This article is written by Megha, 3rd year B.A LLB student from Symbiosis law school, Hyderabad.
“Afghanistan is constantly in tension between having either a centralized government or a decentralized one, between a parliamentary system or a presidential system and between having a strong president or a strong prime minister, and which one of them should have more power, Zabihullah Saleem, a lawyer, and researcher educated in the Ahmad Ibrahim Faculty of Law in the International Islamic University of Malaysia wrote in his article published by Khaama Press”.
Fundamental improvements to Afghanistan’s political structure can be seen as the strongest road to achieving a stable, effective democracy, decentralization of authority, resolving decade-long wars, and addressing the needs of Afghans. Afghanistan is at their crucial stage where they need all the political power to go through the situation, which they happen to be stuck in.
With the commencement of talk of Afghanistan with Taliban and U.S. following these negotiations closely, so that they can if they are impacting the interests of U.S. such as Human rights and Counterterrorism. “Still, U.S. officials warn that problems exist and that there is no guarantee that the Afghans will capitalize on their opportunity”. This has affected the political order of Afghanistan.
There are many factors which are affecting the political order in Afghanistan, the most important factor is the power struggle of top two leaders of Afghanistan, even after Ghani has won the election, but with the delayed results anyone can see power struggle between two, with this the second important factor is the ethnic groups or ethnicity of Afghanistan which is creating there is political destabilization and there are other factors also.
This situation illustrates that Afghanistan will remain mired in factionalism and civil war unless the authoritarian political system is urgently reformatted. Peace would be elusive without political change.
The modern Afghan political structure is not only an obstacle to peace; it may be also the source of most of the ongoing conflict, as the government’s predation arising from a fractured regime is fuelling the insurgency. As many Afghans have learnt to survive without successful government for decades, the structure is totally out of sync with Afghanistan’s decentralized political reality.
This research paper follows the Doctrinal research methodology. It entailed a detailed analysis of sources like a text summary, and a case report, journals, research articles, websites and comparative study to extract information which would be useful for completing this research paper, to explore whether political order in Afghanistan is bad and how much it is affected with all that’s happening in Afghanistan.
This article will further explain these factors and other factors also which are affecting the political order of Afghanistan like Islam effect on political order, Taliban talks with Afghanistan, U.S. withdrawal, Pakistan power struggle, etc and what can be the suggestion and reforms for a better political system and what changes we can make in the constitution so that Afghanistan will have a successful peace agreement with Taliban. This article will also explain why Afghanistan need to decentralization of political power for better political order.
U.S. and Afghan political relations
Afghanistan’s political stability, inclusive government, and constructive bilateral and multilateral relations remain priorities for the United States. Following the contentious 2014 presidential election in Afghanistan, the United States demanded and funded a UN audit of the vote, as well as assisting in the mediation of a political deal that culminated in the formation of the National Unity Government.
The Afghan government held legislative elections in October 2018 after a three-year delay. Following many months of election audits, President Ashraf Ghani, the incumbent, was declared the winner in February 2020. But the answer was not appreciated by the other officials. So, both the candidates announced themselves as the winners.
The US completely supports efforts to overhaul Afghanistan’s democratic processes, improve its judicial system, and increase democratic engagement and openness. But with the peace agreement came to end and the U.S. troops going to leave Afghanistan, it’s going to be a problem for Afghanistan to stabilize the government when they have no support from the U.S.
Effect of a peace agreement on political order
On February 29, 2020, in Doha, Qatar, the United States and the Afghan Taliban concluded a ceasefire deal aimed at bringing the country’s long war to an end. The deal includes several of the same terms that were settled upon in September 2019 but were dismantled by President Trump. “Supposedly, this deal calls for both the withdrawal of US and Coalition forces from Afghanistan in retaliation for the Taliban’s pledge not to enable militant groups to thrive on Afghan soil.
However, the arrangement is based on many assumptions that would make its implementation difficult. The deal is based on the assumption of a stable Afghan government in Kabul with which to negotiate. The agreement also states that the Taliban and the Afghan government will initiate a dialogue and negotiation process by a 10 March, 2020 , which has already passed.
The basic issues of this dialogue and negotiation have not been mentioned, but it is expected that they will include, at the very least, the role of the Taliban in a possible Afghan regime, the role of Islamic law in the Afghan constitution, and the security and rights of women”.
“The agreement stated that the Afghan government will free 5000 Taliban prisoners by March 10, 2020, and the Taliban would release 1000 Afghan prisoners. The prisoner release is being billed as a trust booster to kick-start talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government”.
Rather than addressing who is in power, the latest Afghan presidential election has “muddied the waters”. The lost presidential election was held in September, but the vote-counting procedure was so complicated and disputed “that the winner was not declared until February 18, 2020, roughly five months after the election”.
