Return of exiled Afghan vice president divides country

Return of exiled Afghan vice president divides country

The return of controversial Afghan Vice President General Abdul Rashid Dostum on Sunday from his self-imposed exile in Turkey has created a political rift among Afghan citizens: those who support his comeback and those angry at his escape from justice.

While many have hailed Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s move to negotiate the amicable arrival of Gen Dostum, one that could reduce opposition against the ruling National Unity Government (NUG), many others are dismayed about the lack of judicial process in the case against him and his men.

The former Uzbek warlord was forced to leave the country for more than a year amid allegations that he and his men abused and tortured a political foe.

“This will shake the credibility of the NUG to deal with warlords and bring justice to victims,” said Sulaiman, an Afghan conflict analyst. Sulaiman, who like many Afghan only goes by one name, fears that this move could “strengthen other warlords” to act against the government.

Yet, others like Ejaz Malikzada, a political activist and a member of the Afghanistan Green Trends movement, an organisation led by former Afghan spy chief Amrullah Saleh, see the return of Gen Dostum as a move towards bringing stability to the volatile situation in the north, as well as within the NUG.

“Gen Dostum is an Uzbek unifier and a force in the north,” he said, pointing to how the vice president’s speech on Sunday ceased protests in the north that had been ongoing for the past three weeks.

President Ghani recently initiated a campaign against strongmen and local militiamen accused of abuses of power and human right violations. The arrest of militia commander Nizamuddin Qaisari, a figure loyal to Gen Dostum, led to widespread protests in the north that eventually turned into a rallying call for the return of the vice president who had left the country last year to escape the charges of torture and abuse made by his former ally, Ahmad Ischi.

In agreement with Mr Malikzada was US Army General John Nicholson, commander of the Nato-led Resolute Support mission.

“With respect to First Vice President Dostum returning, from a security perspective, we hope this leads to a greater stability in the north-west part of the country,” the commander told local media on Monday.

“But with respect to other dimensions, it is a matter for the Afghan government,” he said.

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