The political cleavage within the government’s machinery has filled the air with a sense of mistrust. Political orientation and factional tendencies have overridden national interests as political figures pursue their personal ambitions. The persistent political turmoil is a strong blow to the nascent democracy of Afghanistan.
Following the 2014 presidential election, the National Unity Government (NUG) was founded on the basis of an agreement signed between President Ashraf Ghani and CEO Dr. Abdullah Abdullah. The agreement stated thatLoya Jirga (Grand National Assembly) would be held in 2016 to reform the constitution with a view to assigning the position of prime minister.
Despite the agreement, Loya Jirga was not held in 2016 which generated two horrible consequences. First, it widened the gap between officials as strong political rhetoric was exchanged between them. Dr. Abdullah urged the presidential palace to convene Loya Jirga but it was called against constitution. Second, Afghan people lost their trust in the officials and believed that they would prefer their political interests to national ones.
The wall of mistrust grew taller between state and nation as political turbulence was extended within the government’s apparatus. For example, the tension between the presidential palace and the First Vice President Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum, who lives in the self-imposed exile in Turkey, and the tension between Dostum and the former provincial governor of JawzjanAhmad Eshchi, who accused Dostum of sexual harassment, caused a serious trust deficit between state and nation.
With the continuation of the tug-of-war among political figures, the level of public trust declined further. The serious tension between presidential palace and the Balkh governor Ata Muhammad Noor, who refused to step down from his position despite presidential decree, did not only fill the air with distrust but also triggered factional sentiments. Jamiat-e-Islami Party, to which Ata Muhammad is affiliated, had to engage in negotiation with presidential palace so as to settle the political tension and postpone the removal of Ata from his position, which was not productive enough.
After all, the very recent refusal of Samangan provincial governor to step down from his position seemed highly surprising. Abdul Karim Khaddam, who is also affiliated with Jamiat-e-Islami, defied the presidential decree stating that he represented Turkman, an ethnic group, and would resign if Turkman or Jamiat Party asked him to do so.
Although the recent issue has been resolved, it spread a sense of panic among the public. Besides reflecting the wide gap within the government’s machinery, Khaddam’s defiance aggravated the fear of the public, who believed that defying presidential decree would change into a normal practice.
Generally speaking, the law has been widely disregarded by officials. In addition to the establishment of NUG on the basis of agreement rather than law, the legal period of parliament was terminated but election was not held. These issues indicate a blatant disregard to law and constitution and undermine the democratic principles.
Lack of trust between officials which resulted in breaking law such as standing against presidential decree, exchanging harsh rhetoric, and controversy over appointment of ministers, which lasted very long, were a strong blow to democracy.
It is believed that the security situation has been deteriorated following the lack of trust among officials. In other words, political tension has left a vacuum which was exploited by the militants. The increase in human fatalities in recent months mushroomed the scale of disappointment and distrust and the public is of the view that national interests were outweighed by political interests.
To strengthen democracy, both state and nation will have to respect law. Since all are equal in the eye of law, no one is supposed to violate it. Officials, who are also the law-enforcers, must respect the law so that all people learn from them. Similarly, the state should facilitate parliamentary election and conduct it on time. In democratic systems, parliament is considered the beating heart of democracy and if this heart does not beat, the society will be paralyzed politically and economically. Hence, conducting parliamentary election on time is highly essential.
Officials are also supposed to bridge the gap and focus their energy on social, political, and economic issues of the country rather than their factional interests. To regain the public trust, officials need to advocate democracy and bury their differences forthwith. They have to take serious steps in ensuring security and upholding the rights and freedoms of citizens. Otherwise, the wall of mistrust will remain tall between state and nation.