The decade of change, the unity government and the challenges ahead
After a tiring seven months election halt, the two political contenders in the Afghan presidential elections brokered a deal to form an inclusive unity government with an equally distributed seats for both the campaigning teams.
Based on these agreements on paper, the front runner, Dr. Ghani became the president while the runners- up Mr. Abdullah became the newly appointed Chief executive officer, a post with no prior legal wording in the Afghan constitution.
The incumbent president with a reasonably acceptable track record of being an effective manager has promised crucial reforms in all aspects of governance, in his first day at office, he re-opened one of the largest fraud cases of the country, the Kabul bank crisis, and promised to persecute all those directly and indirectly involved in the embezzlement of the concerning bank’s assets and that of its depositor’s savings. This step was highly appreciated by the Afghan public and embarked positive response from the donor countries and institutions with pre-conditions to put an end to the bank’s fraudulent scams.
In fact, re-opening of massive corruption cases do matter a great deal and it is highly required that the culprits be brought to justice, but the greater challenge in the long – run is setting up a viable check and balance system with a unified aim of reducing the current bureaucratic procedures in state institutions, limiting the hands of corrupt officials at its core. It is really embarrassing that a decade on, Afghanistan still is one of the most corrupt with dysfunctional government institutions in the world. A good initiative in this regards is a quick switch to electronic governance, where you do not have to run after officials for their hard to find signatures and wait for sometimes in months for a legal work easily done in an hour. This will in turn tremendously reduce the scale of corruption and increase productivity in lagged back state institutions.
The CFO on the other hand, who in turn chairs the council of ministers and advises president on matters related to cabinet and state appointees as well as other national and foreign issues is following suit in reiterating on his campaign promises to wipe out bureaucratic corruption and stay in line with the president’s auspices and priorities.
Unfortunately, Mr. President’s predecessor has left a huge mess in terms of social and economic reforms as well as the country’s fragile and declining foreign policy. Mr. Karzai who was well-known for his compromises with the bad vessels, often overlooked his subordinates’ involvement in corruption, extortion, illicit land attainments, the list goes on and on and intentionally, under the banner of national unity, gave them the room to further exploit and abuse their power, thus the unity government has huge challenges ahead and if they put their campaign slogans aside and start working to gradually triumph over these issues, they will earn themselves a great legacy when their tenure officially ends.
In foreign policy front, the president recently in an official visit went to Saudi Arabia to discuss the kingdom’s role in facilitating a tangible peace talks with the Taliban’s leadership based in Quetta, Pakistan. As we may all know, the Taliban are increasingly inclined towards the Wahabi sect of Islam and Saudi Arabia is the flag bearer of the Wahabi followers. It is helpful to ask for their help but remain cautious as their intentions have not always proven to be good for Afghanistan’s sovereignty and national unity.
Subsequently, Mr. Ghani is on his official 4 day visit to China to discuss an increasing China’s role in investing in Afghanistan and play its important role in bridging the gap in Af-Pak relations. China is a great ally to Pakistan in the region, if any country that Pakistan values the most and listens to its auspices is undoubtedly China. In addition, China is the third largest economy in the world, with investments spanning from Asia to Africa and Europe to North America, the Chinese companies are already the largest stakeholders in Afghan mine extractions, the Aynak copper mine, the north gas reserves and other prominent ventures are a few to name. It is a great move by the new administration in Kabul to further engage China and Saudi in Afghanistan’s reconstruction and peace processes and replicate their expertise to strengthen its civil institutions.
Besides, now is a good time to start over with Pakistan. Afghanistan has signed long term security pacts (BSA.SOFA) with its NATO allies. Afghanistan in spite of its current security issues will hardly return to its devastating past and misery. Pakistan’s military and policy makers shall have the prudency to realize this fact and start a new chapter of collaboration and meaningful relations with Afghanistan. It is a great opportunity for both Pakistan and Afghanistan to solely focus on strengthening their relations and start a high level talk including the core issue of Taliban at its earliest. Pakistan is suffering from terrorism as much as its neighbors are, if it was only India and Afghanistan before, now they have regular border clashes in Sistan Baluchistan with Iran. It is a fact that the only country declining politically and economically in the region is Pakistan while all its neighbors including Afghanistan is rising and looking for ways to further integrate with the rest of the world.
Author: Naser Koshan