Boasting a self-proclaimed reformist agenda and members from across the country’s ethnic and ideological spectrum, the new Haq-wa-Edalat or Truth and Justice party officially launched this week in Afghanistan.
In doing so, it hopes to challenge the Change and Hope party, considered the only effective opposition group in the country, and provide a potential alternative to the government of President Hamid Karzai, which continues to struggle with widespread corruption.
Hamid Farooqi, one of the four temporary spokesmen of the party, summarized those aims at the party’s official launch event on November 3 in Kabul: “We hope to fulfill people’s hopes and needs in the political, economic, and social spheres of life. Those values that have unfortunately been neglected by the current government. We hope our political formation will be a healthy opposition in the political arena.”
Female Afghan politician Azita Rafat said the party aimed to provide the country’s war-weary citizens with hope.
“Our message to the suffering people of Afghanistan is that we will not leave you at a time when our country faces its greatest battle against war and terrorism. Our fate is the same as the fate of our people in their pursuit of freedom, peace, justice, security, and progress. We are standing with the people,” Rafat said.
In the more than year-long lead-up to the official launch, the party’s membership has generated considerable interest.
It boasts several high-profile dissidents from the Karzai government, including former Interior Minister Mohammad Hanif Atmar and opposition figure Sima Samar, the chairperson of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission.
The party has also been noted for bringing together representatives of the nation’s diverse ethnic, religious, and ideological groups.
They include Abbas Noyan, an ethnic Hazara intellectual; former Finance Minister Hamid Faruqi, a Pashtun; Assad Walwalji, an Uzbek intellectual and fierce opponent of warlord and Uzbek leader Abdul Rashid Dostum; Kabir Ranjbar, a leftist deputy who dissolved his Democratic Party to join, according to the Afghanistan Analysts Network
blog; and a former deputy justice minister of the Taliban, Jalaluddin Shinwari.
Rocky Road Ahead...Maybe
While some say the party’s promise of fresh thinking and varied demographics could shake up Afghanistan’s political scene, others predict that Truth and Justice will face significant hurdles.
Kabul-based political analyst Nasrullah Stanekzai says the party, like its predecessors, will find it difficult to gain legitimacy in the eyes of Afghan society, where there is widespread mistrust of political parties.
“People in Afghanistan have had very bad experiences with political parties in the past. Between 1978 [when leftists gained power] until the period of the mujahedin, not only have political parties not worked for the people, but they have actively worked against them bringing them war and destruction,” Stanekzai said.
Stanekzai said that a culture of true political participation has yet to surface in Afghanistan, and that trust in political parties needs time to develop after years of political turmoil.
Out of more than a dozen parties, Change and Hope, headed by the former foreign minister and presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah, is Afghanistan’s leading opposition bloc.
The party is dominated by Northern Alliance fighters who battled against the Taliban during the 1990s.
Truth and Justice, unlike Change and Hope, says it is in favor of reconciliation talks with insurgents if they are transparent and “do not sacrifice justice.”
Among its others positions, the party says it supports continued cooperation with international forces, while insisting that Afghanistan’s sovereignty be respected and that its regional relationships do not suffer as a result.