Afghanistan does not need Western-style democracy but a return to its traditional method of solving disputes in the country. Twelve years of stuffing democracy down the throats of Afghans has created more chaos and mayhem with no end in sight to this tragedy for the people.
Najib Mojaddidi, co-founder of Afghans4Tomorrow and former acting director-general of internal audit/systems control in the Ministry of Finance in Afghanistan, writes about imposed democracy as a bad solution for Afghanistan. This article is reproduced courtesy of Asia Times online, where it was first published.
Fundamental to the ideal and effective governance of any entity is the system, the administrators of the system and the belief of the governed in the system and its administrators. The three must be in concert for good governance to be a reality. It is a dynamic equilibrium that will cease to exist if one element in this balance pulls in a different direction.
Disastrously for Afghans and Afghanistan, all are incompatible at the moment. The system and the administrators have failed the Afghan nation primarily because both are seen as illegitimate by a majority of its people. There was a window of opportunity in the beginning but thanks to colossal corruption and Machiavellian leaders, the battle to win the hearts and minds of the people was lost.
What Afghans themselves want and expect from their political system and leaders is in conflict with the imposed democracy and its leaders of the past 95 years. This has become even more evident in the past 35 years of resistance, where millions have been killed, and many more orphaned, raped, scattered all over the world, all in the name of imposing a Western-style democratic system.
Those still standing have been subjected to immense inhuman suffering, war crimes, physiological and psychological warfare, human-rights abuses, mines, bullets, and bombs, not to mention the social fabric of society tearing apart as drug lords, corruption and prostitution take hold. One can sugarcoat it all he wants, but Western democracy and its implementers have failed the Afghan nation. As Afghans prepare for the April 2014 presidential elections, they must prepare for a post-vote scenario in which the country deteriorates into chaos due to vote rigging. It was rigged the last time; it will be rigged this time. Distrust in a Machiavellian democratic system and the presence of corrupt war criminals on the final ballot will ensure an extremely low turnout, electoral fraud and civil war and more misery for the Afghan people.
Before we get into a point of no return in Afghanistan we must reassess the imposed democratic system, its administrators and the expectations of the Afghan people in their governance, leaders and way of life. An alternative system and leaders must be sought. After decades of enduring misery, Afghans deserve an alternative to the failed Western-style democratic system and its administrators.
The roots of Afghanistan's problems lie in attempts to impose Western-style democracy on a land that has fought secularism and democracy since 1919. 1n that year, Amanullah Khan and his secular adviser Mahmoud Tarzi tried to impose it on the Afghans and failed; it happened again in 1978 with the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA); and then in 2001 again the West tried with its fickle Afghan “experts.”
As a result, Afghanistan after 12 years and billions of dollars in aid has turned into a narco-state, with democracy a sick joke, human rights a distant dream, and the country ranked at the zero–tenth percentile of all governance indicators, whether it is accountability, political stability and lack of violence or government effectiveness and others.
Western-style democracy will not work in Afghanistan because it is the wrong system for a country whose population is 95% ultra-conservative Muslims. Afghans believe in the sovereignty of Almighty God, where religion, statehood and tradition coincide. The Qur’an is the source of guidance on all aspects of moral behavior, not war criminals, drug lords, or corrupt and illegitimate officials in the Arg Palace, parliament or jirgas.
Democracy’s failure is evident by the fact that less than 10% of eligible voters cast ballots in the first presidential election and chances are it will be no different in the coming presidential election, particularly following reports of fraud, potential ballot box stuffing, poor security and vote buying.
Western-style democracy may be a great school of thought on paper but implementing it in a conservative, Muslim country like Afghanistan is like replacing Jeffersonian democracy with Shari‘ah law in America. It is not going to happen. The principles of democracy are not something new to the Afghan people, as they have practiced pure Greek democracy at the village level for two millennia (the loya jirga or grand council) and shura (consultative assembly). Behind the smokescreen of drug lords and war criminals, there is a functioning system that is based on tradition, religion and law.
Amitai Etzioni, Israeli-American sociologist and George Washington University Professor of International Affairs, was one of the first to point out the eventual failure of imposing democracy in the country in his October 10, 2001 article “USA Can’t Impose Democracy on Afghanistan.” More recently, Anna Larson’s April 2011 “Deconstructing ‘Democracy’ in Afghanistan” as well as many other articles have indicated the shortfalls of imposing a Western-style democratic system in Afghanistan.
