Will Afghan elections change anything?

17 08 2009

Afghans will go to polls on August 20 — for a second time in five years — to elect their president. Although the country has hardly any democratic structure, the second parliamentary elections have at least paved the way for a future of democracy on this troubled land. But is that such a simple thing? Additionally, the complex nature of Afghanistan and the rising tide of Taliban have further complicated the matters.

First there are Pashtuns, the largest ethnic group that comprises a little more than half of the country’s population.  Despite being in majority, they are the least beneficiaries of the allied invasion of Afghanistan. As Talibans are also from this ethnic group, there have always been suspicion and fierce resistance by Pashtuns.

Although incumbent Hamid Karzai is an ethnic Pashtun and has bright chances of winning, the bureaucracy and military are all controlled by ethnic minorities with hardly any share given to Pashtun majority. This, along with illiteracy and extremism amongst Pashtuns, has created a resentment towards democracy. Taliban, of course, are fueling these emotions for their ulterior motives.

Afghan elections would hardly bring any change if Pashtuns are not engaged on a broader scale. United States and NATO countries can do a lot in this regard. Negotiations with relatively moderate portions of Taliban is also necessary to bring real peace into the region. Hard-line Taliban, on the other hand, should be crushed brutally. This might need an extensive operation in Pakistan as that country is serving as the real nucleus of terrorism.

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