Securing Afghanistan's future

Daily: The Nation
Date: 10.05.04

“On the Duration of Civil War”, a World Bank study (May 2001), written by Paul Collier,
Anke Hoeffler and Mans Soderbom, demonstrates that half of all countries that settle civil
wars with peace agreements fall back into conflict within five years, largely because of two
factors: the availability of easily looted or "taxed" resources such as narcotics, and the
persistence of insecurity from unofficial and rebel armed organizations.

It is predicted that if Afghanistan falls back into civil war now, it would be because of the two
aforementioned factors. To that reference, it is also estimated that where the cost of its
reconstruction is $ 4 billion per year and the cost of open-ended US military operations is $
10 to 12 billion per year, the cost of failure of the whole exercise is incalculable.

Interestingly, however, one can hardly find a study where flaws in the peace agreements so
happened are considered reasons of emergence of two such aforementioned factors,
instead of vice versa. In this regard, the ongoing situation in Afghanistan provides an
opportunity for such a study.

A careful approach to the new Afghan Constitution adopted by the Constitutional Loya Jirga
(the Grand Tribal Assembly) on January 4, 2004 forebodes: what is going to happen next?

First, as per its Article Sixty-seven (Ch.3, Art.8), an interim President can nominate himself
as a candidate for the post of President. Now, having state machinery at his disposal, why
should not one question the credibility of the results of such an election if the interim (or
transitional) President is elected as a President?  

Secondly, as per its Article Eighty-two (Ch.5, Art.2), the National Assembly consists of an
upper house (Meshrano Jirga) and a lower house (Wolesi Jirga). According to the Article
Seventy-three (Ch. 4, Art.3), “The Ministers can be appointed from within and without the
National Assembly”. The authority to appoint a Minister rests with President subject to
approval of the National Assembly, as per Article Seventy-one (Ch. 4, Art.1). Now, why
should not one question the discretion of President to appoint a Minister from outside the
National Assembly? Moreover, it is not clear as to how many Ministers can be appointed
from out side of the National Assembly? Further, why Ministers, why not the advisors?

Taking both of the aforementioned points together and applying them in the contemporary
situation means that Hamid Karzai can nominate himself as a candidate for the post of
President in the forthcoming September 2004 election. Having state machinery at his
disposal, he can become the first elected President. Afterwards, he can appoint certain
number of Ministers from outside of the would-be National Assembly, as there has already
appeared a controversy over inclusion of the names of Yunus Qanooni  and Abdullah
Abdullah in the Interim Administration. Further, having international sway and funds at his
disposal, the requisite approval of the National Assembly may not be a big problem. As a
result, under a President, two groups of Ministers (National Assembly-based and non-
National Assembly-based) will work to meet certain required objectives.

In this backdrop, it seems that the awaited transition is poised to happen less from
Monarchy to Democracy but more to Monopoly. In Afghanistan’s context that monopoly
proves destructive, as per the post-Soviet withdrawal history.

The whole expected scenario would have at least one predictable repercussion: the
excluded group or people of today will stand segregated even tomorrow. Here arises a
million dollar question: will the deprivation be acceptable to the deprived?

The participants of the Bonn Agreement (December 5, 2001) had reached, at least, one
point consensus: Taliban’s exclusion as a group from any future interim set up, as had
been earlier expressed by the Northern Alliance (the United Front) in the UN Talks on
Afghanistan, Bonn, November 27 to December 5, 2001. However, besides Taliban, the
Pushtoon were also sidelined from the decision making process despite their overwhelming
ethnic majority. Moreover, subsequently, various Tajik and Uzbek warlords/commanders
from the North (and few other from the West) were appeased and compromised, like
Qaseem Fahim, General Dostum, and Ismail Khan, somehow, but not the Pushtoon
warlords from the South and the East of Afghanistan, like Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.

On contrary to the spirit of the Article Three of the preamble of the Afghan Constitution, the
past historical struggle and sacrifice of the warlords and the people of the South (and the
East) for freedom has not been acknowledged fully, under the pretext of Taliban and Al-
Qaeda shouting. Further, they have become the deprived elements in today’s state of
affairs. That is why, broadly speaking, it seems that the famous North 1/3 rd and South
2/3rd divide is surfacing again. This time it is rendering Karzai merely the ‘Mayor of Kabul’.
Moreover, the divide is not only jeopardizing the UN’s efforts for voter registration to let
materialize the approaching election, besides for disarmament, but also putting Pakistan in
an awkward position. The recent hot exchange of words between the U.S. Ambassador to
Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad and the Pakistan’s Foreign Office Spokesman, Masood Khan
is a convincing example in this regard.

The history of the past one-decade (1991-2001) of Afghanistan has taught that securing
Afghanistan through economic means is a secondary formula. The primary formula is
adoption of the political means that firstly guarantee weightage-based representation
(negation of the exclusionist approach) and secondly address the grievances of the
deprived sections of the society (negation of the monopolist approach).

The case study of Afghanistan in the aforementioned scenario shows how cause can be
differentiated from effect. If the seeds of destruction are already embedded in a peace
agreement, one should not cast curse on the resultant effects.  The safe way to avoid both
of the foregoing devastating approaches is by articulating the message: “let us not build
our future on yesterday’s wounds”. Further, just materialize the message; future of
Afghanistan will be secure.

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