Lutfi Rahimi

Afghanistan; A democracy without Political Institutions


I am going to argue that the sham democracy is the latest experiment in Afghanistan that holds dull elections and has been imported and implemented to this country through a top-bottom process. The country is trying democracy without political parties for over a decade now and people don’t have the inherent understanding of democratic concepts. Elections don’t mean as a tool to exercise consensual authority. Patronage, tribal codes in the south and southeast, corruption, local benefactors determine the election outcomes, as strong as they did back in 2001. The parliament has never been able to emerge as the ultimate source of law making authority and civil societies have almost no or very little role in the political sphere. One plausible reason behind that is very little or no effort has been made in building political institutions in this country, instead focus on personalities and persons such as the president has been paramount. If in the last decade political parties were promoted and invested upon, if civic institutions were given space to breathe, the country would have been able to manage conflicts and reach a political balance. However, security is at all times low, economic activities are as volatile as ever and inflation never stops increasing. Here, I am only going to explain how the US and Afghan governments recent break up has added to the countries problems. This is an attempt, to show that an alternative Afghan democracy with centralised political parties would have avoided this mess.     

After the collapse of absolute monarchy [Shah] in the early 50s, Afghanistan went through a bloody period of trial and error, experimenting different regimes. The Russian occupation tried to establish communism, it was soon confronted by the people. A decade later the Red Army left Afghanistan; it took the so-called puppet government no longer than two years to kneel. Next it was the joint spree stemmed from Middle Eastern Sheikhs and Pakistan’s ‘control freak’ behaviour that gave rise to Talibanism. Resistance against this terrifying group existed from early days however marginalised in the north, after another decade it ended with the US/NATO intervention.

In this ‘transition to democracy’ orgy, the US/Nato is attempting to bring democracy to Afghanistan since 2001. It all began in the aftermath of 9/11 attacks and Afghanistan have had a rough ride since then. More than $52 billion[1] has been spent in attempt to strengthen the country’s economy and bring social stability and security. The democratic pill to cure the maladies of this lab of experimentations is the latest arrival, like democracy itself. But very little has been achieved, the two main reasons for this intervention was; to eradicated terrorism and get rid of the Taliban regime who had inextricably tied with Al Qaeda. Yet both extremism and Talibanism are still present as strong as ever. The American literature in the media during the past five or so years has changed many times such as that of the war Iraq[2]. They say ‘the eradication of extremism and Al Qaeda was the only reason for intervention’ and now plan C is to reduce the Taliban’s status to that of a political opposition. To the irony, Taliban are a political opposition that has taken up arms and actively fights the so-called elected government and doesn’t accept the country’s constitution either. Numerous conferences such as London conference, Chicago, lately Tokyo conference have been held to discuss future relations between the Afghan Government and the international community who are deployed in here. The downfall and divergence between the Afghan government and the US namely, began in the aftermath of Tokyo conference where the US-Afghan governments signed a Strategic Partnership Agreement. This agreement excogitated the future of the two countries relations and obliged them to negotiate a Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA). The terms of BSA are essential in determining Afghanistan’s self-determinism and independence, for instance in this agreement the US has been allowed to have permanent military bases in Afghan soil and with it the purposes of these military bases are somewhat ambiguous. The next presidential election is due in less than a month and the president has recently had a sudden change of tone with his long term ally and patron; the US. It’s worth mentioning that since 2001 the same person has been in power under different names, temporary government then transitional, then first term in office as elected president and now the second term, with the absolute support from the US. He decided not to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA); he argues that the terms of this agreement should allow Afghan courts to put to trial those US/Nato soldiers who commit crimes in Afghan soil. Whereas almost all experts and academics believe, it’s a political manoeuvre by the president to get the US to support the next presidential candidate of his choice or perhaps some other ambiguous ambition. The US/Nato are threatening that they will pull out all their troops from Afghanistan, almost all experts believe it to be a ‘scare tactic’ too. Almost there is a consensus among all Afghan experts and urban masses that the government will not survive even two years without the support of the US against the Taliban. For instance the entire Afghan National Army expenses/salaries are paid by US in aids and many other sectors like the salaries of the members of the parliament and so on. The army’s expenses in Afghanistan alone are much bigger than the country’s entire GDP. The investments on personalities have become the source of the problem, if the investments were made on rebuilding political institutions and power hubs ‘political parties’ the country would have never got into this problem. Regardless of whether the president wants to display his late surge of patriotism or to truly leave a legacy, threats that the US/Nato forces will pull out of Afghanistan and the worst case scenario, the country will plunge into another decade of war, has casted a shadow of uncertainty over the economic and social stability.

[2] The language changed from finding Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) to brining democracy to the Iraqis.

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