A powerful provincial governor and a key backer of the Afghan chief executive is now seen as trying to undercut his standing within Afghanistan’s national unity government by striking a new power-sharing deal with the president.
Governor Atta Muhammad Noor’s support for Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah ensured that Abdullah claims near 50 percent share for their Jamiat-e Islami party in Afghanistan’s national unity government.
Noor, the powerful governor of northern Balkh Province, however, is now negotiating a separate power-sharing deal with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.
These talks have clouded Abdullah’s future and plunged Jamiat-e Islami into turmoil by seemingly pitting supporters of Noor and Abdullah against one another.
Farhad Azimi, an Afghan lawmaker close to Atta, told Radio Free Afghanistan that Atta entered the talks because Abdullah failed to implement the provisions of the national unity government’s political deal.
Concluded in September 2014, the power-sharing deal between Abdullah and Ghani, brokered by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, called for the convening of the Loya Jirga or grand assembly to deliberate on a constitutional amendment for creating the post of an executive prime minister.
Atta personally questioned Abdullah’s competence.
“He is a good personality, he is learned and experienced, but [with the unity government] he played weakly and could not represent us properly,” he told BBC Persian. “This prompted me to change the situation and engage in direct negotiations [with the president].”
Daud Asaas, an adviser to Abdullah, told Radio Free Afghanistan that Atta is engaging in the power-sharing talks for personal gains.
"The talks between Atta Mohammad Noor and the presidential palace are personal,” he said. “[The Afghan presidential palace] Arg has pledged them a number of ministries and provincial posts, and I don't think the talks have reached any conclusions yet."
Fazel Sancharaki, another Abdullah supporter, also said Atta’s main aim is to safeguard his personal interests.
“The talks are his own initiative and [are aimed at] solving his personal problems. Such talks can never represent the entire chief executive office or the political agreement [he concluded with the president],” he said. “Now Atta can talk about his personal matters with the presidential palace about his bank accounts, his foreign trips, or the issue of his acting-governorship of [northern] Balkh [Province], but regarding the provisions of the political agreement only Abdullah can speak.”
The talks, which seemingly circumvented Abdullah, have garnered criticism from among many leaders of Jamiat-e Islami.
Last week, Shah Waliullah Adeeb, the former governor of northeastern Badakhshan Province, accused Noor of entering the talks without properly consulting party members.
"All members of the party should have been asked for their views. I think that entering into talks with the government on an individual basis creates confusion," he said.
Another senior Jamiat-e Islami leader, Saleh Mohammad Registani, echoed similar concerns.
"As far as I know, the leadership council has not held any meeting in this regard and is not involved in these talks,” he said. “But there is no doubt he [Noor] would become distant from our movement."
But Zabiullah Fetrat, a party spokesman, rejected Adeeb’s claims. He said all senior leadership members including current Foreign Minister and acting party Chairman Salahuddin Rabbani, presidential envoy Ahmad Zia Massoud and former minister Ismail Khan were in the picture about the negotiations.
"The talks have been conducted in consultation with the leadership council and with the respectable chief executive of our national unity government and with the allies of Jamiat-e Islami,” he said. “This is not a personal issue. Adeeb is not in a position to talk about such major issues. His remarks are irresponsible."
Noor was the key backer of Abdullah during the controversial 2014 presidential elections. He was a staunch opponent of Ghani and often publicly criticized the Afghan leader.
The relations between the two leaders dramatically improved late last year after Ghani met Noor during a visit to his northern powerbase Mazar-e Sharif. The city is the capital of Balkh Province, where Noor has been the governor since 2004.
His supporters such as lawmaker Azimi are optimistic direct talks between Ghani and Noor have yielded “constructive results.” But he refused to elaborate on the details of their power-sharing arrangements.
But critics such as Registani remain doubtful.
“Our fear is that this would prove a mistake,” he said.