Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Friday, September 21st, 2018

AFGHANISTAN: Way Forward (Part 3)

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AFGHANISTAN: Way Forward (Part 3)

In order to achieve this end, a team of experienced political figures should come to the fore and commit themselves to salvage Afghanistan in particular and the region plus the whole world in general from the scourge of instability, terrorism, poverty and the entailing hostility. A stable Afghanistan can offer much more positive prospects to the region and the world than an unstable Afghanistan. Afghan politicians, who enjoys very big support from the people of Afghanistan   including Doctor Zalmai Khalilzad, should come to the fore and discuss building a team with engaging the country’s experienced political personalities and technocrats - including some members of the present government - and other influential figures to form a political alliance for the next presidential election. Some members of the Taliban movement should also be approached conditionally for national reconciliation for the sake of lasting peace in the country. This is the way forward for Afghanistan of today in the political arena.    
Educational: - Education is the major and undisputed factor that can uplift a nation in many areas including security, economy, civil society and institutions. In fact a nation’s main security guarantee is its educated masses. Afghanistan is now standing at a very low level when it comes to education. 18 percent of the total population is educated by high school graduate standard. Negligible percentage is highly educated. This phenomenon presents grave challenges for Afghanistan’s next administration. The present Afghan government has taken steps to allow private educational institutions. Millions of children – including girls – are going to school across the country. This policy should be continued with more emphasis on regulations in areas such as quality, effective use of time in schools, proper training of teachers and allocating much greater portion of national annual budget for building more quality educational institutions in the country. Afghan government should enforce with full show of force the rights to education and training of Afghan girls and boys across the country. Keeping in view century old traditions and conservatism in rural areas, the risk of girls not allowed to attend school in these areas is high. The new Afghan government should utilize local power houses such as religious leaders (Mollas, Maulawis) and tribal chieftains to encourage families to allow their girls to attend schools. This can be best done by mobilizing Islamic teachings and traditions of Prophet Muhammad (PBOH), which encourages both girls and boys to obtain education. These tasks are achievable by using local and traditional mechanisms that already exist.
The role of the state or future government in Afghanistan should be very inclusive in the operation of informal schools called Madrassas in the rural areas of Afghanistan. These institutions impart religious teachings to the youngsters and exist since hundreds of years in Afghan society. Sometimes, Masjids (Mosques) are used to impart religious teachings to Afghan kids. The reason for involvement of the government regulatory arm in these informal institutions is due to the use of these education houses by intelligence agencies to radicalize the youngsters and then use them under the influence of religious sentiments to gain political scores. Just as ISI trained thousands of Afghan kids in these Madrassas in Pakistan during the decade of war against Russian red army during the 80s, which to the oblivion of everyone, emerged as major force under the banner of Taliban.
Friends of Afghanistan have offered scholarships to thousands of school graduates in various fields including engineering, medical, business administration, accounting, police training and other areas. These countries include India, Turkey, some European countries and Pakistan. These are positive signs that can drastically bring norm, discipline and professionalism in very near future to Afghanistan. Afghan private and state run universities cannot accept all the school graduates due to limited number of seats. More than 30% of school graduates cannot make it to universities every year. Therefore, friends of Afghanistan should extend more scholarships to Afghan students in their universities. Such assistance will benefit Afghanistan as well as the countries where these young students studies and reached professional level. In addition, the next Afghan government should provide training and educational opportunities for trainers and professors of higher education institutions. The quality of education in these institutions depends on the knowledge and academic standards of higher educational institutions.
The next government of Afghanistan should design educational policies with specific benchmarks to check progress and implementation. A considerable portion of annual national budget and a sizeable chunk of international assistance should entirely be set aside for education on yearly basis. This trend should continue for at least a decade or more in order to achieve tangible progress on this front. In fact, to uplift education level and remove the hurdles on this road should be declared as priority number one of the next government. The experience of South Korea is a telling example in this regard. Immediately after the bloody war that lasted for three years until 1953, the establishment in the South Korea designed policies that gave number one priority to education. Within less than two decades, huge portion of South Korean masses were highly educated, highly skilled and the government policy to support talent and entrepreneurship has turned South Korea in to one of the miracles of the 20th centuries. I am sure – notwithstanding the challenges – Afghanistan can be changed as well.       
Economic: - Afghanistan is setting on a cross-road in a region where economic power houses – including India, China, central Asian countries, which are rich in resources and oil, Europe and far east –  are competing to establish logistics and transit basis to facilitate trade with and  among them. Though Afghanistan is a land-locked country, but the significant geographical location of this country cannot be denied. According to the United Nations economic survey, a country without open ocean port is seven times poorer than a country that has open ocean port. But this cliché begins to lose its meaning when it comes to Afghanistan owing to the limitless resources, strategic locations and alternate routes that Afghanistan can utilize.
The United States geological department completed a survey of Afghanistan’s natural, precious minerals and other important resources in 2007 and established its findings. These findings show that between two to three trillions dollar worth lithium is available in the central highlands of Afghanistan. Lithium is the matter that is used to build mobile phones and laptop computer batteries. In addition, hundreds of billions of dollar worth of copper, iron and nickel are shown in the findings to be available. Southern and Western regions are setting on mines of gold. The Northern regions include untapped natural gas and petroleum. A copy of these findings was handed over to President Hamid Karzai during a visit by a delegation from the United States Government to Afghanistan in 2008.
These resources are untapped except for a very small part where a Chinese company was awarded the Mes Aynak copper mine in the province of Logar for $3.5billions. Another Chinese company was awarded a portion of Amu Basin oil field in the North of the country. 99% of Afghanistan’s resources mentioned before are still untapped and need to be exploited. These economic facts and figures give all out guarantee to the international community and regional players to support Afghanistan’s stability. Significant efforts are needed – both by Afghans and international community, regional players – to find a way out of this current debacle. A dollar invested in bringing stability in the Afghanistan of today, will give back hundred fold more in value by a stable Afghanistan of tomorrow. To be Continued...

Mohammed Gul Sahibbzada is the permanent writer of the Daily Outlook Afghanistan. He can be reached at mohammed.g.sahibbzada@gmail.com

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