Re-engineering of democracy – in Afghanistan

At a small Kabul restaurant one evening, a middle-aged American who tried to hide his identity before being shoved onto the bed by Hillary Clinton has revealed a barely-known, important fact: he worked with Hamid Karzai and considered him a “friend”.

Since winning Afghanistan’s first democratic election in 2004, Mr Karzai has never been shy about thanking America for the help and assistance he has received – despite his country’s deteriorating security situation and political turmoil.

He has always said that the struggle for freedom in Afghanistan led to peace.

Afghanistan’s constitution also enshrines freedom of religion for all Afghans.

On this floor are pictures of a young man, the first-ever prime minister of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. His name is Mohammed Zahir Shah, and his ambition was to become the leader of all Afghans.

Mohammed Zahir Shah was born in Kabul to a wealthy family. His life changed in 1934, when his mother, a lawyer, married into one of the greatest families in Afghanistan. His father, she believed, was destined to be a political leader.

But after the Soviet invasion in 1979, his ambition to become a great leader ended. Mr Shah’s father turned his wife against her brother, who was fighting on the Soviet side. Mr Shah joined the Afghan National Army.

His role became very important in the absence of a prime minister, as US-backed mujahideen seized the government in 1979. However, Mr Shah’s political role was taken away after 18 months.

Mr Shah became mujahideen chief, and Mr Karzai admired him. They were supposed to start an Islamic revolution but Osama bin Laden joined the effort to fight the Soviet occupiers.

But with the fall of the Soviet Union, western aid dried up. Mr Shah and Mr Karzai remained close, and in May 1994, Mr Shah was reported killed.

Mr Karzai worked for the UN in the north-western city of Herat, where US-led troops had launched Operation Anaconda to seize the Taliban capital of Kabul in late 2001. Mr Karzai, however, was arrested on 28 November 2001.

He was imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay for the following eight years. This was a big deal at the time in the US, because it was seen as an abuse of executive power. One estimate is that he spent 250 days in solitary confinement. He was released on 13 January 2008, two years and five months after he was detained.

After returning to his former position as Afghanistan’s first president, Mr Karzai ignored suggestions that he should stand down as a sign of good faith.

That does not mean he has ignored his country’s many problems.

In the past few years, both he and the government have come under fire for what critics perceive as a reactionary and misogynistic government.

He is also faced with criticism from regional rivals: the Taliban and Pakistan.

Mr Karzai led a cabinet- reshuffle on 7 January 2012, which brought more women into government positions. His vice-presidential nomination, Rashid Dostum, has been accused of severe human rights abuses in northern Afghanistan, and the Taliban is boycotting talks with his government.

Leave a Comment