Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Friday, January 18th, 2019

Any Room for Democracy?


Any Room for Democracy?

The escalated militancy fills the air with a strong sense of fear and disappointment. The Taliban outfits have intensified their attacks which undermined democratic bases in Afghanistan. Mansour’s death did not pave the ground for peace talks and his successor remained more serious obstacle before the talks. Afghan soldiers and civilians sustained large-scale casualties with the unmitigated militancy. Warring factions, except for Hezb-e Islami Afghanistan (HIA), turned down Afghanistan’s offer of peace and continue their offensives against the National Unity Government (NUG). So, there seems no room for peace and negotiation.

With the downfall of the Taliban’s regime, Afghan nation hoped for the best and celebrated democracy through flocking to ballot boxes. Men and women posted their pictures on Facebook, with big smile on their lips, while standing in queue to cast their votes. They believed that their rights and freedoms would be protected, afterwards.

To one’s unmitigated chagrin, the public dream for a civil society, void of violence and bloodshed, did not come true and Taliban guerilla fighters re-emerged. They are wreaking record-breaking casualties on the Afghan civilians and security forces. As predicted, Afghan policemen are surrendering in hordes after the withdrawal of US-led NATO forces, and allowing the Taliban to make crucial gains across Afghanistan. Similarly, non-combatants are widely targeted.

Terrorism and instability have plagued the country tremendously. To the Afghans’ unmitigated chagrin, the civilian casualties increase with each passing day in indiscriminate attacks and suicide bombings carried out by the Taliban insurgents – women and children are also among the victims. Moreover, unemployment and economic stagnation – which rule the individuals’ life – are the products of the current turbulence. It is the nature of war to propel a society towards stagnation and greater deadlock. Therefore, Afghan people are wrestling with a number of formidable challenges which root in militancy.

There isn’t a single Afghan family that hasn’t been affected by the daily acts of brutal and deadly terrorism carried out across our cities, towns, and villages. Our children – girls and boys – are attacked on their way to school and our mosques and public spaces are blown up all in the name of a noble religion, which in reality stands for peace and peaceful coexistence.

The victim families simmer with a sense of indescribable pain and anguish. “The pain is still there, it never ebbs. They say time heals a wound but I disagree. It merely covers the open wound with a thin scab which, when peeled away, reveals the flesh anew, exposed, lacerated and oozing with pain. I look at other mothers with their children, holding them close, protecting them as they pass me, my eyes well up and the emptiness returns. How lucky are those women who can put their hands through their children’s hair and feel each strand falling between their fingers.”

Worst of all, the Taliban elements seek to spread warped ideology in Afghanistan via founding seminaries. With a new wave of privately run seminaries/madrasahs being opened across the country, there is a growing feeling among women’s rights groups that these freedoms are again under threat. Reportedly, there are now 1,300 unregistered madrasahs in Afghanistan, where children are given only religious teaching. This is increasing fears among those involved in mainstream education. Arguably the most controversial of these madrasahs is Ashraf-ul Madares in Kunduz, founded by two local senior clerics, where 6,000 girls study full time.

It is likely that war against militancy is a national war that will ebb and flow until the state has both a winning strategy and the relentless determination to implement it. In the war against terror, the state has not really gone beyond the disruption and dismantling of terrorist cells. I believe that this approach does little to address the militancy threat in its many dimensions. Terrorist networks do not exist in isolation — from funding to transport and from hideouts to indoctrination; any given militant group exists and operates with the help of a number of supporting actors. That much-needed support often comes from various elements.

Seemingly, the country will sustain turbulence and economic recession unless a thorough and serious counterterrorism strategy is planned by regional and international communities. The foreign officials have confessed that the US-led NATO anti-terrorism strategy failed in Afghanistan. But I believe that the “war on terror” gave counterproductive result – the emergence of the self-styled Islamic State (IS) group reflects the very bitter fact. Prior to 9/11 attacks, Afghanistan was in the grip of the Taliban’s militancy, however now it is threatened by both Taliban and IS insurgents.

The national unity government has been beleaguered and under pressure from all sides. The growing violence of the conflict, slow progress on forming a government, emerging political rivalries and a sinking economy – all make a quick peace deal attractive. However, seeking a quick fix may ruin the chance of getting a real peace process going. The most essential element of a peace process is building trust among the warring parties. An external force intimidating one party into coming to the table can be no substitute for genuine interest in seeking a negotiated end to the conflict.

Violence and violation of rights are the inveterate genre which continues relentlessly. To put it succinctly, the escalation of terrorism, aggression and carnage is a matter of great worry which has raised the public concerns.

Hujjattullah Zia is the permanent writer of the Daily Outlook Afghanistan. He can be reached at zia_hujjat@yahoo.com

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