Reflecting on Afghan People’s Aspirations Marking Afghanistan’s 104th Independence Day
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Issue Net Edition | Date : 11 Aug , 2023

“Empowering them to believe that they can accomplish anything they set their minds to. Despite challenges that our nation has faced in the last half century, Afghanistan possesses boundless potential for growth. Through hard work and determination, we pave the way for a better future.” asserted Farid Mamundzay, Afghanistan’s Ambassador to India.

As Afghanistan marks its 104th Independence Day on August 19 under the Taliban rule, in tandem, a repressive past knocked in many forms- from human rights violations and weak governance to extreme poverty, inequalities and marginalization that breed hopelessness and despair. Tragically, 28 million Afghan people have once again slipped into an acute crisis and the country is still trapped in a vicious cycle that corroded every aspiration of Afghan people reducing them to a life of poverty and drudgery. It triggered mass migration. The Taliban’s dictatorship is oppressing not only its citizens but also contributing to the economic and human development crisis in a host of ways. The country is starved of resources to fulfil the needs of the people with the Taliban’s historic injustices to women’s rights violations.

In the present day, the Afghan People do not know what their future holds. And indeed, August 19, which marks Afghanistan’s Independence Day, once again fell back down the development ladder on 15th August 2021 as the Taliban’s barbaric catastrophic conflagration engulfed Afghanistan. On account of the chaotic U.S. withdrawal from Kabul, the Taliban swept to power in 2021, a few days  prior its Independence Day. Anticipating that an era of democratic and social reform was coming to an end and fear of persecution forced tens of thousands of Afghans to flee seeking desperate life-risking measures – an escalating exodus-which is a testament to their disapproval against the Taliban’s de facto authorities. In the days following the Taliban takeover, the mood of the people was low knowing this would be a harrowing journey filled with risks and danger to their lives.

It is also important to know the inspiring resilience of the Afghan people who have their race to turn the tide of suffering. In the last two years, Afghans have been stranded amidst the humanitarian crisis, uncertainties and deep Taliban’s injustice to human rights. Witnessing fundamental changes in the last 20 years of republic government, Afghanistan has slipped into the carnage of Taliban’s atrocities. This is yet another reminder that Afghan people are subjected to constant trouble that never lets their hopes for a peaceful future.

Amid these injustices, August 19th continues to be Afghanistan’s Independence Day notwithstanding that the Country is still under the oppression of Taliban. A long view and wide lens reflect the plight-the world community must consider how Afghan people can take their future into account under the Taliban’s rule’s barbaric effects of poverty, hunger, discrimination and inequality, including gender inequality, human rights violation and export of terrorism.

Afghan people Breathe under the Democratic Values

The tricolour- red, green and black- of Afghanistan’s flag under the republic government breathes the aspirations of the country’s people. This credible path to rebuilding the communities for sovereign Afghanistan was devised by King Amanullah Khan. The historical context encompassing Afghanistan’s independence is attached to King Amanullah Khan’s nationalistic goals who secured absolute sovereignty from British Imperialism following the Treaty of Rawalpindi, the king declared August 19, 1919, to be Afghanistan’s first Independence Day. As a major cornerstone, Afghanistan’s first Constitution was promulgated on April 9, 1923, that set out the aims of King Amanullah Khan to summon the imperatives of human fraternity, mutual respect and understanding to unite the multi ethnic country and initiate state building programme spearheaded for the right to education, expand public services, and crafted sovereign nation-state.

These universal values animated the sovereignty of an Independent Afghanistan for five decades of peace, justice and human development until the Soviet invasion. Subsequently, Afghans suffered over 40 years of conflict that unleashed destruction. Nevertheless, this cannot obliterate the hard-won accomplishments and renewing its inspiration, deserves to be the legacy of Afghanistan’s independence in 1919.

How Independent Are Afghan People Today Under Taliban Rule?

The history of devastating conflicts in Afghanistan have left a damaging legacy starting from the Soviet invasion (1979-1989), the Taliban regime from 1990-2001, a U.S.-led invasion launched in response to the September 11 attacks on the United States in 2001 and the US withdrawal from Afghanistan with a botched-up Doha Peace Deal of 2021. Finally, the Taliban takeover in 2021 forcibly was an erosion of 20 years of progress in Afghanistan. These crises show Afghanistan remains at risk from emerging outbreaks of conflict.

According to the United Nations World Food Programme report, “The main driver of humanitarian need is the extremely high levels of food insecurity, with nearly 20 million people in Afghanistan acutely food-insecure (IPC 3+), including more than 6 million people on the brink of famine-like conditions in IPC Phase 4 (Emergency). Four million people are acutely malnourished, including 3.2 million children under the age of five”.

A history of colossal injustice evokes key moments to the plight of Afghans to have a secure and equitable future and to put Afghanistan back on track to an inclusive architecture emphasizing a greater focus on the people’s development through a broad consensus.

“Humanitarian aid alone cannot meet the needs of the millions of Afghans who have lost their jobs and been forced to take on huge debts and sell their possessions just to be able to buy food needed for survival,” said Neil Turner, NRC’s country director in Afghanistan. “We must reverse this devastating economic disaster. A stable economy, thriving private sector, and the reintroduction of development programmes are important to complement the work of humanitarian organisations.”

“Afghanistan remains the world’s largest humanitarian crisis and the situation worsened in the first half of the year with the number of people in need of humanitarian assistance increasing by half a million from 28.3 million at the beginning of 2023 to 28.8 million by the end of May”, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) said.

“Gender-based violence in Afghanistan is preventable and should be prevented. The world should not forgot the sufferings of Afghan girls and women. The fight for ‘women’s rights’ is a global fight and require global attention”, said, Farid Mamundzay, Afghanistan’s Ambassador to India.

