Currently, a debate is underway on whether Afghanistan should opt for a federal form of government or it should stick to its unitary system. There are some national and international factions and intellectuals who think that a federal system can be best suited for a country like Afghanistan, while Afghan government and some of its allies believe that Afghanistan must continue with its current system so as to have strong administration within the country.
It is not any easy task to answer the question whether the country should opt for such a change or not. Ultimately, it is Afghan people who are going to decide what is suited for them. However, before deciding what is best for the country it is necessary to have an overview of both the systems with their merits and demerits.
In the unitary form of government all powers are authorized to the centre. This system has single central organization comprised of three organs of government i.e. legislature, executive and judiciary. The constitution allows all the powers to the central government. However, for administrative convenience the country is divided into some provinces or units.
These provinces have no constitutional status, which means they cannot legislate. The powers to them are delegated by the centre. The centre can increase or decrease these powers when it deems fit to do so. These powers can be completely taken away by the central government on certain conditions. Britain, France, Italy, Japan, Afghanistan etc. are the examples of it.
This form of government is basically considered a simple form of government. There is only one central government throughout the country. The structure of the three organs is single fold. It is quite easy for the citizens to assess their working because there is no complication in their structural setup. This system is considered to be very much elastic – capable of adjusting itself to the changing circumstances. Moreover, it is also considered to be stable and having the capacity to promote permanent policy as in this system supreme powers belong to the central government only.
There is no need to consult any provincial or local government. However, this system is believed to be suitable for those states which have small territory as the uniform law, promulgated by such a system, can fulfill needs of all parts of the country easily.
It, at the same time, should be noted that as there is only one central government, its efficiency decreases, and influence the local governments too. There is little scope of regional progress because the central government has little time to pay attention to the local problems and in this form of government political institutions are not found at provincial or regional level; therefore, there is no scope for regional activities and the functions of citizens are confined to centre.
Only a few people participate in the affairs of the central government. Thus, majority of the people neither get political training nor enhance their political consciousness. Moreover, the unitary system tends to promote centralized bureaucracy in which most of the matters are entrusted to bureaucrats than public representatives. Corruption approach, nepotism, bribery and red-tapism are commonly found in bureaucracy.
In federal form of government the powers of the government are divided between central and regional governments under the constitution. The regional governments have even the capacity to legislate on certain issues, while certain main authorities lie with the central government. It is basically as Dicey says, "A political contrivance intended to reconcile national unity with the maintenance of state rights." The United States of America, India, Pakistan, Switzerland, etc. have federal system as their form of governments. This system is suitable for a country where linguistic, religious, cultural or racial differences are found.
In a federal system there is extra emphasis over the supremacy of constitution; therefore, the countries with federal system have their constitutions in written form and they are mostly very much rigid. As per the theory, the federal government roots out despotism, red-tapism and tyranny as its constitution is written and rigid; therefore the powers, functions and scope of activity of both the governments are specified. Both the governments strictly watch each other. Moreover, the judiciary is independent and supreme, so it can quash any law or government proceedings by declaring it unconstitutional.
In this way government cannot take arbitrary action. The legislature, in this form, happens to be bicameral, which comprises of two houses. In the lower house different territories are given representation on the basis of population and in the upper house provinces or units are given equal representation. This form of government is highly suitable for large states. In this system many federating units exist which can solve their regional problems satisfactorily.
This system is believed to enhance political understanding among the people. As the system is two-fold, the problems of local nature are handed over to the local government. People get opportunity to take interest in local problems. They get enough opportunities to reefing their capabilities.
Along with the merits this form of government has certain demerits as well. This system is not generally comprehendible. The establishment of two governments in this system creates complications. There is a need of the understanding of this system for the success of federation and it requires knowledge and political insight that cannot be expected from a common person. In addition, the constituent federating units have autonomy in certain matters which create differences and conflicts among the units. Sometimes there is a risk of disintegration of federation.
The comparison given above is more ideal and theoretical than real. While suggesting any of the above forms of government for Afghanistan, it is necessary to have proper understanding of Afghan state and the merits and demerits of the systems.
The system, which can address the basic issues in Afghan political system and the challenges its people face, is the best system. It is not necessary what some people believe to be right or wrong for Afghanistan, the important thing is what suits Afghanistan the most and this has to be decided by the people of Afghanistan. No one else has the right to decide it for them.