Afghanistan: What will it take to achieve sustainable peace?

Afghanistan struggles to achieve peace, amid crisis of leadership. Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah both have declared themselves president. What did Afghanistan's cold war hero, Ahmed Shah Masood achieve?

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What happens when you run out of leadership? You become a laughing stock and an ever-brawling pack of people. You become clueless of national vision and immerse in conflicting confusions. The Afghan peace process is fast turning into a quagmire of disagreements.

The regime which was installed and supported by the U.S, is now experiencing pressure from its erstwhile patron-in-chief. Washington’s mounting pressures on the Afghan Government to accelerate peace process, requires prior settling of the political rifts amongst the various stakeholders.  In this regard, US is issuing verbal directions as well as cutting down on material aid. Secretary of State Pompeo’s, recent visit to Kabul further mounts concerns of fund cuts to the war-ravaged country.

Read more: Agreement for Bringing Peace to Afghanistan

Ethnic diversity

Afghanistan is a very complex country, primarily due to its medieval state of affairs. It is tribal bonds which order the political rank and file in the country with the commonality of religion which binds people further together. The sectarian divide is not as polarizing; the majority population accedes to the Sunni school of thought.

The country is composed of more than 20 ethnic groups, of which 42% are Pashtuns, 30% are Tajiks and 28% belong to other ethnic groups. Hence, Pashtuns and the Tajiks remain the main political stakeholders. Both these groups, cherish the idea of a peaceful and progressive Afghanistan. Afghanis are generally very patriotic, but they are faced with a crisis of effective leadership that unites all the ethnicities.

Leadership crisis

Ahmed Shah Masood, the veteran Afghan leader, who is known for his heroic tales of aggression. He fought against the Soviets and then against the Taliban. After him, power shifted in the favour of local tribal groups and clans. Today, these power-hungry tribal leaders, are responsible for politically dividing Afghanistan. Furthermore, no one is taking responsibility for the Peace deal signed between the US and Taliban earlier this year.

Whether Ashraf Ghani enjoys the popular Pashtun support or not, is in itself a point worth debating. With a low turnout of voters — out of 9.7 million registered voters — only two million voted — in a population of 35 million.  Such a low turnout of voters, raises serious questions about the legitimacy of Ghani’s Government. Abdullah Abdullah’s parallel government, faces the same fate, or perhaps, even more than that? It still remains unclear; whether he is popular enough to be acceptable, to the Pashtun dominant population of Afghanistan. Whether you vote ‘for’ or ‘against’ is not as serious a matter, as when you decide not to vote at all. Pashtuns’ political edge within Afghanistan is quite inevitable; they will be playing a decisive role in breaking or making of governments. It’s important to note that the Taliban includes a number of Pashtun members as well.

Neither Ghani, nor Abdullah, is charismatic enough to unite the people of Afghanistan, and achieve lasting peace and stability in the country. The Afghan Taliban is the warring and ostracized faction, any talks with them would require a cross representative body which reflects and represents the collective sentiments of Afghans. Reports suggest, incumbent government lacks such capability, and is not truly representative of the Afghan people. Such a body could be composed of the Jirga which would be more effective than the current pony parallel governments in place. The Jirga, represents the common sentiments of all the ethnic groups. Issues in Afghanistan are still perceived, conceived, transcribed and translated in a tribal fashion. Hence, such an arrangement would be effective in ridding the war-torn nation of its problems.

One country, two governments

The Afghan peace process is a serious issue, whereas the incumbent government is anything but serious. It would be the left-over tribal leaders who have everything at stake to come forth with the Peace Jirga and Government only needs to provide it the legal cover and patronage. Once the peace talks conclude, elections could be held to reflect the popular Afghan sentiment.

Read more: April Editorial periscope: Afghanistan & Pakistan’s logistic nightmare

This process would result in a stable government. If the matter is left at the twin Presidents’ disposal, who would rather pursue their petty political gains, than forge peace in Afghanistan — the turmoil would continue.

Muhammad Jahangir Kakar is a civil servant and socio-political analyst based in Quetta works for the government of Baluchistan. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.

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