As Presidential and Provincial Council Elections in Afghanistan approach, the political atmosphere of the country is becoming tense with the passage of each day and with the emergence of new political and electoral alliances.

Afghanistan main opposition leaders sitting at the stage during formal announcement of the Afghanistan Electoral Alliance

On August 29, 2013, more than a dozen political parties and notables announced “Afghanistan Electoral Alliance” (AEA) at a public gathering in Kabul and agreed to field a unanimous Presidential candidate. Afghanistan Electoral Alliance consists of main opposition political parties including Jamait-e-Islami, led by slain leader Burhan-ud-Din Rabani’s son Salah-ud-Din Rabani, Islamic Peoples Unity Party of Afghanistan, led by Haji Mohammad Mohaqiq, Islamic Movement of Afghanistan, led by General Abdul Rashid Dostam, National Front, led by Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, Afghanistan National Alliance, led by Ahmad Zia Mashod and Green Movement, led by former Intelligence Chief Amrullah Saleh. The powerful Governor of Bulkh Province Atta Mohammad Noor is also part of the Alliance. One of the major objectives of this alliance is changing of current Presidential system into Federal parliamentary one and the decentralization of government with more authorities given to the provinces. Afghanistan Electoral Alliance is mainly dominated by Tajik, Hazara and Uzbek leaders. There are media reports that AEA might introduce Atta Mohammad Noor or Dr. Abdullah Abdullah as its presidential candidate.

Former UN Special representative to UN and ex-US Ambassador  in Afghanistan, Zulmai Khalilzad, and Afghan American / former interior minister, Ali Ahmad Jalali, who are considered to be in the Karzai Camp, did not join the newly-formed alliance but AEA leaders say the said leaders would soon be invited to join the fold. However, soon after the establishment of the new alliance, Ali Ahmed Jalali in a press conference termed the AEA as an alliance based on ethnic and regional lines.

Two day before the formation of the AEA, several political leaders and technocrats including Ali Ahmed Jalali, Zulmai Khalilzad, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, Haji Mohammad Mohaqiq, Mohammad Zia Mashod, General Abdul Rashid Dostam and Atta Mohammad Noor had met at the residences of General Abdul Rashid Dostam and Haji Mohammad Mohaqiq to form a grand alliance and field a unanimous candidate in the presidential elections but failed to do so as Pashtoon Political parties and figures wanted that the Presidential candidate should be from Pashtoon ethnic group while Tajik and Hazara should be represented as Vice Presidential candidates.

ImageRecent days have seen Ali Ahmed Jalali, Zulmai Khalilzad, Hanif Atmar and certain other Pashtun political figures holding several meetings to form a new alliance for the upcoming elections but so far they have failed reaching on any consensus Presidential candidate.

On September 5, 2013, Pir Sayed Ishaq Gilani, an Afghan Pashtun MP, also announced formation of a new alliance by the name of “National Understanding Forum.” This new group is trying to bring prominent Pashtoon leaders and technocrats like Ali Ahmed Jalali, Zulmai Khalilzad, Ashraf Ghani Ahmedzai into its fold. Meanwhile, Mir Wais Yasini, the Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly, has also announced “the Afghanistan Eastern People’s Alliance“, consisting of lawmakers and tribal elders from eastern Afghanistan. So far, they have failed to introduce a single and consensus candidate. It seems that the Pashtoon leaders do not have any renowned and favorite candidate, enjoying the support of both Pashtoon and Persian speaking masses.

Emulating the newly emerging political alliances, President Hamid Karzai is also trying to launch his team in the next elections and his expected candidate is former Jihadi leader Abdul Rab Rasool Sayaf or his powerful brother Qayum Karzai. However, the government spokesman has rejected the news and said that the government would remain wholly neutral. The government seeks to conduct fair and free elections but the key opposition leader Dr. Abdullah Abdullah does not think so. He warned President Hamid Karzai against influencing the election process and alleged that some circles close to Karzai were trying to get the vote postponed on the pretext of insecurity in the country.

Some political pundits are also of the view that government does not seem in a mood to conduct elections and is trying to postpone it on the plea of deteriorating law and order situation and holding a loya jirga. The recent demand of postponement of elections till 2018 by some groups including Afghan Mullah Tarakhil Kochi, are allegedly being supported by Hamid Karzai and his team. These groups argue that most of the people could not cast their votes due to fear of Taliban militants in some parts of country particularly south and south east which is dominated by Pashtoon ethnic group.

ImageMany analysts consider the April 5 presidential vote vital for Afghanistan’s future stability and security, particularly in view of the withdrawal of majority of foreign combat troops by the end of 2014. They argue that the government does not have any other option save holding free, fair and transparent elections and should let the Afghan masses to decide their future through ballots.

So far, these alliances have been established on ethnic and regional lines, but there are hopes that these alliances would widen their framework by becoming more inclusive. According to Afghan Constitution, every Muslim citizen of the country, regardless of its ethnic affiliation, has the right to run and participate in the elections. It is hoped that our political leaders would take some wise decisions leaving their obstinacy and favouritism for certain candidates because of their ethnic background. Failing this, the elections would likely be run on purely ethnic lines which have the potential of deepening the ethnic divide and putting the future security and stability of the country on stake.