The faulty and divisive election has resulted in a disputed and divided government in Kabul, establishing a stalemate on who is now in power and making the next move in the peace agreement difficult to enforce. “As a result of a fragile or divided government in Kabul, the Taliban could be in a better position to determine the terms of an agreement on Afghanistan’s future”.
The political order in Afghanistan was already in chaos, but with the terms and the assumptions of the peace agreement, it became more difficult to stabilize the political order in Afghanistan.
The Afghan government did not participate in the talks and did not sign the final deal. While “US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad made an effort to keep Afghan President Ashraf Ghani” updated and on track, as the talks proceeded, the Afghan government grew more concerned and bitter that they were being excluded from negotiations regarding their own country’s future.
The Taliban insisted on the Afghan government or its leaders not being able to join in the talks, claiming that the current government in Afghanistan was not a legal government but a proxy of the US. It’s debatable whether this is accurate or not, but the Taliban won this battle.
It clearly states that the government is not stable in Afghanistan even after the elections and with this agreement going on and the feud between the political leaders, it is sure to become a massive disaster.
The last presidential election in Afghanistan was disputed, resulting in a divided and dysfunctional administration in Kabul. In Kabul, nobody is in power after two competing candidates declared themselves champions.
“Since the next step in the peace agreement is for the Taliban and the Afghan government to meet, a divided and fragmented government in Kabul makes that step impossible and with the peace agreement it’s making impossible”.
A political structure is in dire need of reforms
The nation requires stability, which a powerful president can provide, but it does not require a tyrant, who may misuse power. Constitutional and democratic changes must not be ignored, and the requisite measures must be taken to make them a fact. These reforms would be impossible to achieve in the absence of political maturity and the participation of responsible political parties.
“With the completion of the postponed election results announcement, Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission (IEC) announced in mid-February that President Ashraf Ghani had secured a second five-year term. This has thrown the world into a diplomatic crisis, threatening the upcoming peace treaty between the US and the Taliban.
The response of Ghani’s key rival, Abdullah Abdullah, the Chief Executive Officer of the Unity Government of Afghanistan, was that the election results were tainted with irregularities and that the IEC results were eventually intended to lead to a coup. Furthermore, Abdullah threatened to form a rival government that would function independently of the existing recognised government”.
“Ghani’s own vice president, General Abdul Rashid Dostum”, has called on people to rally in the streets. Decades of highly rigged elections have eroded Afghans’ confidence in democracy. This was illustrated by a shockingly poor voter turnout. In the 2019 election, fewer than a quarter of the eligible electorate voted. There were many theories why the attendance was so poor. Aside from Afghans’ lack of confidence in government, corruption charges and instability were among the numerous reasons why fewer Afghans voted.
Afghanistan will remain mired in factionalism and civil war until the country’s political system is urgently restructured. Peace in Afghanistan would be almost impossible to achieve without a diplomatic reshaping.
Afghanistan’s current political structure remains the single most significant impediment to stability. It has seen an increase in government predation as a result of a deteriorating government, which has also given hope for the insurgency to thrive. The scheme is fundamentally at odds with Afghanistan’s decentralized political reality.
This denied Afghans the opportunity to live under a productive and efficient administration. The democratic transition was largely lacking in post-Taliban political institutions. An incompetent government resurrected by the constitution brought with it an overabundance of Soviet power.
Afghans initially supported democracy in the region, but this quickly turned sour when they learned that the government had not improved much and had retained the same standard authoritarian authority that they had seen. It was then that democratic elections were established on a bureaucratic structure that was essentially disintegrating.
Afghanistan has one of the most bureaucratic institutions in the country, which is not unheard of. The President has the authority to name all ministers, including regional and district governors and mayors, at his or her discretion. Budget decisions are taken in Kabul, where the Afghan parliament approves fiscal budgets each year.
Partisan factions demanded that political changes take precedence over talks with the Taliban. Abdullah and his supporters hoped for further decentralization of government in order to ensure equal representation of minority communities. “Their biggest argument is that the new system is ineffective in dealing with Afghanistan’s political problems.
Ghani, on the other hand, claimed that when negotiating with the Taliban, Afghanistan requires a stable central government. Ghani believes that a powerful central government makes for better representation and the separation of authority between the centre and the states.
However, owing to the overwhelming diversity of localities in Afghanistan, their political representation was not fully understood. This demonstrates that only a modern constitution or a sequence of constitutional changes that redistribute and decentralize authority will bring about stability”.
This will facilitate greater integration and acceptance of diversity in the region. Without these reforms, it will be impossible to address the needs of the country’s minority communities.
