“National unity government” Or simply a bitter confection of power-sharing!

Pakistan military launches ground attack on militants

By: Bahman Takwin

When the shouting on Afghanistan election frauds reached to the years of the Obama administration; it is said that Obama himself called Karzai on the spot and demanded explanation. Karzai overconfidently claimed that everything is under his “control”. He assured Obama that there are some noises from the losing candidates, and everything will be cooled down! Some days passed, but the evidence of fraud and theft spoke more than simple ‘’noises of a losing candidate’’. Sound and video clips as evidences vividly showed the organized fraudulence, in which high officials of the IEC[i] seemed to be involved. People went to the streets, violently protesting to put on trial those accused of the organized election crimes. But the Karzai administration kept quiet. They just watched the situation which was not “under control” anymore.

The IEC could not find any response to the evidence of the immense fraud and finally managed to convince Mr. Ziaul Haq Amarkhail The secretary of Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission to resign (as per the primary demands of Dr. Abdullah – the presidential candidate). Mr. Amarkhail resigned but tried to leave the country that made the head of the IEC Mr.Nooristani annoyed as he blamed Amarkhail of escaping the country or being blamed for wrong doings. However, this did not rest the tide and the people who were angry about the mismanagements of the IEC and their shameful frauds, did not stop their protests across the country and abroad.

The IEC took another step to conceal its weakening position against the political pressure endured by people, candidates and the UN. Nevertheless, they finally decided to announce the primary results of the election and showed Dr. Ashraf Ghani receiving about 56% of the votes as the winner of the runoff. Dr. Abdullah who was already demanding the transparency of the votes casted and asked for the delay in the announcement, claimed that 2 million of the votes cast for his rival are fake. He officially withdrew from the vote-counting process, demanding stricter auditing of potentially suspicious votes.[ii]

However, Dr. Ghani’s team defended their superiority by claiming that “they mobilized clerics, provided transport for would-be voters and persuaded many men from his own Pashtun ethnic group to break with conservative tradition and let their wives, sisters and daughters cast ballots for the first time.”[iii] On the other hand, many independent observers believe that the fraud has been extraordinary and it’s done mostly in Mr. Ghani’s favor. For example, one of these reports clarifies: “More than 500,000 votes came from districts with more votes than people and 1.85 million votes came from districts where more than 60% of the population voted… To calculate voter turnout, we assumed that vote totals above 60% of the district population represented 100% turnout and scaled accordingly…These cases suggest instances where vote totals are either being estimated or made up.”[iv]

In spite of serious warnings of Dr. Abdullah’s camp and obvious evidence of IEC’s wrongdoings, it seemed that the Karzai administration had kept quiet or were planning for next steps to deteriorate the situation further. According to New York Times ‘as Western officials scrambled to respond, what was not being said aloud was that the Abdullah camp’s threats had already gone beyond talk to a plan of action. Some of Mr. Abdullah’s backers were preparing to take over the centers of government in at least three provinces, and on his word to march on and occupy the presidential palace, according to several of his supporters and former government officials.’[v] Finally, The Obama administration, decided to send his secretary of state John Kerry to deal with the crumbling situation.

On 13th of July when John Kerry arrived in Kabul he started painstaking talks with both of the candidates. After three long days of discussion behind the close doors, finally both candidates and Mr. Kerry appeared in front of media and announced their agreement of 100% audit of votes. However, what Mr. Kerry and both candidates mentioned in their admissive speeches was a new term in Afghanistan’s political terminology: The government of National unity!

Nobody had spoken about such a government and later on, no details were also given on the term. But what was obvious from that, it was for-sure a political settlement to end the election tension regardless about the electoral rules and regulations. Nevertheless, as we deeply look at this “government of national unity” we would reach to the simple conclusion of another power-sharing mechanism and a continuous policy of the ‘Republicans’ and Karzai’s “national reconciliation” since the Bonn conference in 2001. Based on this policy the power is shared among the tribal leaders and so-called influential political figures that have had a role in 35 years of war-politics in Afghanistan.

However, another important question here is about the results of these allots? a decision will be made based on ballot boxes or simply a power sharing bitter confection is prepared to puts Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai on top and make Dr. Abdullah the “chief executive” of his government or vice versa? (So that he become prime minister after the amendments made in the constitution afterwards)

On this, many believe that the Americans weigh the power be in Ghani’s hand, as the ‘time’ writes: “The plan also called for a power-sharing arrangement that would give Abdullah an important role in the new Afghan government, potentially as a kind of deputy national leader. (The details have yet to be finalized and officials called reports of a European-style parliamentary system premature.)”[vi]

The Americans may have this plan in hand. And they may force Dr. Abdullah for final compromises, but that will be a big blow for democracy and people’s choice for free and fair elections. However, people will not simply buy this plot and will show consistent political resistance. Hence, any plan that undermines the true choice of people for selecting their political leadership will reach nowhere as the Karzai’s “national reconciliation” brought nothing but further splits among the various levels of society based on tribal and ethnic lines.

[i] Independent Election Commission (in Afghanistan)

[ii] http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jul/07/afghan-presidential-election-fraud-claims

[iii] Ibid

[iv] Drew Bollinger & Ian Schuler, What Happened in the Afghanistan Elections? http://developmentseed.org/afghanistan-2014-analysis/

[v] http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/15/world/asia/anxious-moments-for-an-afghanistan-on-the-brink.html?_r=1

[vi] http://time.com/3001703/kerry-afghanistan-civil-war/

War, nature or inefficiency, which one is more fatal?

