Friday, 26 September 2014

Afghanistan’s Failed Transformation

For a GLOOMY perspective on Afghanistan read this piece from someone who thinks US troops should stay even longer. Surely it is past time to let Afghanistan stand on its own two feet? Do they really still need more Western meddling?

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Hooray for Ashraf

The Presidential inauguration is with us in a day or two. Karzai is going around trying to be independent by saying how much better off Afghanistan would be if the USA and Pakistan simply did not exist.

But the point is that Ashraf Ghani, the new President, is such an intellect. He is one of the world's great thinkers. He's given to bouts of anger. But what a star. Can we but hope he may be Afghanistan's redeemer. We certainly need some better way. Ashraf is the future whereas Abdullah Abdullah is the representative of the warlords of the past.

Friday, 4 July 2014

Afghan Election Chief Resigns

IEC Chief Election Coordinator - Zia Al Haq Amerkhel



What was initially perceived as a remarkable achievement of democracy, the Afghan elections have since been on a downward spiral threatening the stability of Afghanistan. Following the elections on 5th April, Dr Abdullah secured 45% of the votes and Dr Ashraf Ghani gaining 31%. Having failed to secure an overall majority of 51%, a runoff was decided. The runoff was held on 14th June 2014 and was marred by complaints. On Election Day more than 2000 complaints were recorded by the Independent Elections Complaints Commission (IECC). 

Preliminary reports showed that Ghani was leading by 1.4 million votes. According to his supporters this was expected, asserting that in the first round the candidacy of other Pashtuns figures had divided Ghani’s vote. As early reports of Ghani’s victory quickly spread across the country, Abdullah convened a press conference, in which chief coordinator of the Afghan electoral process Zia Al-Haq Amerkhel was accused of fraud in favour of Ghani, thus casting doubt on the entirety of the election process. Unless the current government took action, Abdullah threatened to contest the results published by the Independent Elections Commission (IEC).

Meanwhile, protests erupted throughout Kabul and the Northern provinces under the red banner of “Movement against Fraud”.  Abdullah called on supporters to stage peaceful rallies. Protestors held signs condemning the IEC and many camped outside Parliament with some members of Parliament even joining in. Addressing the protestors, former Director of Intelligence Amarullah Saleh declared “we must remain peaceful in our path to justice if we want to maintain our integrity”.

Questions were raised as to how Abdullah was able to obtain such confidential information before the release of any results. It is widely known that Abdullah has little confidence in the IEC and his call for peaceful protests would have been validated if it was done so after the election results were announced. Ghani’s supporters further claim that Abdullah’s position is untenable as he would declare results in his favour not to be fraudulent, while he would automatically invalidate any result favouring Ashraf Ghani.

 Ghani supporters emphasis that Abdullah plays the role of a bad loser because if the vote is in his favour there is no discrepancy involved but if the vote is against him he has a tendency to whine and accuse others of fraud. On June 20th, the UN prevented the IEC from broadcasting the election results for fear of igniting further unrest in the country given the current political climate in the country.

Abdullah’s team also released audio tapes which purportedly include recordings of Amerkhel asking several IEC officials in different provinces to "take sheep to the mountains, stuff them and bring them back." Amerkhel is also accused of ordering other IEC officials in the Faryab province to replace Tajik and Hazara elections staff with Pashtuns, Uzbeks and Ismailis, tribes traditionally more supportive of Ghani’s candidacy. With more and more evidence mounting against him, Amerkhel was stopped by Kabul police on Election Day transporting dozens of boxes filled with ballot papers to an unknown location without police escort. 

Amerkhel resigned as chief election coordinator despite denying that the voice heard on the audio tapes was his. He declared “I resigned for the sake of national unity and to bring confidence back to the Election Commission. I take pride in resigning at this critical moment of history”. Individuals from Amerkhel’s inner circle have confirmed that the voice on the recordings was indeed that of Amerkhel, casting even more doubt and suspicion. 

