Around 25,000 Afghans have rallied in Kabul to back a proposed amnesty for former mujahadeen commanders suspected of war crimes. Thousands of police were deployed. The amnesty proposal has gone through parliament but has not yet been ratified by the president.
Former Afghan foreign minister Doctor Abdullah Abdullah says the rally is aimed at applying pressure. He said: “I think it is mainly the show of solidarity with mujahadeen in Afghanistan with those millions of people who fought during Jihad against the Soviet Union and also during resistance for liberation of Afghanistan against Taliban and Al Qaeda.”
The proposed amnesty is a sensitive issue in a country where fighting last year was the bloodiest since the Taliban was evicted from Kabul five years ago. It is not backed by the United Nations or by human rights groups. Human Rights Watch has called for Afghan “war criminals” to be brought to justice.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai has also indicated his opposition, saying he does not consider it constitutional. But if Karzai does not sign it, he risks losing the support of warlords, several of whom were present at the Kabul rally. They include former president Burhanuddin Rabbani, and Energy Minister Ismael Khan. Both have fought in past conflicts.
The proposed amnesty applies, in fact, specifically to those who fought in the country’s liberation from Soviet occupation during the 1980s and then during the 1992-1996 civil war. It does not apply to the conflict between Taliban and Northern Alliance warlords between 1996 and 2001.
Many commanders linked to fighting covered by the proposed amnesty are now members of parliament or part of the government alongside former communists and former Taliban. Western analyts see 2007 as a crucial year for the war in Afghanistan. Anything that divides the country further represents a threat.