Image

By: Bahman Takwin

On 2nd May 2014, Afghan people mourned for their more than 2500 countrymen including men, women and children who were buried deeply under thousand tons of mud and soil in Argo district of Badakshan province, as a result of a massive landslide. While another about 3000 affected people who are under severe life threat due to lack of shelter, water, food and medicine. But the government and responsible authorities have been doing almost nothing to start their search and rescue action for those who may have a chance to be pulled out alive from deep under debris. This incident happened after the recent earthquake in Takhar and harsh floods in Jawzjan provinces. However, this has toppled the miseries of those people who have been suffering from never ending war an six years of prolonged drought, affecting over 6 million Afghans across the country.

Afghanistan people have been victims of natural disaster for decades now. Beside the earthquakes, flood and landslides, other common hazards include agricultural pests, such as caterpillars and locusts, and dust and sandstorms. IFRC/RC estimates that natural disasters have killed more than 19,000 people and affected about 7.5 million Afghans since the early 1980s. Hence, the current estimates show that about 100 people die every day due to natural disasters in Afghanistan.[1]

Afghanistan’s natural landscape has been destroyed due to the centuries of inefficient governance and war. These mainly two reasons have caused the environmental degradation also. The land erosion due to nonexistence of wood and plants are the main reasons for harsh floods, storms and landslides. During the 20th century that the governments with the help of their people were taking important steps to tackle environmental changes and natural disasters all around the world, but the inefficient despotic and tribalist governments of Afghanistan were doing nothing to walk by the world. They have been very idle in providing any help to save their people who have been suffering from natural disasters for decades.

Nevertheless, history suggests that this has not been the case with the country’s environment always. Hence we can claim that the natural environment of this geography has been systematically destroyed due to bad governance and civil conflicts. “…when looking at Afghanistan’s often arid and barren landscapes, that many of them were once covered by woodland and were home to rich flora and fauna. Emperor Babur, the founder of the Mughal Dynasty who captured Kabul in 1504 and had a keen eye for natural beauty, records in his memoirs the rich biodiversity of Afghanistan, home to animals such as cheetahs, tigers and wild asses. Until the middle of the 20th century Afghanistan had much more extensive forest and plant cover than today. This included high-alpine flora, montane coniferous and mixed forests, and open dry woodlands with juniper, pistachio and almond trees, semi-desert scrub and marshlands. Today most of the country’s forest cover has already disappeared or soon will.”[2]

Hence, the destructions to the environment in this world’s most poor country tell us that: among the various factors we can name uncontrolled overgrazing and unsustainable agricultural practices, due to the lack of proper agricultural and animal husbandry policies of the government; combined with lack of any coordination between these policies and environmental priorities of different localities.

Lack of fuel and other required materials for local communities to substitute firewood and other traditional local materials, including cow’s dung (that causes severe diseases), all are leading to massive logging for kitchen use, construction and heating during winter. At the same time, the government has shown no alternatives to help people using other means for cooking, building and heating across the country. The electricity doesn’t exist in most of these communities, gas, oil and other means are too expensive and scarce. Hence the only initiative remaining for the people is intensified timber cutting. The business of wood smugglers who mostly cut the forests and smuggle them to neighboring countries is also on the rise.

More interestingly, this deforestation and cutting woods have had a military purpose also. “Trees have been cut not only for fuel but also to make it harder for competing armies and rebel bands to hide and ambush one another.”[3]Now who can ask the military policy makers in the country to have an eye on environment? And work with people to stop deforestation and bush burning. Instead who to ask to provide people with proper support for defending their communities from insurgent groups who are strengthened due to political reasons in these areas.

For sure, the natural disasters such as earthquakes, recent floods and landslides, due to the environmental degradation can be dangerously fatal. But who bothers?!

The inefficient and corrupt government authorities in Afghanistan including the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development (MRRD), National Disaster Management Authorities (ANDMA) and Ministry of Agriculture and Animal husbandry, who cannot even control the rain water from their office door steps (rain water turns into flood in Kabul city every year); They have only been able to watch people dying under the natural mass grave in Badakhshan. They understand that the population is increasing; cities have no capacity to inhabit thousands of people who come daily in search of employment and work. Un-planned urbanization and lack of housing policy caused illegal land grabbing and pushed poor people to build houses in hazardous natural locations including the mud hills and rough mountains. These ministry officials know everything and recognize that these situations make people further vulnerable to earthquake, avalanches, flood, landslide and other disasters. But on real action, these governmental bodies are far behind to meet with these social and environmental challenges to save thousands of lives every year.

The inefficient ANDMA have not been doing anything so far to support people by early warning mechanisms. As hundreds of people lost their lives in recent floods in northern provinces, ANDMA could simply prevent these losses. According to Engineer Sediq Qiam, a well-known geologist, flood is predictable (in Afghanistan). For example, the rainfalls are mostly coming from the Indian Ocean, Persian Gulf and North Pole. We can predict them through the weather forecast and communication with the neighboring countries to decrease the level of casualties to the minimum or even to zero percent… The aim of constructing dames and creeks on flood prone areas are to increase the agricultural productivity and extend graze lands and forests.[4] However, due to unknown reasons, the so-called “authorities” in three mentioned governmental ministries would not do anything such as the research, early warning, and prevention to help the 100 per day casualties of the poor people in Afghanistan. They are only busy to think and work for their personal benefits. Besides, when the funds come for such programmes they are the only responsible people for misuse and even theft of money. Or according to Aarozi Samarqandi a famous Persian scientist instead of finding real scientific means to help people during these natural disasters these so-called authorities, propagate only clerical, fortune telling, dream interpretation and ferry tells.

