Political tension builds in Afghanistan as anti-govt coalition meeting begins 

Author: SAYED SALAHUDDIN Sun, 2017-12-03 03:00ID: 1512239682543010500KABUL: A meeting involving a coalition of anti-government political figures began on Saturday, having been delayed from Friday when two participants accused the government of preventing them from attending. 
The meeting to discuss the shortcomings of the government and next year’s crucial elections was delayed because the former governor of Balkh province, Atta Mohammed Noor, and Batur Dostum, leader of a northern faction and son of exiled Vice President Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum, accused the government of stopping their plane from traveling to the southern city of Kandahar to participate in the meeting. 
Some 70 lawmakers, two former Cabinet ministers and a group of tribal leaders, some of whom backed President Ashraf Ghani during the 2014 polls, are among those attending the meeting organized by Kandahar’s powerful police chief Gen. Abdul Raqiz, who is seen as a key ally of former President Hamid Karzai.
Kandahar has been the seat of power for Afghan leaders for several centuries.
Talking to Arab News, a spokesman for Ghani denied that the government had blocked Atta and Dostum from attending the gathering.
But an adviser for Atta confirmed to Arab News on Saturday that the governor was stopped by the government, calling it “unconstitutional.”
Atta said in a video message posted on Facebook: “This act shows the weakness in the government’s foundations and it is an illegal, inhuman and immoral act.”
Amid the growing political tension, news surfaced on Saturday about the sacking of Kandahar Gov. Zalmai Wessa for failing to stop the gathering. Though the palace denied the news, Khalid Pashtun, an MP from Kandahar, who is against the anti-government coalition, confirmed Wessa’s dismissal but said it had no link with the meeting.
“He is dismissed, but it has not been announced yet. (We) hope the government can delay the announcement as it will have a bad impact among the people of Kandahar,” he told Arab News.
Although the participants called the Shouraye Tafahom (Council of Understanding), they have given the government a 12-hour ultimatum to allow Atta to travel to Kandahar.
The controversy surrounding the meeting and the reported barring of Atta’s participation comes months after Kabul blocked Dostum from returning from exile in Turkey to form an anti-government alliance in the north.
Dostum was forced into exile after an alleged sex scandal involving a political rival.
Zahir Qadeer, an MP who backed Ghani during the elections, said the Kandahar gathering was not aimed at seeking the ousting of the government, which is under increasing fire for political mismanagement, internal rivalry, inability to curb militant advances, and economic problems.
Ahead of the start of the meeting, participants said they feared the government would hijack the holding of much-delayed parliamentary elections next year and the presidential polls in 2019, when Ghani is highly expected to run for office again.
Karzai, who held the office of president for 13 years before Ghani since the ousting of the Taliban regime in 2001 by US-led forces, has been pushing to hold a Loya Jirga (grand tribal agency) where tribal chiefs, lawmakers and politicians can come up with a solution to the long conflict in Afghanistan and the presence of US-led troops.
Several former prominent government officials and a regional factional figure have already voiced  support for the holding of the Jirga. On Friday, Abdul Rab Rasoul Sayyaf became the latest leader to demand the convocation of a snap Jirga as the way out of the crisis.
Speaking to reporters, Sayyaf hoped the Kandahar meeting would come up with a decision that is in favor of “the national interest.” 
But he said the Jirga was a must. “(The government) should provide the context for holding the constitutional Loya Jirga where people’s representatives and the elders will come together and talk and make decisions about Afghanistan’s future,” Sayyaf said.
Main category: WorldTags: AfghanistanKabulAbdul Rashid DostumAshraf GhaniGen. Abdul RaqizKadaharrelated_nodes: Afghanistan orders frontier forces to retaliate to Pakistani shellingNATO boosts support to Afghanistan war, falls short of goalDozens of prisoners freed from Taliban jail in southern Afghanistan

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