Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Afghan Elections: A Proof of Success in Afghanistan

As Afghanistan continues to transition towards democracy, it is important for the world to realize that intervention has not failed.

Afghan men line up for the registration process before they cast their votes at a polling station in Kabul. Credit: AP
In the 12 years that the West has spent in Afghanistan since 2002, some analysts are now calling the mission a total failure and insist on a complete withdrawal.
Their argument is that the West cannot “impose” a democratic governing system on a traditional Afghan society, which they refer to as tribal and resentful to change.
Media coverage of Afghanistan has disheartened Western opinion. Most do not know about other developments in the country. A closer examination reveals that the mission is not a failure, but a worthy effort for enduring freedom.
Afghanistan post-Taliban
When the Taliban took over Afghanistan, the country had plunged into a chaotic war zone. Warring factions that once stood together with Western and regional support against the Soviet Army and Communist regime in Kabul had turned on each other making living in Afghanistan practically impossible.
Fueled with regional interventions and international politics of the Cold War, systematic radicalization was breeding in Afghanistan in such that tolerance for human dignity, Afghanistan’s cultural heritage and women rights had vanished.
The situation continued until the unfortunate 9/11 events when the world realized committing a major mistake by leaving Afghanistan in the 1980s after the withdrawal of the Soviet Union to the mercy of the gunmen and bad regional politics.
Afghanistan post-Karzai
After the Bonn Agreement in 2002, Afghanistan regained recognition. The country started a difficult march towards instituting a new constitution, forming a transitional government and then holding elections to nominate their first democratic leadership in more than 30 decades. All went well.  Today Afghanistan has a progressive constitution in the region; and elections have been held successfully.
Furthermore, international development aid coupled with currency and private sector licensing reforms has helped the country to rebuild its economy. Economic growth jumped and remained at nearly 10 percent during the last decade; it is still growing.
For instance, Afghanistan now has many commercial banks, private schools and universities, a vibrant telecommunication sector, paved roads, and a functioning national army and police force.
Looking towards the future, Afghanistan still has great potential for becoming a transportation hub between Central and South Asia; the Middle East and China; and for becoming a vibrant explorer and exporter of its abundant natural resources.
In addition, more Afghans including women are going to school and vocational institutions resulting in a new and young natural resource for the country that will capitalize on new opportunities. The country’s other sectors such as agriculture, health and education, carpets and minerals provides huge investment opportunities to investors all over the world. In a decade or so and good management from Afghan leadership, these sectors would lead to Afghanistan become independent of foreign aid and able to pay its own bills.
Security has improved. Afghan security institutions have become more professional and have taken the responsibility for keeping Afghan streets safer. Afghans are ever resilient to continue with these developments and further transform the country to a more prosperous one in the region.
Recent Afghan Elections
Afghans went to polls on April 5 to vote for a new president and members of the provincial councils across Afghanistan. Pre-election threats of violent incidences did not scare Afghans. The atmosphere in Kabul in the last week before the elections was sober with many in-country foreigners opting to leave for Dubai, Delhi or even Washington to mitigate security risks.
On April 5, however, Afghans stunned the world.
They came out in huge numbers all across the country to be part of making history by giving President Hamid Karzai the opportunity to become the first elected Afghan president to transfer political power to the next presidential hopeful through the ballot box.
Afghans also proved that they want the ballots to rule the country, not bullets anymore. More than 7 million Afghans of the nearly 12 million registered voters came out vote. The polling day was a festive national celebration for all Afghans. Afghan security establishments provided security to voters; it was an Afghan effort for Afghans. No major security incident was allowed to happen.
Election results are expected in a couple of weeks after the election commission has addressed all concerns. An important lesson has been that unlike other war-stricken countries or other countries in the region, Afghans value democracy and value the process to elect their leadership through the ballot box.
Moving Forward
Entering the transitional decade in Afghanistan, it is important for the world to realize that their intervention in Afghanistan is not a failure.
It is vital to understand that Afghans have a solution and that they want a more pluralistic, democratic society. Most Afghans eye on a model country where law rules and Afghan women are also an integral part of the development processes in the country.
However, it’s equally important to understand that Afghanistan still needs international engagement and support to sustain these mutual achievements. A continued so-called light footprint engagement accompanied with sound investment and assistance to the country will also be an important to realize and build on the sacrifices of the hundreds of men and women who have fallen on the way to bringing peace to the country at the heart of Asia.

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