Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Casting the Talibans away

Since my previous post, Afghanistan has seen another huge assault on their struggle towards democracy. With the Presidential elections two days away, the Taliban has fortified their determination to destabilize peace and security by instilling fear amongst those who hope to see a reformed government that was filled with corruption and abuse of power.

Having worked for the first Presidential election five years ago, it saddens me to feel as if nothing has changed. In fact, it would seem as if things have gone from bad to worse. Security has never been as fragile as now.

With more than 50 people wounded and 7 dead from the suicide bombing near the city of Kabul today, it’s hard to see any glimmer of hope for the people of Afghanistan. The BBC has reported on the widespread of violence in other other parts of the country on the same day.

The series of attacks and intimidation suffered by the Afghans may very well deter them from casting their ballots come Thursday. Will this then prove that the Taliban has won the war? It would, if this is precisely what will happen on polling day.

Having thought a bit about this, perhaps there is a silver lining somewhere along the assaults that have been carried out to injure the very spirit and essence of the Afghans. Would it be too presumptuous for me to think that the Taliban has increased their effort to reassert their authorities because they are finally being challenged by the very people they seek to control?

There is no denying that over the past few years, there is some sort of improvement in terms of human rights awareness amongst the Afghans, although many people would like to argue otherwise.

Sure, there are many things that are left to be desired; women’s rights, rule of law, freedom of expression and a government that is based on the principles of integrity and transparency.

However, if compared to five years ago, more and more Afghan women are starting to get back into the workforce although it is mainly in the cities only. The governor of Bamyan is a woman, the Chairperson of the Afghan Independence Human Rights Commission is also a woman and if I’m not mistaken, some women have also begun to learn how to drive.

Five years ago, there were no women candidates for the Presidential election. This year, there are two. Five years ago, there were 16 candidates but this year, 40.

Again, many would question the validity of these candidates but it doesn’t change the fact that there is an increasing space for democracy. I’ve read that presidential debates have been carried out and broadcasted live on Afghan television. I’ve read postings of local news and discussions by Afghan friends on Facebook and clearly see that there is a great shift from passive to being activists when it comes to the welfare of their country.

Five years ago, I worked with fellow Afghans who were local staff working for the UN. Last year, I know of one who has gone on to work in Sudan as an international staff and another who is travelling to Europe for his work with an international organization in Afghanistan. Not too long ago, it would be difficult to find an Afghan travelling abroad unless they are refugees, immigrants or those granted with political asylum.

I also know many of those who have remained in Afghanistan but continue to work courageously and fervently towards rebuilding their beloved country.

There are profound changes in the country no matter how insignificantly they might have appeared.

So perhaps, it’s not too far-fetched for me to assume that the Taliban has good reasons to be concerned. For the Afghans to give up now, it would greatly reduce their chance in winning the war against the Taliban.

As mentioned on my previous post, every Afghan has the power to change their country through the ballot box. It’s through this fundamental right that citizens have freed themselves from incompetent and abusive governments. It’s through this that a first African American was elected as the President of the United States.

Many good Afghans have died so that others can have the right to vote. Throwing this right away would make their deaths pointless and deny their children a future.

“Impress upon children the truth that the exercise of the elective franchise is a social duty of as solemn a nature as man can be called to perform; that a man may not innocently trifle with his vote; that every elector is a trustee as well for others as himself and that every measure he supports has an important bearing on the interests of others as well as on his own. "

- Daniel Webster

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