On the other hand, local poor inhabitants, young civil society activists, journalists and people from all walks of life have started to do something since they have heard about the incident. They have collected money, clothes, medicine, jewelry, wood, food items etc and reached to the scene to help with the affected people. They didn’t wait for the “authorities” because they knew that these inefficient people would do nothing to help them, as they hardly have any such desire and compassion. In most of the provinces, youth have raised tents to generate financial support to help people in Badakhshan. But Hamid Karzai, head of the corrupt state in Kabul have not even gone to the area till now. He has no interest to know what exactly is happening, while his deputies just went to show up and returned with only some “nice words”! Nobody has asked to continue the search and rescue attempts for hundreds of children, women and men (May still alive) under the debris. And maybe that is the only activity seems to be difficult for the local people and civil society youth groups to accomplish, due to lack of required machinery and professional personal.

 

End,

May 5, 2014

 

 

[1]  https://magic.piktochart.com/output/1617777-natural-disasters-in-afghanistan

[2] Afghanistan on the brink of natural disaster, by Francis Caas, Yoko Hagiwara and David Jensen, http://www.grida.no/publications/et/ep3/page/2611.aspx

[3] Ibid

[4] http://archive.mashal.org/content.php?c=hejtemahi&id=00542

Karzai’s dream for 2014 presidential election in Afghanistan

2014’s Afghanistan presidential election is on the way. Hamid Karzai and his “team” who have ruled the country for more than a decade are worried. Their main concern is losing political power. They have long-term strategies for Afghanistan and so to maintain their “tribal” grip on political power is the key for suppressing any democratic movement. However; it seems that their luck is not helping, and their political rivals in “ex-jehadi” groups are gaining more public attention. Afghan people are fed up with the corrupt and irresponsible administration in Kabul. They want to see change, but it is also possible that people may not elect a reliable substitute for a corrupt and inconsistent leader.

Despite of every efforts made by Karzai administration to play with people’s perception due to gain meaningful support for Zalmail Rasoul or Ashraf Ghani Ahamadzai (pro Karzai presidential candidates), it seems that they may not receive a weighty mandate in coming election. Henceforth, Karzai and his followers would start any conspiracy either to deteriorate the security situation through their Taliban “brothers” or to use further corrupt means to change the final results of election in their favor (as they did so during the previous presidential election).

However, the casualties of Afghan National Army soldiers in Kunar and the attack on “Kabul Serena” hotel causing the death of innocent Afghan journalist (Ahmad Sardar), his wife and children made the youth and civil society furious. They came out to street and chanted strong anti-Karzai and anti- Taliban slogans. They questioned Karzai’s loyalty to ordinary Afghan people and blamed him supporting Taliban. Moreover, Fawzia Kofi a female member of Afghan parliament also broke up the silence and mentioned that Karzai would want to disturb the election process to gain his personal interests. At the same time, Afghan media also banned the broadcast of any news concerning Taliban and presented anti-Karzai and anti-Taliban programmes. 

Nevertheless, the questions remain here are: what would Karzai and his followers want as a result of these plots? What will happen after election? 

As mentioned, Karzai and his team’s main interest are to maintain political power. Democratic turnovers and the result of election would not be in their favor due to the shifts in public opinion against them. Hence, as they have close connections with “talibanist” and “tribalist” militants and political groups; they will definitely chose violent collusions to maintain their grip on power. Election is an option for them, if they failed to obtain political power through it, Talibans 2nd “Emarat” will be their last choice.
On the other hand, Karzai’s lack of interest in signing the security treaty with the US and its continuous complaints from the American and Nato policies and conducts portrait him as a godfather to the Taliban and other insurgent groups. Furthermore, he has even gone forward by winking vigorously to Russinas due to sounding in favor of them after the Crimean referendum. Despite the populistic nature of Karzai’s campaigns to present him as a “nationalistic leader” at the end of his second term; it is obvious the he would definitely count on “tribalist” and “talibanist” political companion to remain as a prominent figure in next political set up. 

Whatever the result of the next election would be; it is quit vivid that the newly born democracy of Afghanistan will suffer. If Karzai and his team succeeded; the upcoming government would definitely serve the political interests of tribalism and Talibanism; it would bring many nondemocratic changes and the civil rights of people will be violated. Women and children will be chained further through conservative and medieval policies. 

Notwithstanding of all these pale pictures, there is a hope that the newly emerging civil society, democratic political groups and individuals would not set back. They will commence strong campaigns for civil rights and will try to obtain the human and women rights. The tribalists and Talibanist forces will not be able to suppress the righteous democratic movements for long. People of Afghanistan will struggle for a peaceful and democratic country in which the civil rights of men and women would be ensured. 

End…

Bahman Takwin

28th March 2014

Can Democracy Sustain in Afghanistan?

Throughout its recent history Afghanistan has been ruled by staunch and despotic rulers who have used ethnicity and religion as two sharp swords to cut the neck of any opposition and suppress any rival. This is a true history of governance in Afghanistan since the Pashton dominant rule since 1747 till now. The country has been in turmoil and civil wars among ambitious princes fighting each other over the monarch crown in Kabul.

