Institutional & Political: - Afghanistan has the road map and preliminary infrastructure for bringing up a political and institutional system in place. The constitution of Afghanistan, which is passed and ratified by the country’s first parliament, is in place. This was the first milestone towards stability and progress. Parliaments (upper and lower houses) are in place in accordance with the constitution. So far two successful parliamentary elections have taken place whereby people across the country elected their representatives. Though shortcomings in the process still remain, but as I said, the preliminary infrastructure is in place. Judiciary is a disappointment, but the efforts of international community and civil society is focusing on this third and important pillar of state power house to bring improvement to purge it from rampant corruption. Only a clean and independent judiciary can deliver justice and bring improvement in the governing system of a country. Educational institutions have taken big strides during the last decade, with many private institutions operating in the country. Though the quality of the education needs huge improvement and attention, the fact that thousands of school-graduates have opportunities to attend Universities is a great deal of achievement. Thousands of schools have been built since the US and international community intervened in Afghanistan in the post-Taliban era. Unprecedented number of boys and girls are attending schools since last ten years – though challenges are rampant in areas where girls’ education is concerned, owing to the conservative nature of Afghan society, but the fact remains that more than 7 million children – including girls and boys – are attending schools across the country. This will have very positive effect on Afghanistan’s future as educated masses are the main contributors to the political and economic stability and development of a country. In addition to these, Afghan National Army ( ANA) and Afghan National Police (ANP) are more visible in recent years. Their numbers have grown to more than 300’000 for ANA and more than 150’000 for ANP. Though there is a need to purge these two institutions from political influence, insurgents and other irregularities, the fact that Afghan Army and Afghan police exist in such a large number is encouraging. Strong political leadership and statesmanship is required to instill the spirit of unity, one-ness and service for the mother land in these institutions. This will come soon as Afghanistan will witness another election early in 2014 where masses will freely elect a leadership that is much aware of the ills and short-falls of the current system. It is only proper management of resources, selfless services and sacrifice by senior government leadership that is required to bring direction and organizational stability in all the institutions mentioned above.
While main emphasis should continue to be placed on fostering democracy with focus on strengthening democratic institutions and civil society, the new Afghanistan government should set forth policies to build inclusive state institutions that should be designed around good governance, with the main objective of serving the people and to remain neutral throughout the phases of future course of events in the country. Institutions are playing defining roles in the uplift or down turn of a nation. Extractive institutions, which are the root causes of all the evils in a nation – including poverty, economic disparity, political debacle and continued misshape of a country, should be avoided at all costs. Extractive institutions are those who deprive and take away resources and opportunities from certain subset of a society to benefit the other subset of a society. Examples are North Korea, some South American nations and other undemocratic governments. Inclusive institutions are those that support democratic practices, equally distribute resources and supports talents and entrepreneurship. Example of countries where inclusive institutions were built include South Korea, North America (USA) and Japan. Therefore, the new government in Afghanistan should exercise great care to prevent institutions drifting towards serving personalities rather than serving the greater masses of the society.
Political prospect is positive as well. The constitution of Afghanistan allows political parties to register. More than 100 political parties are currently registered in Afghanistan, and most of them are active among the masses. Though Afghanistan does not have main stream political parties that can leave its scar in general elections at this point in time, I foresee a time when main political parties will be operating in Afghan society very soon. During the last two elections, only individuals have participated in the presidential elections and parliamentary elections. No party based elections have so far been carried out. But as institutions are stabilized, educated representatives of the people take the helm of affairs in Afghanistan, improvement will follow.
As mentioned before, Afghanistan has witnessed her most stable political era during the reign of Mosaheban. But realities on the ground 70 years ago were different than those prevailing today. In those times, Afghanistan had organized tribal structure. The tribal chieftains had immense power and people of the same tribes would follow their chiefs’ orders. Thus, organized and compact cluster of population existed headed by a single head or a team of elders in various regions in the country, which made it very easy for the political establishment to reach a deal with them and the central government in Kabul. During the reign of Mosaheban, Kabul government did not interfere with the centuries old traditions and cultures prevailing across the country. Afghanistan’s restive areas were left to carry on daily life based on local traditional mechanism. But as the central government in Kabul became stronger, the belt of state run apparatus was extended to the most remote provinces across the country. Tribal values were slowly replaced with the central government rules and regulations. But these changes were brought slowly in order to avoid disturbances. Even though the government was much stronger during the 70s, the main political mechanisms such as Loya Jirga (Grand Assembly) still reign supreme.
After the invasion of the Soviet red army of Afghanistan, and the establishment of socialist government in the country followed by fierce campaign of the Jihadi organizations against the Kabul regime and their mentor – ex-USSR army in the country – the organized tribal structure that existed before these historic events were literally obliterated. Young Afghans from different tribes became affiliated with Jihadi organizations under leaders other than their tribal chiefs. This process had slowly blurred the lines of tribal divisions and the mechanism of decision making. With the appearance of Taliban in the political scene of Afghanistan, further blows were meted out to these traditional, centuries old tribal system in the country. At present times, we cannot count on the validity of political decisions, deals and agreements under a tribal system that once existed. Therefore, the focus should be made on building the state institutions and mechanisms whereby rule of law and enforcement of state constitution across the country is achieved.
It is critically important – both for Afghans and international community – to support very competent leaders in the upcoming presidential elections. The stakes are high for both international community and Afghanistan in a sense that at this time of lack of resources due to ongoing austerity measures in Europe in particular and the recession in the whole world in general taking chance would be equal to political and diplomatic suicide in Afghanistan. We need serious changes to take place in the leadership of the country. Afghanistan needs a strong, selfless and competent leadership to bring tangible changes. A process of reconciliation should start with Afghanistan’s neighbors now. Especially Pakistan and India should be convinced that Afghanistan will not be used against them in any future set up. Both countries’ interests should be guaranteed. In addition, Iran and the central Asian neighbors – including Russia – should be kept in to confidence. Afghanistan cannot afford animosity with any of its neighbor. We should push the process of reconciliation. The ability of our nascent institutions is not strong enough to declare open war against any of our neighbor. Afghanistan is historically located in a region where countries neighboring Afghanistan continue to practice foreign policy akin to medieval Europe where ‘thy neighbor-begger’ was the signature foreign policy. Afghans did not choose their neighbors, and have to find ways to ensure positive relations with all the neighbors plus the superpowers – including other stakeholders – in order to achieve lasting peace. Continuation of hostility and ware fare is not in the interest of anyone. It will continue to bring instability in the region, economic deprivation for the people of this region and overall waste of resources – hostilities and loss of life of ordinary civilians.