Karzai wins. Hardly any surprise. However,
high turn out (69 %) was a surprise indeed. And a pleasant
one. With 97 percent votes counted, Karzai with 55 per cent
of votes is an outright winner. Had any candidate not bagged
51 percent of the votes, the top two would have gone for run-off
elections. Like France. But none of Karzai's 14 rivals, as
was expected, posed any serious challenge. Main challenger
and runner up Younas Qanooni, a Northern Alliance leader and
ethnically Tajik, could hardly bag 16 percent while ethnically-Hazara
war lord Haji Mohammad Mohaqiq and notorious Uzbek war lord
Abdur Rashid Dostam got 11 per cent and 10 percent votes respectively.
Masooda Bano, the only woman candidate in Afghan presidential
elections thus attracting a lot of media attention, secured
a little over one percent of votes. Besides, Bano there was
also a woman candidate for vice-president's slot: Shafiqa
Habibi. A newscaster by profession, Shafiqa was nominated
as one of the two vice-presidential candidates by Abdur Rashid
Surprisingly big turn out was in the first
place a blow to Taliban. The female turn out in particular,
in this regard, is indicative how women have asserted themselves
by rejecting the Talibanisation. The 40 percent female turn
out as against 60 percent for men sounds low. But in given
situation, it was surprisingly high. Even encouraging was
the fact that in Faryab, Daikundi and Noristan provinces,
women outnumbered men voters. In Heart and Paktia, the female
turn out was also close to 50 percent. Herat is particularly
important where notorious war lord Ismail Khan's 'police'
were putting women to infamous chastity tests.
However, the big turn out and landslide victory
for Karzai is, paradoxically, in no way a support for Karzai's
politics of US bootlicking. Karzai was initially recruited
by Pakistan's Inter Services Intelligence for Afghan National
Liberation Front (ANLF) in 1982. The ANLF was a CIA-ISI project
to co-ordinate 'jiahd' activities. Son of a Kandhar-based
Karzai tribe, Karzai since has been in the service of CIA.
He have lent help even to Taliban, by supplying
arms, when the latter seized the control of Kabul. The USA
as an interim president imposed him in violation of the Loya
Jirga (Grand Assembly of Afghan tribal structure). Being a
US choice and an old CIA agent, he was not
popular. Because the USA is hated in Afghanistan,
as in rest of the Muslim world, like anything. The Afghans
want to see US troops leaving as soon as possible. But by
voting Karzai, the Afghans have voted out the warlords of
all hue. Karzai was seen as a lesser evil. At least he had
not been running a militia and committing atrocities, loot
and plunder like other candidates.
Also, many voted Karzai in the hope of peace.
With the presence of ISAF and US troops, creation of Afghan
National Army (ANA) and Afghan police, the law and order situation
at least in Kabul and few other big towns has improved. The
construction of Kabul-Kandhar highway has also generated illusions
that a continuation of Karzai regime might lead to badly needed
Above all, it was a vote to reject warlordism.
Though runner-ups, all notorious warlords, have also managed
to bag a big chunk of votes. But their vote bank remained
limited to their fiefdoms. Guns, money and ethnicity, all
played a role in securing votes for warlords. Ethnically-Hazara
Haji Muhammad Mohaqiq, for instance, not only exploited his
Hazaraism but also Shia sectarianism. Hazaras are predominantly
Shia tribes. They particularly suffered under Taliban ( mainly
Pashtoons) with kind-of-Wahabi mindset. Thus a war lord like
Haji Mohammad Mohaqiq managed to secure almost 11 per cent
of the votes cast.
As a matter of fact, ethnicity has always
played a pivotal role in Afghan politics. Even the PDPA 'communists'
could not overcome this division. The ethnic break up is:
Pashtun 44%, Tajik 25%, Hazara 10%, minor ethnic groups (Aimaks,
Turkmen, Baloch, and others) 13%, Uzbek 8% .
The multi-coloured map issued by Afghan Election
Commission showing election results in graphics, mirrors the
ethnic-orientated voting patterns. West of Mazar-e-Sharif,
three provinces are blue for Dostum and east of Mazar-e-Sharif
is green for Younas Qanooni. Similarly, the three provinces
in central Afghanistan inhibited by Hazara tribes, overwhelmingly
voted for Haji Mohammad Mohaqiq. Rest of the map is brown
showing Karzai's majority. The pattern was evident even in
Pakistan and Iran where Karzai's support was 80 per cent and
44 per cent respectively. Pakistan houses mostly ethnically
An enthusiastic turn out and landslide for
Karzai not only shows Afghans frustration with warlordism,
it was also a question of lacking any alternative.
