Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Saturday, April 20th, 2019

AFGHANISTAN: Way Forward (Last Part)


AFGHANISTAN: Way Forward (Last Part)

In the beginning of post-Taliban Afghanistan, when Doctor Khalilzad was the Ambassador of United States in Afghanistan, the administration of George W. Bush devised a clever policy towards reconstruction of Afghanistan. Mr. Bush’s government allocated huge resources to build roads in the remotest provinces and districts of Afghanistan. The motive behind this decision was to foster national unity among the various clans of people dwelling in different regions in Afghanistan. Building and opening up new roads in the most isolated districts of the country would bring economic prosperity, interaction between people of different provinces and regions – who were isolated due to tough terrains and absence of road before. This phenomenon has brought huge changes in Afghan society. Economic situation of thousands of families improved due to construction of new roads. This policy should continue when next government come into power in Afghanistan. Resources should be allocated towards sensible reconstruction programs – sensible in a sense that significance, immediate economic and political impacts of projects undertaken should be kept into consideration. 
The ministry of rural development of the government of Hamid Karzai adopted a program called National Solidarity Program (NSP) in 2004. This program was already tested in many countries including Bangladesh with positive impacts on society. Under this program, the international assistance for the reconstruction of Afghanistan was used as per the requirement of local beneficiaries. Programs such as NSP should continue to be in the agenda of the next government of Afghanistan.
The next government of Afghanistan should focus on supporting the talented, educated entrepreneurs of Afghanistan. Corruption, which is at present the main hurdles behind lack of economic development, should be routed out. It is not easy a task to do, but a government has the apparatus and resources to implement its plans. Corruption is deep routed and many high level officials and regional power masters are involved. Though a careful move is needed to look in the eyes of those involved, the most viable and wise move for the next government to handle with this problem is to mobilize country’s constitutional institutions. The office of the Attorney General of Afghanistan and the Judiciary, the two independent bodies, should be empowered to pursue the issue of corruption. State and its institution should remain neutral while fighting against corruption. Advance warnings, and behind the door meetings should be conducted with those senior political figures involved in corruption before all out purge begins.
The State should put its institutional support behind successful entrepreneurs and companies. Banks are the backbone of economic health of a country. We have witnessed the collapse of Kabul Bank due to irregularities – both in running the Bank by its owners and the Central Bank of Afghanistan – and the continued poor performance of other Banks in the country. Businesses are not supported. A strong Banking law should be promulgated and implemented by the next government and parliament of Afghanistan that should give new directions to the Banking industry towards contributing significant involvement in the economic development of the country. Banks and government institutions should support successful companies through a system of transparency and inclusiveness. At this stage, institutions must be designed around inclusive mechanisms – as described earlier.
Agriculture is the most important traditional and historic economic sector in Afghan society. Almost more than 85% of populations, living in rural areas, depend on agricultural products and the subsequent income. During the last almost three decades of war in the country little has been done to provide irrigation infrastructure, canals and utilize river basins for irrigation of arid land – which exist in thousands of acres across Afghanistan. The potential of developing a prosperous agriculture sector in Afghanistan is huge. This country has ample of water sources. But due to lack of infrastructure, planning and proper funding, the millions of cubic meters of water flows unused outside the country to neighboring Pakistan and Iran. In the Northern fringes of the country, the Oxus river flows untapped which has the potential to irrigate millions of acres of arid lands in the Northern provinces including Badakhshan, Takhar and Kunduz. Building of Dams will provide opportunities for production of electricity. Afghanistan is buying its electricity from neighboring Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. There are some Dam building projects undertaken by the present government. Focus should be intensified in speeding up such projects because this will irrigate millions of acres of land across the country in addition to production of millions of KW of electricity.
Modernization of agriculture sector and building of irrigation infrastructure across the country are two critical areas where the next Afghan government and international community should step in soon. Afghanistan was self-sufficient in food supplies during the reign of Sardar Muhammad Daud Khan, the last member of the Musaheban era that reign in Afghanistan for more than six decades beginning early 20th century. This is a gigantic task before any Afghan government, but with the existence of institutional ability and with support from the international community the task can be achieved. Strong commitment and resolve is needed. 
It is obvious challenges are rampant everywhere when we look at Afghanistan’s present situation. I just want to quote Winston Churchil who once said: “Sure I am that this day we are master of our fate, that the task which has been set before us is not above our strength; that its prangs and toils are not beyond my endurance. As long as we have faith in our own cause and unconquerable will to win, victory will not be denied us”.
The difficulties and hard time that silent majority of Afghan nation is currently suffering will one day end. I would quote the Stockdale Paradox, which is named after admiral Jim Stockdale, who was a United States military officer held captive for eight years during the Vietnam War. Stockdale was tortured more than twenty times by his captors, and never had much reason to believe he would survive the prison camp and someday get to see his wife again. And yet, as Stockdale told Collins, he never lost faith during his ordeal: “I never doubted not only that I would get out, but also that I would prevail in the end and turn the experience into the defining event of my life, which, in retrospect, I would not trade.”

Mohammed Gul Sahibbzada is the permanent writer of the Daily Outlook Afghanistan. He can be reached at mohammed.g.sahibbzada@gmail.com

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