Abdul Rasoul Sayyaf, the Wahhabi ne’er-do-well Pashtun warlord/parliamentarian, is once again in the running for speaker of parliament, with the support of Karzai. Sayyaf narrowly lost the same position in 2005 in favor of distinctly not genocidal Yunus Qanuni. It could be closer this time.
I’m not quite sure what Karzai hopes to achieve; Sayyaf’s party controls few parliamentary seats, he is hated by wide swaths of Afghanistan, and stands accused internationally of some heinous human rights abuses, even by Afghan standards. He has money, but I’ll bet the Karzai clan has a whole lot more. It’s probably not to keep Sayyaf from joining the insurgents as Sayyaf does not have the tribal or popular support to matter much. It’s probably not for his religious credentials, either; al Azhar degrees aren’t that rare.
It’s very likely that one reason Karzai is doing this is to jab the West. Sayyaf is a guy, almost from day one, who opposed intervention in Afghanistan. Nevermind that the Taliban weren’t on his side either, and deprived him of most of his mujahidin and spiritual legitimacy, leaving him to kill time as a Northern Alliance also-ran. Or that he only got his house in Paghman back as a result of the foreign troops. Or the rumors about the two Arab reporters that killed Ahmad Shah Masood. The terror group Abu Sayyaf, supposedly originally composed of those international volunteers he’d commanded in Afghanistan against the Soviets, continues to target civilians across SE Asia, without so much as a tisk from their namesake. He supposedly is the man responsible for inviting bin Laden to Afghanistan, although the two later broke over bin Laden’s vitriol towards the House of Saud, whose funding Sayyaf is thought to be dependent on (having very limited tribal or geographic support). He would be a thorn in whatever ISAF hoped to accomplish in its remaining years.
Finally, Sayyaf is a Karzai lackey. Rumors are floating around Afghanistan that with Sayyaf in the speaker’s chair, Karzai could push all sorts of things through parliament to include a third term. Ignoring what a third term for Karzai (or the alternative) might mean, a Sayyaf speakership would be a further blow to not only Afghanistan’s future legislation (think super-sized hudood) but for her self-image as another bloody warlord ascends. Let’s hope that Karzai can put aside his personal desires for the good of the nation, and tell Sayyaf to go pound sand.