In such fast-paced and hectic developments, it is surprising to see President Karzai has remained overall very passive and has failed to comment on the current situation. President Karzai’s silence looks like an attempt to distance himself from the growing scandal and as a way of postponing the handing over of power. Karzai has been subject to such accusations in the past. Many of Ghani’s Pashtun supporters have hinted at a possible Tajik conspiracy to disturb the course of the elections. 

The Afghan people’s faith in the electoral system seems to have been shaken, the reputation of the Election Commission tarnished and the future of the country in tatters. After 13 years of trying to install democracy, Afghanistan continues to remain deeply divided on ethnic lines. Despite failing to defeat the Taliban, the US will start to withdraw from Afghanistan leaving 9,800 troops after 2014, that number will halve in 2015 and by 2016 only a vestigial force will remain to protect the embassy. With the heavy cost of human lives, a mediocre election and allegations of corruption, all hopes for democracy, meritocracy and national unity seems lost.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Conflict in Afghanistan’s Second Round of Voting



 On June 14 Afghans went to the polls again to vote in the second round of the Presidential Elections. News channels around the world showed images of voters standing in long queues at polling stations to decide the political destiny of the Afghan nation. 

The struggle for the presidency is between former Mujahideen Commander Abdullah Abdullah and former Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani, both of whom failed to secure a 50% majority in the first round of the elections. In the first round Abdullah and Ghani gathered 45% and 31% of the votes, leaving Ghani trailing behind by 14%.

Although no statistics have been released by the Independent Election Commission (IEC), according to the media, voting turnout had dropped considerably compared to the previous round. Controversy arose when Yousof Noristani, head of IEC informally estimated the turnout as more than 7 million; an assertion that Dr. Abdullah categorically dismissed, arguing it was merely impossible that the turnout would be higher than in the first round of elections.

President Karzai called on citizens to “come out and vote and determine your country’s destiny”. Karzai has been passive in the run-up to the second round unlike the first round where his tacit support was behind Zalmai Rasoul. He is thought to remain an influential figure in the country after he ceases to hold power.

The secretary of the IEC Zia Al Haq Amarkhel was accused of vote rigging in favour of Ashraf Ghani. He was stopped by Kabul Police while transporting dozens of boxes of filled with ballot papers to an unknown location without police escort. Election laws outline that ballot papers can only be moved with police escort. A scuffle broke out between Amerkhel’s bodyguards and the police when his bodyguards attempted to prevent police from searching the vehicle. Amerkhel rejected the accusations, insisting he was transporting the material to Sorobi, a town east of Kabul where extra ballot papers were requested.

Although such incidents remain isolated, there is speculation that the scuffle was a likely result of ethic and political dissentions as Kabul’s police commander, an ethnic Tajik and supporter of Abdullah, of stopping Amerkhel, a Pashtun and potential supporter of Ghani.

In a news conference on Sunday, Abdullah confident that fraud had been widespread and on-going called for Amarkhel’s suspension from his post and expressed a lack of trust in the transparency of the election Ashraf Ghani’s spokesman claimed that Abdullah’s comments seem to indicate that any results that would not be in his favour would prove to be problematic for him to accept; and denounced Abdullah’s claims the Amerkhel incident was being used to cast a shadow of doubt over the impartiality of the election process. Amarkhel vehemently denied all allegations of vote rigging stating it was a conspiracy against him.

It is clearly evident from these incidents that there is deep mistrust between the parties. The election complaints commission reported a total of 664 complaints from Abdullah, 573 complaints from Ashraf Ghani and 507 complaints from government officials.

Tribalism and ethnicity are important factors in influencing the people’s decision. The sad reality is, tribal loyalties play a huge part and there is no doubt that the election has become ethnically based. The Pashtuns clearly favour Ghani and the Uzbeks, thanks to Ghani’s controversial alliance with General Dostam, favour Ghani too. Tajiks favour Abdullah and the presence of influential Hazara leader Haji Mohammad Mohaqeq has brought Hazara support to the Abdullah camp too.