In twentieth century when the USSR invaded the country and the war provoked by west started for independence and sovereignty there was an attempt to over through the military imposition and a new suppression under the name of socialism and communism, but there were very weak voices of democracy and democratic movements based on justice and civil rights. When the Mujahedeen took power and later when the Taliban tried to establish a medieval Islamic state; there were no news of freedom, justice and democracy as per the modern norms and values.

In 2011 when the west under the leadership of the U.S started its raid to revenge Taliban and Alqaeda attacks in New York; the new invasion had no ideology and slogan except from establishing a democratic settlement and free out the country from the hands of terrorists and oppressors. During the first years people who were ravaged from the war and atrocities of armed criminals and Taliban welcomed the new settlement and agreed what was decided by the west during the Bonn conference. But after the 10 years since then today in 2011 nothing is serving to the common goal of democracy and justice.

Three pillars of the government who ought to work in coordination and solve the critical issues and problems of Afghan population are currently standing against each other and confronting one another without any respect and maturity. They are up with any effort to withdraw each other without thinking that how one of them exists with the other.

This situation burst after the recent parliamentary election that a great number of fraud and misconduct was reported broadly. The results were halt by the election commission to take care of the immense fraud but soon after the election results were announced and not much cases and complaints were put to jury.  However, the presidency was not happy about the results, not because of the fraud but due to hidden political agendas and was not willing to inaugurate the new parliament (lower house). Hence, the new parliamentarians started pressurizing him and used all possible means including the international community’s authority to formally inaugurate the new parliament.

President Karzai, took another initiative to start another political pressure on the new parliament in which majority were somehow not dancing on his music. He established a special court to look after the election frauds that according to political analysts’ this was against all constitutional norms. At the same time he forcefully went to the lower house and formally inaugurated it despite a heavy pressure of the failing parliamentary nominates. When the new parliament started working from the day first they started their struggle to close down the special court but their efforts reached no where until 23rd June 2011 the special court finally announced her verdict of blaming about 62 parliamentarians of fraud and announced new members instead of them; which was an unconstitutional verdict by the court according to FEFA.

The parliamentarians on the other hand took the initiative to disqualify the attorney general and head of Supreme Court and blamed the president on national betrayal. Hence, all three pillars of the government on one side and on the other side Taliban and international terrorists are engaged on a murder war and day to day conflict.

Is this what we call democracy? Does democracy promote conflict and war or peace and harmony? Off course such kind of imported and forced democracy result as such. However, if democracy is integrated with social norms and standards and supports the rule of law; if it goes hand in hand with justice and security and becomes traditionalized then we will definitely have a different situation.

March 2011

Pakistan or Afghanistan; Which one to keep?

Recently there have been tensions on strained relations between two ‘allies’ on US led ‘war on terror’ in the region. The US announced that it is trimming some of its funds to the Pakistani military. According to the Washington Post; ‘President Barack Obama’s chief of staff, William Daley, said Sunday that the U.S. was suspending $800 million in aid to the Pakistani military until the two countries can patch up their relationship.’

 It has been since early 2011 that the relationship between the two countries was cropping as a result of the US air raids on northern Pakistani soil to topple cross border terroristic correspondance across Pak-Afghan border. Later on the US strengthened much more military strategic ties with Pakistan’s rival India and there are initiations on strategic relationship with Afghanistan; all of this showed a bit pushing aside Pakistan’s strategic importance to the US. However ‘The relationship took a nose dive on May 2 when U.S. commandos staged a covert raid to kill al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden in a Pakistani garrison town not far from Islamabad. The raid humiliated the Pakistani military, which ordered U.S. trainers out of the country and reduced bilateral cooperation.’[i]

Now the question is that despite immense interest of the US to maintain its strategic military strongholds in Afghanistan, how she would deal with Pakistan? Ostensibly, the US do not want to lose it’s logistical path to Afghanistan which is provided by Pakistani territory and sell her to it’s historical and potential rivals in the region such as Shanghai pact etc. On the other hand there is increased competetion between India and Pakistan and both are eager to drag the military and monetary leverage towards their side so that to use them against each other; herewith India welcomed US’s fund suspension to Pakistani military in response to Pakistani strategists’ being disappointed on the announcement. Meanwhile ‘in Washington, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton praised Pakistan as a “valuable ally” in the fight against terrorism, but acknowledged the relationship “is not always easy.”[ii] This means that despite the recent tactical shift in their relationship the US will not lose Pakistan that easy but she should be punished to learn her lessons of disobedience.

Among all, the role of Afghan diplomacy have been very tricky; showing some anti-US gestures the Afghan government on the other hand smiles to Pakistan by their humble and human allegations against Pakistani shells and rockets killing tens of innocent children and household in provinces bordering with Pakistan. Karzai administration however wants to show to Pakistanis that we are nothing more than staunch neighbors, let the Americans go… then we can work out something to rule over Afghanistan with our Talib brothers!

The US is watching Afghanistan vigorously also and would not want to lose the control over Afghanistan by punishing directly the Karzai administration, but recent financial crisis and economic tension with locally controlled banks (Kabul bank and Azizi bank) and the rigid stance of IMF and WB shows that the pressure here also comes from the US side to whistle on corrupt and defamed Karzai administration in Afghanistan and make them alert to what their real demand is.

