As the Afghanistan Presidential election approaches, it is worth noting some of the deals that President Hamid Karzai is cutting to try to keep his position. The most significant so far involves the Hazaras and Uzbeks, who between them make up around 20 per cent of the electorate.
In early June the Wahdat-Junbish Alliance, representing the main Hazara and Uzbek political organisations and led by Haji Muhammad Muhaqiq and General Abdul Rashid Dostum, announced they would be supporting Karzai for the presidency.
The alliance between Hizb-e-Wahdat and Junbish-e-Milli came about after Muhaqiq visited General Dostum in Turkey in May. Dostum was dismissed as chief of the Army staff and forced to leave the country at the end of last year after it was clear that he would face war crimes charges. Under American pressure, the Turks took him under their wing, and they have clearly been working very hard since then to rehabilitate him.
In exchange for the Hazara and Uzbek votes, Karzai has apparently promised a substantial package of reforms that is little more than a political bribe.
The proposed reforms include:
* that Jaghoor and Behsood, two Hazara districts in Ghazni and Maidan, should be declared provinces;
* that the second vice president should be a Hazara. Karzai has already selected Mr Khalili as his VP;
* that Hazara representation be officially declared as 25per cent and Uzbek 15 per cent;
* that Wahdat should receive five cabinet portfolios and Junbish should receive four;
* that a highway be built from Kabul to Herat through Bamiyan and Daikundi;
* that the issue of Kuchi grazing rights - a source of conflict with Hazaras - should be resolved permanently;
* that the state should promote the Turko-Mongol language and culture;
* Perhaps most controversially, that General Dostum should be re-appointed as chief of the Army staff. This has now occurred, although Dostum remains in Turkey, allegedly undergoing medical treatment. On a visit to Afghanistan in June, the Turkish foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, said Dostum would soon be returning home.
Whether or not one likes the way politics plays out in Afghanistan, the Hazaras and Uzbeks are certainly supporting the new alliance. Earlier this week they held a massive joint rally outside the Hazrat Ali shrine in Mazar-e-Sharif in northern Afghanistan. An estimated 70,000 people took part in what was the largest political demonstration ever held in the city. They heard their political leaders urge them to vote for Karzai. Whether Karzai can deliver on his promises remains to be seen.