Blast and Ballot in Afghanistan
The suicide attack in Kabul, days before the Afghan presidential election, is a grim reminder of affairs in a state of flux. It also points to the ability of militants to strike at will, even in heavily guarded areas. But the prime intention behind Saturday’s bombing, which killed seven people and injured more than 100, was perhaps to deter voters.
Taleban, who are well entrenched in the south, now seem to be on the march. Their warning to cut off voters’ fingers and attack polling stations, in their bid to boycott the August 20 polls, comes as a challenge for an administration which finds itself hapless and marooned in the fortified zones of the capital.
Despite the presence of more than 100,000 foreign troops, security is wanting. Moreover, lack of coordination between the US and the NATO forces has badly hampered President Obama’s goal to disrupt, dismantle and defeat the insurgents. Yet, Washington seems to have no other choice, but to fight it out unilaterally. Which is why it has been funneling in more and more troops, and making an enormous effort to re-synchronise its Afghan policy. But what acts as a spanner in the works is the inability of President Karzai’s administration to shoulder the burden of extending its political writ beyond Kabul, and making the difference felt in socio-economic realms.
The presidential election, however, is unlikely to make a difference. Without much choice for the electorate, and given the support Karzai enjoys from Washington and Brussels, his second-term is fait accompli. What impact it will have in a decisive phase of struggle against the militants is anybody’s guess. With Taleban refusing to opt for the ballot process, and the US-Karzai combine concentrating on a militaristic solution, tough days are ahead for the war-weary nation.
One hopes the security scare will not deter the people from exercising their right to vote. A heavy turnout will not only go a long way in strengthening democratic values, but also bring the required pressure on the government to be receptive to the sentiments of the masses. The president must further the process of reconciliation and try to bring the Taleban on board. Garrisoning of the country and military bravado haven’t helped. The nation is in need of a healing process, and that can only come through a process of political evolution. It’s time for both the Taleban and the government to look beyond personal exigencies.