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February 2002 issue of
World Press Review
(VOL. 49, No. 2)
the Basic Rudiments
The Bonn Accord
News (left-wing), Karachi, Pakistan, Dec. 6, 2001
After eight grueling
days of discussions at the U.N. conference on Afghanistan in
Bonn, Germany, an agreement was signed on Wednesday by representatives
of various Afghan factions, hopefully for peace and stability
in a country that has known only violence and suffering for
over two decades. It was a historic event by any measure as
an accord, albeit fragile and heavily relying on circumstances
that currently appear impossible. The agreement, therefore,
merits appreciation even if there are reasons to fear that it
could run into rough weather given the animosity that pervades
The basic mechanism that has been agreed upon constitutes an
Interim Administration or government, which will give way after
six months to a Transitional Administration decided upon by
an emergency Loya Jirga [traditional Afghan Grand Assembly]
that will administer the country until a truly representative
government can be elected. This is the somewhat simplified arrangement
that is expected to lead Afghanistan back to normality and stability
through the historic minefields of ethnic, sectarian, and tribal
rivalries, and the social and economic devastation wrought by
23 years of conflict and foreign interference. The rewards that
have been promised to the factions if they follow the U.N. script
are funds for the reconstruction of the country.
While it can be hoped that all will be well, the agreement has
too many weak points that could wreck its implementation. At
best it provides the rudiments of a system that will help in
setting up the infrastructure of stateconstitution, supreme
court, judicial commission, civil service, rules and regulations,
But not much has been explained in terms of how the interim
administration will impose its decisions in a country where
there is absolutely no administration and guns remain the reality.
For example, how will the interim government or its successor
contend with the born-again warlords who will not easily surrender
their authority? It is not clear whether a U.N. mandated international
security force will have the teeth to impose the fiat of the
government until Afghan security forces are created, given the
reluctance of the U.N. to play the role of soldier. The factor
that led to the birth of the Taliban was the need to eliminate
the warlords who made governance impossible. It is not likely
that the regional holders of power like Uzbeks and Hazaras will
cede authority. The Northern Alliance will be just as unwilling.
The proposed deweaponization and demilitarization of Kabul thus
seem to be non-starters.
Another critical test will be the transition of power from the
interim government to the transitional government. The strength
of representation of the factions recognized the superior positions
of the Rome group and the Northern Alliance with the most delegates.
The former thus acquired the chairmanship, and the Northern
Alliance got three main ministriesdefense, interior, and
The former monarch, King Zahir Shah, will again exercise his
royal pleasure in matters of state and in the process retrieve
his lost eminence. The Northern Alliancemainly non-Pashtunin
spite of being the victors of Kabul, will be required to forego
their prize. The self-appointed president Professor Burhanuddin
Rabbanis opposition to the proposed structures to be created
by the accord exemplified the dissent that exists.
The U.N. mediators distribution of the spoils of power
temporarily subsumed the opposition, but it is not likely to
resolve the problem permanently. The Northern Alliance, being
a coalition, will face greater problems from within, unlike
the more cohesive kings party.
It is not known whether the U.N. mediators will provide a copious
tome for interpreting the various procedures, structures, and
clauses of the agreement and how these will function, as the
accord itself is somewhat bereft of the details and annexures
that are necessary for such documents. The special representative
of the U.N. secretary-general will, if his role is to be interpreted,
act as a powerful U.N. man in Afghanistan. But much will depend
on how he exercises his authority when he deals with the interim
authority, which will be the repository of Afghan sovereignty.
The working of the accord is fraught with too many problems
due to the large grey areas and its lack of recourse to other
sources to fill in those blanks.