Afghan president Hamid Karzai has won a keenly fought political battle to get last year’s parliamentary election results reviewed in as many as 6 dozen constituencies by the tribunal appointed by the supreme court to look into election fraud. The results of last year’s election had showed a disproportionately high representation for the non-Pashtun ethnic groups due to a variety of factors, including the disturbed conditions in the Pashtun-majority regions in the south where the Taliban intimidated the voters from voting. Thus, Karzai was saddled with a parliament that was hostile especially from a large faction owing allegiance to former FM and Northern Alliance leader Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, who enjoyed US (and some say Indian) backing in the presidential election in 2009 as the opposition candidate.
The new parliament acted as a tool for the US embassy in Kabul to harass and humiliate Karzai by acts such as refusing to endorse the president’s cabinet appointments. Abdullah doggedly pursues Karzai on every issue under the sun. Now, the tribunal’s verdict overturns the results in around 70 constituencies and that vastly diminishes Abdullah’s role and the US embassy’s clout. Karzai is finally getting a parliament he can do business with. The rejected MPs and Abdullah’s camp were sure that the UN would hold their hand at the US’ bidding. But they have been in for disappointment, with the UN advising the disgruntled MPs to gracefully accept the verdict. The UN has pleaded that it has no locus standii to interfere with Afghanistan’s constitutional processes or to attend to individual grievances of MPs. The UN has also advised the MPs not to resort to agitations as they had been threatening.
Karzai is outsmarting US at every step, thanks to his capacity to network and form coalitions. In this particular case, Karzai knows that a parliament that doesn’t duly reflect the Pashtun population will lack legitimacy when it comes to debating matters of great sensitivity and national importance concerning the reconciliation of the Taliban or US military bases. The tribunal’s verdict means that the Hezb-i-Islami (led by Mujahideen leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar) may have larger representation in the parliament. Mullah Omar detests Hekmatyar and the Hezb-i-Islami and Taliban have been at loggerheads although both are involved in the insurgency and their fighters have clashed. Hekmatyar has links with both Pakistan (dating back to 1973 when ZA Bhutto got him over to Peshawar from Kabul) and Iran (where he lived in exile fro 5 years during the Taliban rule). Thus, it pays for Karzai at the present juncture if there is greater representation for Hezb in the parliament.