“Legal issues are related to justice and judicial institutions,” Haroon Chakansuri, Ghani’s top spokesman, said in a statment. “They are independent in their work, and will deal with all issues in accordance to the law.”
The burly ethnic Uzbek general who has ruled over the northern border region for 30 years has been a thorn in Ghani’s side since becoming the president’s running mate in 2014.
Hot-tempered, he is infamous for acts of cruelty that run counter to the fragile government’s rule of law, but he remains influential enough to secure the ethnic Uzbek vote in next year’s presidential elections.
He has reportedly ordered tanks driven over enemies’ legs, and was accused of suffocating hundreds of Taliban prisoners inside sealed truck containers, without any serious repercussions.
However, the charges in 2016 appeared to change that.
With Ghani under pressure from Western donors to prosecute Dostum and suspend him from office, Dostum flew to Turkey last year under the pretense of seeking a medical procedure.
The controversy surrounding the charges he faces took on new resonance this month when Afghan soldiers arrested one of his proteges in Faryab, district police chief Nizamuddin Qaisari, for threatening to kill government officials.
The operation, which left several of Qaisari’s bodyguards dead, sparked protests in Faryab calling for the police chief’s release, with Dostum egging them on from abroad, demanding his return to office.
Last week, the protests spread to surrounding provinces after a video recorded in the wake of the battle showed Afghan soldiers kicking several more of Qaisari’s guards while they lay handcuffed and bleeding from their untreated wounds. The video went viral on social media.
The protests briefly shut down some local government offices as demonstrators staged sit-ins. Organizers threatened more disruptions.
“We will expand the protests to paralyze the government in these areas,” Bashir Ahmad Tayenj, a top Dostum aide, said this week.
Ghani has said his government is investigating the incident, which critics say shows that human rights violations have gone unchecked within his administration.
“For me as the commander in chief of the armed forces, any treatment of security and defense forces which are in contradiction with the enforced principles and laws of the country by no means is acceptable,” Ghani said during his Sunday news conference.
Rahmani, the provincial council chief, said Dostum asked him Friday to tell his supporters to stop the protests. But, he said, they are likely to continue until Dostum returns to Faryab.
“People do not believe in the government’s promise,” Rahmani said.