The United Nations Plan for Political Accommodation

The United Nations Plan for Political Accommodation

Benan Sevan, Diego Cordovez' successor as special representative of the UNsecretary general, attempted to apply a political formula that had beenannounced by UN Secretary General Javier Perez De Cuellar on May 21, 1991.Referred to as a five-point plan, it included: recognition of Afghanistan'ssovereign status as a politically non-aligned Islamic state; acceptance of theright of Afghans to self-determination in choosing their form of government andsocial and economic systems; need for a transitional period permitting adialogue between Afghans leading to establishment of a government with widelybased support; the termination of all foreign arms deliveries into Afghanistan;funding from the international community adequate to support the return ofAfghanistan's refugees and its reconstruction from the devastation of war.

These principles were endorsed by the Soviet Union and the United States andAfghanistan's neighboring governments, but there was no military means ofenforcing it. The three moderate Peshawar parties accepted it, but it wasopposed by Hekmatyar, Rabbani, Sayyaf and Khalis who held out for a totalvictory over the Kabul government.

Nevertheless, these four "fundamentalists" found it politic toparticipate in the effort to implement the UN initiative. Pressure from theirforeign supporters and the opportunities that participation offered to modify orobstruct the plan encouraged them to be reluctant players. Pakistan and Iranworked jointly to win mujahidin acceptance at a conference in July, 1991.Indicating its formal acceptance of the plan, Pakistan officially announced thetermination of its own military assistance to the resistance in late January1992. Najibullah also declared his acceptance, but until March 18, 1992, hehedged the question of whether or when he would resign in the course ofnegotiations.

Sevan made a strenuous effort to create the mechanism for the dialogue thatwould lead to installation of the transitional process envisaged in point threeof the plan. The contemplated arrangement was a refinement and a simplificationof earlier plans which had been built around the possible participation of ZahirShah and the convoking of a meeting in the Loya Jirgah tradition. By March 1992the plan had evolved to the holding of a meeting in Europe of some 150 respectedAfghans representing all communities in the late spring. Most of Sevan's effortwas directed at winning the cooperation of all the Afghan protagonists,including the Shia parties in control of the Hazarajat. In early February, heappeared to have won the active support of commanders among the Pushtuns ineastern Afghanistan and acquiescence from Rabbani and Hekmatyar to the extent ofsubmitting lists of participants acceptable to them in the proposed meeting.Simultaneously, Sevan labored to persuade Najibullah to step down on thepresumption that his removal would bring about full mujahidin participation.Instead, Najibullah's March 18 announcement accelerated the collapse of hisgovernment. This collapse in turn triggered events that moved faster thanSevan's plan could be put into effect.

In the midst of hectic maneuvering to put the European meeting together,Sevan declared on April 4 that most of the parties (including Hekmatyar's) andthe Kabul government had agreed to transfer power to a proposed transitionalauthority. He also announced the creation of a "pre-transitioncouncil" to take control of government "perhaps within the next twoweeks." He was struggling to keep up with events which threatened todissolve the government before he had a replacement for it.

In the end, some of the Shia parties and the Islamists in Peshawar blockedhis scheme. They withheld their choices or submitted candidates for the Europeanmeeting whom they knew would be unacceptable to others. The hope for a neutral,comprehensive approach to a political settlement among Afghans was dashed. Sevanthen worked to ensure a peaceful turnover of power from the interim Kabulgovernment which replaced Najibullah on April 18 to the forces of Massoud andDostam. In effect, the turnover was peaceful, but without an overall politicalsettlement in place. Within a week a new civil war would begin among thevictors.

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