Afghanistan’s Struggle for Democracy

Muslim Media Network

Afghanistan’s Struggle for Democracy

By Geoffrey Cook, MMNS

Anaheim–June 30th–This article is a third of a trilogy extricated from a larger Forum on The (“Islamic”) Future of Democracy in South Asia” held in Milpitas on the 11th of June.

The “headlines” on the BBC June fifteenth blared Afghan President Karzai’s empty threats against Pakistan over the latter’s peace treaties with the volatile tribes on the countries’ mutual border-lands.  Kabul’s Armed Services along with his NATO Allies, were prepared to cross the border in hot pursuit – including temporarily occupation of Peshawar’s sovereign territory if need be.  (In fact eleven Pakistani border troops had been killed by an American air strike on the night of the tenth of June13th) 

This current offensive marked the first major military action that Pakistan’s newly elected Civilian Government has taken against the militants operating in the tribal areas along the border with Afghanistan (the Durand Line).  The non-military Administration has stated that it would prefer to defuse tension through negotiations, but with the threats by Islamic militants to the city of Peshawar itself growing in recent weeks, the Martial Services decided to take action, and, by doing so, it has met the Afghan, NATO and especially Washington’s demands. The Pakistan Frontier Corps has pushed the Taliban back from their positions since their first advance of June 28th within the Khyber Agency (that begins at the periphery of Peshawar city itself).  In response the Taliban ended their dialog with the Pak jawans, pledging to bring the “War” to Pakistan’s major urban centers. The Regional Taliban leader responded, “Peace cannot be brought with force and aggression. This will be very unfortunate for the Pakistani nation…” The Frontier Constabulary has brought in reinforcements and heavy weapons to protect Peshawar and its more than one million residents from insurgents who might attempt a counterattack.  (Even before the disengagement understanding, the Taliban had taken up positions in the suburbs of Peshawar!  The Taliban were already squeezing the capital, and its hinterlands!)    Further, the spokesman for the Vice and Virtue Movement, an organization allied with the local Taliban, declared, “If the Administration believes there is any issue to address, we are ready!”

On the Contrary, Mahmood Shah, a former Security Chief in Pakistan’s tribal regions, said the Taliban controls the country’s entire tribal belt and “everyone now is waiting for some action from the Federal Government,” and it seems to have  begun!   “They are on our doorstep,” Shah said. “The situation is like water flowing onto a field…we are drowning!”  The Pakistani offensive comes as the (American) Pentagon reports that Security is “fragile” in many parts of Afghanistan, too.

“The Taliban [has] regrouped after its fall from power, and have coalesced into a resilient insurgency.”  Even though Coalition forces have had some success in their counterinsurgency against attacks and bombings are likely to continue and even escalate. (The Taliban Army have launched a series of attacks against district centers and the Afghan and Coalition forces in neighboring Paktika Province over the past week as part of an attempt to destabilize the eastern region, and overrun Afghan government centers.)

The February (Pakistani Parliamentary) elections brought a new Civilian authority to power, eclipsing the former army strongman-general Pervez Musharraf).  Although the U.S. Neo-Con American administration has attempted to remake the Islamic World in the United States’ own image, this has created a grave conundrum for our “War on Terror” over South and Central Asia where these new democracies put more weight on their own interests than on those of Washington.

Mohammed Humayon Qayoumi spoke for Afghanistan in the earlier forum in Northern California.  What gave Dr. Qayoumi the right to do so was that he served as the Senior Advisor to the Minister of Finance in the Hindu Kush’s Islamic Republic headquartered in Kabul, and sits currently upon several Corporate Boards of Directors including the Central Bank of Afghanistan.  Curiously, Dr. Qayuomi’s B.S. is from the American University of Beirut.  His M.B.A and Ph.D. are from the U.S.  At the moment he is president of California State University, East Bay, a little south of the city of Oakland and across the Bay from the City and County of San Francisco.

