Afghans To Choose Their New President

Poll in Afghanistan – a Step in Right Direction

Ravaged by 20 years of war and destruction, Afghanistan is limping back to democracy, thanks to American efforts. Hamid Karzai became the first President after the overthrow of the Taliban government, led by one-eyed Mullah Omar in 2001, ruling the country, but with many problems.

Hamid Karzai tried to restore some kind of normalcy in a very orthodox country, where traditions and local customs are very important. The best part of his term being the freedom granted to women in particular, who came out of their Burqas to once again take part in national life. But that did not happen in the rural and tribal areas, where the majority of Afghans live. There, women are still a subjected to ridicule, often confined to the four walls of their houses, with no outside education. Much is still to be desired in the emancipation of women there.

Like Indian politicians, Hamid Karzai too succumbed to the local pressure of clerics. He passed a law recently permitting Shia men to deny food to their wives refusing sex. This came in for high condemnation from all quarters. This law was most likely granted with Karzai keeping an eye on the August 20 Presidential elections. Sunni Muslims are the dominant community, whereas the Shia form only 20% or less of the population. This was nothing but appeasement of minorities, a policy so close to the hearts of other politicians particularly during election times.

Afghanistan, though limping back to democracy with law and order and security of the country taken care of by the US and allies, may yet become a fully fledged democratic country. The Taliban are found everywhere, so much so that Karazai had to buy peace with them. The US and allies are facing the biggest headache and threat from the resurgent Taliban, striking at will from Afghan-Pak borders. Despite so many years of occupation, a mighty US failed to contain the Taliban. That is why US and allies are keen to leave the country. Its a wise decision to leave. The earlier the better.

On the development side, Hamid Krazai’s Government has done little and much work remaines to be done. In a war ravaged country, the first and foremost step would be to provide security to the people. Stop suicide bombing and attacks in market places, where the death toll was heavy. Not a day passes without an incident of attack from the Taliban. This has to be stopped.

Then comes housing, hospitals, schools, colleges etc. Unemployment is the biggest problem. Expansion of business and opening up to the world trading community would help this traditional country come out of the box. Whoever succeeds there in Afghanistan, the road to power is not free from pitfalls. How would they tackle the menace of cross border terrorism and contain the Taliban, are the biggest challenges and priority for the new Afghan President.

There are 41 candidates in the fray including the serving President Hamid Karzai and his biggest challenger Abdullah Abdullah, ex-Foreign Minister. Perhaps he is the only candidate who would give Karzai any real competition. It is believed that Karzai is favoured to win the Agusut 20, elections handsomely with the US backing his candidature. Kazak leader Dostum’s return to Afghan politics and his support for Hamid Karzai is crucial and interesting, although the US is wary about his presence in the next government. Coming events will prove whether Afghanistan can sustain democracy.

The polls in Afghanistan are a step in right direction. It would legitimise the rule of Karzai. But restoration of full democracy alone would fulfill all the aspirations of the people. The people of Afghanistan, though traditionally orthodox Muslims, still want democracy to survive. They do not want Mullah rule again or for that matter the return of the Taliban.

Women in particular want a well developed Afghanistan with full freedom for women to take up education and participate in nation building as equal partners in a male dominated society.

Afghanistan could also go the way of many Arab states with the introduction of a foreign based educational system. Time alone will reveal this. For the present, a keen competition for the top job is on the cards. Whether it is Karzai or Abdullah Abdullah, we only have to wait two more days to see. Jai Hind.