Taliban’s agreement in the Doha Peace deal with the US proved to be vague – thwarting its development that was gained under the republic government. Repeating the history of colossal injustice, today, women and girls have been denied their rights under the Taliban administration. Now, the hard-won gains of two decades have slipped away, and girls in Afghanistan have been banned from secondary school and women from tertiary education. Women and girls have been banned from entering amusement parks, and other public places. This month the Taliban banned salons and beauty parlours in Afghanistan. Women have been banned from working in NGO offices. Two-thirds of the country’s population is food insecure, including 875,000 children facing acute malnutrition. The long shadow of crisis still looms over the lives of the people of Afghanistan who carry with them the transgenerational trauma and who continue to confront marginalization, exclusion, and bigotry.

According to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Afghanistan’s real GDP contracted by 20 percent between 2021 to 2022, equating to a loss of $5 billion, which had taken almost ten years to generate. As a consequence, per capita income declined by 14–28 percent and an estimated 700,000 jobs were lost during the same period.

“The loss of skilled workers has particularly affected the health, education, security, and judicial sectors”, according to Weeda Mehran, co-director of the Center for Advanced International Studies (CAIS) at the University of Exeter in Britain.” While hard data about the exact numbers is not available, it is safe to say that thousands of highly skilled and educated Afghans have left the country,” the professor said.

Taliban’s Actions

Under the current Taliban government and its Supreme Leader Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada and his ultra-radical clerics the regional countries are trying to interact with a hope to address women’s rights including girls’ education and women’s right to work. However, their attitude is unlikely to change since it is based on the Sharia Law of “Islamic” purification and radicalization of Afghan society.

Their return to power is a blueprint for other Islamist groups in the region whose aim is to topple and replace regimes through violence. Immediately after the Taliban victory in August 2021, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) leader Noor Wali Mehsud renewed his oath of allegiance to the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan in a statement, describing their win over the United States as a “victory” for the “entire Muslim ummah” (or worldwide community of Muslims).

The group has re-established the power and authority of the Ministry for the Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice as well as setting up ulama (religious) councils within government departments that directly report to Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada.

Aiming to strengthen their ‘Islamic purification’ vision, they have prioritised building religious schools, or madrassas, in each of the 364 districts and 34 provincial capitals of Afghanistan.    

It is within the knowledge of Al-Qaeda and its terrorists circle that after regaining power they will be fighting the US the next target is to expand their global Jihad propaganda across the world.

As per the Fourteenth report of the Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team;“As the Taliban maintain links with Al-Qaida, they also retain traditional ties to most regional terrorist entities, including the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement, also known as the Turkistan Islamic Party (ETIM/TIP), and Jamaat Ansarullah (JA) (not listed). Contrary to statements to not allow Afghan soil to be used for attacks against other countries, the Taliban have harboured and allowed active support of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which routinely conducts attacks across the Afghan border into Pakistan. While maintaining links to numerous terrorist entities, the Taliban have lobbied Member States for counter-terrorism assistance in its fight against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant – Khorasan Province (ISIL-K), which it perceives as its principal rival”.It is bound to house militants from all over the world in the future.

Role of the International Community

The US, Russia and China should not involve in any geopolitical fight or attempt to position their elements in Afghanistan with their view to furthering their geopolitical aims.

The requirement of Afghanistan today- the people of Afghanistan do not deserve terrorism or war; they have suffered this for so many years. What do they yearn for? They yearn for peace, stability, and economic development and the people who are concerned are the rulers as also the regional countries and major powers like; the US, Russia and China, assist and to do whatever they can to safeguard the interest of the people rather than making use of Afghanistan as a geopolitical tool to advance their intentions and ambitions.

The aid agencies and neighbouring countries to come forward and provide unhindered assistance to the people of Afghanistan so that its infrastructure can be developed, economy to be improved and can become part of the committee of nations being part of various regional cooperation forums like the SCO groups and others.

What Taliban need to do?

To secure the government in Afghanistan is to earn legitimacy and one of the ways is to hold an election if that is not possible any other method needs to be devised to make sure that the Afghan government is legitimate so the world community shall come forward to recognize Afghanistan. 

One of the unifying factors is to build reforms through ‘Loya Jirga’- as it integrates people and is one of the ways to be able to achieve Afghanistan’s inclusivity goals and hope the Afghan people can build on progress by advancing the work of justice and accountability.

The Taliban needs to work on the four pillars to gain the confidence of the Afghan people and legitimacy from the international community- Measures to address the spread of terrorism, measures to prevent and combat terrorism, measures to build States’ capacity to prevent and combat terrorism and to strengthen the role of the Afghan people and measures to facilitate the promotion and protection of human rights for all and the rule of law as the fundamental basis of the fight against terrorism.

The future lies in the legitimate government taking control of Afghanistan. Countries hoping that they may not be affected will be making a grave mistake. The sooner the world countries unite and confront the menace, the lesser will be the struggle and the loss and damage to humanity.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Neelapu Shanti

is a New Delhi based International Affairs, Researcher, Writer, Journalist and an Indo-Afghan Analyst. MA in International Relations and Post Graduate in Journalism.

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One thought on “Reflecting on Afghan People’s Aspirations Marking Afghanistan’s 104th Independence Day

  1. An excellent article on the state of Afghanistan. The articke has been flagged by ‘Google Alerts’ Question is what is the future of the Afghan people? Will the major powers of the world stand up together & bring about peace for the people of Afghanistan or will they keep fighting amongst themselves for some petty geopolitical gains? It is only time will tell.

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