The 25-year-long civil war have impoverished
and disempowered Afghan masses and civil society. The tribal
structure, political parties, trade unions, student unions,
in short every fabric of civil society has been torn apart
in last 25 years. Ethnic backgrounds, guns and money therefore
have played an important role in Afghan elections. Majma-e-Milli
Afghanistan ( National Assembly of Afghanistan) , a coalition
of over hundred nationalist, secular political groups, for
instance, also lent support to Karzai, despite all their criticism
of Karzai, in order to block a Northern Alliance victory.
The Afghan left, on the other hand, was too
weak to present a candidate. Neither left groups managed to
form some united front to present a joint candidate. The remnants
of old Peoples Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA), Maoist
Sazman-e-Reyahi Afghanistan ( Afghan Labour Organistaion-ALO)
or SAMA (Sazman-e-Azadibaksh Mardam-e-Afghanistan), all are
in process of re-organisation. The lack of guns and money
also hinders left activity in today's militarised Afghan politics.
Different left groups lent support to different candidates.
But most of the left gave critical support to Karzai, however.
"None of the candidates were desirable
for us, but since in the present situation the people's struggle
is centered against fundamentalism and most people were afraid
that once again a fundamentalist person might come to power
and therefore preferred Karzai among all other candidates.
Considering the lack of an independent and democrat candidate
and preferring the worse than the worst, Afghanistan Liberation
Organization also favored Karzai," says ALO spokesman
Tahir Khan. "But this favor certainly doesn't mean that
we have forgotten that Karzai is also dependent on US and
therefore long struggle against him and exposing him will
remain as an important issue. Also we will never let that
this preference will cost us our independence as an organization
with specific ideology and goals. This can only be considered
as a tactic in this particular situation in our country",
'It is a historic tragedy that left has to
lend support to Karzai', says Arif Afghani. Arif is a leader
of Hizb-e-Hambastagi Afghanistan (Afghan Solidarity Party),
a component of National Assembly of Afghanistan.
An initial election boycott by all the fourteen Karzai's rivals
would have cast shadows over the first ever-presidential elections
in Afghanistan. However, the 'authority' (read Zalmay Khalizad)
managing the whole election affair managed to woo all fourteen
back into the election arena. The US ambassador in Afghanistan,
Zalmay had been perhaps the busiest person during the election
campaign. An ex-UNCOIL employee, Zalmay has been in the service
of US oil business for many years. He was persuading, prior
to elections, Karzai's electoral rivals to withdraw from the
race. He managed to woo only two candidates.
In his bid to remove hurdles, Khalilzad met
with so many candidates and potential candidates to 'persuade'
for a withdrawal that warlords from the Northern Alliance
met in late September to discuss how to respond to Khalilzad's
"arm-twisting," according to the Los Angeles Times.
Khalilzad would begin with friendly offers
of road-building or ministerial posts--but if that didn't
work, he'd turn to more "muscular" measures. "He
told me to drop out of the elections, but not in a way to
put pressure," said presidential contender Mohammed Mohaqiq.
"It was like a request." But when Mohaqiq--whose
demands for governorships and cabinet positions weren't met--insisted
on running, Khalilzad "left, and then called my most
loyal men, and the most educated people in my party or campaign
and told them to make me--or request me--to resign the nomination,"
Mohaqiq said. "It's not only me. They have been doing
the same thing with all candidates. That is why all people
think that not only Khalilzad is like this, but also the whole
U.S. government is the same. They all want Karzai--and this
election is just a show."
The boycott was announced on the rigging charges.
The charges were not baseless. But the very candidates crying
hoarse against rigging had their own hands stained with rigging.
All powerful war lords either bought votes or coerced people
in their fiefdoms to vote for them. "Qanooni's men were
standing outside polling stations for immigrants in Pakistan
with dollars in their hands to buy votes", says Sahar
Saba. She is a leading member in the feminist Afghan group:
Revolutionary Afghan Women Association (RAWA). And there were
plenty of votes on sale.
