On 19 December 2005, Afghanistan
opened its first session of parliament. President Hamid Karzai
conducted the swearing ceremony of 351 Members of Parliament
- 249 from the Wolesi Jirga, lower house, and 102 Meshrano
Jirga, upper house. Afghanistan took the final step for transition
to democracy after three decades of war.
Realisation of democracy
and rebuilding Afghanistan ravaged by wars for the last 23
years is really a Herculean task. The Members of Parliament
comprise of former Mujahideen
commanders, former communists, alleged opium
barons and ex-Taleban figures, including Mullah Rocketi, famed
for his past fighting skills, and large numbers of women politicians.
President Karzai faces many challenges.
Asian Centre for Human Rights analyses a few of them.
I. Harmonization of conflicting
Given the combustible mix
of Parliamentarians, harmonisation of diverse interests remains
the key challenge. Majority of the 351 parliamentarians belongs
to varied and conflicting background. Majority of them were
elected as independent candidates. Ethnic conflict and factionalism
is sure to echo in the newly opened Afghan parliament. Majority
of the 68 women parliamentarians stated that many of their
fellow male parliamentarians should be on trial for war crimes.
first full session of the new parliament almost broke down
after vocal woman member Malali Joya called for all of Afghanistan's
human rights abusers and "criminal warlords" to be brought to justice. More than 60 percent
of the parliamentarians are former warlords responsible for
decades of bloodshed in the country.
The election of Yonus
Qanooni as the Speaker of the Wolesi Jirga, the lower house
on 22 December 2005 has raised Afghanistan's prospect of facing
a divided government. Yonus Qanooni had finished second to
President Karzai in the last year's presidential elections.
After four years of governing without a legislature, Karzai
will face the challenge of sharing power with none other than
his arch rival in the Presidential elections.
However, so far a clear
majority of the new MPs back President Karzai. Many members
of the lower house are President Karzai's fellow Pashtuns
who comprise nearly half of the 27.2 million Afghan populations.
Large numbers of the former Mujahideen commanders who are
MPs are also believed to be Karzai supporters. According to
a western observer who closely monitored the recent Afghan
elections, "the proportion
of MPs who are anti-Karzai and anti-system is low."
But only time will probe
how President Hamid Karzai harmonizes these conflicting interests.
This is vital for his government formation as well as for
Fighting drug trafficking
The remarks of Doris Buddenberg,
United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes (UNODC) Representative
in Afghanistan, at a UN press briefing on 12 December 2005
in Kabul that in 2005 poppy cultivation was down by 25 percent
compared to the previous year, but would likely to rise again
in 2006, do not auger well for Afghanistan and the world.
Given the failure of the
Government to keep the promises of providing jobs, building
of infrastructure like roads and irrigation canal, the people
are likely to resort to their easiest and highly paid business
of growing poppy. There have been some "cash for work" schemes,
employing people on basic infrastructure projects like clearing
drainage ditches. But they don't pay enough to compensate
people for losing their opium incomes, especially for the
poorest farmers who are often deeply indebted to local drugs
barons. Besides, it is believed
that drugs profits directly fund Talebans in places like Helmand
and Nimroz where Karzai’s presence is minimal.
Despite the drop in cultivation
of poppy, Afghanistan still produces 87 per cent of the global
produce of the drug and remains the base for nearly the entire
heroin consumed in the Western countries. According to UN
and Afghan government estimates, the total export value of
Afghanistan's opium in 2005 stood at US $2.7 billion, equivalent
to 52 percent of the country's official gross domestic product.
Consistent campaign by countries like UK, USA since the fall
of the Taleban in 2001 has not yielded encouraging results
so far despite pumping in hundreds of millions dollars into
Afghanistan specifically to fight against drugs. On its part,
the Afghan Government has made significant strides in the
campaign by improving counter-narcotics operations with stronger
law enforcement. A Counter-Narcotics Judicial Taskforce (CNJT)
was established, which so far has handled over 300 cases and
over 500 drug traffickers have been either detained or imprisoned.