 

end, March 2011


[i] http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia-pacific/experts-us-military-aid-cut-to-pakistan-greater-blow-to-american-goals/2011/07/11/gIQAUOQW8H_story.html

[ii] Ibid

The shadow of Tribalism over Democracy in Afghanistan

According to Oxford Dictionaries, “Tribalism” is defined as the state or fact of being organized in a tribe or tribes… the behavior and attitudes that stem from strong loyalty to one’s own tribe or social group[1]. Afghanistan’s society is consisted of many ethnicities. Within ethnic groups there are tribes[2]. The history of these tribes, their battles, coexistence, conflicts and peace is varied from historian to historian and from tell to tell. But what is most important in this era of democracy, after long years of civil war and social conflict, is the understanding of the nature and role of the tribalism as a political stance and its conduct in the course of history till now.

The Duranis[3] built their kingdom based on the unification of various Pashtoon tribes as a form of greater ethnic group and started to establish an ethnic-state[4] by suppressing other ethnicities and social groups in the middle of 18th century. To some extent, they succeeded but their success was more as a result of the disunity among other ethnicities and their lack of desire for political power to challenge the newly established ethnic administration. However, the different tribes within this ethnic kingdom started conspiring and breaking each other’s head, pulling out one other’s eyes, to grab a bit of the power. The legendary lifestyle of the kings, their lust for women and luxury, (as they sometimes held more than 100 women at their disposal), gave birth to many greedy “princes”. As soon as these princes grew up, their demand for power grew even bigger. Every “prince” asked the throne, not less than that. Hence, some of the tribal heads, who had long waited for such an opportunity, used one prince against the other to achieve some power and privilege. This ended with many civil wars and armed conflicts in which people from all tribes and ethnicity endured great losses. However, ordinary people, mostly peasants from all tribes and ethnicities had to bear the burden of war and battles continued by the selfish and avaricious princes.

The tribalism notion based on which Duranies established their administration was fading due to the prolonged war and flammable conflicts between the rival princes supported by emulous Pashtoon tribes. The tribes drag country to medieval decentralized tribe-states and demanded power for their own tribe or even families. On the other hand, two raising empires, the Russians and the British, have always been interested to have a presence in Afghanistan due to the geopolitical importance of the country. The two imperial powers were painstakingly, trying to keep the flames of such civil conflict as shimmering as possible.

Henceforth, the country entered in the nineteenth century; in an era in which new nation-states were emerging. These powerful nation-states basically came to existence in the aftermaths of American and French socio-political and Britain’s industrial revolutions. Inspired by these gigantic social and economic changes, the new nation-states based in Europe and America was strengthening their grip over world’s political and economic destiny.

Britain in the south of Afghanistan who had grabbed immense power over sub-continent and was emerging as an undefeatable empire, entered Afghanistan to occupy the country and threaten its historical rivals on the north. Ordinary people of Afghanistan mostly peasants and small tradesmen who were folded badly due to the high taxes, insecurity and fatal poverty; got to gather from all ethnic groups and tribes to form a resistance and claim the independence of their land. Hereafter, the difference of ethnicity and tribe meant little and everyone was ready to sacrifice for the cause of liberty and independence. After winning all the battles against the British by the blood and sweat of poor peasants – mostly from excluded ethnic groups; the new rulers who belonged to the Pashtoons ethnicity, (claiming to contain the majority of the population) re-established a new despotic and tribal administration. The new tribal-state was ready to suppress any voice of liberty, freedom and civil rights raised once again. The most successful of such a tribal absolutism was formed by Abdul Rahman Khan. He reunited the rival tribes and joined them under a united force of despotic and feudalist power to topple any resistance and citizen’s efforts for freedom. They joined hands with the aristocracy and landlords and suppressed meanly any voice from powerless ethnic groups and poor peasants. This situation was certainly in the favor of the British colonialists who gradually regained their dominion power over Kabul rulers.

After the third Anglo-Afghan war, as a new government was about to born under the leadership of an educated Pashtoon prince, King Amanullah Khan, there was a hope of freedom, open atmosphere and even democracy. Amanullah khan who achieved the throne with great support from the enlightened and intellectuals around him started his reforms to develop the country as per the 20th century demands. However, he never wanted to change the form of governance to provide equal opportunities for different ethnicities, tribes, classes and other social segments to have a choice of electing and questioning their rulers. Hence, soon he was plunged into the luxuriant lifestyle like his ancestors at the cost of the ever high taxes on peasants and landless citizens. Therefore, it was not long that his kingdom was toppled by a famous peasant and poor people uprising, substituting him with an ordinary soldier, Habibullah Khan, who know nothing of any political prejudices practiced by Amanullah Khan and his ancestors to suppress people in the name of ethnicity, tribe, race or religion.

Nadir Khan another tribalist power thirsty Pashtoon commander who belonged to the ruling family of Pashtoon dynasty. Being in India he attracted the attention of the British who didn’t like an independent Afghanistan at their northern borders. Nadir Khan convinced British to help him gain the power and he will serve the British interests afterwards. He managed to achieve the support of the Pashtoon tribes on both sides of the Afghan-India border (Durand line) and started his assault on Kabul. Habibullah Khan, the first non-pashtoon “Amir” since the formation of the “Afghan” state, was soon toppled and assassinated cowardly by Nadir Khan. The Pashtoon tribes, united under Nadir Khan went to fiercely attack non-Pashtoon resistance under the slogan of “Only Pashtoons can rule Afghanisnt”. Hence, Nadir Shah re-organized his tribal forces and re-established another strong tribe-state after Abdul Rahman Khan. This administration continued till the war against the soviet invasion led by Nadir Khan’s family. During the soviet invasion the new pro-soviet leaders who all belonged to Pashtoon tribes could not overcome their desire to keep the track of ethnic-tribal ruling course in spite of their progressive slogans of democracy, socialism and communism.