The United Nations election officials, prior
to elections, were scrambling to explain why more than 9.9
million cards had been issued, surpassing the original estimated
9.8 million voters. The voters' lists were fake.
"We know that multiple registration has
happened," U.N. spokesperson Manoel de Almeida e Silva
had confessed .
Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai acknowledged
that perhaps 1,000 to 100,000 people had more than one voting
card. One example of gross miscalculation occurred in the
province of Panjshir, where more than 124,000 voting cards
had been issued, more than double the original voter estimate
of 49,573. But Karzai is a political intellectual par excellence.
Instead of being apologetic for this grave mishandling, he
justified it by saying: "As a matter of fact it
doesn't bother me if Afghans have two registration cards and
if they like to vote twice, well welcome," Karzai said
at a Kabul press conference with U.S. Secretary of Defence
Donald Rumsfeld sitting beside him. "This is an exercise
in democracy and let them exercise it twice." And many
voters 'exercised' in democracy , in some cases, half a dozen
times on the day of polling.
Actually, many Afghans, particularly men,
had registered them many times. The rumour that one could
sell a voting card for hundred US dollars, drove poor Afghans
to make some quick bucks. And as a result, 5.63 million male
voters have been registered while eligible male voters were
only 5.12 millions. Women make only 42 percent of the registered
voters. It means there were at least half a million fake male
But despite all such rigging practices, one
is justified to a large extent in terming the elections 'fair
and free'. This much rigging was expected. But what was not
expected was peaceful election. Taliban's threat to disrupt
election process did not materialise.
' The attacks would have claimed innocent
lives, therefore we refrained from attacks', a Taliban spokesman
told BBC. ' They have been isolated', thinks Sahar Saba. 'The
gun-totters have no mass support. Look at Ismail Khan of Herat.
When he was removed as governor, hardly 100 men demonstrated
in protest. Taliban likewise have no support. Attacks would
have isolated them even further', she said
in a telephonic interview. Col Dick Pederson, a commander
of US-led forces, told almost same thing to a BBC correspondent.
The reason that refrained Taliban from launching
attacks lies somewhere else. Perhaps. On one hand, Taliban's
major patron, Pakistan had been passed clear message by Washington
to harness Taliban on election occasion. But also, a deal
had been struck between Washington and Taliban.
Hamid Karzai being an elected Afghanistan
president was needed as poster boy by the managers planning
Bush's election campaign. Twice postponed owing to law and
order situation and abysmally low level of voters' registration,
elections seemed impossible in Afghanistan early this year.
Taliban were proving a major obstacle in holding the elections.
To get through elections, Washington was ready
to make any deal with anybody. The willingness in this regard
was reflected during a visit to Washington in June this year
by Hamid Karzai when he said: "I will talk to anybody
that comes to talk to me about stability and peace and about
movement to democracy."
In the search for a solution, before November's
US presidential elections, focus once again shifted to a Pakistani
cleric Maulana Fazlur Rehman, heading Party of Islamic Scholars
(Jamiat Ulema Islam-JUI).
Rehman, often referred to as Maulana Diesel,
was in many ways the perfect choice to act as a mediator with
the Taliban. The sobriquet Maulana Diesel was conferred upon
him by witty Pakistani masses. In return for his support to
former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, he was 'rewarded' with
a diesel franchise. Thus he earned the title: Maulana Diesel.
The Taliban leadership was mostly educated
in the madrassas (seminaries) run by JUI. As a result, when
the Pakistani Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) sent Rehman
to Kabul after the Taliban seized power in 1996. Taliban welcomed
him with open hands and he was instrumental in establishing
strong contacts between Kabul and Islamabad.
The JUI is the driving force in the Muttahida
Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), a coalition of six religious parties
that holds 60 seats in parliament. In a controversial move,
the Speaker as official opposition leader chose Rehman in
late May. Although a largely ceremonial post with limited
authority, his appointment became a bone of contention. He
was selected soon after returning from a little-publicized
and unscheduled visit to England. Earlier, in March, in Pakistan,
Rehman had met with visiting British Foreign Minister Jack
The significance of these events emerged in
comments Rehman made to a local journalist. "The British
authorities are working on behalf of the United States. This
indirect process has been chosen to avoid any ill-effects
ahead of the
forthcoming presidential elections in America ... Britain
is holding indirect talks with the Taliban militia to seek
an honorable American exit from Afghanistan." By implication,
Rehman would mediate in this process.
