Return of ex-warlord to strengthen Karzai's votes

Date of Publication : Wednesday 19 August 2009 07:25
Return of ex-warlord to strengthen Karzai
by Abbas Ali
KABUL, Aug. 18  -- Arrival of former warlord Abdur Rashid Dustam home from exile, whose political party, Junbish-e-Millie Islami Afghanistan (National Islamic Movement of Afghanistan) supports incumbent President Hamid Karzai, will effect to swing the Uzbek votes to Karzai from his top rival Abdullah Abdullah in August 20 presidential election.

The Uzbek strongman who lived in Turkey since last year after allegedly kidnapping and beating his rival Akbar Bai, returned home Sunday night and announced support to sitting president Karzai who is seeking reelection.

However, the fact that Dustam returned home at the threshold of Afghan election, according to media report, has made Washington unhappy and the U.S. embassy to Afghanistan by releasing a statement expressed concern over his return at this juncture.

An ethnic Uzbek who played decisive role in ousting Taliban hierarchy from the northern provinces late 2001 alongside the U.S.-led forces has been accused of war crimes and killing more than 2,000 Taliban fighters.

U.S. President Barak Obama, according to media reports, has his security team to investigate the alleged involvement of Dustam in massacre which occurred in north Afghanistan.

Dustam's arrival was ensured after his supporters staged demonstration in the northern Faryab and Juazjan provinces a couple of days ago, warning to boycott the election if their leader was not back home.

Prior to Dustam's return, Presidential Palace issued a statement saying "Against the backdrop of recent media reports about Chief of Staff to the Commander-in-Chief of Afghan National Army Gen. Dustam, the government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan announces that there is no hurdle to his return."

A former warlord Abdul Rashid Dustam, whose support to any presidential candidate can boost the chance of winning, on Monday asked his supporters to back the incumbent President Hamid Karzai in the coming election, a private television channel reported.

"Dustam in a gathering described president Karzai as a suitable man and wished his supporters to back him," Tolo television reported in its main news bulletin.

According to observers, Karzai was eager to have Dustam, who had played the role of "king maker" in Afghan politics, in his side before going for election.

Analyst Ali Daiyar said that President Karzai was keen for the return of the exiled General. "The president himself wanted his arrival. Dustam's party supports Karzai and his presence will attract the majority of Uzbek votes to Karzai," Daiyar said.

Dostum's absence from the political scene has encouraged his aides and loyalists to rethink about their political future, as they were assuming their leader will never be back in Afghanistan.

Thus, some of them changed their political loyalty and join the camp of Abdullah Abdullah, the top rival of Karzai in the presidential race.

Welcoming Dustam's returning home, one of his supporters among hundreds gathering to receive him, said, "We have 1.5 million people and we would cast our vote in favor of any candidate that Dustam favors."

"Now that Dustam is back, mid-level politicians within his party will get back to him thinking Dustam may play a vital role in the next Administration. Many Uzbek votes may come back to Karzai and will increase his chances for victory in the race," said Observer Daiyar.
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