Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Tuesday, July 17th, 2018

Working Towards Social Justice

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Working Towards  Social Justice

Achieving social justice in Afghanistan, having been the omnipresent mantra of all in the early years of the post-Taliban era, has now been relegated to the bottom of the national and international agenda for Afghanistan. Social justice is all about creating a just and fair society where every human being as a citizen enjoys a range of God-given rights, to which he/she is entitled regardless of the person's standing in the society.

Although social justice as a concept has rather been controversial and no unanimous definition of it exists to date, broadly speaking, it implies creating and sustaining a fair society where people have equal rights and opportunities and where injustice is minimized and where it occurs, there are mechanisms in place to check the injustice and redress the aggrieved.

In our country Afghanistan, achieving social Justice has been an elusive goal ever since the advent of the new political dispensation in the country. Widespread poverty and hunger, rampant unemployment, decades of war and conflict, systematic violation of human rights of people and communities in every nook and corner of the country by warlords and criminals, and also by both the Taliban and the international military coalition present in the country, brutalizing and enslavement of women and girls, environmental destruction and rising levels of pollution in large cities, lack of access to healthcare not only in villages but also in cities, and uneven governmental spending across the country are only some of the manifestations of factors that render social justice a concept alien to Afghanistan.

In Afghanistan, social justice takes on many aspects such as political justice, economic justice, judicial justice, cultural justice and many more. Achieving or even bringing the society closer to this goal would be impossible without implementing justice in each of the areas mentioned.

In any society including Afghanistan, social justice and achieving that, ideally, should go hand in hand with other social advancements like prevalence of a democratic system, freedom, rule of law, supremacy of law, replacement of the culture of gun and violence with that of tolerance and dialogue, betterment of economic status of people in general, establishment of a representative state capable of enforcing its writ, and bringing justice and so on.

The Constitution of Afghanistan has clearly laid down the vision for achieving social justice in the country. Conceptually, the country's Constitution is indeed a very progressive national document that has no parallel among other countries in the region in terms of its modern outlook and progressive vision.

The key lies in utilizing the provisions of the Constitution in promoting a more just society through removing the formidable obstacles that lie in its way. What are the prospects of achieving social justice in Afghanistan? It is no hidden secret that achieving social justice cannot be accomplished overnight and within a short span of time. Therefore, has Afghanistan been able to take strong steps towards consolidating the foundations for achieving a more just society?

The most important obstacle in the way of bringing the society closer to a just one is the continuation of decades of civil war and armed conflict. It is blatantly clear that as long as Afghanistan does not break away from its vicious cycle of war and peace, achieving social justice will remain only a pipedream of Afghan intelligentsia. In the country, perhaps the largest manifestation of social injustice, as opposed to social justice, has been the widespread poverty, hunger and destitution of millions of people.

When more than 80% of the country's population remains under all kinds of poverty lines drawn by any agency whether the World Bank or Afghan government, and when people, mired in abject poverty, cannot fulfill their most basic necessities, all other requirements of social justice such as democracy, freedom of expression, etc are of secondary importance.

This does not mean that working towards achieving democracy as one objective and achieving social justice as another cannot be pursued together and simultaneously; but the fact remains that until an overwhelming majority of the population literally cannot have 3 square meals a day due to extreme poverty, talking about democracy and freedom of expression sounds somewhat meaningless.

Righting the wrongs in an Afghanistan that has gone through decades of conflict and civil strife would not be an easy task. It would require years of sustained action on the part of an empowered and impartial government as well as a vibrant civil society.

Unlike what many would like to propose, implementing the transitional justice program in Afghanistan and indicting and convicting the so-called "warlords" for their war crimes, far from stabilizing an aggrieved society, will further aggravate the prevailing tensions and widen the divisions.

Achieving even a modest extent of social justice in present day Afghanistan would be possible only through the works of a government that genuinely works for the welfare of the Afghan population. Certainly, the poor and the destitute among the Afghan population, who constitute the majority of our nation, would need jobs and livelihoods more than seeing a few perpetrators of war crimes in prison.

In order to accelerate Afghanistan society's move towards achieving a measure of social justice, a number of challenges in the way must be faced. The first and foremost is to build the state and the government into an instrument of providing justice rather than denying it.

A competent, capable and representative government that is willing and able to deliver good governance is a pre-requisite. In the larger picture, building a truly representative and empowered parliament to work as a system of check and balance mechanism against the excesses of the government is also mandatory.

An Afghan State having these qualities will be better able to move towards bringing physical security to citizens and delivering jobs and employment to alleviate the 2 most important manifestations of social justice that are peace and eradication of hunger and poverty.

But before, we can build a state and government so good the rampant ethnic, tribal and clan divisions in the society must be brought under control and kept away from interfering in functioning of the government.

The international community involved in Afghanistan must also re-double its resolve to help Afghanistan build a government purged from bias and prejudice, and one that is able to deliver good governance. As long as we do not have these factors ready and in place, the goal of achieving social justice will remain only a naïve pipedream.

The author is the permanent writer of the Daily Outlook Afghanistan. He can be reached at outlook afghanistan@gmail.com

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