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Farewell Gift to Afghanistan Before the Final Adieu

Margaret Gangte

Security alert at the exit door: The recent increase in incidences of terrorist attacks in Afghanistan, Pakistan and India are warning signs of gloomy future ahead consequent to the NATO drawdown plan in Afghanistan. The common recognition of the threat does not however guarantee a common strategy to tackle the security threat. Some may feel the need to increase development aid over defence aid and cooperation, some may seek trade negotiations to ease strained relations and some may believe in pacifying the terror strikers through reconciliation process. The problem is aggravated by different perception of needs for Afghanistan as perceived by various stakeholders in the region. Little is realized that this unfortunate country, used as a chess board by the game players in the cold war period for decades has its own special need to heal itself. The guardian of Afghanistan like USA feel that the need of Afghanistan is institution building through modern democratic process, but it has sadly failed the people. The friends of Afghanistan like India still believe in the present failed leadership for fulfillment of local needs, without actually understanding the need of Afghans. Pakistan and Iran consider themselves as natural protector of Afghanistan perhaps to gain dominance over the tired and beleaguered brother.

Special security need of Afghanistan: While the needs of Afghanistan are assessed by stakeholders in their own perspectives, Afghanistan has its own special needs assessed under factual position. The facts about Afghanistan today are: capacity building of ten years still beleaguered the insecure state; democratic governance has promoted corruption and nepotism at its height. Afghan is beset with internal problems: weak institutional capacity under a leadership not found legitimate in the eyes of the local populace, tribal imbalances, warlordism and the continuous threat of radicalism that waits for opportune moment to strike its terror. The most feared outcome from the troop’s drawdown is the regain power of Taliban. Even before commencement of the withdrawal, the country and its neighbors have already witnessed the scourge of violence from radical elements. The special need for Afghanistan is; protection ‘against various adversaries and adversities.

The need for credible governance institution: Afghanistan has external threats and internal crisis while passing through a critical juncture of transition period from NATO protection to an independent status without protection. How could the beleaguered state with little financial resources and human capacity protect itself against its fearsome warlords and Taliban and also protect its sovereignty from neighbor like Pakistan or safeguard its interest from coveted eyes from Iran? In the event of attacks by the radicals internally and externally, who is to protect Afghanistan? The torment in Afghanistan history justifies for a reasonable share of parting gift before bidding the final adieu. There is nothing better to gift Afghanistan than ‘enabling its leadership institution’ at this juncture of transition of power from external hands to indigenous hands and to protect Afghanistan from another slaughter.

The need for credible leadership: From now on, Afghanistan has to think and act to fend for itself. For that, it needs to unite the people under a leader acceptable to all including the radical elements. For that to happen, the only unifying factor is the traditional leadership institution trusted by the people. The most befitting farewell gift to Afghanistan is to ‘enable’ the ‘disabled’ nation with a leadership that can look after all the people, not just family and clan, a leadership that is resourceful and capable to carry forward the mandate of progress and development to the 21st century. The gift is to give Afghanistan a chance to govern itself in a way acceptable to Afghan culture and society and compatible to the level of economic and political development.

How and why traditional leadership institution will work: The institution built by external agencies unfortunately has failed the people. All it takes is to help Afghans get back to traditional governance which in effect involves reverting back to the old method of selection of leadership without dismantling the modern institutional set up. This proposed method involves casting of votes by raising hands instead of the ballot system that feeds on money and promote corruption/ nepotism. The ordinary democratic process of election by raising hands is found more democratic in practice and also considered simply suitable to Afghan condition particularly in consideration of sustaining the future cost of election in a poor financial resource state. Most importantly, the traditional leadership can unite the divided Afghan tribes together to fight against any adversaries.

Conclusion: Modern democracy works well in a literate and advanced society and considering Afghan’s development level in the world index and taking into account the current failed experience, the feasible governance system in Afghanistan context will be the traditional simple and honest practice of selecting a leadership entailing least expense simply suitable to local condition. For a transparent and credible process and to prevent maneuvering by the present incumbent, it needs a strategy planned by the Afghanistan national reconciliation forum on the coalition strategy for the future.

Margaret Gangte is the director of the Ministry of Defense for the Government of India. Email: [email protected]

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