Hizb E Wahdat (Post-Taliban)
In its history, the party suffered three major defeats. The first defeat was marked by its downfall in Kabul and the death of Mazari at the hands of the Taliban in March 1995. Secondly, in August 1998 the northern city of Mazar-e Sharif was overrun by the Taliban; the city was the second important centre of the northern alliance after the fall of Kabul and also held a major concentration of Wahdat’s troops and civilian Hazaras. Hizb-e Wahdat had played the key role in repelling a Taliban offensive on the city in 1997 and was to bear the brunt of Taliban anger this time. Thousands of Hazaras were massacred or imprisoned. Thirdly, in a few weeks the Taliban captured Bamyan, the new headquarters of the party, in another dramatic move. This marked the end of Hizb-e Wahdat’s political life as a cohesive political organisation. The fall of these two cities proved to be much more than military defeats. Nearly all of the territories under its control were captured by the Taliban. Its political and military cadres fled into neighbouring countries. Khalili went to Iran. From amongst the senior leaders, only Muhaqiq after a brief period in Iran returned quickly to Afghanistan and organised a resistance front in the Balkhab district of Saripul. Wahdat It never managed to recover after the fall of Mazar e sharif and Bamyan into the hands of the Taliban, because of the high losses in its rank and file and at the leadership levels.
Thus Hizb-e Wahdat participated in the post-Taliban political process with little of its past political and military weight. Wahdat still claimed to represent the Hazaras and the Hazarajat region fell under its control as the Taliban regime was overthrown. In the Interim Administration (2001–2002), Wahdat had a modest weight; Muhammad Mohaqiq represented the party as one of the deputy chairmen and Minister of Planning. Members of Harakat and Akbari’s Wahdat mostly represented the Shiites in the Interim Administration as well as the Transitional Administration in 2002-2003. Moreover, in the new political circumstances, the party needed to adapt to the new political realities in the country. The new political order established under the auspices of the international community required the military-political organisations to transform into civilian political parties. This entailed disbanding their military wings, disarming under the UN-led Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration programme and operating under the new legal and political environment. As mentioned earlier, Hizb-e Wahdat’s military structure disintegrated under the Taliban, and as a result in late 2001 the organisation was in no way comparable to other anti-Taliban organisations in terms of military structure and hardware. Its leaders lacked the political and military resources to reorganise their fighters on any significant scale. In June 2005 the only major military structure controlled by the party, the Ninth Corps, was disbanded, ending financial support from the centre to Wahdat’s military wing. Lacking resources and with a weak organisation, the party saw its military activities almost come to a halt; only in northern Afghanistan did some elements of it survive. Wahdat’s weakness vis-à-vis other, better resourced military-political organisations was compounded. On the positive side, its leaders can claim credit for effectively having given up their military wing.
The second and most pressing demand for reform came from within the Hazara political community. Reforming and reviving the party as the largest and most influential Hazara organisation was a central priority for most of the Hazara intellectual and clerical elites. Many educated Hazaras of various ideological backgrounds rushed to Kabul in 2002 and volunteered to play a role in the party. Ideas for reform and restructuring the party were presented to Karim Khalili and Muhammad Mohaqiq, who were seen as the key leaders. While the need to change and broaden the party leadership has frequently been acknowledged by both Mohaqiq and Khalili, most reformists (including clerics) have been frustrated by lack of practical will and determination of the senior leaders. With the disintegration of its military structures and the necessity to transform into a full political party, Hizb-e Wahdat faced an extremely difficult challenge that required radical changes. The transition from a military to political organisation has been similarly difficult for other Afghan organisations created during the years of war. But Hizb-e Wahdat faced a unique predicament of its own, deriving from the emergence of a much larger educated class among the Hazaras. Wahdat’s political cadres were mostly clerics educated in religious schools in Afghanistan or in Iran and Iraq. In their rise to political leadership they fiercely competed with university-educated challengers and remained sceptical and fearful of modern educated politicians. They suddenly found themselves forced to engage with western notions of democracy, human rights etcetera. As in 1992, opening the doors of the party to more educated Hazara cadres was a precondition for meeting reformist expectations, but the return to the country of many young Hazaras educated in Iran and Pakistan was out of all proportion with the threat that had been represented by the limited number of leftists and government officials welcomed into Wahdat in 1992. After 2001, the party nominally maintained its old structure in which seven of the eleven commissions within the Jaghori of the party were chaired by ulema. Only technical and insignificant positions such as health and archaeological committees were headed by non-clerical figures. Furthermore, the non-clerical figures were mostly acting on behalf of their senior clerical leaders. But an opening of the party to the growing secular intelligentsia meant that their monopoly over the political leadership of Hazara society risked being undermined.
While a few of Wahdat’s founders continued to exercise leadership and political power, most others were not as lucky. The failure to revive party structures left many of them politically marginalised. Second rank officials of Hizb-e Wahdat, such as most members of the central council, have mostly been unable to find a state job. Many of them opted to reside in their home areas in the Hazarajat, far away from leaderships in Kabul.
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