Sunday, October 12, 2014

Political differences likely to grow in Afghanistan

Times of Oman
Afghanistan may be rejoicing with the formation of a unity government after a month of political deadlock and uncertainty, the same may not augur well for the country in the long run. That the unity government in Afghanistan will implement the decisions of the government, and fire on all cylinders, is highly improbable.
With their political ambition set to ride the 2019 presidential election it is but obvious that both the camps would like to pitch their thinking differently on every issue, to preserve their political identity, hereon.
In fact in order to safeguard their political interests they would refrain from submitting themselves completely to the decision of the unity government. They have to look different because of their political compulsion. And this political difference is likely to increase with each passing year.
It is no brainer that the growth and economy of the nation would be the final casualty.
At the outset there is likely to be a major scuffle over the appointment of key strategic positions such as peace chair, key political advisors, etc. Critical issues (such as an ailing economy, relationship with Pakistan, engagement with Taliban, poppy eradication, advancing peace process, etc.), which cry for assertive and definitive direction from the new government, will hit a deadlock every now and then because of the simmering political and ideological differences, within the new Government.
Whether, both the camps would be able to resolve these differences by showing political maturity, contrary to Afghan politics, will remain an area of acid test for this newly formed government. Whether, they would stitch up a meaningful working formula, or allow the political tension to throttle the functioning of the new government, has to be seen.
Further, for the government to prosper, the role of a strong Opposition cannot be ruled out in any democratic dispensation. The role of a constructive and objective Opposition becomes all the more important in fragile settings, where the institutions of the state are nascent and are often not neutral.
A strong opposition's demand for excellence and effectiveness of the government can hold them accountable. It also helps to balance out power and avoid the excesses, which lead to the abuse of power in such settings. By co-opting the opposition into the fabric of the unity government, the space of opposition has been completely wiped out in Afghanistan. This would severely influence the functioning of the government and undermine democracy, as a whole.
Even though the international analysts are busy fathoming the reason behind the acceptance of the unity government formulae in Afghanistan, it has a mark of US influence. It also needs to be analysed why the Abdullah Abdullah camp resorted to accepting defeat last time, after almost leveling the same set of charges against the outgoing president, Karzai.
It is true that the US was not overtly intrusive in the recent election in Afghanistan. But that is only part of their larger strategy to facilitate the transition from a democratic government to a unity government in this embattled country.
Of late think tanks in Pentagon have been working overnight to test the hypothesis if a unity government is better suited to conflict-prone countries than a democratic government. This sad realisation has kicked in after the rise of Isis and failure of the democratically elected Maliki government in Iraq.
The Pentagon strategist believes that a unity government has better chances of survival in a war-torn nation. Hence instead of rallying for a democratic government as the only solution they are indirectly influencing a unity government in such settings. By remaining silent in the entire Afghan election episode they have clearly expressed their choice to the two warring presidential candidates.
Zeroing on best solution for the country and its citizens amid diverse political ideologies and opinions remains an arduous task. Giving concessions to competing candidates in the backdrop of power sharing arrangement further requires higher degree of political understanding and ability. It would be interesting to see how the balance of power pans out and the various institutions of the unity government interact among themselves.
This arrangement couldn't have come at worse time. The US forces are packing up for an exit and the herculean task of providing security to Afghan citizens rests on the rudimentary Afghan army, in the backdrop of a resurgent Taliban.
The economy of the country is reeling under serious problems and the misery of the common man is increasing with the sky rocketing inflation. But as people in rural Afghanistan say, hope is the only way forward for this country embattled with terrorism and civil strife, for more than three decades. Let us hope that the new government sets aside its inherent differences and ego tussles in the larger interest of Afghanistan and delivers for its struggling citizens.

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