Ajmal Khan Zazai
The following is based on a panel discussion entitled “Afghanistan: The Way Forward” at the Conference on the Middle East Migration Crisis: Genesis and Response, hosted by Initiatives of Change in collaboration with the Next Century Foundation.
One of the results of the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan was the instatement of what is nominally a multiparty democratic political system. However, democracy in Afghanistan faces several key challenges which raise the question of whether its implementation should be treated as a top priority under the current socio-economic, military, and political circumstances.
Ajmal Khan Zazai, Paramount Chief of Afghanistan’s Paktia province, has pointed out that a functioning democracy requires that at least a portion of the voter base be well-educated. This issue is especially salient when women are considered separately; having previously enjoyed more rights and freedoms, they now fear to leave the house unveiled. Women’s rights in Afghanistan are virtually non-existent.
This is partially due to the misappropriation of funds send to Afghanistan to be used for development projects. Shabibi Shah, Afghan poet and former chair of the Paiwand Association, noted that most of the money ends up in warlords’ pockets. The Western governments providing this aid could follow through in order to ensure that it is delivered to the intended recipients. A similar issue is the misuse of funds by NGOs present in Afghanistan; many allegations have been levelled against them for wasting money on living lavishly in Afghanistan and other countries where they operate
Ajmal believes that the aforementioned warlords must be completely removed, with help once again from the American military, in order to root out corruption. According to him, the daily drone attacks and presence of 10,000 active troops and 20,000 CIA operatives indicate that political will for Western military involvement in Afghanistan is alive and well.
Democracy in Afghanistan should be perceived as a long-term goal, the eventual achievement of which will be aided by the resolution of more immediate and tangible issues. Conditions for good governance must first be created by reining in the warlords and putting development aid to good use in educating people and promoting the position of women in society.