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DOSTUM RETURNS: VP calls on north to cease protests

AT-KABUL: After a year and two months in exile in Turkey, First Vice-President Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum returned on Sunday to Kabul where hundreds of his adherents and handful of allies converged to greet him.

An array of high-ranks including second vice-president, second chief executive officer Mohammad Muhaqiq and Balkh ex-governor Atta Mohammad Noor along with hundreds of supporters welcomed General Dostum in Kabul’s international airport and accompanied him to his office.

This is while a suicide bomber detonated his explosives near the entrance gate of the Kabul airport minutes after Gen. Dostum and his cavalry had left the airport, killing and injuring at least 74 people.

Gen. Dostum had left Kabul last year for Turkey after his political rival Ahmad Ischi accused him of rape and torture, a claim about which the president had earlier sought the judiciary’s involvement.The exiled General had attempted a few months ago to return to the country, but the aircraft carrying him and his entourage was denied entry into Afghanistan soil.

In a speech outside his office, Dostum saidthat “peace and reconciliation” and “negotiations with the Taliban faction” are the most fundamental and precede all other agendas.

He, however, insisted that peace will never be achieved with words and calls for gallantry, sacrifices and determination.

Deeming peace parleys as a government’s priority, he said peace process and negotiations with the Taliban is the most important task of the coalition government. “And as the first vice president, I consider it most important agenda for the government, president, and his cabinet.”

In a surprising and subtle tone, he also invited millions of his supporters in the north to solace and calmness. He called on protesters in the north to cease their demonstrations and unblock roads, governmental and nongovernmental institutions and resume their normal lives.

Dostum also went counterintuitive and urged his supporters to participate in the upcoming controversy-stricken elections. “Today, you have achieved your demand as your voices resonated. You should use your franchise too to claim what is yours.”

About his comrade Nizamuddin Qaisari, he said, “Whatsoever has been done to Commander Qaisari particularly with his guards was unjust and violent.”“I will talk to the president about Qaisari to solve the issue.”

Dostum’s return faced an immediate terrorist attack as Kabul Police Spokesman Hashmat Stanikzaitold Afghanistan Times 14 people embraced martyrdom and 60 others sustained injuries after a suicide bomber blew up himself near the airport at around 5:00pm minutes after first vice president convoy passed the area. The bomber had attempted to target Dostum’s convoy. Although the police identified the bomber, he could detonate himselfoutside airport gates where hundreds of military and security personnel as well as civilians had gathered.

Dostum’s travel to Turkey was deemed to be a riposte to his rival’s accusations against him. But the president’s spokesperson Haroon Chakhansoori earlier revealed on Saturday that Dostum had travelled to Turkey to address his health grievances, saying that Gen. Dostum had been treated and would arrive in Kabul in a private airline on Sunday.

And regarding accusations slung against him, Chakhansoori had said that legal matters rest in the hands of the judiciary as they are independent institutions.

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