Protesters have set a three-day ultimatum for the central government to remove Mohammad Dawood Laghmani, the newly appointed governor for Faryab. The protestors have warned that they would form a local government of their own if the central government does not meet their demands.
Eight days ago, locals in Faryab held a protest after President Ghani removed Naqibullah Faeq, the former Faryab governor, and appointed Mr. Laghmani as the new governor.
Footage circulating on social media show dozens of protesters gathering near the First Brigade of Afghan National Army in the province holding a different flag that the members of the National Islamic Movement of Afghanistan (NIMA) led by Marshal Dostum describe the flag as the flag of Southern Turkistan.
The protesters ask the government to appoint the governor in consultation with the province’s residents and influential figures. The NIMA, as a key organizer of the protest, has reportedly proposed Murad Ali Murad, a veteran army general, to be appointed as the province’s governor. Ehsan Nairoo, a member of NIMA, confirmed to Kabul Now that the party’s leadership has proposed Murad as Faryab governor.
Meanwhile, the Independent Directorate of Local Governance (IDLG) reiterates on the continuation of Mr. Laghmani’s tenure as Faryab governor, arguing that the appointment of the governors is in the authority of the President. A large number of people, MPs, members of Faryab Provincial Council, ulema, tribal elders, and former Faryab governor have welcomed Mr. Laghmani’s appointment as Faryab governor, said the IDLG spokesperson, Nargis Momand. “We are trying to resolve the problem created in the province,” she said regarding the protest.
A spokesperson for NIMA, however, told Kabul Now that the government has not paid any attention to the demand of the protesters.
MP Hashmatullah Arman, who represents Faryab province in the Parliament, claims that the National Security Council has banned him from traveling to Faryab and did not allow him to have a flight last week. “I had decided to go to Faryab and talk to all people from all walks of life including ulema, elders, civil society organizations, and women and then share their demands with the security institutions and government. [My] travel was aimed at creating coordination between the government and the people but they did not allow me,” the MP detailed about his canceled flight to Faryab.
Meanwhile, a source from Kam Air – the airline in which the MP had booked a flight – told Kabul Now that its airplane destined for Faryab last Thursday did not land due to the deteriorated security situation in Maimana, the capital city of Faryab.
Protesters have set up sit-in tent in areas around headquarter of the first army brigade and surrounded it. Roads leading to the governor’s office and the first army brigade – where the newly appointed governor started his work nine days ago – are all blocked by the protesters. Moreover, the protesters have shut all local government offices.
“Around 10,000 people took to the streets today. All the shopkeepers had closed their businesses and joined the protesters,” said Ehsanullah Quwanch, a member of NIMA, adding that all roads in Maimana are now in the control of the protesters.
He said the protest is co-organized by NIMA, Jamiat-e-Islami party of Afghanistan, and by Ahmad Masoud – son of the slain Ahmad Shah Masoud. However, NIMA members have a more significant presence, he added.
Enayatullah Babur Farahmand, the Deputy Chairperson of the High Council for National Reconciliation and a key member of NIMA, accused the presidential palace of an attempt to strengthen a “dictatorship” ruling in the country while describing the appointment of Mr. Laghmani and the government’s unwillingness to listen to the protesters as the declaration of a “cold war” in northern Afghanistan. Faryab residents and residents of other northern provinces are ready for any kind of sacrifice to have their destiny in their own hands, Mr. Farahmand warned.
Marshal Dostum has made a public reaction against the appointment of Mr. Laghmani as Faryab governor. “[He] has to be arrested and killed. Shoot them with bullets,” Dostum’s voice is being heard telling his supporters in an audio call which is widely circulated on social media. Dostum commands his followers to shoot Ghaibullah Sadat, Police Chief of Faryab, in case the police dared to attack them.
In parts of his message to his supporters, Dostum reiterates that the people must determine their own destiny asking why the governors should not be elected at the local level by the locals.
Dostum calls on his supporters to take up all heavy and light weapons and fight.
Hundreds of men armed with heavy and light weapons are also accompanying the protesters in Maimana warning that the situation will go out of everyone’s control if the government resorts to force to impose Mr. Laghmani as governor. Around 2,000 armed men have so far gathered in Maimana and would continue the fight and resistance until the protesters’ demand is met, said Mohammad Nader Saeedi, a member of Faryab Provincial Council and also a protester.
As the Taliban control highway 01 and highway 02 and they have besieged the provincial capitals, as Saeedi puts it, Mr. Laghmani cannot manage the affairs in Faryab because he is not familiar with its geography.
Mr. Laghmani, however, has pledged to work for promoting good governance, ensuring security, improving health care, and towards a balanced development of its districts. He has formerly worked as a technical adviser to the National Security Council and Helmand mayor. He is a Pashtun born in the southern Helmand province.
The protesters say that anyone who is appointed as Faryab governor should have the following requirements: good background, familiarity with Faryab geography, and a resident of Faryab. Mr. Saeedi also warned that the situation will go out of control if the government resorts to force. “War is highly likely if the people’s demand is not met. If the government resorts to force, tanks, and weapons in order to impose the governor, the people [will] resist. If a single one is killed or even hurt, then the situation will be out of control. Then not only Faryab will plunge into a catastrophe but the whole northern plains.”
Faryab protest has also sparked reaction among many political leaders with some of them interpreting it as a confrontation between the presidential palace and the people.
In the latest reaction, Sayed Hussain Alemi Balkhi, former Minister of Refugees and Repatriation, has said on Facebook that President Ghani’s recent attempt to expand the Pashtuns dominance in the north of the country will cause further disorder and chaos providing the ground for declaring a state of federal. “The President has two options: review his decree or accept more risk by standing against the recent movements of Marshal Dostum.”
Last week, Parliament Speaker Mir Rahman Rahmani also called on the government and political leaders to address the situation in Faryab. Ironically pointing to the presidential palace, he notes that it must not create rifts among the people for their personal interests.