Yet the West tries to impose its brand of democracy as if it is the word of God while investing in incompetent and illegitimate Afghan leaders who are utterly out of touch with the history, daily life sensitivity of Afghanistan. Almost all of them are living the high life while their countrymen beg for food. That is why after 12 years and billions of dollars in aid, President Hamid Karzai and his government do not control a yard past the walls of the Arg Palace and his vice president and ministers have to drive in a 20-car convoy every day to work so the Afghans don’t grab and choke them to death.
As for democracy implementers and administrators, from top to bottom these are individuals who have destroyed the lives of the very people they are supposed to protect, who have not built up the economy, and who have failed to educate the people, not to mention provide the rule of law. All are illegitimate in the eyes of the Afghans and responsible for historical human-rights abuses, war crimes and enduring corruption over the past 35 years and should be excluded from holding office or participating in politics.
At this point the legacy of the West and the Karzai era will be awarding power to those with blood-stained hands, killing innocent Afghans and destroying the fabric of Afghan society. This writer knows well the extent of corruption, as I was the internal auditor for the ministry of finance and prepared the first report on corruption in Afghanistan in 2006. I was almost killed for doing so. Most of these leaders are part of the world’s biggest drug mafia. Opium production has skyrocketed to more than 8,000 tons and there are more than one million addicts. What is more alarming for the Afghans is that the narco-state is ruled not by law but by treason, tyranny and war crimes.
Not only is the imposed democracy a wrong system for Afghanistan, the administrators are the wrong leaders for Afghans and a primary reason why Afghans and Afghanistan live in misery even though they are walking on trillions of dollars of natural resources. They are millionaires of the world underground, but beggars of the world on top.
To be a public servant in Afghanistan or for that matter any country, one must have compassion, be just, provide solutions to mass misery, bridge the gap between friends and foes and uphold moral human values even in the darkest hours.
What Afghanistan is crying out for is not a new system but restoring the old:
This requires a president who understands the street, rural realities, and who has the moral leadership to heal the wounded hearts of its people — a leader who can defend each and every one of its innocent citizens and work for the interest of the Muslim Afghan nation but who also understands the international realities so that he can steer it not only toward the west but also its neighbors, its tradition and religion.
What is also needed is a government and public servants who genuinely serve the interests of the people, not their own pockets and a parliament, and a loya jirga that is not just rubber-stamping laws but taking matters to heart and brick-by-brick building a just foundation for Afghanistan that is part of the world’s family of nations.
Idealism can become a reality through a complicated solution, but it must start with a conservative base. It can be democratic but within an “Islamic framework.” It can look into the future but it cannot forget its past. Afghan identity as an Islamic nation and their elders system must be respected.
Islam is a treasure and a way of life for Afghans and their government must have an Islamic character. At the end of the day for 95% Afghans, God is the only sovereign power, and the Qur’an the source of guidance on all aspects of moral behavior, including governance, corruption, drugs and women’s rights.
It is imperative, therefore, to reconstruct the system of governance to include the establishment of a new constitution that legitimizes the idea of a Muslim nation within a democratic sphere. Fundamental to this formula is tradition, religion and law, and prerequisite to an elected president is a supreme leader and guardian counsel with powers to restrain tyrannical and unjust leaders like Karzai. This office will be the highest political office but the operation of the government is left to the elected president and his party (similar to Supreme Court and the president in the United States but Shari‘ah law compliant).
The second priority is to modify our stance against the Taliban and allow them to play a leading role in their country's future. We cannot kill every Pashtun just because the corrupt Northern Alliance leadership is opposed to Pashtun leadership. Additionally, let us remember none of the individuals involved in the September 11, 2001 attacks were from Afghanistan or part of the Taliban. If the invasion of Afghanistan was the result of Taliban not handing over Osama bin Laden, then a US invasion of Russia should be in the pipeline for its refusal to hand over Edward Snowden. Furthermore, if the communists who killed two million Afghans and orphaned and widowed millions more, are represented then so should the Taliban. They are the sons of Afghanistan and must be part of the solution to the misery.
Thirdly, for Afghanistan to go forward the past must be dealt with justly. Any individual responsible for war crimes, human rights abuses, and corruption over the past 35 years must be brought to justice. Not all communists had their hands bloodied, or the jihadis or for that matter the Taliban. All in all there maybe about 1,000 figures that should be brought to justice for the sake of 29.8 million. Afghanistan is brimming with young progressive leaders who can take the lead in administrating the new constitution.
There is a small window of opportunity left to save face in Afghanistan. We must restore our moral values, lead with compassion and respect and come to terms with the fact that Western democracy is not the key to Afghanistan's future.
(© Copyright 2013 Najib Mojaddidi)