With videos and photos of vote rigging and social media wars on an intense mode between Dr. Abdullah Abdullah supporters and Dr. Ashraf Ghani supporters, it seems like Afghanistan’s democracy has divided the country far more than bringing about a resolution to what most of us had hoped would be an effort towards national unity. The fact on the ground remains that as a nation, in this critical point of time when we’re trying to shape our future, we still remain deeply divided and neither one of the Presidential candidates seems to be getting the last laugh. So who is laughing and who is the real winner of Afghanistan’s 2014 elections? The western-backed Karzai administration.
After the first round of elections, I made myself very clear on my twitter feed that whoever made the decision to vote, they would need to put up with everything that comes with Afghanistan’s supposed ‘free and fair’ elections. Afghan news channels and social media sites are on fire with spat between Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani voters, myself included amongst them – though I practiced my right not to vote. As an Afghan, it’s disheartening for me to see countries like India and Egypt, both with more than double the population of Afghanistan, successfully start and complete their elections after our first round and have a leader while we’re still struggling to find out who will be the next President to lead the nation. I also find it discouraging to see the Karzai government’s lack of self-responsibility and accountability in setting up the environment to establish a level playing field for the current presidential candidates. When a member of the Independent Election Commission of Afghanistan (IECA) Zia ul-Haq Amarkhel’s guards are caught red-handed with a truckload of pre-filled ballot boxes on the Election Day, how can Afghans trust this supposed democratic system?
It’s unfortunate that for as long as the fraudulent votes count in favor of Dr. Ashraf Ghani, a post-9/11 Afghan patriot imported to Afghanistan, he and his supporters are silent about the long-term consequences of the lack of mistrust this will bring about in Afghanistan’s future elections, democracy, leadership, and will continue to spread discontent amongst Afghans. These instant gratifications and lust for power have much broader ramifications for the country. Ashraf Ghani supporters would agree that President Karzai (PK) has had his time – he enjoyed leading Afghanistan under US supervision and support (financially, militarily and politically) since 9/11 attacks. With the Karzai legacy transitioning with release of hundreds of Taliban fighters, irrespective of whether Abdullah Abdullah or Ashraf Ghani as the next President, they will face the most critical challenge of building a foundation for a prosperous Afghanistan – the challenge of bringing a lasting peace to the country.
Given that the outgoing administration is still the governing body that oversees the election process and given that the inaction of PK to proactively reprimand his government officials for blatant acts of fraud, he seems to be wanting chaos for Afghanistan’s future without him as the leader. Afghans need to take the long-term view and understand that at any point in time in the future, what is happening in Syria, Libya and Iraq, can easily happen in Afghanistan. The Taliban can easily return under a different banner, name or cause to “bring peace” to Afghanistan the same way they did back in the 90’s. Not withholding the recognition of the elephant in the room here, Afghans know that tribal and ethnic loyalties are at stake here, and both Karzai and Ashraf Ghani would probably want the return of the Taliban with the blessing of the west in the event that Abdullah Abdullah wins.
The comments made by a White House official recently are worth noting here, “We never signed up to be the permanent security force in Afghanistan to fight against the Taliban.” (http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/05/27/us-usa-afghanistan-obama-idUSKBN0E71WQ20140527) and in the same article, President Obama said, “We have to recognize that Afghanistan will not be a perfect place, and it is not America’s responsibility to make it one.”
I can only ask Afghanistan (and the world) this question: Do you think an imported democracy ever works? Looking at what’s happening in Iraq right now as I type this blog, I don’t think so.