KABUL — Abdurrashid Dostum, the controversial Afghan vice president who was forced to leave for Turkey last year amid sexual assault charges, is set to return by Monday, potentially ending protests on his behalf that have rippled through several northern provinces, his supporters said Friday.
Mohammad Tahir Rahmani, head of the provincial council in Dostum’s native Faryab province, said Dostum will fly to Kabul within the next few days as part of a deal negotiated with President Ashraf Ghani’s administration. The ethnic Uzbek has a massive following in parts of northern Afghanistan.
A Ghani spokesman did not immediately return messages seeking comment Friday. But during a news conference earlier in the week, Ghani indicated that his government has been negotiating a return that would restore Dostum to his post as first vice president.
However, Ghani added that Dostum would still have to face an investigation into charges that he orchestrated the beating and rape of a political rival.
“This issue has a legal aspect, and the attorney general will investigate it,” Ghani said at the time.
Dostum, a prominent leader in the Afghan civil war during the 1990s, is still popular in the portions of northern Afghanistan near the Uzbekistan border.
The controversy surrounding the charges he faces took on new resonance earlier 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 and for Dostum’s return.
Last week, the protests spread to surrounding provinces after a video recorded in the wake of the battle showed Afghan soldiers kicking and beating 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 and set up tents. Organizers threatened more disruptions.
“We will expand the protests to paralyze the government in these areas,” Bashir Ahmad Tayenj, a top Dostum aide, said earlier 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.