His comments created a stir in Pakistan. The
interview however went largely unnoticed internationally.
An embarrassed UK official issued a contradiction. So did
Maulana Fazlur Rehman. ' I did not make any such comments.
Neither I am in a position to make any contact with Taliban
as they are in hiding', Rehman told this scribe in an interview.
The Asia Times correspondent Syed Saleem Shehzad
however sticks by his story: 'Rehman's interview on that subject
first appeared in Daily Dawn Pakistan. The contents of the
interview were quite clear and more explicit than my Asia
Times story. There was no contradiction on my story or Dawn's
story exclusively by UK or USA but in the light of our stories
when UK foreign office officials were asked questions about
their contacts with Taliban through Rehman, they denied. Obviously,
they cannot accept these kind of secret negotiations. Even
the USA has been in touch with Taliban in search of 'good
Taliban' without Mullah Omar. But publicly they do not afford
to admit these manipulations'.
Rehman had told Saleem: 'I had the chance to interact with
Mr Mike O'Brien, British minister for trade and investment.
At the same time, I was invited to different institutions
which work under the British Foreign Office. I clearly told
them all to remove their mental hang-ups concerning the Taliban.'
Asked if there was any positive response?
Rehman said: "Yes. The situation is not like yesteryear,
when Western powers were not ready to listen to the name "Taliban".
Certainly now they are preparing their minds for many compromises."
In view of Taliban's total 'cease-fire' on
polling day or even during election campaign, Rehman's contradiction
leaves much to doubt.
Though Taliban did not 'win' anything out
of this deal, if there was one. But Taliban must not be seen
as an Afghan-specific phenomenon. Taliban movement is an extension
of Pakistani fundamentalism. Jamiat Ulema Islam, to be exact.
The MMA government in NWFP, in fact, is a Jamiat Ulema Islam
government. Had Rehman not co-operated, Musharraf might have
dismissed NWFP government. That was the stick. The 'Opposition
Leader' portfolio handed over to Rehman was the carrot.
Also, the other patron Taliban have in Pakistan
is Pakistan military. Days before Afghan election, Karzai
and Musharraf jointly met Bush at White House. The Afghan
election was high on this tri-partite meeting's agenda.
Most importantly, the Pashtoon ethnic nexus
might have played a role in this 'deal'. Both Pashtoons, Taliban
also have a common enemy: Northern Alliance.
Despite the completion of election process'
next being parliamentary elections
the future of democracy in Afghanistan remains a big question
mark. When asked will democracy be able to flourish through
a process imposed by USA?, ALO spokesman Tahir Khan said:
" Never. We believe that American Imperialism raises
specific slogans in definite times in order to achieve its
own aims. The page of America's democracy has been torn with
the killing of thousands of innocent people in Afghanistan
during the war against its yesterday's puppets the Taliban
and Al-Qaeda and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's band, fought by the
Northern Alliance, and its actions in Iraq. But a considerably
strong pro-democracy movement among the people is emerging
day by day and the anti-Imperialism, anti-
fundamentalism and anti-Feudalism aspects in this movement
need to be supported while hoping that its leadership doesn't
fall into the hands of USA or non-religious reactionary forces.
It is up to the revolutionary forces to empower the people's
democratic movement against the American "democracy"
under Karzai's leadership"
The future of democracy depends, above all
like any thing else in this war-torn country, on the security
Karzai must expand an undersized army and
police force and persuade 40-60,000 militiamen to give up
their weapons in a bid to dilute the power of warlords. But
he himself and his US masters depend on warlords to run the
Karzai government. One of his two vice presidents, Karim Khalili,
is a warlord from the Hazara minority. The other, Ahmed Zia
Masood, is the brother of revered anti-Taliban commander Ahmad
Shah Masood. The Afghans see his dependence on warlords as
a transitional phase where he needs to depend on them until
he is strong. But this was a paradox Afghan voters had to
face. They voted Karzai to reject warlordism despite Karzai's
dependence on warlords.
'On winning elections, Karzai will get rid
of Northern Alliance', explains Afghan Solidarity Party leader
Arif Afghani while clarifying this paradox.
