political worker notes the result. Below President Karzai votes
Newly Elected Parliament is Fractured and Locally Focused
S. Mudassir Ali Shah
October 10: Landmark elections in Afghanistan have expectedly
thrown up a parliament that can be appropriately called a mixed
bag - having members of all descriptions. A fleeting look at the
list of elected people brings into the limelight the continued
sway of conservative clerics, jihadi commanders, rivals of the
incumbent president and a welcome foray of educated women into
the election of several commanders like Burhanuddin Rabbani, Younus
Qanuni, Mohammad Mohaqiq, Abdul Rab Rasool Sayyaf, Pacha Khan
Zadran, Rashid Dostum's spokesman Faizullah Zaki, Hekmatyar's
follower Khalid Farooqi, Commander Perum Qul, Hazrat Ali, Syed
Mohammad Gulab Zoi and Dr. Ibrahim Malikzada spells bad news for
human rights watchdogs and civil society organisations.
dissidents Wakil Ahmad Mutawakil (ex-foreign minister), Maulvi
Qalamuddin (ex-minister for promotion of virtue and prevention
of vice) Abdul Hakim Munib (ex-deputy trade minister) and the
student militia's ex-intelligence chief Mullah Abdul Samad Khaksar
are among the big losers - both in the electoral battle as well
as on the political front – as they are no longer left with
regard to the outright rejection of these elements, commentators
opine Karzai has been able to kill two birds with one stone: Inducing
schisms in Taliban ranks and keeping the defectors out of the
loop - at least for the time being. But the president's apparently
"deft stroke" could be a nostrum that might invite a
backlash at a critical time in Afghanistan's transition to democracy.
his colleagues shellacked at the polls, one Taliban renegade Mullah
Abdul Salam Rocketi pulled off a landslide in the militancy-haunted
Zabul province. A former guerilla commander who played a key part
in the jihad against Soviet invaders, he acquired the nickname
of Rocketi because of his nifty handling of all manner of rockets,
grenades and bombs during the hidebound Taliban regime.
returning to what appears "a fractured and locally focused
parliament" are French-educated technocrat Ramazan Bashar
Dost, Mustafa Kazmi, Syed Mohammad Ali Javed, Mohammad Arif Noorzai
and Shakir Kargar. On the other hand, former ministers Taj Mohammad
Wardak, Siddiq Chakari and Ahmad Shah Ahmadzai - opposed as they
are to the Karzai administration - have emerged from the ballot
battle as an unlikely trio of 'fall guys.'
from the restive southern province of Kandahar - a focal point
for most election observers, media-people and analysts - are former
minister for tribal and frontier affairs Arif Noorzai, communist-era
leader Noorul Haq Uloomi, Qayyum Karzai (the president's brother),
then gubernatorial spokesman Khalid Pashtun, Haji Amir Lalai,
Fariba Ahmadi Kakar, Shakiba and Rana Tarin.
have grabbed the highest number of Wolesi Jirga seats in spite
of disunity in their ranks coupled with their political marginalization
during and after the divisive Taliban rule. To some extent, the
impressive electoral performance of the largest but fragmented
community can be set down to the overwhelming gains reaped by
enlightened Pashtun women from different regions - a heartening
trend that was so noticeable never before.
from a predictable clean sweep in Kandahar, Nangarhar and Kunar,
they also did remarkably well in Helmand, Ghazni, Faryab, Laghman,
Logar, Kabul, Nuristan, Paktika, Uruzgan and Zabul - regions in
the grip of an excruciating insurgency that simply refuses to
behind Pashtuns are the politically more aware Tajiks, who have
largely retained their growing clout in Badakhshan, Badghis, Balkh,
Farah, Ghore, Kabul, Herat and Takhar. Demonstrating an even higher
level of unity and acumen, the minority Hazara community has finished
an honourable third despite its numerical weakness. Struggling
at the rock bottom of the list are the Uzbeks loyal to Rashid
Dostum and Pashayees, supporting Hazrat Ali.
Hazara Northern Alliance commander - notorious for hammering nails
into the heads of captives from rival ethnic communities - has
bagged the highest number of votes. Now posing as a democrat,
his triumph reinforces the impression that many unreconstructed
warlords have gone through the motions of the legislative elections
because the exercise suited them just fine in the obtaining circumstances.
How long they will cling to democratic ideals and uphold the will
of the teeming masses is a moot question.
elected as independents under a law barring parties' participation
in the vote, the 249 MPs - seen as a motley crowd for all the
right reasons - are unlikely to forge unity within parliament
to force Hamid Karzai into delegating some of his sweeping powers
to the lower house, which is authorized to formulate and endorse
laws, throw out the president's nominees for cabinet slots and
grill ministers on a wide range of issues including efficiency.
the winners, at least two are dogged by a history of spine-tingling
massacres, a chain of abductions and other grisly crimes. Their
barbaric past is illustrated by six mass graves discovered recently
in a dry ditch in Sra Qila area, 10 kilometers from Sharan, Paktika's
capital. Though the Afghan government wants to probe the mass
graves believed to contain the remains of hundreds of communist-era
soldiers, yet the complicity of the dreaded regional commanders
in the massacre impedes investigations.
commanders-turned-politicians are accused of killing the soldiers
of the 9th Brigade that fell in 1989 and subsequently dumping
their bodies in the mass graves after they surrendered to mujahideen
leaders. Paktika Governor Gulab Mangal, Interior Ministry and
UNAMA officials in Kabul have already received nerve-racking details
of the bones, human skulls, boots and worn-out uniforms found
from the site.
