As the news of Afghan elections and departure of the international forces start dominating the news in Afghanistan, Afghans are preparing themselves for an uncertain future. I use this opportunity to reflect back at our recent history and explore why we have no reason to be afraid of the future and use the lessons learned from the past to revive the Afghan spirit, keep the momentum of progress going and maintain a sense of unity in the face of challenges we should expect as a nation and are likely to face. In doing so, I focus on what I believe to be the lack of leadership and the constant need to blame someone where things have not gone right. In an attempt to put things into perspective at the end of this two-part blog, I hope to help the readers separate Afghanistan’s problems from its people and focus on the real issues we should be working on to encourage progress. Lastly, I encourage the readers to take both parts as a whole and not form opinions based on part 1 alone.
“Every Afghan has the right to speak their mind and express their opinions, but no Afghan has the right to be heard – that is a right we all have to earn.”
When it comes to Afghanistan, it is only during the preparations for next year’s elections and when talks of future administration start that we realize the lack of leaders in Afghanistan. After 9/11, many western installed so-called technocrats have tried their chances to run as presidential candidates in the past and claim they are ready to lead Afghanistan, but only to find out that no one is following them. Moreover, many of these post-9/11 Afghan leaders who returned to Afghanistan after decades in self-exile find themselves so distant from the populace that many, in fact, struggle to re-integrate back into Afghan society. We have seen them change their dress codes, grow facial hair, and talk in their native language with a nationalistic attitude to try to win trust from the suspicious Afghan public – all this ‘hard work’ over the last decade has led to no avail. The number one reason for this failure in leadership is that these leaders are not born amongst the people and therefore do not enjoy any support from them. For Afghans, most of the expatriate Afghans returning from the west are just as western as a non-Afghan trying to blend in. As a matter of fact, many foreigners in Afghanistan have done a much better job of winning trust from Afghans.
One of the key challenges Afghanistan is likely to face post-2014 is the continuity of the presence of expatriate Afghans in government posts. While much of the leadership by expatriate Afghans has not produced much needed change and development of the country over the years, their presence still remains an integral part of Afghanistan’s success as a nation. Afghanistan is a tough nation and as the saying goes, ‘when the going gets tough, the tough get going’ – this is the least of expectations people can hope to see from this western installed group of leaders and Afghanistan is not better without them. I personally hope that their continued presence in Afghanistan will serve as motivation and encouragement for other Afghans around the world to return to Afghanistan and start contributing positively in helping re-shape Afghanistan’s future through political, legal and educational reforms.
With the current state of governance serving as a breeding ground for corruption of sorts never seen in Afghanistan before, one group of Afghans who I believe can bring about a change and uprooting of corruption from our system is the influx of fresh Afghan faces in our government. For Afghanistan to see a truly united government that enjoys support from across the population, voices of opposition and dissent should be welcomed as opposed to ignored. Fortunately, we no longer live in an Afghanistan where any dissent or opposition is met with execution, as was the case during the communist era.
Afghanistan: A Journey from Dictatorship of Communism to Democracy of Capitalism
The post-9/11 leadership in Afghanistan has been hard at work to remove as many Mujahidin figures who drove communism out of Afghanistan, then helped remove Taliban. This silent removal, glass ceiling and latent opposition to Mujahidin figures is a direct result of the return of former communists and old enemies of Afghanistan’s Mujahidin that have taken new shapes and forms under the umbrellas of “democracy-loving people, seculars, human/woman rights activists” and so on. These so-called “former” communists seem to be so hung up and preoccupied with the existence of Mujahidin in Afghanistan that even their younger generations are a living evidence to the hatred sowed deep in their minds against any opposition.
“Today, the younger generations of Afghans fight for what is convenient, not for what is right.”
A classic example is the emergence of one-hit-wonders and fake heroines like Malalai Joya (pseudonym of her real name) who got labeled as the “bravest woman in Afghanistan” by her journalist friends working in BBC Persia. When Marxist feminists like her are given the opportunity of a lifetime in a country like Afghanistan to be members of a democratic parliament so they can contribute to the country, they end up shooting themselves in the foot, making a fool out of themselves, become a public embarrassment to the political organizations they represent, and eventually, become invisible leaders of the militant Marxist organizations such as RAWA (Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan), of which they are a representative of. Surely Afghans cannot follow leaders they cannot see. During her short-lived political career, Malalai Joya’s behavior and attitude towards the Mujahidin was so revolting that she ended up succeeding in getting herself fired from her job as a parliamentarian. Today in Afghanistan, no one mentions her name in the political scene and she has gone underground back to her specialty of being an informant for her foreign donors and work as an inactive “activist”.
Western governments and humanitarian organizations have been very quick to support, in every way possible, just about anyone who so much as utters the words human/women’s rights, democracy, secularism, freedom, feminism, anti-jihadist, anti-fundamentalism and anti-extremism. It is imperative that Afghans unmask the different faces of Afghanistan’s Marxists so that the international community and the organizations that support and fund them can see their real faces. This will allow for better decision making in helping the people of Afghanistan as opposed to helping spread the tried, tested and failed ideologies of specific political groups like RAWA that call themselves “humanitarian”. Products of RAWA, such as Malalai Joya, that are exported to the world with the help of international community have made so many grave mistakes that their continued support by international organizations is doing far more harm than good to the very needy and vulnerable people of the Afghan society that organizations like RAWA capitalize on in selling their ideas.
