The recent misunderstandings between former president Hamid Karzai and the National Unity Government (NUG) appeared as surprising for many who missed to notice Karzai’s political ambitions even at a time when he is an ex-president. President Ashraf Ghani and former president Hamid Kazai met last Tuesday to resolve the recent misunderstandings that have appeared on the surface. Earlier, The Guardian reported that the former president was secretly seeking to undermine the current National Unity Government (NUG) of Afghanistan and his influence and activities are seen as a threat to Afghanistan’s political stability. In response, Abdullah Abdullah, the NUG Chief Executive Officer, harshly criticized the former president, saying that most of the current problems in the country stemmed from the last fourteen years of the Karzai administration’s mismanagement and faulty leadership. He warned to those wishing the NUG to collapse that the alternative for the current government would Daesh or Taliban.
The claims regarding Karzai’s attempts to undermine the NUG suggest a number of issues, chief among them lack of confidence and trusts among Afghan political spectrum at a difficult time when the country is facing numerous security and economic challenges. There is increasing mistrusts among key political figures and the government over national issues, the unity government’s handling of the situation and key government policies. The NUG has so far failed to take serious the need for fostering a wider national harmony among the public and confidence among the Afghan political trends. Embroiled in many security and political challenges, the NUG has had a tough time to get the new government rolling forward and containing the rising challenges in the country. However, the most significant missing thread in the country’s current affairs is lack of trust and unity at national levels both between the government and the public and among the political trends. The NUG no longer can afford such political loss at national level at this difficult time for the country.
The Afghan government will see it inevitable to build confidence to the public and to the Afghan political spectrum. The government needs to develop a consensus in the country and convince all political trends to play based on prescribed rules and fulfill their role in supporting the government to overcome challenges facing the country. Support from all political trends in the country is key for the government to curtail and resolve the current challenges. The NUG has been experiencing a difficult time in recent months as the violence across the country is taking huge tolls and the security agencies are struggling to keep the Taliban at bay and quash the insurgency. The new government is still struggling to appoint officials in key positions and complete formation of the government. This is while the economy is declining and the economic pledges of the government are yet to come true. This has had resulted to deepening loss of confidence among the public and the political trends in the country, which in turn, has paved the ground for drawing criticisms and built opposition to the newly formed government.
However, it should be noted that the NUG has had some remarkable achievements in fighting corruption, restoring friendly ties with the West and Pakistan, and making the ground ready for starting talks with the Taliban. The government can invest politically on these achievements to gain supports of the public and the Afghan political society. The government needs to sell its national plans to the people of Afghanistan and build support among the Afghan politicians, key state agencies, media and other civil organizations. The NUG needs to win the hearts and minds of the people. The leaders of the National Unity Government will need to reach out to the people from a more honest and sincere stance as the rulers of the country.
Apart from the mentioned challenges and shortcomings for garnering support for the NUG, Karzai’s political ambitions have never been absent in Afghanistan’s political arena since he became and ex-president last year. Karzai intended from the first day to play its own game, which is not necessarily meaning spoiler but depends on the conditions of the country, the leadership of the new government and his own popularity among the public. Recently there were reports of Afghans longing for Karzai era as the Afghan public is still sentimentally attached to the open manner and behavior of the former president and of course the public belief on his leadership potential. Karzai has been well aware of this. He is also adept in maintaining relations with broad spectrum of politicians, tribal elders, government employees and even ordinary citizens. He is reported to have been busy in meeting delegates and elders from across the country. His capability to reach out to the public at all circumstances provides him enormous power and influence.
Karzai had his own style of leadership. His governing worked through building patronage network at national and local levels. Ironically, most of Karzai’s strengths turn to be Ghani’s weaknesses. Ghani will need to do more in building trust and confidence among the public and develop his support networks not only in Kabul but also in the provinces. In last presidential elections, Karzai tacitly supported Ghani. Despite that the former president has turned critique to the new government’s policies regarding peace efforts and relations with Pakistan. Maybe President Ghani has tried to tell Karzai to play a different role and support the new government. Karzai has also portrayed himself as supporting the National Unity Government. In order to minimize the chances of any political uncertainty and undermining the government, the two leaders needs to sort out all the misunderstandings and find a common ground on national issues.
No doubt former president Hamid Karzai needs to stick to his commitment to play according to the rules and help the government overcome the challenges.