After the withdrawal of USSR and the establishment of Mujahedeen government, although there was no mention of democracy but there were tendency to change the ethnic and tribal face of the governance with emphasis on “Islamic Unity”. Nevertheless there existed fierce tribalist Mujahedeen groups such as Hezb-e- Islami under Gulbudin Hekmatiar and Hezb-e-Islami under Maulawi Khales who did not conceal their tribal and ethnic-centered intentions in their public speeches and publications. Hence, the civil war started and the Pashtoon Mujahed leaders repeating Nadir Shah’s slogan, attacked Kabul and showed zero tolerance to a non- Pashtoon Islamic state newly formed by Sebghatullah Mujadedi and continued by Burhanudin Rabani.

In mid 1990s a new tribal-fundamentalist and extremist force fabricated by Pakistan and US intelligence, entered in the civil war to demolish all fighting Mujahedeen groups and establish a pure Pashtoon Islamic state. They used all suppressing and propaganda tools against their non-Pashtoon rivals and even threatened them to evacuate Afghanistan because the land belongs to Pashtoons only[5]. They captured Kabul and killed any sign of democracy, human and civil rights. But, after the attack of their International allies on New York on 11th December 2001 and the assassination of their only serious enemy commander Ahmad Shah Massoud; they had to face the anger revenge of the United States and its international companions. Hence, they were forced to leave the power and flee to their hiding caves throughout the “Durand” border line with little or no resistance.

After the Bonn Confrance and the establishment of a new government, the world was looking at a new emerging democratic state that had a new constitution and practicing free elections in Afghanistan. However, this democracy was very different from what Abraham Lincoln once described. Soon after, everyone realized that there was no “government of people on people”. There was a government in which “people” didn’t see themselves in it anymore. Even from the first presidential elections a custom of having a Pashtoon president with assistants from other ethnic groups was the dominant principle over any democratic norms of electing the head of the government. Once again the Tribal-state rose with modern connotations of new “tribalism” theorized by new “Afghan Melat”[6] leaders. This revival of tribalism was not accidental; particular groups and political organizations such as “Afghan Melat” and “Hezb-e-Islami” being the loyal Pashtoon monarchists and tribal political actors, changed the track of political opinion of local power holders and their international supporters from a democracy based on social justice and civil rights to a tribal-state in which only “Pashtoons” have a right and obligation to rule…[7]

The course of history as mentioned above, since the establishment of Afghanistan till today as we are in the eve of another presidential election; has shown us that, Afghanistan has been ruled by tribalism as a dominant political ideology of governance, practiced by ethnic-centered individuals and groups. The country has been a safe haven for non-democratic and tribal believes and conducts that obviously contradict with the basics of democracy and social justice. Hence, sooner or later, this tribalism will exchange the trembling democracy with autocracy and despotism. People of Afghanistan and democratic forces around the world need to take action and draw a clear line between tribalism and democracy so that Afghanistan’s path for establishing a democratic and socially just society becomes distinct and smooth.

End,

11 October 2013


[2] Mostly Pashtoon ethnicity is divided in such particular classification

[3] A major Pashtoon tribe based in Kandehar and suberbs,

[4] Tribal-state may be quoted as a state against the Nation-state (writer’s explanation)

[5] A pashtoo poetry based on the Taliban propaganda tape.

[6] Afghan Melat or Afghanistan’s Social Democratic Party,

[7] The theory of Afghan Melat, based on Dr. Anwarulhaq Ahadi’s opinion.

WE NEED GANDHI TODAY

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Today marks the 144th birth day of Mohandes Karamchand Gandhi, a spiritual leader, philosopher and thinker of 20th century. He has been praised by the world as a non-violent democrat campaigner and head of state. I personally think that his personality, his philosophy and his political thinking has many learning points for our new leaders; particularly those who truly believe in democracy and people’s action for civil rights and justice. Young leaders and those who want to do some thing to change the situation in Afghanistan must learn about Gandhi and analyze his thinking, action and compare it with their own situation for further change based strategies and objectives.

Nevertheless, why is Gandhi important for us? How his thoughts are relevant to Afghanistan? These and many other questions rise when we discuss Gandhi, his principles and action. Here I want to move a head to see how Gandhi is linked with us, and how he is needed for a war ravaged and violence stroked country.

Afghanistan is a Multi-ethnic country. In two and a half century since the rule of tyrant tribal dynasties, as the territory is given the name of Afghanistan (land of Afghans or Pashtoons) there have been political and social oppression on other ethnic groups who had to live under this name and banner. They have been forced to accept their destiny under the rule of corrupt, inefficient and selfish princes as the “will of God”. Those who have challenged this political oppression have been brutally dismissed, killed and annihilated. However, these so-called “Pashtoon” rulers (as they proclaimed themselves to be called in the name of ethnicity) have been no good to their own tribesmen either. At the same time, all the foreign powers, imperialist forces and rivals of the nation, who had in interest in Afghanistan, helped this national segregation and ethnic cleansing be more robust and vibrant so that the nation be fragile and easy to conquer. The tribal rulers have been supported to hold political power and suppress other ethnicity. As generally believed and propagated that the Pashtoons maintain majority of the national population, which was a baseless perception as there has been no reliable evidence to support this conception.

