By: Dr. G. Rauf RoashanAbstract: Afghanistan watchers are wondering already what would be in the cards for Afghanistan when Nato and other international forces leave the country and when Karzai’s second term as president comes to an end in 2014. How would this country that has gained new strategic and economic importance in the region would be administered. What would be the future of democracy in this country when a reactionary insurgency that has not been defeated would either claim or share power in the government. Is peace possible?
Eventually in 2014 Afghanistan would emerge from a long lasting rule of its current president whose picture is seemed glued to the post-Taliban Afghanistan history of the country. He was seen into office with great expectations both by the international community as well as the Afghan nation. He was looked upon as a ray of hope for an emerging Afghanistan that would rise from the ashes of a protracted war and a person who would bring in a just and democratic government. He would rule, it was thought, over an Afghanistan where there would be no violence, no violation of human rights, justice would be maintained and economic prosperity like post-World War II Europe would embrace the country. Education and health services would be provided to the masses and world input of billions of dollars as aid would be spend on important and priority projects in a transparent manner and the results of these projects would be tangible and all expenditures would be accounted for. In the past over a decade of Karzai’s rule many things have happened in the country including great achievements side by side with greater failures. In a nutshell the achievements include the writing and promulgation of a constitution, establishment of a legislature, elections twice for president and two times for the houses of parliament, training of a national army and a police force and opening and running of hundreds of schools including those for girls in the country. A considerable length of roads was also built and an effort was made to implement higher education through a variety of educational institutions and universities.
Do these achievements match the expenditures made to realize them and the time span of more than a decade that was spent on them? Many people even the most optimistic observers would answer this question with a definitive “No.” However they would go ahead and give reasons for the failures. They would blame continued violence in the country perpetrated by an insurgency that they would claim based on some evidence was aided by self serving neighbors of Afghanistan and especially Pakistan from where Taliban enter the country to commit violence and retreat back to their safe havens across the long border. Others would blame the international community who could but did not plan wisely to change the conditions in the country or to achieve success for its own war on terror. Many would blame the non-existence of a clear cut plan based on priorities of the country and its people and ignoring of the situations on the ground. Yet others would blame warlords and the corruption associated with them and their establishments. Still others would point to conditions that bred a situation of a mafia state in the country where supporters of the government within and outside its framework were allowed a free hand in engaging in all sorts of corruption including looting of bank investments, grand embezzlements, and outright stealing in signing of contracts meant for reconstruction. Many also have found fault with donor country contractors and middlemen.
Again in a nutshell the failures include inability of the government to achieve peace and security for the people, help a true growth of economy by boosting production, inability to account for billions of dollars lost for development, marred elections, lack of democratic conduct, abuses of human rights of all kinds, inability of the government to see its writ honored and enforced in the provinces, distance between the people and the ranking members of the administration in so much that no member of the government can travel in the provinces without a huge escort of military guards and exponential rise in the amount of corruption, bribery and their methods and applications.
But does the future look promising? There could be many scenarios for the future of Afghanistan. The country is rich in mineral resources of all kinds. Copper and iron and other metals for the technological needs of the world plus gold and oil and gas, are among Afghanistan’s riches that are untapped so far with the eyes of energy hungry nations of China and India and beyond fixed on them. These would make this south-central Asian country a new Saudi Arabia for the immediate technological and energy needs of the world. If means of communication and transportation and roads and railways are extended in many of the important directions in the country they would, in addition to helping exploitation of its underground resources, help in making it a true hub for commerce between south and central Asia and Europe and Asia on a larger scale truly reviving the silk route of yore. It would seem that all of this would have a role in shaping up of Afghanistan’s future.
Certain scenarios come to mind that may include the following:
- A thriving democracy at peace with itself and the world held in great esteem by the international community for its efforts and sacrifices in the way of realization of the noble goals of peace, justice and prosperity as well as upholding of values of the 21st century with respect to human rights and equality for all.
- A failed democracy lost in convoluted quagmire of animosity, discord, disunity, doubt, infighting and lost opportunities giving in to reaction, superstition and ignorance.
- A community that is still trying hard to better itself with the help of democratic values through which it would have elected a wise leader and leadership free of nefarious effects of personal and group greed and influence of warlords and those whose hands are smeared with the blood of the innocent Afghans.
- A country that is run by a narrow minded leader and a leadership that has come about by means of hatred, discrimination, religious orientation and regional interests with deep affinity to the intentions of self serving neighbors of Afghanistan.
- A country left open to foreign and regional interference with no international support where infighting continues, insurgency and reactionary forces are threatening normal lives of the citizens, no economic development plan is underway, disease, poverty and ignorance rule and a government that is busy trying to get its writ honored by the country at large, but is drastically failing because of personal and group interests of a few who are monopolizing wealth and power because they are armed and are being supported by foreign and especially regional powers.
There could be many other scenarios evolving depending on how the Afghans see themselves and how the world looks at them and what everyone expects to get from Afghanistan. Undoubtedly realistic observers and friends of Afghanistan would prefer scenario number one which at this stage is only a lofty philosophical wish. If that scenario is to be achieved, there must be wholehearted untiring work done to make it a reality. For the sake of Afghanistan and the world at large, preparations must start as of today for the details of the scenario to be written, for putting in place mechanisms that would bring a leader to fore that would be able to materialize the ideals of the Afghan people and to consider all the problems and hurdles that might come up. All of this is easily said than done. But they must be said in order to be done and in their implementation the following should be considered:
- The most important issue of peace must take precedence. Peace with insurgency and with Taliban. This is a difficult issue and more complicated than it appears. Even the United States seems to be puzzled as to a solution. The recent taking off of the name of the Taliban leader from the list of famed terrorists is but an example of the perplexity in which the US foreign relations are in. Peace talks with a group that does not want to talk would be futile unless there is a guarantee that the stubborn attitude of the Taliban has changed. The Taliban that the Afghans know, and the world should also, are not a group that would change their attitude easily. For example did they change their attitude towards not blowing up the historical statues of Budha in Bamiyan even under the strongest world pressure including some of their international supporters? So what is the solution? War did not yield any positive result. Could it be that a mass information struggle against the reactionary policies of the Taliban would awaken the population to the danger they would pose to the country? In that case the war is softly transferred from the battle ground to the minds of the public and when the public takes up a struggle success can be assured especially if the public has a strong government to back its stand. In this age of communication wonders a public information project to be carried out by television, video, Internet and print media is feasible and cost effective; it is much cheaper than carrying out a war.
- A well organized fight against corruption. This would require courage to stand up against powerful warlords and individuals and bring criminals to justice. No exceptions should be tolerated in doing so, no family members or friends to be pardoned or excused from punishment and founding of a strong police and judiciary aided by community elders to do so.
- Working for a treaty of non-interference in the affairs of the country by its neighbors, regional powers and international interests. A treaty to be approved of by the United Nations Security Council would be an effective means for this.
- Launching of a scientific economic development plan for the country to be implemented jointly by the public and private sectors. The plan should include priorities for boosting agricultural and industrial production engaging a large sector of the population that is unemployed at this time and bearing fruitful results that are tangible and benefit the masses who are presently conducting a painful life under conditions of hunger, poverty and disease and where only a very small group of individuals have all the wealth mostly derived from the flow of billions of dollars in aid to the country.
- A thorough reform of internal and external policies of the government must be undertaken to achieve most of the above.
It is a good time to start preparing for the eventualities with prudence, utilizing the lessons learned in the past at least one decade for the future of Afghanistan. 01/02/2012