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Tuesday, December 5, 2023
Government and PoliticsAfghanistan: Twin Presidents and the Single Peace Deal

Afghanistan: Twin Presidents and the Single Peace Deal

What happens when you run out of leadership? You become a laughing stock and an ever brawling pack of people. You become clueless about national vision and immerse in conflicting confusions. The Afghan peace process is fast turning into a quagmire of disagreements played out in the clumsy Ghani-Abdullah hands. The regime which was installed and protected by the US is now feeling and seeing the pressure from its erstwhile patron-in-chief as forced to accelerate the peace process thereby settling down the inter-political rifts. This comes not in terms of verbal directions but now also in material form as the failed Pompeo visit rings alarms on funds cut to warn torn Afghanistan.

Afghanistan is a complex country timed in the 21st century with the statecraft of the 16th century. It is tribal bonds that order the political rank and file in the country with the commonality of religion which binds people further together. The sectarian divide is not polarizing as the majority population of more than 80% professes the Sunni school of followers and the two sects recognize mutual restitution from centuries. The spirit of Afghan nationalism overcomes the religious bonds of connectivity. The country is composed of more than 20 ethnic groups of which the Pashtun form 42% followed by Tajik of around 30% and the remaining ethnic groups enjoy a composition less short of two digits. The main political stakeholders are therefore the Pashtun and the Tajik which are not at daggers drawn and both cherish the idea of peaceful and progressive Afghanistan equally well. The patriotism with the motherland of any of the ethnic factions in Afghanistan stands beyond any doubts but the center of leadership to attract and influence all under the unionist idea of Afghan nationalism is missing.

After Ahmed Shah Masood, the veteran Afghan leader who put in heroic aggression first against the Soviets and then against the Taliban, the political focus of Afghanistan in terms of vital leadership diluted into tribal groups, clans, and major subdivisions. Today, it is the scary want of leadership which is dividing the Afghan political landscape and is giving way to polarized dissent with the responsibility of Afghan peace breakthrough hangs in limbo and unattended.

Whether Ashraf Ghani enjoys the popular Pashtun support or not is in itself a point worth debating. With 2 percent of turn, out and just 2 million people voting out of 9.7 million registered voters with a total population composition of 35 million, the seat of the president as occupied by Ghani raises serious people popularity questions acquiring just a little above than 50% of the votes cast which means he is the president of 35 million Afghans having won 1 million votes. The rival claimant Abdullah Abdullah, who has also set up a parallel government, seems to be in a much more mercurial state than is Ghani. Whether he is famous and acceptable to the Pashtun dominant population of Afghanistan is a matter of complicated concerns. Whether you caste vote for or against is not as serious a matter as serious is when you decide not to vote even. The Pashtun political edge in Afghanistan is an inevitable fact and has a decisive role in breaking or making of stable governments. Mind it, the Taliban factor has a dominant proportion composed of Pashtun people too.

It would and could not be Ghani or Abdullah charisma to unite the Afghan people and hatch organic peace and long term stability in Afghanistan. The Afghan Taliban are the warring and ostracized faction in Afghanistan and to meet them out in talks would require a cross representative body reflecting and representing the collective Afghan sentiments whereas statistics of 2019 Afghan Presidential polls deny us of the capability of the current government as truly representative of the Afghan people. Therefore a National Jirga would be more effective than the current pony parallel governments in place. The National Jirga is the tribal representation of Afghanistan which will present the common sentiments of all the ethnic groups in this peace conversation with the Taliban. Things in Afghanistan are still perceived, conceived, transcribed and translated in the utterly tribal ways and the Jirga jargon could be very effective in meeting out this fatal national challenge which has cropped up in effect of Doha Peace accord.

The Afghan peace process is a serious issue whereas the current Afghan government is anything but not serious enough to accept and settle down the challenge. It would be the leftover 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 reach some ultimate juncture, there could be any form of elections to reflect the popular Afghan sentiment and a stable government formation. If the matter is left to the will and wish of the twin Presidents, it would rather fall prey to petty political gains than reaching any material and subjective peace in Afghanistan which is now tired of mourning the dead and burying their loved ones.

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Muhammad Jahangir Kakar
Muhammad Jahangir Kakar
Pakistani Civil Servant and Socio-Political Analyst. A contributor to The Eastern Herald.

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