Afghanistan's destiny seems to be in the hands of its political elite as how they manage and respond to the demanding pressures of today will script the tomorrow of the country and the nation. First and foremost, it is the behavior, performance and conduct of Afghanistan's elites which will largely determine whether or not Afghanistan would be able to ensure stability, feed its millions of hungry and poor and move ahead on the path of prosperity and development.
Success of today means that Afghanistan of tomorrow will be better prepared to face the immense challenges of the future. Conversely, Failure on the part of Afghanistan and its elites would mean that the baggage of ills, problems and challenges facing Afghanistan will only grow in the coming years and decades.
This year will mark the tenth year since the Bonn process started. During this journey of ten years, Afghanistan has indeed undergone much transition and transformation. The result, as evident, has been a mixed bag of successes and failures. While it would not be wise to focus solely on the failures and disregard the successes Afghanistan has accomplished, the timeless axiom holds true that failures are not final and successes are never eternal.
If Afghanistan of today still faces extraordinary challenges on many fronts and if it has indeed failed on many other fronts, these failures are not meant to be final. On the other hand, the successes Afghanistan has accomplished in recent years should, by no means, be taken for granted. Adoption of a modern and progressive Constitution, which, at least in its construct, is a fine blend of tradition and modernity in the context of Afghanistan, is an often-cited success.
Establishment of a new political system that works through election to the public office; revival of Afghanistan's experience with parliamentary democracy; universal franchise for all citizens to exercise their right to vote; extension of education and public healthcare to cover a wider segment of Afghan population are among the successes Afghanistan has been able to accomplish with substantial assistance from the international community over the past one decade.
On the other hand, the failures and shortcomings are glaring. In my view, perhaps, the greatest shortcoming over the past one decade has been the inability of the Afghan nation including the government to re-write Afghanistan's social contract and to transform the traditional and archaic sets of relationships in its society and politics alike.
Have the traditional, patriarchal relations between the government and its citizens undergone much positive change towards greater empowerment of individuals and communities? Have we been able to bring about a sort of change that re-defines the state and the government in the eyes of the masses of common people? The answer has painfully been 'no'. The state and the government in our country, for a majority of the people, have remained almost the same.
There is no change from the days and years of monarchy and thereafter when the state and the government were seen by masses as predatory agents from whom protection should be sought. Now and after ten years of the start of the new Afghanistan, the reality of the state and the government for a majority of our countrymen in distant towns and villages is one which is corrupt, inefficient, predatory and far from a benevolent authority in whose protection people can find solace. A look at the Presidential palace of the country and where the country's chief executive is seated is enough to reveal the extent of progress we have made over the past one decade.
The way the affairs of the nation and the country are run from the palace still resembles the old days of monarchy when the king was the undisputed arbiter and the ultimate decider. Even right now and after almost four decades since the demise of monarchy in the country, the way the country's chief executive runs the country are bears a stark resemblance to the days of monarchy.
Groups of advisers, religious figures, regional leaders and strongmen compete with one another to win the favor of the President while power remains concentrated in his hands and his sole decisions determines the destiny of millions. All these go against the spirit of a true democracy. Sometimes, i cannot distinguish if we still have a king in the palace or a chief executive who is supposed to be the ultimate embodiment of diverse interests and voices - which is what democracy is all about.
The failure over all these years to revamp, revitalize and reform not only the political culture but also the structures of government will come back to haunt Afghanistan. Managing a country of 30 million people and growing and addressing its increasing needs of today with a politicl and administrative system of 100 years ago is hardly the answer for Afghanistan's many ills. Where is the fresh breeze and the wind of change that today's Afghanistan is so desperately in need of?
In the end, what determines the fate and the destiny of our country and our people lies in our own hands. If Afghanistan has not been able to move beyond the first few successes of the early years, the reason lies in how our government, our elites and our leaders have performed. How the U.S., Pakistan or other countries have performed is all secondary. Placing the blame on others, on foreigners, on the U.S., on Pakistan and on neighbors, as being done by our national leadership and people alike, amounts to nothing but deceiving ourselves and shutting our eyes to our own failures.
There are still plenty of time and resources at disposal to begin anew and move forward the cause of building a peaceful and prosperous Afghanistan. The abundant goodwill of the international community is still with Afghanistan. Countries which have the power to assist Afghanistan in a big way such the U.S. are still committed to helping Afghanistan.
More important, the youthful energy and the fervent zeal of Afghanistan's predominantly young population to be drivers of positive change is another of Afghanistan's many assets. With the country's natural resources lying intact and the region where we are located being abuzz with growth and economic prosperity, Afghanistan is well-poised to seize the available opportunities. It all depends on how we can rise to the occasion.