About the Author – Bilal Nikyar:

The author is a graduate of Heriot-Watt University in United Kingdom, and currently work as a Political Commentator.

He can be followed on Twitter @nikyarb.

A few days ago, a leaked audiotape was aired in the mainstream Afghan media where Younis Qanoni (a prominent member of Jamait e Islami party) outlines a so-called strategic plan agreed by majority of the leadership of his party. In the tape, his main emphasis is on changing the current setup of political and governmental structure. The way to achieve that goal in his view is by supporting Hanif Atmar (former National Security Adviser) in the upcoming Presidential election due this year. Qanoni states that Atmar has given a full consent to this plan. The tape has aroused a fierce uproar from a large swath of people. The anger was more a result of the usual backstage dealings undertaken by politicians often at the expense of common values and national interests we have developed in the last fifteen+ years. Qanoni is known for his polished oratory, however he would have dearly liked to have not been so fluent in this tape which has landed him and his cronies in hot water, and with it has strangled any chance of Atmar winning the next election.

The plan itself demands some scrutiny as it has been brought up in some corners of the political establishment before as well, but not this seriously. In the public, the main reason for why Qanoni & his friends pitched this plan is because they seek a more decentralised government. But in reality the word decentralise is used in this instance to disguise the actual motive which is to guarantee and take easy shortcut to the thrones of power. Originally the Jamiat was pushing for a Parliamentary system, but this time around from what Qanoni has described in the audiotape is neither Presidential nor Parliamentary system. It more seems like a makeshift theory designed to accommodate personal quest for political wishes and ambitions. At the present, the framework for the current state in our constitution is mainly made of Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches, where the President is only allowed to have two vice-Presidents. The reason for two vice-Presidents was purely argued for the reason of ethnic diversity of Afghanistan and hence they wanted to establish an executive branch that reflects various ethnicities of the country. Nevertheless, Qanoni and his camp want the President to have three vice-Presidents, transform the current office of CEO to undertake the roles of a Prime Minister and an extra consultative High Council made up of prominent Jihadi figures. Although further details of this plan haven’t been specified yet (and I doubt there would be any), but just taking stock of what we know at the moment is enough to underline how debunked and contrary to the needs of our country is this plan. Here are a couple of major reasons as to why this plan is so deeply flawed:

  1. It’s not our priority and therefore it doesn’t serve any purpose. We are in the middle of one of the most ruthless and complexed war perpetrated, supported and imposed by foreign powers. Each time we quarrel and bicker within ourselves, our enemies win because we lose sight of the actual problem which is a foreign-backed terrorism against us. All our resources and focus should be deployed on how to tackle this war, and give immediate priority to the debate and efforts of peace pursed by the current government. The last thing we need is to indulge in an unnecessary adventure of malicious and evasive debate over system changing at the behest of a few strongmen.
  2. What Qanoni proposes is a blueprint for evading any trace of accountability and responsibility within the government. It creates independent islands of power, each will have their own priorities and motives. Some can argue that even with the current system we have too many agencies of power who don’t have any coordination and cohesion. The experience of the current national unity government (NUG) proofs that its merely impossible to agree on anything given the interests and priorities of each camps in power. It therefore obliges our political class to spend a great chunk of time in order to either compromise, settle political scores or appease each other. Therefore, its detrimental to the function and machinery of governance and therefore undermines and weakens the state. It’s a recipe to stagnate any hopes and progress of social and economic development.

The main crux of this new proposal for changing the political setup of governance is a chance for selective political elite to come to power which they otherwise can’t. At the heart of Qanoni & co’s idea is a struggle for who controls the power and therefore rules the country. Instead of changing the structure of government, they should change themselves; be more inclusive and try to reach to the needs and aspirations of all 34 provinces of Afghanistan. They can reap great benefits if they would come out of the bubble of Kabul-centric politics and their constituencies. At the moment, they are not fit and qualified to represent the rest of the country and hence they resort to all sorts of ethnic cards to make their case.

At a time when the rest of the world is looking for a small but smart structures, less bureaucracy, clarity in decisions and command; it would be foolhardy for us to even fathom the idea of creating more stations of power which will only breed divisions and chaos. Our national interest demands persistent focus on the most pressing issues confronting us, it needs an agenda and prescription of remedy from our politicians. So the idea of introducing an alternative system is both farcical and absurd.

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