It has been eight consecutive days that Samin Barakzai, a female lawmaker,from western Herat Province has gone on hunger strike. There is serious concern about her health, like she might get kidney and stomach problems if she continued strike. Already she is in severe condition as her photos posted on internet and Media showing her terribly weak and frail. During her hunger strike, many visited her in tent set up in the front of lower house of the parliament, showed empathy and some asked her to quit the strike.
But she has strongly resisted against requests and remained committed to fast to death. Few days ago, Minister of Parliamentary affairs, Humayun Aziz took her to Presidential Palace and she met President Hamid Karzai. According to Miss Barakzai, Mr. President promised her to look into her demand for reinstatement, but she did not call off hunger strike and does not intend to do so.
She is one of the nine lawmakers disqualified by Independent Election Commission in August. She claims there was no electoral fraud in her case. And emphasized that if there were any fraud, she would return salary paid to her during months working as a lawmaker in the House.
Her strike and claims show that how everything is shadowy and dominated by doubts and suspicion here.
Just put a glance to background and, not with much accuracy, consider the process that led to hunger strike of Miss Samin Barakzai.
Right after last year's parliamentary election that many claimed was fraudulent, while Independent Election Commission stood hard and rejected all claims, saying that it was the best possible election that could have been held with the given security situation. There were lobbies and tough political bargain on the backstage but ended uselessly as Independent Election Commission (IEC) rejected to bring changes in the combination of Wolesi Jirga.
The members of Independent Election Commission, particularly, its chief, Mr. Fazl Ahmad Manavi against pressures won much appreciation. After the announcement of the primary result, the commission soon announced the profile sealed, and did not accept to hold investigation to meet concerns of opposition as well as failed candidates.
The steadiness of IEC encountered a clenched fist of Mr. President, as expected. Hamid Karzai, soon after, approved the establishment of Especial Tribunal, suggested by Supreme Court, to investigate electoral fraud. The investigation took months and finally it disqualified 62 sitting MP's, which followed by protest and mounting angers of Wolesi Jirga members. They set up the Law-supporting coalition against the motion and furiously disqualified Attorney General as well as numbers of Supreme Court officials, including Chief justice.
But time worked, seemingly, in reverse to MPs' desire. The coalition boycotted Parliamentary sessions, and vowed to stand beside a sitting lawmaker till the end. As a result, Parliament stopped working for almost a month due to lack of quorum. Their protest however was heard by Media, but did not provide them power to force President Karzia to retreat and dismiss the result of especial tribunal's investigation.
Initially, they were much stronger and by course of the time it started defecting as there were MP's suggesting to settle down the issue for the sake of greater national interest. They were in antagonism with President, but unfortunately after mediation of IEC and approving the Especial Tribunal's investigation for only nine of 62, the tide slid to Mr. Hamid Karzai.
The measure of IEC further weakened the Law-supporting Coalition. And after a month-long opposition and boycotting daily session, few days ago they called off the so-called boycotting and now regularly attend parliamentary sessions. Meanwhile they vowed to continue protest through Wolesi Jirga.
Though this a year-long controversy and dominating uncertainty has proved already too costly for fledgling democratic institutions, but here I do want to enlist them. What I hear is detailing about the root cause that leads to strike of, for instance, Samin Barakzai. Why problems and challenges are not solved peacefully without dealing powerful blows to efficiency of government. As she claimed that if the electoral fraud was proved in her case, she would not only leave the parliament but also repay salaries paid to her during months.
The problem lies here. Unlike a democratic country, here still democratic institutions have not taken roots in the society and still autocratic behaviors are preferred to resolve problems. Even though, steps like going on hunger strike and boycotting parliament sessions are not much unfamiliar with democratic tradition, but the very measures, afraid to say, feed with prevalent autocratic tradition that emerges in higher frequency. They perhaps do not resort to measure for the sake of democracy and improvement of democratic behavior. Some of them resort because of they see their own personal interest in danger.
In addition, here is no least trust among officials and agencies. For instance, President Karzai could not trust the announcement of IEC of a defendable Parliamentary election. The same issue was repeated with Especial Tribunal that MP's do not trust its findings and think that the result is not based on ground reality but on direct political lobby by President Karzai. It is generally due to lack of transparency and everything held and all bound to suspicion and dubiousness.
Moreover, the market for hostility and rigidity is in better position instead of compromise and cooperation, which the country needs the most. Presently, MP's are sharply divided on the issue of nine newly replaced lawmakers as members of Law-supporting Coalition brand them illegitimate.
It is vivid that enmity would not settle down the issue, as the history shows. Our MP's should notice that their hostility would heal health problems of Samin Barakzai. Instead what can at least calm her and bring stability is a friendly cooperation among Wolesi Jirga members to settle down the issue with wise approach rather than trying to revenge.