Presedential Elections in Afghanistan

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Democracy is the counting of heads, instead of breaking them, and therefore it is a welcome development in Afghanistan, a country ravaged by a quarter-century of warfare when ballots and not bullets appear to have the upper hand. The recently held Afghan presidential election will present a choice between the old and the new, between a state corrupted by private militias and self-enriching warlords; and a new type of government that bases its legitimacy on national rather than ethnic identity.

A remarkable development has taken place in Afghanistan. The process of elections has been completed in Afghanistan. The turnout, by all accounts, was heavy in all parts of the country, and credible reports suggest that women in large numbers were among those who lined up for hours to cast their vote. Majority of the opponents opted the boycott option just to avoid their chances of defeats, which had already been written on the walls from right from the first day of presidential election campaign in Afghanistan. But according to latest reports all the major opponents will accept the presidential elections.

Afghanistan’s historic presidential election seems to have been fairly successful, despite threats of violent disruption. Taliban guerrillas tried their levels best to sabotage the presidential elections because they were ripping in south and southeast Afghanistan, but miserly failed to do so. The control of warlords over 85 per cent of Afghanistan is also seen as major hurdle to the free exercise of peoples’ right to cast their vote. Warlords and local commanders are the main sources of instability in the country and all the powerful warlords played a decisive and crucial role in the recently held elections in the country. It is estimated on the initial results and perceptions from the different quarters that Mr. Karzai would be ultimate victor.

Karzai the interim President of Afghanistan was assisted by his Western “god fathers” and bounties in shape of US and international funds, his easy excess to government resources for election purposes, distinctive opinion of differences among his all opponents and, above all, the predominant fear in the country his defeat should be treated as defeated of Pashtun candidate, this would spell doom and gloom for Afghanistan’s internal unity, notwithstanding the Pashtun majority of the Afghan population. According to latest survey of USA, voters from all ethnic backgrounds supported Afghan interim President Hamid Karzai although, as expected, his own Pushtun voters overwhelmingly supported him.

Main Contenders

Hamid Karzai

The favourite to win, Afghanistan’s US-backed president cuts a dapper figure on the international stage. An ethnic Pashtun, the 46-year-old from southern Afghanistan must win enough support from northern military commanders in order to win.

Yunus Qanooni

Tipped as the top candidate of powerful anti-Taliban Northern Alliance commanders, Karzai’s former education minister is now seen as his chief challenger in the presidential race. The 47-year-old Tajik commands substantial support in the Panjshir valley, a stronghold of resistance against the Taliban north of Kabul.

Abdul Rashid Dostam

A whisky-drinking Uzbek warlord who fought for the Russians before changing sides and joining the Mujahedin during the 1980s and 1990s, Dostam, 50, changed sides frequently. He now commands a private militia near the northern Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif.

Masooda Jalal

The only woman running for president, the 41-year-old Tajik doctor and rose to prominence at the constitutional loya jirga in 2002, when she came second to President Hamid Karzai in the vote to elect a transitional leader.

Ahmad Shah Ahmadzai

Ahmadzai, 61, an ethnic Pashtun, was a radical anti-communist leader who once headed the rebel government-in-exile over the border in Pakistan’s Peshawar during the 1980’s Soviet occupation.

The turnout was so high in many places that there were immediately suspicions that some Afghans were honouring the old political adage vote early and vote often. Claiming that there had been multiple voting on a massive scale, all 15 challengers to Afghanistan’s interim president, Hamid Karzai announced halfway through polling day that they would boycott the vote. However, international observers did not uphold the contenders’ accusations in the recently held presidential elections in Afghanistan.

Both the European Union and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe sent some 125 monitors but they are confined to Kabul for fear of Taliban attacks. In the mountains and deserts of Afghanistan, local militias provided security in the polls. In the meanwhile, the Free and Fair Elections Foundation of Afghanistan said that over all, a fairly democratic environment had been observed in the polling centers by its 2,300 observers. President of US badly needs the victory of Mr. Karzai for the successful execution of his own re-election campaign. Chancellor Schroeder, while in Pakistan and en route to Afghanistan said that despite all the problems the recently held presidential elections in Afghanistan had been a success. But fears and stakes are very high and sensitive in Afghanistan and all the neighboring countries like Pakistan, India, Iran and the last not the least China that what will happen if Dostum gets the Uzbek vote, Mohaqiq the Hazara vote and Qanooni the Tajik vote. Karzai will be their hostage again. The rift of Karzai may be compromised. Because Mullah Omar, the Taliban leader he is also voting with guns.

Refugee voters in the Iranian capital, Tehran

Of the 10.5 million registered voters and immigrants living in 1,400,000 to 1,500,000 Pakistan and Iran cast their votes for first ever-presidential elections in Afghanistan. Ahmad Shah Masoud, the "Lion of the Panjshir", Ismail Khan the governor of Heart, Mohammed Mohaqiq, Hazara, Burhanuddin Rabbani, Pakistan & Iran and many more will play important role in the outcome of the recently held presidential elections in the country because they are all still the key to the Afghan equation/elections.

