Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Fickle voters the real problem? Hmmm...

Since I arrived in Afghanistan I've had many different people tell me that part of the problem here is that the citizens are impatient and fickle, that they quickly lose faith in governments and initiatives that do not produce immediate results. This is a familiar message worldwide - I've never met a politician, for example, who doesn't express frustration at needing to produce results within the election cycle to problems that realistically require much longer term approaches. There is no doubt that many of the development goals in Afghanistan are going to require very long term efforts, but I also think it is natural for Afghan citizens to expect some noticable changes in their own lives five years into a reconstruction effort. The challenge seems to be balancing those two imperatives and at the same time overcoming perceptions that the reconstruction and development effort is riddled with corruption and waste (on that see my previous post - Through the fog of peace). In the context of growing public debate about the effectiveness of the performance of the Government of Afghanistan and the international community in Afghanistan over the past five years I found this editorial interesting, it comes from a Kabul paper which is, at least, nominally independent. Excerpt from editorial in Dari, "Why do we quickly get tired and prefer changes?", published by the Afghan newspaper Weesa on 5 November "One of the problems which have caused Afghans to fail to establish a sound a society is the impatience of Afghans and their wish for changes, which is still continuing. Whenever a new political methodology has been introduced in our country, it has caused premature individual and collective tiredness soon after its establishment. The reaction has always been to struggle for changes instead of introducing amendments or improvements, and this has always offended the people of Afghanistan rather than benefiting them. Viewing the situation logically, we see that countries' history, civilization and historical honours have not been achieved immediately. They have been achieved over long periods of time and with the patience of the people. There is no doubt that the introduction of changes has played a great role in this respect. Maybe even those who are most optimistic about the government will not deny that officials of the government of Afghanistan have not scored remarkable achievements in fulfilling the legitimate and logical requirements and expectations of the Afghan nation in the last five years. If somebody claims (even government officials) that all the work has been accomplished over the last five years, his/her words might be considered as an expression of their sense of humour. There is surely a remarkable level of weakness and shortcomings in the performance of the government in terms of offering public services and reducing the problems of the people. Also there have been significant shortcomings in the operations of the international anti terrorism forces (NATO and coalition forces), but the important thing is that even though there are significant shortcomings and defects in our government, it would not be wise to sabotage and further weaken the current government and invest our hopes in enemies and think that they will destroy the current government and establish a better one. The utmost efforts should be made to bring improvements in the areas which need improvement to enhance the efficiency of the government in its social, economic and political programmes. Statements by some of our government officials indicate that they have lost hope in the government and welcome victory by enemies rather than bringing improvements to the current government. Lots of changes have taken place in the political scene of our country over the last 30 years and people have understood all the positive and negative aspects. All spectrums of leaders (including Khalq, Parcham, the Mojaheddin and Taleban) have left memories of their period of rule in the hearts of the people and people have sung songs about the results: "My homeland! Everybody has broken your heart, each in turn" The real reason is that the officials are contributing to destroying the current situation and restructuring its foundations rather than helping to bring improvements to the weak areas. If we have a look at the upper and lower house, we will notice that in many rows Mojaheddin, Taleban and Khalqis are sitting next to each other. We have to appreciate this because it is a remarkable social achievement by the government. What people need in the current situation are sympathetic actions rather than sympathetic words. Taking sympathetic actions will be possible if we have the will to accept improvements and not think of destruction. No matter which party we prefer (Khalq, Parcham, Mojaheddin, Taleban and… but it is necessary to inject our productive thoughts into the government to give it a tonic . When we talk about changes in the meaning of weakening the basis of the current government and the return of Taleban, that means we have not learned lessons from the experiences of the last 30 years. Such thoughts will not bring any positive results or interests for our people but a continuation of the crisis. Based on a real definition of democracy, our government should be supported to enable it to fulfil the legitimate demands of the people. We can examine different kinds of details to find the best and the most effective means, but we should never damage the base and destroy the foundations."

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