Despite receiving threats from the Taliban, the people of Afghanistan dared to come out of their homes on August 20, 2009 to caste their vote to elect a democratic government. Although the election result was declared unfair and runoff is due on November 7, but the message was, clear enough: – people want change. The country has witnessed enough bloodshed and destruction, forcing people to flee to safe zones in other countries. Those who were left behind either died or have constantly lived under terror.
The people of Afghanistan have always come forward to support the leaders who promised peace but got atrocities in return. The turmoil began with a coup in 1978 in which President Mohammad Daud was killed and backed by the Soviet Union, People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) took over and declared Afghanistan as a Democratic Republic. They also initiated reforms like giving freedom to women etc. In 1979, Soviet Union invaded and people began to resist. Fundamentalist groups nurtured by Pakistan waged guerrilla warfare against communist PDPA. The United States, Saudis, and gulf began to support Mujahideen with arms and ammunitions. In 1989, The Soviet left and by April 1992, Mujahideen rule under Commander Ahmad Shah Masoud replaced the Najibullah govt. Afghani people gave their full support. However, these warlords kept on fighting among themselves, looting and killing the innocent. The Taliban emerged to fight against them and gave a new hope of peace. In 1996, they captured Kabul pushing warlords towards north. Hence, the warlords formed a Northern Alliance. However, Taliban became a religious fundamentalist group and forced upon common people strict religious code of conduct. Women lost all freedom. They also banned opium cultivation, which was encouraged by the warlords. The country became a safe haven for terrorists. In 2001, US waged a war against the Taliban, helped the Northern alliance to expand their influence outside north once again. The US invasion added to the woes of people because of human rights violations by foreign troops. This has resulted in clashes between the troops and civilians.
Year 2004 was watershed as first democratic elections took place. However, the people who supported Karzai Govt to get rid of warlords were deceived again. Warlords have continued to flourish. Hamid Karzai even called back exiled warlord Abdur Rashid Dostum (Uzbek) who was involved in several killings during 1990s. Furthermore, to get the votes of Shias, he signed the anti-woman bill which led to global criticism, forcing the former to back off from his decision. His government is also accused of massive corruption and inefficient administration.
There were 41 candidates for presidential polls in 2009. Karzai was declared the winner but was also accused of vote rigging. NATO, US and even UN pressurized Karzai for a runoff against rival Abdullah Abdullah. More than 200 Poll officials were removed. According to the latest results by UN backed Electoral Complaints Commission, Hamid Karzai received 49.67% votes and Dr Abdullah Abdullah got 30.59%. Therefore, Karzai is at advantage since he is little less than 50% votes required. No doubt, he has more chances of winning owing to his Pashtun ethnicity, which constitutes 42%, against opponent Abdullah who belongs to minority Tajik tribe that constitutes 27%, of Afghan population.
The challenge before the newly elected government would be the tribal warlords with whom Karzai has struck a chord. They will threaten to withdraw support until and unless their demands are met. So to whom will the President remain accountable? To the people who willingly or unwillingly decide to give him a second chance or to those power hungry warlords who have killed many innocent people?
In the game of power since 1979, The Afghan people have been the worst sufferers. A credible government is very essential for the United States in its aim to fight Al-Qaeda and Taliban. The fresh elections to be held in November are a challenge because the Taliban will try to disrupt it again. Sincere efforts are required to prevent any malpractice this time.
Afghanistan ranks 181 out of 192 countries in UNDP human development index. The need of the hour is reconstruction of the war torn society to prevent it from falling prey to the Taliban ideology. More and more development projects have to be implemented. India has pledged $1.2 billion aid to Afghanistan and is contributing in infrastructure development from roads to power plants and satellite transmitters. The United States has increased the Aid to Pakistan, which could have been diverted to Afghanistan. Increasing more foreign troops will create more mess. Instead, a strong Afghan army is needed to face the threat from Pakistan. Peace in Afghanistan after all is necessary for the whole world.
[Image courtesy: http://www.flickr.com/photos/soldiersmediacenter/488224477/]