Top Taliban Official Takes his Tribesmen Side; UN Seeks Pashtun Support

Published November 19th, 2001 - 02:00 GMT

According to a report by CNN, quoting a source in Kandahar, a close aide of Taliban supreme leader Mullah Mohammad Omar is now officially siding with ethnic Pashtun tribesmen in the city. Meanwhile, UN envoy to Afghanistan said he was seeking Pashtun support in efforts to build a new rule in the war-torn country.  

According to the news network, the move is a sign that tribal loyalties are overshadowing allegiance to the Taliban in the regime's southern stronghold.  

Haji Bashar -- a respected member of the Norzai tribe, the largest Pashtun tribe in the country -- was appointed administrator of the city by his tribesmen over the weekend.  

The source told CNN Monday that within the next day, Bashar is planning to confront Omar -- currently in hiding -- to tell him he must leave Kandahar.  

In the past, tribal leaders have said, they would provide him safe passage to the hills outside Kandahar, but there is now ongoing discussion among various Pashtun tribal leaders about whether to put Omar on trial for crimes against Afghanistan, said the CNN.  

Meanwhile, AFP reported that UN envoy Francesc Vendrell sought Pashtun support Monday for a post-Taliban coalition in Afghanistan, as the Tajik-dominated Northern Alliance signaled its approval for an all-party summit in a neutral country. 

Spearheading the diplomatic push to broker the talks, possibly in Germany or Austria, Vendrell was due to meet Monday with ousted Afghan president Burhanuddin Rabbani, who returned to Kabul at the weekend after five years in exile. 

US special envoy James Dobbins has already met Rabbani to discuss plans for a new broad-based government in Afghanistan, US and Afghan sources told the agency. 

A US embassy spokesman in neighboring Pakistan told AFP that Dobbins was supporting United Nations efforts to promote a representative government in Afghanistan following the collapse of the Taliban regime. 

And a UN official described the talks with leaders of Afghanistan's dominant Pashtun community as part of Vendrell's "confidence-building mission." 

The top diplomat is also urging the Tajik-dominated Northern Alliance, which seized control of the Afghan capital in dramatic fashion a week ago, to meet other Afghan factions in a neutral country. 

The alliance had previously insisted that any inter-Afghan conference be held in Kabul, but on Sunday its representative to United Nations, Haron Amin, said it would be amenable to a European venue. 

"I spoke to our foreign minister, Dr. (Abdullah) Abdullah, this morning, and he mentioned that our delegation should be heading -- hopefully soon -- into Europe," Amin told CBS television, naming Germany as a possible host country. 

The flurry of diplomatic activity in Kabul coincided with the first signal from some Taliban officials that they would consider participating in any new national administration. 

Hamid Karzai, one of three Pashtun tribal elders bidding to coax "moderate" Taliban forces holed up in the militia's southern stronghold of Kandahar to defect, told AFP late Sunday that several high-ranking militia officials in the city wanted to take part in the political process. 

"They have agreed to national reconciliation and to the establishment of a national government," Karzai said by phone from Uruzgan province. 

But he declined to give the names "for the time being" of the Taliban officials concerned because it "could endanger their safety." 

The Northern Alliance is opposed to any Taliban participation. 

Some Western diplomats have voiced concern that Rabbani and the alliance, believing that possession is nine tenths of the law of government, would be reluctant to surrender the reins of power in Kabul. 

Representatives of the ex-king, a Pashtun seen as the UN's best hope for achieving a workable interim coalition, have accused the alliance of violating an agreement not to enter Kabul unilaterally. 

However, on returning to Kabul, Rabbani immediately sought to dispel fears that his return could result in more bloodshed and tribal feuding. 

"We didn't come to Kabul to extend our government. We came to Kabul to call for peace," the deposed president was quoted as saying Sunday. 

Rabbani has pledged to "try to form a broad-based government as soon as possible," on the grounds that the victory over the Taliban "does not belong to one ethnic group but to all Afghan people". 

However, Rabbani, an ethnic Tajik, is unacceptable to the majority of Pashtuns who remember that his four years at the helm were marked by brutal infighting between many of the groups that now form the Northern Alliance – Albawaba.com 

© 2001 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)


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