Will Karzai be able to use the legitimacy
obtained from his electoral victory be able to leash all-powerful
warlords? Close to impossible. The warlords command militias
comprising 40-60,000 men. The combined strength of Afghan
police and ANA does not match militias' strength in both men
and material. Karzai has the backing of around 18,000 US-led
troops and 8,000 Nato-led peacekeepers. By contrast, the fledgling
Afghan National Army, controlled by Karzai has 14,000 troops.
No re-construction is possible unless Afghan National Army
and Afghan police is built to an extent where they can outnumber
and disarm the militias.
But until now the US/Karzai regime policy
has been that of appeasement and accommodation. Not merely
warlords have been accommodated but an attempt has been made
to woo sections of Taliban. With one section of warlords on
his side, Karzai will not be able to disarm another section
of warlords. He will have to clearly break with warlords.
His decision to remove Ismail Khan of Herat as governor, weeks
before election, won he wide spread support. It also developed
an illusion among Afghans that Karzai would disarm war lords
as soon as he strengthens his grip on power. But it remains
to be seen if Ismail Khan's removal was mere an election stunt
or Karzai is serious in disarming warlords. Or more precisely,
if Karzai's Washington master is serious in democratising
Afghanistan. Or was it a one-time show for 'foreign policy'
success at election eve?
Preliminary Results by Ballot Order
Abdul Latif Pedram 100,088 1.3%
Hamid Karzai 4,364,454 55.4%
Hamayon Shah Asifi 25,781 0.3%
Mir Mohammad Mahfouz Nedaee 15,657 0.2%
Haji Mohammad Mohaqiq 913,363 11.6%
Syed Ishaq Gilani 78,586 1.0%
Abdul Satar Serat 29,526 0.4%
Abdul Hafiz Mansoor 19,351 0.2%
Ghulam Farooq Nijrabi 24,059 0.3%
Ahmad Shah Ahmadzai 59,018 0.7%
Abdul Hasseb Aryan 8,190 0.1%
Wakil Mangal 11,547 0.1%
Abdul Hadi Khalilzai 17,842 0.2%
Mohammad Ebrahim Rashid 13,581 0.2%
Yonous Qanooni 1,282,677 16.3%
Massooda Jalal 88,165 1.1%
Syed Abdul Hadi Dabir 23,686 0.3%
Abdul Rashid Dostum 799,288 10.1%
Valid Votes 7,874,859 100.0%
Invalid Votes ** 102,194
Total Votes 7,977,053
Hamid Karzai. The winner and current president was 'appointed'
in 2002 by the Loya Jirga (grand assembly) as interim president.
He speaks several Afghan languages and comes from the country's
largest ethnic group, the Pashtun. He studies in Sinla,India
and is fluent in English and Urdu. His brothers run a chain
of Afghan restaurents in USA. His father was killed in Quetta,
Pakistan where Karzai family had moved following the outbreak
of civil war back in 1979. He was the one USA had bet on during
this election .
Yunus Qanooni. Once Karzai's education minister, Qanooni was
the most serious threat to Karzai. He was a distant second
to Karzai. Qanooni is a Northern Alliance leader, and is a
member of the country's second largest ethnic group, the Tajiks.
He has two powerful backers in Karzai's government: defence
minister Mohammed Fahim and the former foreign minister Abdullah
Mohammed Mohaqeq. Formerly an anti-Taliban
militia commander, Mohaqeq is from the Shia Muslim Hazara
tribes of central Afghanistan. The Shia Muslims in Hazara
were a target of Taliban atrocities. The scale of Taliban
atrocities once drove Tehran to almost invade Afghanistan.
He served as planning minister in Karzai's government until
March when he was ejected from the cabinet because of his
candidacy. He ended up third in election race.
Abdul Rashid Dostum. Notorious Uzbek warlord, Dostum is a
'serial betrayer'. Active in Afghan war over the past two
decades, he fought both with and against the Soviets during
the 80s. An important member in DR Najib's PDPA ( later re-named
as Motherland Party), Dostum ditched Najib and joined hands
with Ahmad Shah Masood. He switched sides amny times until
he joined the Northern Alliance which helped the US oust Taliban
regime in 2001. He was fourth.
Massouda Jalal. The only woman candidate on
the list, Massouda Jalal is a former UN worker and a qualified
paediatrician. She came a distant second to Karzai at the
Loya Jirga in 2002.