in all provinces and honor ulema with great privileges.
In contrast, Abdullah always talk about defence “Moqawomat” the fight of northern alliance against the Taliban.
2 – Nationalism:
Ahmadzai respects all tribes under the framework of Afghan and he present plans for their development and gives priority to nation building under nationalism and the structure of Islam.
In contrast, Abdullah says, Afghan word should be removed from computerized identity cards and believes Afghan is called to Pashtun and thus he always used people of Afghanistan phrase in his speeches. Sometimes, he even said they Tajik name be written to Dari speakers in computerized cards.
3 – Political System:
Ahmadzai is not supported by an individual who prefer federal system of government in Afghanistan. Though Gen. Abdur Rashid Dostum is said to have similar views in the past has now changed his mind. Ahmadzai always insisted on presidential system of government in the country.
But Hafiz Mansoor, Mehdi, Behzad and Latif Pidram who therefore backed Abdullah to set parliamentary system in first five years tenure of his office and then change the government system to federal to pave the ground for division of Afghanistan. In response, Abdullah gave positive reply.
4 – Durand Line:
Ahmadzai’s position is clearly briefed in the manifesto of change and continuation team by expressing his opposition with this border. In contrast, overall support of Pakistan military from Abdullah raised many questions.
Though apparently he refuses to talk on this issue, but his supporters had long been urging for recognizing the border and believe the districts close to the Durand Line should be linked to Pakistan’s soil.
5 – National Government:
Ahmadzai enjoys support from parties, Jihadi factions and national independent movements. In his remakes, he said he will give equal rights to whole sides in next government in line with the law.
In contrast, Abdullah is a candidate of Nizar council that involved in civil war in the past. The council believes those individuals be part of the government who fought against the Taliban.
6 – Jihad Not Confined to a Particular Group:
Ahmadzai believes that jihad is a legacy of all Afghans; the credit for it should not go to one particular group, because all Afghan tribes played their role in it. In contrast, Abdullah confined the jihad to Panjsher and accused Hezb-i-Islami of committing treason. Shura-i-Nizar created hurdles when Abdur Rab Rassoul Sayyaf was in the run for speaker of the lower house. They believe a person from Panjsher province should serve as speaker of the lower house.
After the assassination of Prof. Burhanuddin Rabbani, the Shura-i-Nizar refused the election of Sayyaf as chairman of High Peace Council (HPC) because he belonged to the Pashtun tribe. Instead, a person who spent most of his life in Australia was chosen.
7. TALIBAN: Ahmadzai divides the Taliban into several categories, suggesting different strategies for dealing with different groups. His multipronged strategy encompasses negotiations, diplomacy as well as military pressure.
Conversely, Abdullah views the Taliban as sworn enemies of Shura-i-Nizar -- a group that evolved into the now defunct Northern Alliance. He considers war on the insurgents a better option, even if it takes another 30 years.
Abdullah is of the view that a good-faith military solution becomes necessary at times to forces hardliners into coming to the negotiating table. His stance on the peace process is essentially aimed at strengthening Shura-i-Nizar in all areas by fighting against the Taliban.
For instance, more than two million voters could not exercise their franchise due to insecurity. If they had cast their ballots, Abdullah’s votes would have been less than 25 percent. Consequently, Shura-i-Nizar would have been prevented from perpetrating injustice.
8. In recent years, Ahmadzai has adopted an unambiguous policy on core domestic and international issues. One example of this clarity is best reflected in his acceptance of the Security Transition Commission’s chairmanship as a core national responsibility. All along the line, he has stressed the need for foreigners’ withdrawal and the Afghans taking charge of their own security.
On the other hand, Abdullah opposes all governmental policies. For example, he criticised the government’s reaction to aggression from Pakistan. By assaulting the government’s response to cross-border incursions, he received a lot of money from Pakistan’s intelligence service.
PART 4 -- CIVIL STRIFE: An efficient civil society leader, Ahmadzai is not affiliated with any political outfit. Contrarily, Abdullah is a member of Shura-i-Nizar. He recently brought into existence the National Alliance that revolves around Shura-i-Nizar.
2. National representation: A Pakhtun by origin on the spear and distaff side, Ahmad belongs to central Logar province. In practice, he has proven himself as an Afghan, preaching equality. His thinking transcends geographical boundaries and he has won international recognition.
Abdullah is a Tajik from Panjsher, trying to establish himself a representative of Tajiks. At the same time, he is striving to confine the rights of all Tajiks to Panjsher. The job quota for Tajiks amply illustrates this point. The first vice-president, rural development minister, defence minister, the central bank governor, the Olympic Committee chief, detective head and some members of the two electoral bodies hail from Panjsher.
