The rumor of President Karzai's "preparations" for the Presidential elections in 2014 is now becoming a firm belief among political circles of Kabul. Such concerns appeared in press releases or speeches of opposition politicians with the start of President Karzai's stalemate with parliament and the election crisis prior to that. It was more of a political rhetoric then, but now becoming a serious concern among all since a couple of Afghan and international media reports have further strengthened that belief.
Recently, during the week of Bonn Conference, a German and later British newspaper reported about the German intelligence BND report saying President Karzai's preparations for the Bonn Conference included discussions on removing the constitutional limit of two terms in Arg. The Telegraph reporting the BND leak said President Karzai was looking for a power-sharing arrangement like that of Viladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev in Russia.
Daily Telegraph reported; "According to a detailed report by Germany's BND foreign intelligence service, Mr Karzai has discussed these options with Atta Mohammed, the governor of Balkh, a northern province where the German presence in Afghanistan is concentrated. He has also consulted Yusuf Qanuni, a former speaker of the lower house of parliament, and Mohammed Fahim, a vice president and former military commander, about becoming his hand-picked successor."
The "top secret" BND report further says Atta Muhammad Noor was reluctant to leave his power base of Balkh, while Younas Qanuni initially thought the suggestion was a trick but then had second thoughts. The report also says slain Ustad Rabbani was Karzai's "favored candidate for such power-sharing". BND assessment in the report says Karzai will start bid to change the constitution by calling a Loya Jirga.
In previous columns discussing the implications of invented Loya Jirga-ism and manipulations by President Karzai on these pages, I have always argued that the recommendations of 2000 delegates in the "Traditional" Loya Jirga about the strategic partnership agreement with the US is not important to President Karzai, but the staged gathering itself is a practice to make grounds for future maneuvering.
There should be only one Loya Jirga, and that is the one described in constitution which is comprised of the members of parliament, chairpersons of provincial and district councils (elected), cabinet members, chief justice and members of Supreme Court.
Only such a Loya Jirga has legal status and its decisions become law. But the Karzai Administration has confused ordinary Afghans with the very concept of Loya Jirga staging the so-called "Traditional", "Consultative" and other Jirgas of hand-picked 'tribal elders' with such invented words to manipulate and bypass the democratic forums such as parliament which represents the people of Afghanistan.
The final and official statement from Bonn Conference included the following line in its article 17: "we also take note of the recommendations of the consultative Traditional Loya Jirga of 16-19 November 2011, which provided a new impetus to the peace process."
The recommendations of the Traditional Loya Jirga have no political credibility or legitimacy to be included in the Bonn communiqué. With such moves, the international community is only paving way for President Karzai to manipulate the formal and legitimate forums of representatives of Afghans.
The "preparations" have already started. Last week Roznama Mandegar reported about a tribal meeting of elders from Kandahar at the Inter-Continental Hotel in Kabul hosted by Qayom Karzai, President's brother.
One participant of the meeting told the daily that it was "the start of an election campaign". More than 150 tribal elders from Kandahar, President Karzai's home province, were present in the meeting. The report further said that Qayom Karzai might be a candidate for 2014 elections.
It will be good news if President Karzai is thinking of supporting his brother, following the constitution; it would be no wrong to support and campaign for one's brother. But any adventure with manipulation of the constitution or attempts to arrange a deal-making with any opposition group by President Karzai to arrange a solution for the two term limit to remain in power would be the last nail on the coffin of crippled newborn democracy in Afghanistan. The concerns of such a maneuvering for reelection in 2014 are real and the international community should not let it happen at any cost.
I have no doubt that the same opposition groups who outcry such concerns could enter, if given the opportunity, into a deal of sort and power-sharing arrangement with President Karzai for supporting either a change in the constitution to remove the limit for two terms in Arg through the invented Jirga-ism, or following the constitutional procedure for reforming it.
President Karzai is a master of playing with different factions of the political opposition. The BND report saying that Ata Muhammad Noor and Younas Qanuni were showing willingness for the discussions about such adventures of President Karzai show that fact.
President Karzai should keep his promise to retire in 2014. But the facts are otherwise. There is a possibility that he will go to any level of confrontation with the international community and will not hesitate from domestic manipulation of all kinds to stay in power for 3rd term. If the international community does not resist this, rest assured such a move will derail all the democratic achievements of last ten years.
Lack of alternative leadership cannot be an excuse for the international community or the United Nations for that matter, to shy away from avoiding such concern become reality, as we saw in the disputed Presidential elections of 2009.
In spite of the problems of insurgency and regardless of the fact that reconciliation with the Taliban might not reach a breakthrough before the 3rd Presidential elections, we need the democratic process to continue and improve, with full support of the international community. We cannot afford a total reversal and descent into chaos of the 90s era. President Karzai should avoid adventurism with constitution or his politics of manipulation with deal-making.