ISLAMABAD: Afghanistan seems to be descending into political chaos because of presidential candidate Dr Abdullah Abdullah’s refusal to accept preliminary results of the run-off elections over fraud claims. He has even threatened to form a parallel government.
In a bid to encourage rivals to find a solution to the crisis, US Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Kabul early Friday and met several key leaders.
Last week, Abdullah told thousands of emotionally charged supporters in Kabul that he won both rounds of elections in April and June and that he was “ready to sacrifice his life for rejecting a government created via fraud.”
His speech caused concerns of a possible deeper crisis in and outside Afghanistan and among international players. The United States, particularly, does not want to see instability in the country at a time when it anxiously awaits the signing of a controversial security pact which will enable some foreign troops to stay back.
It is widely believed that the increasing divide between the teams of Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani, who was declared the winner, will benefit the Taliban insurgents who have already mounted pressure on Helmand province after troops withdrew from there.
Initially, the Taliban could adopt the policy of ‘wait and see’ but they will try to take advantage of the emerging scenario if their rivals fail to reach any settlement.
Abdullah’s aggressive reaction has increased apprehensions of political uncertainty in the war-torn country at a time when foreign forces are set to leave Afghanistan.
Senior Afghan political leader and former defence minister Shahnawaz Tanai told The Express Tribune via phone, “The current situation in Afghanistan is not stable as the country still largely depends on the international coalition. The Taliban are fighting security forces in some areas, and in such a situation, tensions over rigging would push the country towards a deeper crisis.”
“As the political crisis deepens and tension between the teams of Abdullah and Ghani increases, Taliban insurgents will take advantage,” added Tanai.
According to Tanai, Abdullah and Ghani secured a similar number of votes in both rounds and the two leaders can work together if they wished.
However, the two leaders have rejected the idea of a coalition government.
Election observers are also worried that if the two sides fail to solve their dispute peacefully, violent protests could erupt in the country.
Election Watch Organization of Afghanistan Director Jandad Spinghar said the Independent Election Commission could have waited for the investigation into election fraud to be complete before announcing the final result.
“Abdullah’s camp has a lot of support across Afghanistan so there are more chances of a conflict,” he said.
Hours after Kerry arrived in Kabul, a group of Abdullah’s supporters blocked the gates of the international airport in Kabul for vehicles.
Moreover, huge portraits of Abdullah calling him the President of Afghanistan have been displayed in various areas of the capital, reflecting the tense mood among Abdullah’s supporters.
Kerry began his trip with a meeting with the head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, Jan Kubis.
“Obviously, we are at a very critical moment for Afghanistan. The election legitimacy hangs in the balance. The future potential of a transition hangs in the balance, so we have a lot of work to do,” a US embassy statement quoted Kerry as saying before the meeting.
Kerry also met President Hamid Karzai. A statement issued from the president’s office read, “President Karzai and the US secretary of state discussed the election deadlock, the UN’s suggestions for removing the deadlock and the viewpoints of both presidential candidates.”
The statement also said President Karzai would support any solution to the election impasse either through the country’s legal system or any agreement between Ashraf and Abdullah.
Furthermore, Kerry also met Abdullah and Ghani and the Afghan media quoted him as saying that President Barack Obama is very interested in the continuation of democracy and stability in Afghanistan and hopes the election-related problems will soon be resolved.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 12th, 2014.