Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Thursday, February 22nd, 2024

Democracy and Human Rights in Afghanistan: Challenges Ahead


Democracy and Human Rights in  Afghanistan: Challenges Ahead

Everyone of us talks happily about the withdrawal of US-led NATO security forces from Afghanistan having damp care for democratic values and human rights abuses done previously and the possibility of their repeat in post-withdrawal phase, a hard-earned asset in last two decades in lieu of hundreds and thousands of casualties prevailing in the country and it all happened in presence of a full-fledged legal provision for promotion and protection of human rights as enshrined in chapter two of the constitution of Afghanistan and it is also a member of the United Nations Convention against Torture since 1987. In modern history the country had started a glorious journey in respect of democracy and human values as even under the monarchy of Zahir Shah these were usually respected and in the year 1949 Shah Mahmud Khan increased the freedom of press, but it became stronger in July 1965 when the Press Law, which recognised the value of its freedom, was implemented. At the close of the 1970s when Soviet Union intervened in Afghanistan and the US created a group with the active support and help of Pakistan, called Mujahideen who fought against the Soviet forces for almost a decade, a new phase of anti-democratic values and human rights abuses began   and except for provisions of their restoration in the Bonn Agreement of 2001, still large-scale violations have been registered by different national and international agencies. In the context, it is also to mention that the country has suffered a lot in last two decades as Taliban and US-led forces are on neck- to-neck fighting but latest developments on withdrawal of foreign forces has raised the hope of installation of democratic/elected government in the country. As the situation is not very clear with bright prospect people, in general, are fearful about the fate of democracy and human rights violations in the days to come, especially if, the regime of Taliban comes back in old gesture and posture.
Democracy in Afghanistan
In the form of government and substance of the democratic system, Afghanistan has moved a long since 1978 when the rule of Democratic Republic of Afghanistan began and continued till 1992 followed by the regime of Islamic State of Afghanistan which lasted in the year 2001 or we may say 2004 including the period of Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan led by Taliban (1996-2001). In fact, the modern Afghanistan realised a real taste of democracy following the Bonn Agreement signed in 2001 which presented a full picture of democracy to be implemented in the country and establishment of all structures attached to any Western democratic nation. In nation’s history, the first democratic constitution was drafted and adopted in 2004 and the same year, a general election was held to choose a president who is Head of the Executive. In this democratically elected election Hamid Karzai became Head of the State and also re-elected in the year 2009.Now the legislature comprises two houses- the House of People and the House of Elders and the first legislature was elected in 2005 and the current one in 2018. Under the new system members of Supreme Court are appointed by the President to form the judiciary Further, in 2014, President Hamid Karzai was replaced by Ashraf Ghani who is currently heading the country and again he was narrowly re-elected in September 2019 over the candidature of Abdullah Abdullah. Thus, among the different forms and experiments from absolute and constitutional monarchy to the first republic and Communist/Marxist regimes, the country has never realised the fruits of democracy as in the past 18 years or since the fall of Taliban from where the nation is on the march towards real democracy.
Status of human rights
In last several decades the position of human rights has been in question in Afghanistan not because of insufficient structures but for its violations and abuses mainly done on the part of fighting militias and security forces as well who were engaged in counter fighting with Taliban and other terror groups, although constitutions of Afghanistan have amply provided the human rights articles/clauses to protect and promote them. In particular, the decade 1990sproved fatal as thousands of innocent civilians were killed/hijacked by terror groups led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s militia during the battle of Kabul. The Taliban’s remained in power between 1996-2001 and imposed several strong restrictions on women, performed public executions, and prevented international aid from reaching Afghanistan at large. Even in the post-Taliban periods due to ongoing turmoil, violence, reconstructions, chaos and anarchy the overall situation never improved significantly and various charges of human rights abuses were levelled against the American forces who came to the country for the cooperation of general public. As the fighting for last two decades continue without any long break or ceasefire, kidnapping, rape, robbery, extortion and victims of enforced disappearance became order of the day. From time to time various human rights agencies working at national and international, including the UN have requested the Afghan government to protect human rights and promote their aids in the country. Specially, during the regime of Taliban, women were easy victims ranging from wearing nail polish to job opportunities and mostly remained inside their rooms, in fact a dark age from many points of view.
Possible impacts of withdrawal
Today, the fate Afghanistan from where the US-led forces of the NATO countries are on the brink of withdrawal, is hanging in the balance and all things will be clear from the arrangements made for the country thereafter. Despite degradation of democracy and abuses of human rights at large even by pro- government elements, the nation has gained/protected a lot in these spheres and now the protection of these values through peace settlements has now become a haunting problem for all concerned. In the context, in no way the Taliban is committed to these issues and made it clear on several occasions that if it comes to power will rule the country as per Islamic laws but never detailed its vision or plan of ruling the country after withdrawal of foreign forces from the country. On several occasions the Taliban deputy political leader Ghani Baradar in September 2020, February 2021 and in June 2021, the Taliban has made it clear that it wanted an independent, sovereign, united developed and free Afghanistan and added further that his group is committed to protect certain rights with conditions as mentioned in the Islamic laws and freedom of speech within the framework of Islamic principles and national interests, while in a  latest  statement its spokesman threatened that if the goal of Islamic law is not reached, it will be compelled to continue the war to achieve the said goal.

Dr. Rajkumar Singh Professor and Head Department of Political Science Dean, Faculty of Social Sciences Bhupendra Narayan Mandal University Madhepura-852113. Bihar, India. Email-rajkumarsinghpg@gmail.com

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