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Amid Rising Political Tempers, Afghans Question Karzai

Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai
Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai

Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai has attracted criticism for opposing the incumbent, Ashraf Ghani.

Afghan lawmakers, political commentators, and listeners participating in a recent Radio Free Afghanistan call-in show, On The Waves Of Freedom, urged Karzai to let Afghanistan's national unity government work toward fulfilling the promises it made during its election campaign last year.

Sami, a Radio Free Afghanistan listener in the southeastern Afghan province of Logar, said former Karzai confidants such as Omar Daudzai, Abdul Karim Khurram, and Rangin Dadfar Spanta have now set up shop at the former president's Kabul home.

"They are actively conspiring against the government of President Ashraf Ghani," said Sami, who goes by one name only. "But we elected this government through our ballots, and we want it to work toward delivering on its promises. It is in our right to demand it do so."

In interviews and opinion pieces last week, Karzai and his spokesman criticized Ghani's outreach to Pakistan. Aimal Faizi, a former Afghan presidential spokesman who still works for Karzai, said, "The policies that Arg, the Afghan presidential palace in Kabul, is peddling with Islamabad -- particularly its dealings with the Pakistani military -- have caused a deep and unfortunate rupture between the current and former Afghan presidents."

Lawmaker Khalid Pashtun, who represents the southern province of Kandahar in the lower house of Afghan parliament, said parliamentarians and officials loyal to Karzai are openly talking about the possibility of a new government later this year.

"In parliament, some of our [pro-Karzai] colleagues are openly warning us of the impending collapse of the national unity government," he said. "We are urging Ghani and his partner, chief executive Abdullah Abdullah, to pay attention and move swiftly to end the patronage system that Karzai established."

Pashtun said that in recent weeks some pro-Karzai commanders have defected to the Taliban in the restive southern province of Uruzgan.

"In the Khas Uruzgan and Deh Rawud districts of the province, local forces loyal to Karzai who were manning important security check posts deliberately surrendered to the Taliban," he said. "Unless Ghani ends the patronage system that prospered under the former leader, such incidents will continue."

Gul Badshah Majeed, a lawmaker, said factional leaders and warlords were empowered and imposed as national leaders in Afghanistan during Karzai's 13 years in power from 2001 to 2014.

"People are surprised to discover the extent of corruption in the previous government," he said. "Even now, those same powerful people are vying to preserve power by clinging to their posts."

Wadir Safi, a Kabul University professor, said Ghani needs to move quickly to rid Afghanistan's political systems of the ills afflicted upon it during Karzai's reign. "There are concerns that insecurity, the worsening economy, corruption, bad governance, and the [political] system's failure to deliver might provoke a general revolt," he said.

Every Thursday, millions of Afghans in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, and Tajikistan tune in to On The Waves Of Freedom. The weekly two-hour radio show is known for its analysis and political commentary, and is a flagship program of Radio Free Afghanistan, locally known as Radio Azadi.