Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Wednesday, January 27th, 2021

Talks But Not At The Cost of Democratic Principles

Terrorism is a great barrier to the fragile democracy in Afghanistan. With the fall of the Taliban’s regime, democratic principles emerged with the endorsement of Constitution, which includes the fundamental rights and freedoms of individuals. The human rights’ discourse and presidential elections were significant landmarks in our history. Women’s key role in social, cultural and political activities revealed Afghanistan’s strides made vis-à-vis democracy.
The hegemony of democracy put major impact on public life in one way or another. Heaving a sigh of relief, Afghans embraced democracy with open arms and dreamt of a civil society, where no one’s rights and liberty are violated. The downfall of the Taliban’s regime was believed to put an end to war and violence. Afghan men and women celebrated democracy through flocking to ballot boxes with the hope of saving their lives from the bullet of warring parties, which showed no mercy to civilians. Suffering under the cruel regime of the Taliban, Afghan women waxed romantic about freedom and democracy.
By and large, the last constitution of Afghanistan was approved by people’s elected representatives in Loya Jirga (National Grand Assembly) 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, says, “Liberty and human dignity are inviolable. The state shall respect and protect liberty as well as human dignity.”
The US-led NATO “war on terror” believed to root out terrorism from Afghanistan’s soil and strengthen the inchoate democracy. The Taliban’s guerilla fighters, that were a product of social, cultural and political rift, were, however, reorganized and involved in insurgency in Afghanistan – it was a serious challenge before counter-insurgency and put the “war on terror” into the stalemate. Moreover, the US soldiers’ withdrawal compounded the problem and weakened the iron will of US. Therefore, efforts were made to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table.
The negotiation of peace was a highly complicated and challenging issue for Afghanistan, which is yet to bear fruit, despite the tireless struggles made by the government. The Taliban never revealed a genuine tendency towards peace as they played a foul game.
Democracy in Afghanistan is threatened by the rise of religious extremism and violence by anti-government groups that are transnational in character. The state is still unable to protect people against such extremist groups. These trends negate the spirit of democracy.
Democracy is viewed as a process rather than a product. It is wrong to assume that anything less than the ideal democracy means that there is no democracy at all. It is a process and you strengthen it and improve its quality as you implement it and make mid-course correction in it. Therefore, what matters most is its direction. Democracy needs to move from “less” to “more” democracy. It is a continuous process and requires regular review of its function.
Democracy is a challenging political system that calls for implementation of its principles in letter and spirit. It is more responsive to the aspirations of the common people. There are ample examples in history to show that the popularity of democracy does not mean that the elected ruler will be equally popular or those criticizing such a ruler are against democracy.
With the start of talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban, the public fear that democratic achievements will be at stake since the Taliban are unwilling to support democracy and reiterate upholding Islamic Sharia, which is an ambiguous term as the Taliban do not elaborate on it.
Since Afghan men and women paid heavy sacrifices for upholding democracy, compromising the strides made in this regard is unacceptable to the public. Democratic principles, in which there is no room for religious, sectarian and sexual discriminations, carry increasing values for the people of Afghanistan. Therefore, Afghans call on the international community and regional and global stakeholders not to let democratic achievements be undone. In short, peace talks are expected to bring peace and respect achievements rather than harming the country and people’s fundamental rights and liberties.
The nascent democracy should be strengthened through negotiations. The Taliban have to consider the demands of Afghan people and meet their needs rather than imposing their own will and radically ideological mindset. In short, if talks undermine democracy, it will be a blow to the past achievements. Afghans will not backtrack.