Tag Archives: Presidential Elections 2014 Afghanistan

Power Transition Key to Post-2014 Stability

Nowadays most analysis and opinion pieces on op-ed pages by Western media pundits talk of Afghanistan returning to civil war after the NATO and US troops’ withdrawal in 2014. They express concerns about the fragile tribal atmosphere and fear fragmentation of Afghan National Security Forces along ethnic lines.

Political stability is prime factor to determine reliability on strength, will and integration of security forces, and continuation of the current democratic process. Security challenges are secondary threats for larger instability and eventual chaos. Our history tells whenever there has been bloodshed that has led to national crisis; it has been caused by political instability, not the traditional domestic security challenges to the writ of state, which has always existed.

The sophisticated Taliban insurgency will remain a challenge. But factors that can lead to fragmentation of ANSF after NATO withdrawal will not be primarily the fact that suicide attacks will increase in Kabul and other cities, and insurgency will grow deadlier. However, unconstitutional attempts for power grab can cause our quick descent into chaos. Political transition in 2014 is equally important in parallel with full security transition to Afghan forces after NATO troops leave Afghanistan in 2014.

The international community, particularly Washington should pay attention to the preparations for a peaceful and transparent political transition in 2014. Political opposition groups express serious concerns regarding President Karzai’s pledges to ensure legitimate transfer of power.

An election campaign is already launched in the Presidential Palace, and meetings are held for bargaining. The upheavals in cabinet and impeachment of key ministers are part of the game.

Domestically, there are preparations and uncertainties about the 2014 polls. It is clear that without strong support—financial, technical, political and security—from the international community, it would be impossible to hold peaceful elections for a smooth transition of power. But political opposition groups fear the Karzai Administration intends to use all state-resources and institutions in favor of their designs for the coming polls.

Only a transparent elections and legitimate transfer of power can ensure political stability and continuation of the post-Taliban democratic process. Any attempt by the current Palace dwellers to clench to power will mean violent episodes of power grab and eventual civil war. The international community should ensure peaceful transition of power strengthening our fragile and infant democratic process.

Washington should pay heed to the concerns of Afghan opposition groups. The recent calls for restoration of credibility to the electoral process are being ignored by the Karzai Administration. Political parties’ demands for amendments in the draft Electoral Law are ignored. The international community should make sure that a free, fair, transparent, credible and independent election is held in 2014.

The new US Ambassador for Kabul James B Cunningham has said the coming Presidential election in 2014 is crucial for stability in Afghanistan. While testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he said the international community has key role in ensuring smooth transfer of power in Afghanistan. He further said, “Key to Afghanistan’s future stability will be a credible and inclusive presidential election in 2014, followed by a constitutional transfer of power. President Karzai has repeatedly affirmed his commitment to a peaceful, constitutional transition of power at the end of his second term. All Afghans, whatever their gender, ethnicity or religion, have much to gain from a successful political transition, and the United States is committed to working with  international partners to support the Afghans as they choose their next leader.”

I hope efforts for transparent power transition in 2014 is a priority task for Ambassador Cunningham, as it should be a concern for the next US Administration.

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Karzai’s Manipulations Underway

Op-ed published on Outlook Afghanistan, June 25

There were lots of rumors and expectations of new announcements on reforms by President Karzai before his annual speech to the special joint session of parliament and judiciary. Interestingly, the rumors were hyped by leaks from Palace insiders. From plans of radical reforms against corruption and nepotism to the coming Presidential elections, none of issues expected to be discussed were mentioned by the President. Some informed circles say Karzai might have changed the content of his speech at the last minute.

It was apparent from an disorganized speech, probably due to interruption by MP’s, which , he actually expressed displeasure about when Lower House speaker Ibrahimi asked MP ‘s to be quite and listen, by saying, “In Afghanistan, it is not like the rest of the world.”