Citizens’ confidence in government has been eroded by nearly two decades of consistently rigged elections. Afghans’ confidence in their electoral system was exemplified by tragically poor voter turnout. In the September 2019 election, less than 20% of the registered population voted.
Allegations of wrongdoing swirled for months before the election; most Afghans waited on the sidelines, fearful of insecurity and the belief that the result had already been fraudulently decided. “Ghani was re-elected with less than 10% of eligible voters’ support: 923,592 votes out of a population of more than 30 million. This situation demonstrates that unless the authoritarian political order is urgently reformatted, Afghanistan will remain mired in factionalism and civil war. Unity would be elusive without political change”.
The new Afghan political system is not only a barrier to peace; it is also the root cause of much of the current violence, as government predation resulting from a broken system fuels the insurgency. “The scheme is wildly out of sync with Afghanistan’s decentralized political reality, as many Afghans have learned to survive for decades without successful governance.
Instead of reforming the democratic structures, the post-Taliban 2004 constitution revived outdated political institutions heavily influenced by the Soviet Union. The Afghan citizens accepted democracy with open arms but were disappointed when they were serving the same centralized power that they had seen for decades. Democratic elections were slapped on a deteriorating, centrist regime”.
The “Afghan government and the international community, especially the United States, should take two critical measures that can help Afghanistan achieve peace. First and foremost, it is time to take the local conditions in Afghanistan seriously. Afghanistan has established powerful local political structures that are largely isolated from the central government.
Since the state has disappointed Afghan people for decades, they have learned to create innovative institutions in their villages and towns. Instead of acknowledging this resilience, the central government rejects it and continues to place a hard hand that ignores local diversity. By ignoring government as it is practised, the winner-take-all method threatens equilibrium. Second, a peace deal with the Taliban would be impossible to achieve without amending the” constitution. “
This should be a requirement for any potential deal. Given the local diversity of Afghanistan and the dysfunction of the existing democratic structure, both the Afghan government and the United States must prioritize constitutional change as a foundational component of any peace deal”.
Constitutional legislation that takes into account local interests would be able to appease the Taliban in regions where they have authority while excluding them in others. Afghans will be opposed to peace until such reforms are implemented because they have seen how the new authoritarian regime contributes to violations and domination.
If Afghanistan is to have some chance of long-term prosperity and sustainable economic development, it must sustain stability in the political system, as it will help in the talks with the Taliban. As a result, it is important to determine whether the governance system and power distribution that result from the relationship of the constitutional process and its implementation can contribute to political stability in the future.
Afghanistan has a road to political peace, but it desperately needs a significant course correction. The odds of a transformative, reformist government acting on the Afghan people’s hopes are diminishing, because of the things which is happening in Afghanistan.
More focus should be paid to Afghanistan’s local circumstances. Regional political institutions in Afghanistan have such a strong and clear foothold, but they are cut off from the national government due to the ongoing wars. Locals also learned how to create political institutions in their societies.
The government must have these in its plans. These parties must be involved in the coalition in order for diverse classes to be included in the electoral system. “Such power-sharing is possible thanks to decentralization and acceptance of Afghanistan’s robust self-governance capability”.
“President Ghani and Abdullah” also have the chance to look beyond this moment and protect the future by adopting the values enshrined in the “Bonn Agreement, the 2004 Constitution”, and the NUG agreement to restore a war-weary country.
- Jennifer Brick Murtazashvili and Mohammad Qadam Shah Political Reform Urgently Needed in Afghanistan, The Diplomat, Feb. 22, 2020, https://thediplomat.com/2020/02/political-reform-urgently-needed-in-afghanistan/.
- Grant Farr, The Afghan Peace Agreement and Its Problems, E- International Relations (Apr 6, 2020) https://www.e-ir.info/2020/04/06/the-afghan-peace-agreement-and-its-problems
- Clayton Thomas, Afghanistan: Background and U.S. Policy: In Brief, Nov. 10, 2020, https://crsreports.congress.gov.
- Afghanistan’s political structure in dire need of basic reforms International, Tehran Times, April 20, 2020, https://www.tehrantimes.com/news/446976/Afghanistan-s-political-structure-in-dire-need-of-basic-reforms”.
- U.S. relations with Afghanistan (Jan 20, 2021) https://www.state.gov/u-s-relations-with-afghanistan/.
- Mussarat Jabeen, US Afghan Relations: A Historical Perspective of Events of 9/11, 25(1) A research Journal Of South Asian Studies, 143-17 (2010)”.
- Mehreen Naushad, Pakistan and the Afghan peace process, The News, Dec. 23, 2020, https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/762940-pakistan-and-the-afghan-peace-process
- Ethnicity and The Political Reconstruction Of Afghanistan by Conrad Schetter, 3 Center for Development Research, 1-10 (2005).
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