With journalist's arrest, has Afghan election season begun?
The arrest of journalist Dr. Hussain Yasa raises concerns that Afghanistan's upcoming 2014 election could see a return of intimidation by all political parties.
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'A proud Afghan'
While President Hamid Karzai is restricted by the Afghan Constitution from seeking a third term in office in 2014, critics of his administration worry that his control over security agencies such as the NDS will give him power to restrict the activities of his rivals, including some of the warlords and political leaders that form the National Front of Afghanistan.Skip to next paragraph
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One of those National Front leaders, Mohammad Mohaqiq, alleges in a statement this weekend, that Yasa was targeted not because of his visits to the Pakistani embassy, nor because of his possession of dual citizenship, but rather because he is a member of the Hazara ethnic group, and thus hostile to Karzai’s ethnic Pashtuns.
“A proud Afghan and an honest Hazara community member, Yasa has been known to me for the past 20 years,” said Mr. Mohaqiq, in a statement. “I know many ministers and advisors who have the citizenship of Pakistan, the US, Canada and other countries. This dual nationality is a pride for them. Why is it a sin in Yasa case?”
Thomas Ruttig, co-director of the Afghanistan Analysts Network in Kabul, says it is giving the Karzai government too much credit to say that it is “misusing the security institutions.”
“That suggests internal coherence and a systematic persecution of rivals or critics, which we (AAN) do not see,” Mr. Ruttig writes in an email. The security, judiciary, and civil institutions are still unstable, and run by people with personal or factional loyalties, and often with little regard for the rule of law, he says.
“There are laws, often relatively good ones, but they are not implemented, and those with power can afford to ignore them, put themselves above them. This gives them the room to carry out personal or political vendettas, and if you are the target of one, there is no trustworthy institution you can take recourse to.”
Ms. Rondeaux says Afghan elections have had a history of foul play.
“Given recent experience during the 2009 and 2010 polls, we can and should anticipate that targeted assassinations, kidnappings and even false arrests will be only a few of the tools employed by political players seeking gain an edge in the race for the presidency in Afghanistan,” she says.
Speaking for the NDS, Mr. Mashal denies that Yasa has been targeted because of his media activities or his connections with top leaders of the National Front of Afghanistan, who are likely rivals for President Karzai’s successor in upcoming 2014 elections. “The NDS respects all political parties, and we have no problem with Dr. Yasa’s political activities. We have no problem with his media activities. We have not received any direction from the palace or other political parties. This is only related to his activities with the Pakistani embassy.”
(Full disclosure: Lutfullah Mashal once worked for The Christian Science Monitor as an interpreter, before joining the Afghan government as a spokesman.)