Let us now analyze the situation of India in which Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi started his civil rights movement. India was a multi-cultural with most cultures based on religions. The Hindus were the largest group, with most of political and economic power in hand, followed by the Muslims, who constitute a large minority. Then came a much smaller number of Sikhs. Many other religious groups existed, but they were very small in numbers. As the British became established politically and economically, they started an insidious campaign to divide the Indian people along religious lines; especially by planting in Muslims fear of discrimination from Hindus. The British were quite successful in promoting disunity between the Hindus and Muslims, a legacy that to this day engenders hatred and bloodshed. The Sikhs were selected to be the native component of the British-controlled police force. The Sikhs were a large enough minority to provide enough police for British purposes, and yet a small enough group that Sikh police were patrolling and incarcerating primarily Hindus and Muslims. After a couple of hundred years of British encroachment on the cultures, inter-cultural fear and suspicion became the norm.[1]

In late 19th and early 20th century as the British maintained supreme political influence in Afghanistan, during Abdul ur Rahman Khan and his son Habibullah khan’s governments, they had simply bought the Afghan “Amir”s even by providing the salaries of their civil servants; Ostensively they picked the notion of ethnic fragility from the scattered Afghan society. They encouraged Afghan “Amir”s to enforce their power by suppressing other ethnic groups. Hence, the political doctoring of the Afghan ruling class became much clearer, which was strictly based on ethnicity and race. If anyone should be in power in the country must be an “Afghan” which is interpreted by the tribal politicians, a “Pashtoon”.  According to this “Afghanized” perception, any king, president and head of state must be Pashtoon. Tajiks (Farsi speakers Soni ethnicity) should be secretaries, assistants and supportive to the Pashtoon “Amir” or king. But Hazaras, Uzbiks, Pashaees, Nooristanies etc, should serve the government as low “caste” citizens.

Now let us see how Gandhi went forward with his India. Gandhi was born a Hindu. The Hindu society is stratified or “calcified” into classes referred to as castes. The caste into which one is born determines the jobs one may have, the education one may pursue, the privileges one is allowed, the places one may gather water, the people with whom one may eat, etc. The highest caste is the Brahmans; the lowest, the untouchables. Outside of these are the outcastes. The outcastes are those who violated the rules of their caste to the extent that the authorities within the caste cast them out. Thereafter, they are to be kept away by others in the caste. No one may help them, they are not allowed to work within the caste, etc. Gandhi was a member of the Bania caste, which participated in business and government in his home state.[2] Even from the early days of his education in Britain, Gandhi proclaimed his rejection to such unjust social system. He never accepted any of this socio-economic and political class segregation and proclaimed his war and struggle for a just and unified society.

However, in Afghanistan since the early days of its establishment in 1747, ethnicity has been a base for social, political and economic opportunity, advantage and privilege. This situation was tenser in the aftermaths of the wars for independence and liberation, as during the war against a foreign invader, people who made sacrifices, did not care about ethnicity, language or race. Thence, the most important elements were homeland and religion.

Nevertheless, throughout its history, Afghanistan has been betrayed by the unfaithful, mischievous and demagogic politicians who divided the nation in the name of ethnicity, language, race etc. They have caused the segregation of the nation and put them in all sort of social and political mistrust and plights. But India has been lucky, because Gandhi took the leadership of Indian independence as a reliable, honest and clever nationalist leader. Gandhi adhered to four fundamental principles familiar to all. Three are truth, non-violence, and self-suffering. The fourth is concerned with means and ends. All campaigns conducted under his guidance were consistent with these principles. However, occasional errors arose due to the experimental nature of the technique and limitations in campaigners’ previous experience.

The first and important principle of Gandhi was “truth”. In today’s Afghanistan even those who are literate and intellectual, believe that politics is based on “lie”. “A liar is a good politician… a dishonest person is a clever campaigner… a thief is a good economist, etc…  But Gandhi is the man who stands on the face of lie with his “truth” as a political principle. Gandhi said that he was seeking after truth. He was seeking after it, through socio-political action, just as others might seek after it through a mystical or spiritual path, the study of mathematics, or the creation of art. It seems that the goals of most his contemporaries were much more immediate and concrete.

By his believe on truth and his true policies, he gained remarkable achievements such as: to increase cost-of-living for workers, the right for untouchables to walk past a temple used by Brahmans, the replacement of British rule with home rule, etc. Some of the intermediate goals included things that even the most uneducated, illiterate, and impoverished could grasp immediately, like: (1) Having all Indians weave their own cloth rather than buy British cloth (most Indians made their own clothing) and (2) Repealing a salt taxation and regulation scheme that drove the cost of salt so high that the poor could not afford it. Salt is an essential dietary element in India’s climate and can be collected from India’s ocean beaches or retrieved from inland deposits by anyone after a bit of instruction. The salt laws brought the British significant revenues.[3] However, in recent years, the Afghan new “leaders” introduced the “market economy”. With economic policies based on their “market economy” they killed almost all of national and local productions and have told all of their economic lies and treason in the name of “market economy”.

What is the principle of “truth about? In our country, every politician believes that all truth and reality belongs to him or her. He or she is absolutely true and the rivals and opponents are absolutely wrong. However, Gandhi believed that “no human or group of humans could know the complete truth. No matter how close one thinks one might be to the truth, one could be in error either wholly or in some lesser way that is not immediately apparent. Because of this, he maintained that no one could use violence toward others to press his or her view of the truth forward.”[4] Henceforth, in only recent 35 years of our history, thousands, hundred thousands or even millions of people were simply killed for such absolutism. The power holder has always been “right” and “true” but the others have been “wrong” or “lie”, hence they must have been dead!