Oayoumi brought up a pertinent point to the Pakistani-Afghani as well as the overall situation in South Asia, and that is “Many individual concerns don’t have boundaries!”  Further, Democracy has to have [a] basis in the rule of law!”  The Pushtun problem that straddles both these countries detract from order as well as the all-pervading anarchistic criminality in the rest of the Afghan land, but democracy cannot exist separate from good governance.  This is, also, a problem within this new nation.  “Democracy is [an] ongoing” process!”  Yet, under the college president opinion, worldwide, about three to four billion citizens live under democratic rule.  His estimate shows a political conservatism, and demonstrates that the civil servants who were chosen to work for the Americans in the failed reconstruction of Afghanistan after the 2001 blitzkrieg were endeavoring to build a conformist American style democracy and economy, and the resultant malfunction explains the re-emergence of the Taliban after their seeming defeat by 2002.  Although the interim government was legitimate, Washington’s appointment of such lackluster bureaucrats as Professor Mohammed Qayoumi braced the toddler democracy for the resurgent Talibani.

Islamabad’s Government intelligence agencies have allowed the extremist groups to thrive, and even nurtured them for over the twenty years as part of their strategy for southern Afghanistan.  Successive governments have argued since 1989 (the fall of the former Soviet Union in Afghanistan) that Pakistan needed its own jihadist movements to hold onto the tribal areas against claims on that territory by Afghanistan. 

(Curiously, Kandahar and Karachi have a border dispute between themselves.  In the 19th Century the “Great Game” was being played out between the Empires of Russia and Britain over what is now Afghanistan.  It was not then a nation-state in the modern sense, but instead a conglomeration of large tribal groups. The British decided to demark their boundaries in the Hindu Kush because of the constant raids into the Northwest Provinces and on top of their fear of a substantial Russian incursion.    A Colonel Durand was the commander of the expedition that created the border (the Durand Line.)  Unfortunately, to this day the Pakistanis accept this as their border, but the Afghanis do not, and this has created some tensions in recently.  Also, some conservative elements within the Pakistani elite saw Islamists as soldiers to fight their battles in Kashmir.

Further, on the Pakistani side there are no new plans to reform the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA.)  U.S. President Bush has invited Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani to Washington on July 28th. The Bush administration has been frustrated by the cooperation between the Pakistani Taliban and a reinvigorated Al Qaeda in parts of  the tribal areas,  it has complained to Pakistan that the Taliban were sending increased numbers of fighters over the border into Afghanistan to confront  NATO forces.  Further, they have been hijacking trucks with supplies for NATO and American soldiers in Afghanistan that travel from the port of Karachi through the Khyber Agency.

To complicate matters, neighbors–such as India–began to interfere in Kabul’s political life.  Development, financed primarily by the G8, proved to be insignificant.  Help from their International donors has equaled $750 per capita–an extremely low amount when one considers the possible threat.  Administering the funds required 20% of the total subsidy.  The rest was consumed largely by the Security Forces, or was siphoned to corruption.

President Bush has invited Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani to Washington on July 28th, because the Bush administration has been frustrated by the cooperation between the Pakistani Taliban and a reinvigorated Al Qaeda in parts of  the tribal areas.

President Bush has complained to Pakistan that the Taliban were sending increased numbers of fighters over the border into Afghanistan to confront  NATO forces.  They have also been hijacking trucks with supplies bound for NATO and American soldiers  that travel from the port of Karachi along a road through Khyber Agency with supplies bound for NATO and American soldiers in Afghanistan.

Qayoumi concluded in his (earlier) speech that the U.S. has not done too well in our “War on Terror” although forty to seventy other nations States have.   Mohammed Humayon Qayoumi simplistically alleged “Iraq and Pakistan are net importers of terror.”  The Doctor of Philosophy failed to mention that most of these fearsome warriors came to the battle via Afghanistan!  I think this shows that above all in South Asia (especially in the Islamic Republics of Afghanistan and Pakistan) are region-wide problems, and must be treated with the district in mind.



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