Afghan rebels unite in stronger alliance, form 'government-in-exile'

Opening the door for an even broader base among Afghan rebel fighters, three Peshawar-based political groups recently annouced the formation of a new alliance -- the Islamic Unity of the Mujahideen of Afghanistan.

The three groups, considered as fundamentalist but moderate, are the Islamic National Revolutionary Front (Mahaz-i-Milli), under Sayed Ahmad Gailani; the Islamic Revolutionary Movement (Harakat-e Inqilabe Islami), led by Mauliwi Muhammad Nabi Muhammadi; and the National Front (Jibbeh Nijat-e Milli), headed by Prof. Sebratullah Mojadidi.

The groups describe their common ground as a firm commitment to the liberation of Afghanistan, self-determination for its people, and establishment of an elected government.

The three groups soon will open a joint office dealing with military, financial, medical, and political operations. But there is more to the new Islamic Unity of the Mujahideen, however, than a change of address and economizing on office space. It is potential Afghan government-in-exile.

The organization expects to have a head council on which each group will have 15 seats. Any group thay may later join will also be alloted 15 seats. "We hope that [Burhanuddin] Rabbani's Jamiat-e Islami and Younis Khalis's group will join," Hashimatullah Mojadidi, brother of the National Front's leader, says.

Broadening the alliance, two representatives from each of Afghanistan's 28 provinces will be elected within the tribal system during a "loya jirga" or grand assembly, according to Afghan tradition. Within the next four months these elected representatives will choose to temporary chairman. Later, scholars, religious, tribal, and military leaders may be added to the 56-man council.

In Peshawar, the temporary chairman, elected representatives, and head council plan to set up a government-in-exile that can flip inside Afghanistan once a liberated area becomes stable enough to support a provisional government.

By working with groups inside and outside Afghanistan, Islamic Unity of the Mujahideen may have a better chance of uniting Afghan rebels efforts than the three previous Afghan alignments that have failed in this city. Provision for elected representatives is believed to be a strong point of the new group. Until now, few Afghans had links to Peshawar.

"Only 1 percent of the people inside Afghanistan belong to any Peshawar-based party," Hakim Aryubi, an independent rebel commander from Paktia Province who cooperates with the Islamic National Revolutionary Front, says.

"In fact, I discourage my people from joining political groups. We want to fight for our freedom, for our liberation, not for party politics," he adds.

"According to Islam, any individual has the right and obligation to participate in jihad [holy war] with equal rights and without discrimination, Dr. Zabihullah Mojadidi, son of the National Liberation Front leader, says. "Unfortunately in the past, fighting has been on the basis of a party system. We are changing this. We want to bring all the mujahideen together," he adds.

The most recent bid for unity, emerging after long negotiations among five political parties, was not embraced by all. It excludes Gulbuddin Hekmatyar Hizb-i Islam, an extremist group and, for the moment at least, Professor Burhanuddin Rabbani's Jamiat-e Islam. Previously, the five parties belonged to the Islamic Alliance for Liberation of Afghanistan.

That alliance dissolved a few months ago, after Chairman Abdur Rasul Sayaf, who is not a leader of any party, allegedly misappropriated funds. Maulvi Younis Khalis, leader of a splinter group of the Hizb-e Islam, who is in Germany , also participated in negotiations. The groups of Professors Rabbani and Mr. Khalis remain wary of Western influences but optimistic about the eventual unity of the rebel fighters.

"Signs indicate that, with our unity, help will come from the outside world, and we hope for that," Sebratullah Mojadidi says. "We only need weapons, food, and medicine."

"We want the help of all the free countries. "We're not 'giving in' to Western countries, because we want help without any conditions," say Ahmad Nabi, son of the leader of the Islamic Revolutionary Movement.

"If the world sits quiet and if we do not continue our struggle, then Russians will be in Afghanistan for a long time. If we continue our resistance, though, and if we get world support from political and diplomatic efforts, then the Russians will be gone from our country in a few months," Sebratullah Mojadidi says.

A insurgent whose morale is boosted by the new group expla ins with the Pashto saying, "There's no voice in one hand."

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