Karzai may not be restricted to Kabul because he is making all sorts of deals with the warlords, with US backing. Zalmay Khalilzad, the US ambassador, has personally encouraged several warlords to clear the way for Karzai. He also motivated secretly to boycott the elections and they will be offered top jobs in Mr Karzai’s government. Mr Karzai’s leading rival, Yunus Qanuni currently the education minister, and a leader of the Tajik ethnic minority threats for boycott the elections should be seen in that regard.

Strategic Adjustments of the President Karazi in the Presidential Elections

Afghanistan’s ancient and new politics" is helplessly caught in the maelstrom of volatile ethnic politics, with each of the dominant groups Pashtuns, Tajiks, Uzbeks, Hazaras jockeying for position and influence and due to his better communication skills along with promises to be inducted/included in the next regime made Karazi a winning candidate right from the first day. Karzai successfully divide the Northern Alliance and win over support from a sizeable portion of it, as well as establish political links with certain sections of the former Taliban leadership.

Adjustments

Northern Alliance leader Ahmad Shah Masoud

Reasons: Brother of “Lion of the Panjshir", and Son-in-law of Burhanuddin Rabbani, is still the key to the Afghan equation/elections. The President of Afghanistan not the Kabul “Karzai” profited from Masoud’s cult status by picking one of Masoud’s brothers, Ahmad Zia, as his running mate. Ahmad Zia escaped an assassination attempt this week. Karzai hopes that Ahmad Zia may secure him essential votes in the Panjshir Valley against his main rival in the race, former education minister Yunus Qanooni.

Former king, Zahir Shah

Reasons: Equally important has been the support given to Karzai by the amicable former king, Zahir Shah

Replacement of the governor of Herat, Ismael Khan

Reasons: Send a strong signal about the drift of his policies if elected. The ultimate objective is to demobilize Khan, and other warlords’, militias. But he had to admit this week on the British Broadcasting Corp that, if elected, he may bring him back to government.

Former president Burhanuddin Rabbani

Reasons: He wields enormous power in the shadows and is also the father-in-law of Ahmad Zia Masoud. Because in large part of his family ties, Rabbani now supports Karzai.

Ahmad Wali Masoud

Reasons: Chairman of the National Movement of Afghanistan [NMA – Nihzat-e Melli Afghanistan], which includes many former mujahideen fighters-turned politicians, had decided to endorse Karzai’s candidacy.

Government of Pakistan

Reasons: Due to geo-strategic importance of Afghanistan, government of Pakistan helped in all respects for the victory of President Karzai.

Having good relationships with all the neighboring countries via USA, UK and EU

Reasons: He also enjoys support of Afghanistan’s neighboring countries and is widely acknowledged as the man to lead Afghanistan’s reform and reconstruction in the coming years.

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According to latest survey of USA the interim President Karzai received support from 86 per cent of Pushtun voters. This was not surprising as Mr. Karzai also belongs to this ethnic group, which is the largest in Afghanistan. But unexpectedly 40 per cent of Tajik voters also said they cast a ballot for Mr. Karzai. Besides Pushtuns and Tajiks, Mr. Karzai also received the support of 16 per cent of Uzbek and 21 per cent of Hazara voters. These are the other two large ethnic groups in Afghanistan.

Emerging Socio-Politico and Geo-Strategic Scenarios After the Presidential Elections (In case of Karzai Victory & Defeat)

Pakistan and Iran, the two principal countries who suffered the fallout of Afghan turmoil and also got involved, at varying degrees, in Afghanistan’s anti-Soviet resistance have engaged with Karzai in Kabul. Under Karzai Pakistan-Afghan relations have vastly improved in the areas of trade, commerce and security cooperation.

Victory

Defeat

Some
or all Northern Alliance factions, their leaders will be awarded high-level
positions, further entrenching and legitimizing them.
If Karzai wins
without enough support from his opponent warlords, the losing parties
may attack the central government, returning the country to civil war.
Once he has
been formally declared winner, Karzai will no doubt have to give significant
posts to the Panjsheris, the Uzbeks and the Hazaras for the sake of
ethnic balance.
Pakistan would
be glad and secured
India would
be happy

If Karzai
loses, the warlords might form an alliance government, a horrible thought
to contemplate considering the 1992-1996-coalition government of many
of the same factions. In the latter two scenarios, it is not clear whether
the US would intervene and re-install Karzai as president as it has
done in Iraq with Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, or allow Afghanistan to
fester and implode (as it did in the early 1990s). What is certain is
that none of these scenarios will lead to peace or real democracy.
Pakistan would
be in danger because the ties with northern alliance never remained
healthy or friendly
Iran would
be better placed if candidate with the support of Northern Alliance
win

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Conclusion

In reality the recently held Afghan presidential elections will be a test not of Afghan democracy, but of the Bush administration’s ability to impose its political order on a country. The Bush administration constantly calls attention to the fact that 4 million of those who registered to vote in Afghanistan were women. Just as the "liberation" of Afghan women.

Instead of pouring money into keeping only Kabul safe for Karzai, the US could fully fund reconstruction and the basic human needs (food, shelter, health care, education) of Afghan people, especially women. The healthier and safer the people of Afghanistan, the better able they would be to exercise democratic rights and organize against religious fundamentalist forces and women’s oppression.

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