The Ministry of Interior reported 150 attacks nationwide in the midst of the election process, leaving 10 dead and another 150 injured. Afghan journalists reported higher figures, including the death of 11 policemen, 15 military, 20 civilians and 60 Taliban throughout the country. In many rural areas, fear of the Taliban and the high security threat kept voters away. In the Herat province, eleven men had their index fingers cut off by the Taliban because they were stained with the indelible ink that marked them out as voters.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

A message from Nadir

Dear Compatriots, friends and supporters,

Today was a glorious day to mark the end of the 1393 (2014) Afghan presidential and Provisional council elections. Today belonged to the Afghan people, they once again showed resilience in the face of the increased security threats and proved to the world that despite all the challenges that exists in our country, the Afghan people are moving towards a democracy and all the help and sacrifices that has been made has not gone to waste. I am proud to have taken part in this historical elections as an independent candidate and believe that this past six months was one of the greatest lessons in my life. I want to thank all the Afghans who came to see me, who supported me and who welcomed me to far corners of the country. My campaign was different to all the other candidates, I decided to go to the people with open arms. I did not make fancy promises like most politicians, that I knew I could not fulfill, instead I listened to what they had to say, I wanted them to be the stars of our gatherings. I wanted them to feel respected and I always made a point of sitting lower then them so that I could look up to them. I held their hands and let them pour their hearts out, I watched them cry and I laughed with them. In the face of hardship, I tried to give them a ray of hope and I prayed together with them for better days. I wanted to win the hearts and the minds of the people but instead I found that they actually won me over. I experienced the best and possibly the worst in people, I felt the energy and the drive of the youth, I saw the emergence of the brave women who were kept in the dark ages and behind thick walls for far too long, I witnessed the tears of loyalty in old men, who lost the best years of their lives in  three decades of war. I heard of  stories of savagery beyond comprehension that made me cringe and uncomfortable, I saw scares of pain and torture. On the other side of the coin I noticed that going through decades of turmoil has turned  people in to the shrewdest wheelers and dealers, who use every single opportunity to make a gain at any cost. Where moral values have turned into economic one, where loyalty is bought and sold, where promises are made to be broken, where friendships are made for self gain and not respect. It is at times like these where you really get to see the true colors of people. In the past six months I put my life on the line for what I believed in and stood against all odds with very little backing, this was a very powerful experience. I want to thank all of you who have stood by me throughout the whole time and have given me the much needed moral support. I lost some friends and supporters along the way but met and found some wonderful new ones who will stay with me for the long haul. Finally I want to thank all my Afghan brothers and sisters who really supported me from near and far, I believe that we have won today and our journey is about to begin.

Monday, 23 December 2013

The Good The Bad and The Ugly

Well Prince Nadir candidacy for President of Afghanistan has certainly created interest. He writes, "the real test is yet to come as the campaign season officially starts on the 2 February 2014".

See this link for the latest news on the Afghan elections: THE GOOD THE BAD AND THE UGLY

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Afghanistan's Populist Prince


For those of the readers of this blog who know Prince Nadir - this al Jazeera link may be of interest

On October 6, Prince Nadir announced his candidacy for the 2014 Afghan presidential elections. He is among 11 figures across the political spectrum, who are running for the top job, including three former foreign ministers Dr Abdullah Abdullah, Dr Zalmai Rassoul and Hedayat Arsala, a former World Bank consultant, Ashraf Ghani, and the brother of the incumbent, Qayum Karzai.

With NATO troops set to leave Afghanistan by the end of 2014, whoever follows the current head of state, the affable Hamid Karzai, will inherit the colossal challenges of coping with a crumbling economy, a spikein opium cultivation, deteriorating security conditions and an emboldened, even metastasized insurgency.