Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Wednesday, October 21st, 2020

Democracy – A Hard-Gained Achievement for Afghans

Afghanistan has passed numerous ups and downs throughout the history for democratization. Following the 18th century, as democracy burgeoned in some parts of the world; Afghan nation suffered violence and bloodshed under absolute monarchy and despotic regimes. Tribes fought for power and kings willed their throne to their descendants the same as private property. People’s rights and liberty were violated, any movements for freedom were suppressed and kings’ mandate was the only law to be practiced upon.   
During the French Great Revolution (1789 – 1795) which demolished the despotic palace of sultanate and waved the flag of democracy on its debris and declared human rights, Timur Shah, who ruled Afghanistan, was involved in luxury life along with his ten wives, who belonged to Pashtun, Afshari, Indian and Kashmiri tribes, and fathered 33 sons and 13 daughters. Similarly, emir Habibullah established a luxury harem where more than hundred women dwelled and the costly expenses, such as food and clothing and jewelries, of harem-dwellers kept him involved and marginalized him from considering the social and political issues of the country.
However, when his son, Amanullah Khan, succeeded him as king, the first constitution of Afghanistan was approved by Loya Jirga (Grand Council) in 1923 – it was a great milestone in the history of Afghanistan and a significant step toward democratization. With the approval of this constitution, constitutional sultanate based on law was established in the country and the individuals’ fundamental rights and liberty and equality of the citizens on the basis of law, ban on slavery and torture, etc. were recognized. Subsequently, 50 other bylaws (Nizam Namah) were approved and Afghanistan’s legal system was known the modernist in the region. Ill-fatedly, it did not last long and Amanullah’s reign collapsed in 1929 and Habibullah Saqa was appointed as his successor. Then Nadir Khan reigned the country from 1929 to 1933. During Nadir Khan’s reign, the second constitution of Afghanistan was approved in 1931 which included the establishment of parliament for the first time in the country and it was a greater step toward democracy. The third constitution was approved during Zahir Shah’s forty-year sultanate (1933 – 1973). This was an amendment to the two previous constitutions and considered the segregation of powers and the independence of judicial, legislative and executive powers – this period was known as “decade of democracy” or “decade of constitution”. This constitution also restricted the king’s power and his family’s interference in government’s issues. Ultimately, Dawood Khan succeeded Zahir Shah, while he had an official trip to Italy, through bloodless military coup in 1973. He proclaimed republic but cancelled the segregation of powers. The fourth Constitution under the term of “Constitution of Republic of Afghanistan” was approved by Loya Jirga and Dawood was selected as president of Afghanistan for six years based on this constitution. In short, after about one year and two months, Dawood’s reign was collapsed through a coup carried out by People’s Party (Hezb-e-Khalq) led by Noor Muhammad Turakey which was an irreparable blow to democracy and the country was dragged to violence and bloodshed as the vestige is still felt. I would like to cut short and do not go through the periods of Babrek Karmel and Dr. Najib since they did not either take satisfactory steps toward democracy. From 1992 to 1996, civil unrest emerged in the country and Afghan nation suffered painfully amidst violence. Finally, the Taliban regime gained foothold in Afghanistan and inflicted great harm on Afghan nation. They did not have the faintest idea about human rights, freedom or democracy and ruled the country with the point of gun. The Taliban showed high sensitivity to democracy and deemed it against Islamic beliefs. Their radical ideology and parochial mindset revealed nothing other than violence and hatred. The Taliban violated the rights and dignity of the people flagrantly. Hence, these eight years were the dark period for the nation which suppressed democracy and eroded the democratic outcomes.
Following the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center by al-Qaeda, the US-led coalition forces launched attack against the Taliban which led to the downfall of their regime. Consequently, “Bonn Agreement” was signed in a UN meeting held in Germany – which was headed by UN’s envoy Akhzar Ibrahimi and attended by the representatives of Afghanistan, US, England, Germany, EU and six neighboring countries. In this agreement, holding presidential election, approval of constitution, establishment of Afghanistan’s Human Rights Commission, etc. were stated which was a unique milestone in the history of Afghanistan.
By and large, the last constitution of Afghanistan was approved by people’s elected representatives in Loya Jirga held on January 3, 2004 in Kabul. This Constitution includes the inherent and inalienable rights, liberty and dignity of the individuals irrespective of their race, creed, color and sex and upholds international charters and Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). This constitution, which is based on national values and international standards, states, “Liberty and human dignity are inviolable. The state shall respect and protect liberty as well as human dignity.” Now, as the nascent democracy is weakened by the Taliban fighters, it is the government to fight for protecting the rights and liberty of the nation and does not let warring parties to undermine democratic movements in the country. Democratic government is a pyrrhic victory for Afghan nation since large sacrifices were made and streams of blood were spilt to gain it.