Tuesday, March 09, 2004

WHAT'S GOING ON IN KABUL? Yesterday, Haji Mohammad Mohaqiq resigned from his post as planning minister in the transitional government of Afghanistan. Today, he gave a press-conference denying he had resigned and instead claimed that he had been removed in an "illegal move" because of plans to run against Hamid Karzai in this year's presidential elections. He also claimed that someone has been threatening him via telephone for the past few days. Here’s a Reuters wire report with additional information...

Mohaqiq told a news conference he had walked out of the meeting in protest against Karzai's decision to transfer some of his ministry's powers to Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, but he denied that he had quit.

"I quit the meeting because of the argument I had with Karzai and then later they said I had resigned and appointed somebody else," he said, adding later to Reuters: "My removal is certainly linked to my announcement that I will be a presidential candidate." Mohaqiq called his sacking illegal and said that he had received threats warning him not to run for the presidency. He accused Ahmadzai of trying to launch a purge of the cabinet. "This is just the start. This will probably happen to others too. There is a circle which wants to get hold of the country's vital arteries and purge others."
Meanwhile, Karzai, through his spokesman, is insisting that Mohaqiq simply resigned.

A couple of background notes on Mohaqiq.

Mohaqiq is, according to its website, Chairman of the Political Committee of Hizb-e-Wahdat--formerly known as Hizb-e-Wahdat-e- Islami-yi Afghanistan--which the principal Shi’a party in Afghanistan with support mostly from the ethnic Hazaras. Hizb-e-Wahdat was originally formed by Abdul Ali Mazari in order to unite eight Shi'a parties in the run-up to the anticipated collapse of the communist government. Its current leader is Mohammed Karim Khalili, whose militia currently controls most of Bamiyan province and some of Kabul. Mohaqiq mujahedin forces fought in a brutal fight over Kabul in the early 90s. His forces and the Hazaras were ethnically cleansed by the Taliban in 1997; Hizb-e-Wahdat's then-leader Ustad Abdul Ali Mazari was martyred. (See Ahmed Rashid's "Taliban" for details of the atrocious events in Bamiyan and Mazar-e-Sharif.) Hizb-e Wahdat has received considerable support from Iran, who have been supporting anything that's Shia in Afghanistan.

Back to the point. Mohaqiq has been courting his Hazara constituents for almost a year now. Although unexpected, his candidacy for president is not surprising. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

Hamid Karzai and Haji Mohammad Mohaqiq in China

Note: A literal translation of Hizb-E-Wahdat comes out to be "Party of Unity." Its official name is the Islamic Unity Party of Afghanistan.


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