President Hamid Karzai has in his power to pass on to the new generation a democratic tradition instead of trying to meddle in the work of democratic institutions. Looking back at history of Afghanistan, there is seen to be stagnation, despotism and oppression. The power relations in this land never produced the knowledge to be a base for development and civilization. The history of modern Afghanistan spans more than 250 years, which is definitely a long period that could be of great and fundamental changes. It is due to the same period of failures to emerge out of a tribal society that now this myth that Afghanistan cannot be modernized has taken root and rules on the minds of local and international observers.
As recently, some of the U.S senators have even been trying to advocate for the early completion of drawdown as they wrote to New York Times last week, "We commend the president for sticking to the July date he had outlined for beginning the withdrawal. However, his plan would not remove all regular combat troops until 2014. We believe the United States is capable of achieving this goal by the end of 2012." They pointed to the now deep-rooted myth that there seems to be no window for Afghanistan to become a strong democratic nation, saying "Let's not forget that Afghanistan has been a tribal society for millenniums."
It is to be mentioned that in many critical junctures of our history it has been the rulers that have failed to embrace a new power relation that could be an engine of change and propel the country towards a new epistemic system. Ten years after a new chapter was opened in the chequered history, now the rulers are attempting to reverse the democratic gains. This has nothing to do with Afghan people because, as the whole world was witness, they risked their lives to turn out and vote in the parliamentary elections on September 18, 2009. It is just a clique of authorities, including President Hamid Karzai, that stubbornly tries to bypass the constitution and other enforceable laws of the country and fulfill their wishful desires. This wishful thinking is just about restoration of traditional mechanisms and institutions.
While the president has been and is leaving no stone unturned to weaken the parliament and the future of electoral management bodies- the Independent Election Commission and Electoral Complaints Commission- by setting up extra-constitutional court and arrangement to look into parliamentary election fraud just because he is unhappy with the elections result, on the other hand he is making every bid to pump money into the High Peace Council whose efforts, by far, have reaped no results except for more Afghan deaths in the hands of forces of terror and prepare for the traditional Loya Jirga, which has no legal base in the constitution.
The house of representatives-Wolesi Jirga- of the National Assembly has called president Karzai's traditional Loya Jirga as 'illegal' and said that 'it would not participate in it and would hold the government accountable for its expenses.' The president has never thought of holding the elections provided for in the constitution to elect district councils elections. Instead, we have the informal community and district councils that could be easily bought off. It means that president Karzai thinks that Afghan people do not deserve to have strong democratic and elected institutions. Part of the reason for his push to undermine or prevent elected institutions stems from the centralization of power structure that needs to be changed. In fact, Afghan people and international community are paying the price for their support to centralize power by establishing a strong presidential system in the constitutional Loya Jirga and in the efforts prior to that. Now with the power centralized in his hand, President Karzai knows very well that strong elected and representative institutions will serve as a bulwark and protector of check and balance, which is a key principle in a democratic political system, and counteract his tendency to become an autocrat and implement his extra-legal wishful thinking.
On the other hand, he can easily make deals with traditional institutions to support him in his autocratic attempts. If the president had attached any value and importance to the representative institutions such as district councils, he would not have been trying to convene the traditional Loya Jirga, which just perpetuates the outmoded mechanisms of traditions in the country and strip Afghanistan of the opportunity to transition into the world of modernity, the route to which really passes through the ruins of traditional power structures. The question that comes up here is, "Is it not high time to rise up and pool all efforts together against the ongoing attempts to resort to and empower traditional mechanisms at the cost of representative and democratically-elected institutions of the country?" It should be mentioned that the future can be only built on decentralization of power structure and strengthening of modern institutions based on rationality as opposed to tradition that can no longer meet the needs of time. If president Karzai's autocratic attempt is not checked, the country could be plunged into a deep-seated instability and the country will lose another historical opportunity.
Now Afghanistan is standing at a crossroad. International forces have begun to leave the country after ten years of fighting against terrorists and forces of evil but there is a new set of challenges facing the country. It seems that all the observers, officials and people involved in the war in Afghanistan are concerned about the future of gains and achievements made by Afghan people and international community over the last ten years after the withdrawal of foreign forces from the country. The reasons for these concerns remain legitimate because the forces of evil that have been fighting a popularly-elected government and a democratic system and process over the last one decade have not received the final blow and thus are gaining momentum and strength. International community has decided and begun to draw down troops from this war-hit country. Afghan government and national security forces are yet to build the capacity to defend the country and protect the citizens on their own.
The outgoing U.S. ambassador, Karl Eikenberry, has said that there could be pitfalls ahead as the international troops are leaving Afghanistan. In an interview with the New York Times, Eikenberry has said, "One of the hard parts of leaving is you just don't know how some of the big things are going to turn out." The political crisis created by president Karzai over the parliamentary elections gives further rise to the concerns about not only the sustainability of democratic achievements but also on the future of the country after international forces leave.