For example, Malalai Joya called the late Ahmad Shah Masood a “terrorist” in her interview with Gulf News of United Arab Emirates (read interview here: http://gulfnews.com/life-style/people/fearless-campaigner-1.647916 ). Ahmad Shah Masood and other Mujahidin figures did not spend their whole lives fighting for their country and their people so that they can be labeled “terrorists” by someone who was not even born at the time they were defending their country against a world superpower. Moreover, Ahmad Shah Masood did not earn the title of a National Hero and became a historic figure in Afghanistan for free – he and others like him spent a lifetime in the public eye where their every move was watched and documented and as a result, they earned tremendous respect and support both nationally and internationally. Ahmad Shah Masood and other Mujahidin leaders lived a life of soldiers for their country and left a legacy that will live for as long as there is Afghanistan. Militant Marxist feminists like Malalai Joya on the other hand, they kill their own political careers because they do not know how to function in a democratic system and end up becoming ghosts for Afghans but “heroes and bravest women” for the western audience – and later when they are ignored, take a defensive attitude of a loser and blame the government and others for their own failure.
When in Afghanistan, Malalai Joya puts on her scarf and burqa and goes to mosques and schools to confuse the illiterate and vulnerable people with her lies. When in the Middle East, Malalai Joya calls herself “the Palestinian of Afghanistan” – knowing that Palestine is a sensitive subject in Arab countries and she can get generous donors to support her. When in Europe, she takes off her scarf and screams for democracy, secularism, and freedom to lure the western audience to support her – all the while calling western democracies “imperialists” in her speeches. Would anyone in Afghanistan ever want to relate him/herself to a political chameleon like her by supporting her in any way? Only those who are like her would – after all, communist remnants still remain at large in Afghanistan.
The lesson learned from failed leadership of militant Marxists like Malalai Joya who are not yet familiar with how a democratic government and society operates like is this: Yes, every Afghan has the right to speak their mind and express their opinions, but no Afghan has the right to be heard – that is a right we all have to earn. This is why the emotional outbursts of such anti-Mujahidin people have been falling on deaf ears. It is only fair that we put ourselves in the shoes of Afghanistan’s communists coming out to the Afghan public behind humanitarian masks from militant Marxist organizations like RAWA in order to understand where all their rage, anger and hatred against the Mujahidin comes from. Afghanistan’s communists have returned only to find a land where there is no more Red Army or a world superpower like the Soviet Union to support them militarily, no communist-puppet regime to support them politically within Afghanistan, not enough people to follow them socially, and many strong voices of opposition against them. The only group they see themselves with similar political agendas and ambitions are the Taliban – one of them is willing to kill all in the name of “Allah 2.0” (refer to my previous blog post) and the other one will kill all who believe in Allah – the only thorn on the side of both is Mujahidin and politically, they make great allies and there is nothing to stop any Afghan from believing that both are working together against the inclusion of Mujahidin in Afghanistan’s future – it is politics after all.
Over the last ten years, there has been a gigantic wave of vile criticism against the Afghan Mujahidin by the younger generation of Afghan journalists that have been mushrooming as a result of foreign aid and the surfacing of Afghanistan’s red-diaper babies, i.e. the children of communists. Those of us who identify ourselves with the Mujahidin, we have been labeled drug lords, warlords, war criminals, fascists, jihadists, and every other name under the sun meant to do reputational damage in a post-9/11 world. So far, no journalist or public figure has won an award or achieved anything from these emotional outbursts and unnecessary name-calling of Mujahidin leaders. Critics of Mujahidin can keep on calling names for another 10, 20, 30, or 100-years and still, they will achieve nothing out of something that has no purpose but continue doing reputational damage. For as long as Afghans keep trying to bring one another down, we will continue to be a country struggling for national unity. An example of teamwork and unity I read in a book relates well to Afghanistan: Imagine a room full of people holding lit candles – if each person tries to put out another person’s light, in the end, the whole room becomes dark – now imagine that room being Afghanistan and its citizens putting each other down – who loses in the end? We all lose as a nation.
Mujahidin: The Missing Ingredient in Afghanistan’s Future
Today, unfortunately, the younger generations of Afghans fight for what is convenient, not for what is right. We see any and every Tom, Dick and Harry in Afghanistan calling themselves human/women’s rights “activists” whereas in reality they are completely inactive at their work. Others have joined the “bash the Mujahidin” campaign by self-declaring themselves analysts and freelance journalists. If calling the Mujahidin leaders all kinds of catchy labels like warlords, war criminals and misogynists gets them attention from the international media for their 15-minutes of fame, then that is exactly what they would do – all the while compromising their integrity and longevity of their careers in their chosen fields of work.
This non-stop finger pointing and blaming the Mujahidin is a result of the fact that Afghans have not been able to separate the people from the problem, and hence the reason why they think people like the Mujahidin leaders are the problem. Our problems are corruption, poverty, illiteracy, lack of proper advanced medical facilities and infrastructure – not a group of people. You can never change people – they are who they are and we will have to learn to accept each other as we are and embrace our differences in political and religious opinions as one nation.
In Part 2:
- A Personal Challenge to Critics of Afghanistan’s Mujahidin
- Afghanistan’s Human Rights Inactivists and Ghostwriters: A Decade of Witch-hunting
- Pakistan: Afghanistan’s Best Neighbor or Worst Nightmare?
- Legalizing Terrorism in Afghanistan
- Lebanon: An Example for Afghanistan’s Future