But they respect Balkh Governor Atta Mohammad Noor and others, who have been clinging to the Shura-i-Nizar philosophy of fuelling tensions and biases. This practice has been a source of discomfort to the non-Panjsheri Tajik leaders. Kabul University teacher Syed Jalal recently vented this sentiment by saying that Panjsheris alone could not represent all Tajiks.
Let me refer in passing to Abdullah’s recent claim that his father belonged to Kandahar. But the reality is both his parents are Tajiks from Panjsher. In Abdullah’s childhood, his parents separated. Later on, his mother married a Dari-speaking man from Kandahar. And that is why he says his father was from Kandahar. What is important is that he has often cursed his mother for “putting Panjsher to shame by marrying a Kandahari”.
3. Jihad against the Soviet Union: Although Ahmadzai was not physically present on the war front, he intelligently used his pen and thought during the jihad against the Soviet Union. He conveyed the Afghans’ voice to the world at large. He always came up with a strong reaction to the Soviet aggression, prompting the international community to resolve the Afghanistan imbroglio.
Unlike him, Abdullah did not take part in the jihad. He joined the Dr. Najibullah government as a representative of Shura-i-Nizar after the Soviet pullout. The Shura betrayed the jihad by allowing Russia through a bilateral protocol to transfer its equipment to Kabul and other areas.
4. CIVIL WAR: Ahmadzai has not been involved in the civil strife, serving at international institutions, including universities. But he did not stay aloof from national affairs, visiting the country periodically to give his opinion on key issues and float ideas about an amicable settlement.
On the contrary, Abdullah has been complicit in the civil war. Being a defence ministry advisor, he played a crucial role in the Afshar tragedy. Thousands of Hazaras were massacred in the Afshar area of Kabul during the mujahidin government.
5. PUBLIC UPRISING: Atta Mohammad Noor may feel uncomfortable with Ahmadzai coming to power. He has already expressed his uneasiness during the campaign period. If Abdullah wins the election, all ethnic groups except Shura-i-Nizar would revolt. Particularly, most Pakhtuns, Uzbeks and progressive Tajiks as well as Hazaras will be up in arms.
6. FEAR OF RETURN TO THE 1990s: All Afghans hope Ahmadzai, if elected as president, would bring about development, justice and unity. He has never been part of the deadly civil conflict. On the other hand, Abdullah’s victory will trigger fears of power concentration in the hands of Shura-i-Nizar, which has been able to upgrade Panjsher district as a province and get it a hefty budget.
Efforts are underway to include the emerald-rich Karan Wa Manjan and Yamgan districts of Badakhshan in Panjsher. If these efforts come to fruition, the opposition will be wiped out and the ground paved for political wheeling and dealing. National cohesion and prosperity will take a back seat.
PART 5 – ELECTION CAMPAIGN: Without criticising his rivals, Ahmadzai presented his programmes to the countrymen. He did not propagate against anyone; nor did he hatch conspiracies. He also avoided indulging in character assassination of his political foes. But Abdullah spent more time on speaking ill of his opponents, particularly Ahmadzai, than on explaining his priorities.
1-1: He would often brand Ahmadzai as secular, despite the fact that the latter has performed Hajj and has a vast knowledge of Islam. The latter has spent years teaching the Islamic philosophy and the life of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). He had a comprehensive plan for research on Islamic principles and values. In fact, secular is someone who creates a distances between the Presidential Palace and the mosque. Ahmadzai is trying to bring the institutions closer.
2-1: Abdullah has also said that Ahmadzai is sick and Gen. Abdur Rashid Dostum is dead. To set the record straight, Ahmadzai is very much healthy. Doctors have given him a clean chit. Similarly, Dostum is alive and kicking.
3-1: On the campaign trail, Abdullah would often say Ahmadzai’s wife is Christian. The reality is that she is a stout Arab Muslim, with greater Islamic knowledge than Abdullah, his spouse and vice-presidents. Readers themselves should decide on this.
4-1: Fake photographs of Ahmadzai’s wife have been released on the Internet. From adulthood to date, she has been wearing the Islamic Hijab. My Lebanese advisor says the family of Ahmadzai’s wife is deeply respected across Lebanon for its adherence to Islamic and moral values.
5-1: Abdullah has also claimed that Ahmadzai’s team is comprised of communists. Little does he realise that the chief of his National Coalition’s executive council is a Parchami. Gen. Baba Jan and Babrak Karmal’s son are all in Abdullah’s camp.