UNAMA official, aware of the discovery of the collective graves,
assailed the Afghan government for trying to hush up the issue
because of the powerful commanders linked to the "unpardonable
brutality" and allowing them to run for parliamentary seats.
He saw no justification for the killing of the soldiers following
widespread voter intimidation and instances of cheating in Paghman,
Kandahar, Ghazni, Paktia, Badghis, Bamyan and Nuristan also put
a damper on the polls. European Union observers alleged: "In
certain provinces, cases of fraud such as ballot stuffing, proxy
voting and possible coercion of voters intended to influence their
choice of candidate have sparked worries."
EU poll monitors told the Afghan election administration to handle
the issue in a transparent and effective manner to safeguard the
integrity of the elections that marked the culmination of the
historical Bonn Process. The warning prompted Joint Electoral
Management Body (JEMB) spokesman Sultan Baheen to pledge a thoroughgoing
probe, whose outcome is yet to see the light of the day. "The
European Union mission's opinion is important to us and we are
investigation the complaints that have triggered concerns. We
had said at the beginning this election will not be perfect."
eloquent operations chief Peter Erben, hinting at the irregularities
having been committed in many provinces, revealed ballot boxes
from four percent of the 26,000 polling stations had been quarantined
for investigation. Promising tough action against those found
involved in the fraud, he too had warned of excluding the votes
in question from the general count while asserting the Election
Complaints Commission (ECC) had the authority to fine and disqualify
Paghman, where Karzai's close ally Abdul Rab Rassoul Sayyaf has
been declared successful, ballot boxes from 95 polling stations
were initially sealed on suspicion of rigging, but most of them
were eventually counted as the poll panel remained tight-lipped
over the fate of the inquiry it had vowed.
the course of the disputed vote count, a female election employee
was caught red-handed while marking ballot papers with her eye-lining
pencil in favor of a particular contender. Another election worker
was sacked and handed over to police on similar charges in Khost.
In fact, a stream of gripes came from disgruntled candidates regarding
election workers' implication in brazen rigging.
international observers, familiar with Afghanistan's troubled
history, contend participatory democracy - however imperfect -
could prove an effective long-term strategy for crushing terrorism
and sidelining extremist forces. If allowed to strike root in
this benighted land, they maintain, democracy will eventually
neutralize the influence of obscurantist forces in due course
cloud, they say, has a silver lining and the September 18 vote
in this strife-wrecked country is certainly no exception. Emphatic
victories scored by women represent a defining feature of the
parliamentary election, the first in 36 years.
election of Malalai Shinwari (former BBC reporter), Fatima Nazari,
Shukriya Barakzai, Fariba Ahmadi, Shakiba, Malalai Joya, Safia
Siddiqui, Fawzia Gillani (polling the highest number of votes
among females), Saira Sharifa, Tahira, Sharifa Zarmati, Hawa Alam
Nuristani, Saleha, Shakila Hashmi, Nasima Niazi, Fahima Sadaat,
Pardesa Safi, Shukriya Pekan, Zaifun Safi, Sohaila Shafaq, Fauzia
Raufi, Seema Joyenda, Shireen Mohseni, Zahira Ahmadyar, Humaira
Gulshani, Fatima Naeemi, Sadeeqa Mubarez, Saifoora Niazi, Azita
Rifaat, Zarmina Pathan, Habiba Danish, Saamia Azizi, Rahila, Najia
Saeed and scores of other enlightened women is a welcome development.
fraud and corralling of women at home on voting day, supporters
of the embryonic democratic process stress the new parliament
will have to ensure the ascendancy of law over banditry to give
the long-oppressed nation a modicum of hope. With the twice-delayed
elections successfully conducted, Afghans are eagerly expecting
a meaningful effort at infrastructure development and a stop to
what many perceive as a cycle of brainless violence that has claimed
1,300 lives over the last six months.
the parliamentarians-elect work hard enough to deliver on the
promises they made while out on the hustings, the painful legacy
of the past three decades of murder and mayhem would be eventually
forgotten. For this long-cherished dream to come true, the legislators
will have to agree on implementing on a priority basis the agenda
for stepped-up uplift, national reconciliation and ethnic harmony.
can the twin objectives of eliminating terrorism and setting in
motion a sustained process of development be achieved remains
a vexing question for a thumping majority of Afghans. For his
part, President Karzai feels the "successful holding of the
elections" represents a crushing defeat for militants."
Apparently in a euphoric mood, he told a news conference on September
18 his government would strive to establish lasting peace and
steer Afghanistan out of the multiple problems besetting it.
a Pickwickian sense, Karzai may have some reason for his optimistic
assertion that terrorists are on the run or elections will herald
a sea-change. On the face of it, his statement is essentially
meant for domestic consumption, as the ground situation underline
the stark reality that terrorism and drugs are far from controlled,
much less eliminated.
both fronts, his government and its backers will have to fight
resolutely over the long haul to bring a measure of normality
to a country that still runs the risk of becoming a narco-state.
Cooperation from neighboring countries plus a greater emphasis
on the ongoing national reconciliation drive will lend a dramatic
boost to the long-term campaign against terror.
onerous and pesky is the challenge of banishing militancy from
Afghanistan? The sheer enormity of the task can be easily gauged
from top US General Jason Kamiya's observation that Taliban are
not yet a spent force despite their failure to disrupt the elections.
"I'm not ready to sign up to the fact that Taliban are crumbling
… there still will be an enemy insurgency next spring."