In April, the research group of the Centre for Contemporary Afghan Studies conducted an opinion poll among Afghan experts to find out the most influential people in the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.
Ten leading Afghan political scientists, journalists and heads of analytical centres, who live permanently in Kabul and professionally engaged in analyzing the Afghan political process took part in the survey that was conducted using the method of secret questioning.
The expert survey methodology is the most effective technology in gaining insight into the closed system of elite that includes information about the character of inter-elite communications and the parameters of political and administrative influence of participants of this communications. A successful example in this sociological technology is “Russia’s 100 influential politicians” project that has been monthly implemented by the Moscow-based daily “Nezavisimaya Gazeta” for several years.
The participants of the expert survey were offered to assess the level of influence on political process, on the adoption of political, administrative and economic decisions, as well as on Afghanistan’s public opinion on a scale of one to five of 87 Afghan politicians, businessmen, the representatives of administrative class, the opposition and the institutions of civil society. Marks received from each expert were summed up forming the summarized position in the rating.
According to the opinion of the participants of the expert survey, President Hamid Karzai with 40 points continues to remain the most influential politician in contemporary Afghanistan.
The Appearance of governor of the Balkh province Atta Mohammad Noor in the second place with 38 points can be considered a political sensation. Atta Noor has been known as the “King of North” for several years, but his position on the current rating is most likely linked to the fact that leaders of the US and several NATO countries have shown keen interest in the governor of Balkh, as well as his presidential ambitions. Several months ago, the governor of Balkh expressed his intention to run for presidency at the 2014 elections. According to several experts in Kabul, Atta Noor has a good chance of success at the presidential elections.
Significantly, Tajik Atta Noor surpasses First Vice-president Marshal Mohammad Fahim in the rating by two points, who has been considered the most influential representative of the former “Northern Alliance”. According to several experts, in the near future, Atta Mohammad Noor will claim for the leadership of the political community of the “northerners” and try to shift the centre of influence of the “Northern Alliance” from Panjshir to Mazar-i-Sharif.
Unexpectedly, leader of Afghan Uzbeks, chairman of National Islamic Movement of Afghanistan, General Abdul Rashid Dostum won a high position in the rating with 35 points.
According to the participants of the expert survey, the former leaders of the National Democratic Party of Afghanistan have lost their influence in the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. None of the former Afghan Communists who has remained his loyalty to the NDPA platform (left-wing) and its foreign policy is among the country’s most influential persons.
Among the country’s most influential persons are 17 members of the government and the President’s team. According to experts in Kabul, apart from President Hamid Karzai (40), among the most influential members of the government are First Vice-President marshal Mohammad Qasim Fahim (36), Defence Minister General Bismillah Khan (33), Energy Minister Ismail Khan (32), Education Minister Farooq Wardak (31) and Second Vice-President Mohammad Karim Halili.
There is a gap of 27 points between the heads of Afghanistan’s defence and interior ministries. At a time when Defence Minister Bismillah Khan is the Cabinet’s most influential minister, Interior Minister Mojtaba Patang is the weakest minister, not only in the Interior Ministry but in the government as a whole. According to some experts in Kabul, Mujtaba Patang is a “technical minister” and is the formal head of the police force.
According to the expert survey, Deputy Foreign Minister Jawed Ludin (20) is a more influential politician in the country today than Foreign Minister Zalmai Rassoul (18).
Experts in Kabul listed 22 MPs in Wolusi Jirga and Mishrana Jirga among the most influential people in contemporary Afghanistan. Significantly, only two out of 22 are senators, speaker of Mishrana Jirga Fazal Hadi Muslimyar (22) and deputy speaker of senate Mohammad Alam Izedyar (20). In short, according to analysts in Kabul, the absolute majority of influential members of the Afghan parliament are in its Lower House. Experts described Abdul Rasul Sayyaf (34) as the most influential MP. In the April rating, he surpassed speaker of the Lower House Abdul Rauf Ibrahimi (20) by 14 points. This means Abdul Rasul Sayyaf the “shadow” and informal leader of the Lower House of the Afghan parliament.
Among the most influential Afghans in the April rating of the CCAS are 8 politicians. The leader in this category is head of National Islamic Movement, leader of Afghan Uzbeks, General Abdul Rashid Dostum (35). He is followed by leaders of two coalition partners of the former Northern Alliance, National Front Ahmad Zia Massoud (32) and National Coalition Dr. Abdulla Abdulla (31).
The CCAS included for the first time the leaders of the armed opposition in the April rating. Experts described five opposition leaders as the most influential people in Afghanistan.
The most influential leader of the Afghan opposition, according to experts in Kabul, is head of the Taliban Movement Mullah Mohammad Omar (43). Most likely, with the approach of 2014 and the completion of the ISAF mission, the coefficient of political influence of Mullah Omar will continue to grow in Afghanistan. Leader of Hezb-i-Islami (Islamic Party of Afghanistan) Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and leader of the Haqqani Network of the Afghan Taliban Sirajuddin Haqqani are in the second and third places respectively.
Civil Society and Mass Media
The representatives of the civil society were included in this year’s list. Chairman of the Human Rights Commission Sima Samar (25) and chairman of the Central Election Commission Fazal Ahmad Manavi (23) occupied leading positions, and they are among the 50 most influential figures in contemporary Afghanistan. Television has become an important instrument in exerting political influence in Afghanistan. This is proved by the fact that experts in Kabul included director of the Tolo TV channel Saad Mohseni (19) and director of the Shamshad TV Fazal Karim (14) in the influence rating list.
As a whole, the results of the opinion poll show that the influence of the civil society and mass media on political processes in the country is not very high.
Compared to the representatives of the civil society, religious leaders and the heads of tribes traditionally have higher political potential in Afghan society. The most influential religious and political leader in the IRA, according to experts in Kabul, is former Afghan President, former speaker of Mishrana Jirga Sibghatullah Mojaddedi (25) who surpassed Sheikh Asif Mohseni (24), the former President only by one point.
Ten Afghan businessmen were included in the influence rating. The most influential businessmen control oil products market, hold leading TV companies and are actively engaged in making investments. Experts described Ehsanullah Bayat (26) as the most influential Afghan businessman. Abdul Rahman Alokozai (22) and Mahmoud Karzai (21) are in the 3rd and 4th places, while Kamaluddin Nabizade(19) is in the 5th place.
The results of expert survey show that those who came in full force in the 1980s and the 1990s are continue to occupy dominating positions in the Afghan political system. The innovation of the Afghan political class, if it happens, is taking place very slowly. Over 20-year civil war and war against terrorism helps to preserve a regime of “military democracy” in Afghanistan in which the real power and influence are in the hands of those who possess mechanisms and resources to do violence directly, as well as enjoy support from abroad.