President Karzai, in a rare confession, said “corruption, nepotism, tribalism and ethnic-nationalism are all failures of the Government.” Now after almost a decade in power, and two years left to the end of his second term, he cannot actually deny the fact that we have already lost a golden opportunity in Afghanistan’s history to rebuild the country as a modern nation state based on democratic values with socio-economic development.

With uninterrupted flow of billions of dollars and presence of more than 50 countries, today Afghan society is more polarized than any time in history. And, the achievements of last ten years? It is huge, but it is all at risk with an uncertain situation. When people talk of Karzai’s legacy in media, I wonder if there is anything at all that we can credit to the individual leadership and vision of President Karzai, if it was not the push from international community to make the system get working.

President Karzai said nepotism has reached its peak and it must be cured. How? A day before his speech, UK’s the Telegraph newspaper had a report on a 25-year oil extraction deal awarded to Watan Oil and Gas, owned by President Karzai’s notorious cousins Rashid and Rateb Popal, who served nine years in jail in New York in 1990’s on drug charges. Watan and China’s National Petroleum Company will extract an estimated 160 million barrels of oil from three fields in Amu Darya Basin. Now connected to this, Gen. Dostum is being maligned into a smear campaign after National Front’s popular political rallies in North in recent months. The Karzai Administration called him “national traitor” saying local commanders loyal to him are ‘bullying’ Chinese engineers for money.

But it backfired when NF leader Ahmad Zia Massoud said national traitors are those who have looted Kabul Bank, rigged elections and built townships in Kandahar on grabbed lands of Ministry of Defense. A delegation from NDS and Attorney General’s Office are being sent to ‘investigate’ the issue. President Karzai, who is responsible for the culture of patronage politics, has now launched a campaign to eliminate political dissent.

The President talked of huge corruption saying if the US wants to end it, they should handover former governor of the state bank. It is ridiculous. The country is slipping down in all international rankings recently. We are now the sixth failed state in the world. Similarly, our rank at the corruption index is going down.

Not a single case of corruption involving high-ranking officials has been prosecuted. Rather many cases were shut down. When the anti-corruption body launched investigation and Chief Administrator of National Security Council Zia Salehi was arrested, President Karzai personally intervened and he was released. Later, investigations into the corruption case against former governor of Kapisa Ghulam Qawis Abubakr were blocked.

While talking of his Government’s achievements, President Karzai said Afghanistan was back on world stage during the last ten years. He added that his Government has signed strategic partnership agreements with many countries and Afghanistan has smooth relations with countries and organizations from Russia to the US and NATO to SCO. He also mentioned the upcoming Tokyo Conference saying the international community will pledge $4 billion in civilian assistance.

But this time it is not going to be a blank cheque. With the mess of corruption in the Government of President Karzai, and his lack of interest to fight against it and clean up, the international community will not pledge money when they know it will go to luxurious villas of Dubai or mega-million commercial townships owned by bigwigs of the Palace power corridor. The Karzai Administration cannot deliver the expectations of international community.

There are greater worries. Rumors about reforms and new announcements by President Karzai in his much-hyped-but-empty speech also included call for a Loya and the presidential elections.
In April, President Karzai had said he is considering early elections. The Presidential elections are due in 2014. He said it could be brought earlier to 2013 due to the withdrawal deadline of international troops and security concerns. There is a constitutional limit of two terms in office and Karzai cannot run for next elections. All opposition political parties welcomed early elections in case President Karzai resign. However, now it appears the geniuses in Palace have other intentions.

Recently President Karzai had called members of the Committee for Oversight and Implementation of the Constitution for a consultation. If he resigns earlier in 2013, technically he would not be completing two terms, the constitutional limit, would he be eligible to run for next elections, members of the Committee were asked. President Karzai is looking for some solution to the constitutional limit of two terms in office. There are other options too. He will not hesitate to manipulate the constitution through an engineered Loya Jirga, or deal-making with any faction of the opposition groups.

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