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Afghan District Governor Defects To Taliban

Members of a local police force in Sar-e Pol Province in northern Afghanistan (file photo)
KABUL -- A northern district governor and former Afghan senator has defected to the Taliban, citing corruption and a lack of faith in the central government and its Western supporters.

The ex-lawmaker, Qazi Abdul Hai, has appeared in a video posted on the Internet criticizing the government and predicting a return to Taliban rule.

The governor of the northern Sar-e Pol Province where the former lawmaker worked, Abdul Jabber Haqbin, said on September 19 that Hai disappeared earlier this week.

Haqbin told RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan that Hai had been working until recently as the governor of Sar-e Pol's Kohistanat district, but the provincial governor questioned his effectiveness and commitment.

"He was a weak person and what he did [before his disappearance] was of no value to the government. I wanted to change him, but he got wind of it and resigned and left," Haqbin said, adding, "His joining the Taliban is not significant and will not affect the security situation in Kohistanat district because he was no longer an influential person."

Hai is believed to be the highest-ranking civilian official to have defected to the insurgency.

He is reported to have been accompanied by two bodyguards.

The defection comes ahead of a crucial presidential election next year that will also see the withdrawal of international combat troops.

In the video posted on the Taliban's website, Hai says he joined the Taliban after being disappointed by the government of President Hamid Karzai and its Western backers.

He says the Karzai government is corrupt from "top to the bottom." In a reference to the mostly unrecognized name of the country under the Taliban leadership before 2001, he adds that "the Americans will be forced out soon and the Islamic Emirate will rule Afghanistan."

Hai claims that he joined the movement after consulting tribal leaders and clerics in his home district of Kohistanat.

Hai is a former commander associated with the Ittehad-e Islami faction of Afghan Salafi leader Abdul Rab Rasul Sayyaf. He fought against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s.

He reportedly worked with the Taliban during the movement's reign in the country in the late 1990s.

He served as a senator in 2004-08 and was later appointed as a district governor in Sar-e Pol.

With reporting by BBC, dpa, and AFP