More than 100 metric tons of drugs and precursors have been
seized and destroyed. Although support among the public to
tackle the issue had also relatively increased, it is still
a long way to make Afghanistan “poppy free”.
III. Realisation of aid
pledged by donor countries
Afghanistan has had its
first democratic elections and adopted a new constitution
that seeks to guarantee equal rights for all. However, insecurity
remains all pervasive and depends on realization of aid pledged
by the donor countries.
Nothing can be more precious
New Year gift for President Hamid Karzai than receiving the
remaining $2.7 billion of the $US4.5 billion that the donor
countries pledged in the International Conference on Reconstruction
Aid for Afghanistan held in Tokyo from 21-22 January 2002.
Afghanistan received $1.8 billion of the $US 4.5 billion in
grants and loans within 2002. However, aid
was seemingly delayed and trickled slowly into the country.
Throughout 2002, the Government of Afghanistan, NGOs, and
multi-lateral institutions called on donors to "commit"
or deliver on pledges made that are so vital to Afghanistan's
reconstruction. Aid was dispersed, but in unexpected ways.
Materialization of pledges has occurred, but most has reportedly
not been channeled through the government.
The amount pledged was insufficient
to restore even the most basic government and social infrastructure.
The Tokyo pledging conference was only in response to a preliminary
needs assessment for reconstruction, not taking into account
that more than half of the pledges went to humanitarian efforts
(so far $840 million of the already $1.2+ billion received
has gone to humanitarian relief). Or as in some cases, pledges
that were initially offered as grants turned into loans where
the Government of Afghanistan decided to refuse the terms
(i.e. Saudi Arabia). According
to UN estimates, a minimum of $10 billion was needed over
five years, with $15 billion needed over a decade, while Afghani
officials had put the figure at between $30 and $44 billion
over a decade.
The situation appears optimistic
if one were to go by the commitments of the Asian Development
Bank (ADB). On 21 December 2005, the Bank approved the first
part of a projected US $105 million programme to reform Afghanistan's
fiscal management and public administration systems, with
an assistance package totalling $55 million. Earlier, on 31
March 2005, ADB President Tadao Chino had made an announcement
about ADB's plan to provide about $1 billion in assistance
to Afghanistan for 2005-2008. As per ADB’s estimates, requirements
for 2004–2006 are $600 million comprising $570 million in
Asian Development Fund and $30 million in Technical Assistance
Special Fund (TASF). The loan pipeline prepared in collaboration
with the Government totals $570 million for 12 programs and
projects—an average annual lending level of $190 million:
$170 million in 2004, and $200 million in 2005 and 2006. This
amount is in line with ADB’s annual lending to Afghanistan
of $167.2 million in 2002 and $150 million in 2003.
Reconstruction of a country
ravaged by war for 23 years largely depends of smooth and
consistent flow of aid which has been only trickling.
IV. Building up Afghanistan's
own security forces
The creation of a parliament
through elections does not imply that Afghanistan is suddenly
stable and capable of standing on its own. The establishment of a competent and well-equipped
security force of its own remains vital to protection and
promotion of peace and stability in any sovereign nation.
This is perhaps one of the serious challenges before President
Hamid Karzai given the re-emergence of the Taleban who have been continuously attacking coalition forces
and election officials, killing aid workers and kidnapping
President Hamid Karzai signed
a strategic partnership on 23 May 2005 at the White House
with U.S. President George W. Bush. NATO troops have been partially
successful in containing the Taleban guerillas but it is believed
that local populations are the only ones capable of ensuring
effective protection of domestic security in post-conflict
situations. Further, President Hamid Karzai is not expected
to be oblivious of consistent and credible reports of torture
of prisoners by Allied forces in Iraq and by the US troops
in his own country.
and capable security force is indispensable not only for the
survival of a sovereign nation but also for protection and
promotion of human rights. An accountable and disciplined
security force controlled by democratically elected civilian
authority is the need of the hour to ensure that the rights
of the common Afghanis are not battered any more.