On the same trend, next comes the principle of non-violence. We have been the victim of violence all over the history. What exactly Gandhi says about this principle? Gandhi’s principle of non-violence, “however excluded all acts of violence, and his definition of violence was broad. As one might expect, physical violence could not be used against an opponent. He also maintained that there should be no violence in one’s expression and words. The non-violence principle required that an opponent be treated with utmost respect. Smear campaigns aimed at defamation of character were not in his political action toolbox, just as murder of lawmakers, judges, bureaucrats, and police were not in his toolbox. Gandhi’s non-violence is a full antonym for violence. Not only does non-violence refrain from destructive acts, it is aggressively and provocatively constructive. Thus, Gandhi’s campaigns did not seek to defeat an opponent, but instead to convert the opponent to a more just position and to challenge the opponent to act upon the new position. In addition, Gandhi held that there must be an opportunity for an opponent to save face, so long as no fundamental principle or aim of the action was thereby compromised.”[5]

However, by pressing on the principle of non-violence, there comes a question of how to respond to the violent forces who understand no other language but violence? Like the Taliban in Afghanistan or the bigger terrorist groups and governments around the world. Here we may insist on the political principle of self-defense as a challenge to the concept of non-violance used by Gandhi. But Gandhi’s believe on non-violence is not an absolute one, as later under the principle of “self- sacrifices” he explains the limits of all these principles by insisting that one should never submit to the vicious and tyrant forces using the principle of non-violence as a pretext. Though non-violence principle is the strongest political weapon in any civil rights struggle, under civilized circumstances but like any political option the absolutism and non-pragmatic usage of any principle is more than a disaster, as Gandhi himself also believed and acted so.

What is more interesting in Gandhi’s thoughts is the principle of “Sel-suffering”. “Self-suffering is an integral element of Gandhi’s technique and a necessary consequence to provocative non-violent action. Self-suffering can take the form of material and social sacrifice. For example, loss of employment, property, or income as a result of holding to one’s view of the truth is a form of self-suffering. Self-suffering reaches its personal extremes in incarceration, physical injury, and the sacrifice of one’s life. Gandhi wrote: “Suffering injury in one’s own person is . . . of the essence of non-violence and is the chosen substitute for violence to others.” (M.K. Gandhi, “Non-violence in Peace and War,” 2nd edition, Ahmedabad: Navajivan, 1944, p. 49). He also wrote, “Non-violence in its dynamic condition means conscious suffering. It does not mean meek submission to the will of the evil-doer, but it means the pitting of one’s whole soul against the will of the tyrant.” (M.K. Gandhi, in “Young India,” August 11, 1920 ). Self-suffering is preferred over submitting to humiliation and provides a way to preserve one’s personal dignity in the face of those who would treat one unjustly.”[6]

Throughout his writings and campaigns, Gandhi emphasized that inviting self-suffering is something that must not be done lightly. One who invites self-suffering must be prepared for the fullest possible sacrifice that may result from one’s actions. However, focusing on our situation; no single politician in today’s Afghanistan can really believe and accept such a principle. This is the main cause for lots of political miseries. Everyone is selfish and act as per their personal agendas. They are ready to sacrifice millions of people for their personal benefits, but not ready to give up even a single hair from their heads for a tiny public interest.

In our political culture it is believed that the “end” is some thing which matters only, no problem what “mean” we chose to reach our “ends”. Even if we chose to betray our comrades, use theft, lie, unmoral deeds etc but we have to achieve the perceived objectives. However, Gandhi believed that “means” do not serve “ends”, rather means create ends. Thus, to attain an end that is positive and truthful, one must use means that are positive and truthful. This philosophy can be summarized by his statement, “the means are the ends in the making.” Means that create ends have two interesting implications. First, one cannot define a just, non-violent end and then use unjust and violent means to attain it, for the end will be in character with the means used. This view precludes taking actions under the philosophy summarized in the statement “the ends justify the means”, a philosophy that seems to permeate all vicious emperors of the past and present. Similarly, while one must always be moving toward a goal of pure truth and justice, the end cannot be defined precisely in advance. Each action one takes creates the next action and that one, the next, each action always in keeping with the last and moving progressively closer to truth and justice. Through actively engaging with fellow activists and the opponent, one grows in understanding of what must be done, a step at a time, to create the most just and truthful end.[7]

This was how Gandhi started and went forward with his struggle for the liberation, unification and construction of a democratic and pluralistic nation. He always focused on the four mentioned principles, although there have been challenges and difficult times that Gandhi needed to choose specific measures that can be debatable for not matching the mentioned principles; But he was committed to his spiritual and political philosophy that he materialized them into his actions. He staunchly believed and acted as a true leader, non-violent and self-sacrificer as he shed his own blood for his political thoughts. Hence, in our country which is scattered, betrayed and ruined by unfaithful politicians and their disciples; the political philosophy of Gandhi, his deeds, his character and his believes must be remembered, analyzed and learned from.

End

2nd October, 2013


[1] A Summary of M.K. Gandhi’s Technique for Political Action, By Mary Sibley, February 1995,  http://www.druglibrary.org/schaffer/Activist/GHANDI1.HTM

[2] Ibid

[4] Ibid

[5] A Summary of M.K. Gandhi’s Technique for Political Action, By Mary Sibley, February 1995,

[6] Ibid

[7] A Summary of M.K. Gandhi’s Technique for Political Action, By Mary Sibley, February 1995,