Dec 31, 2008

Photo of Zarsang a famous singer of Afghanistan.

Zarsang a famous singer who is singing for Kochi’s traditional life , in fact she is also from Kochi’s family.
Recently she sing a beautiful song “ Sinwari lievangena” which introduce her a gain inside Afghanistan , better then past 20 year. See more BASIR SEERAT

Dec 14, 2008

President - Elect Obama and the Future of US Policies in Afghanistan


“Things are fine just the way they are. Take a look around, our world needs a change, you can be that change.”

We were invited in the American University of Afghanistan (AUAF) to attend a lecture on "President – Elect Obama and the Future of US Policies in Afghanistan" being presented by Prof.Nazif Shahrani.

Most of the participants were university students, professors, NGO staff and some special guests from other donors, international communities including NATO.

Dr.Sayeed Askar Musavi Professor of the American University of Afghanistan opened the ceremony and welcomed every body. He ecouraged all the participants to get as much use of Shahrani ‘s lecture as they can but should ask only one questions at the end.

Professor Shahrani appeared with a Chapan (Gown) showing his interest to Uzbek Culture and started his lectures by introducing himself as a registered democrat, Afghan American and Muslim US citizen who took part to his best in the primary election of Mr.Obama as the first African American president and the follower of the way and ideas of Late Civil Rights Movement Martin Luther King in 1960s.

He insisted throughout his lectures that those who voted for Obama,they did not vote for a black man but for a change in the US policies and way of governing US Administration and relationship with the outside world.

Shahrani says that Afghanistan needs somebody like Obama to bring fundamental changes in the way we rule the country.Critisizing on the current administration run by Karzai as a failed administration and invited Afghan citizens to vote for somebody who have something to offer as substitute of this failed government in the next year president election.

Prof.Shahrani advised Obama to help Afghanistan more with the way the government is ruled not by sending more troops or changing Karzai. Most importantly he emphasized that all the ethnic groups in Afghanistan should be free for electing their own representatives all over the country and let them practice democracy themselves very confidently.

He added:” I am a Chapanaki Afghan and had participated in any events in this country. Neither me (Uzbeks) nor (Hazaras) living in the central highlands have seen our faces in the despotic history of Afghanistan. He insisted that a real democracy in Afghanistan is applicable when governments would let all the ethnics to take part in the decoration and formation of their own wanted Afghanistan.

Shahrani‘s lecture as an Afghan American professor was really delicious and charming to me because I had never attended such a lecture in my academic life before. we can also join Obama from this part of the world to change the way this country is ruled. Even small minorities can rule the country if democracy is applied and practiced by transparency and greater participation. It is people who believe in themselves, and then the governments are made or changed.


Dr. Nazif Shahrani is Professor of Anthropology, Central Asian and Middle Eastern Studies at Indiana University. He has served as Chairman of the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures & Director of the Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies Program (2001-2004), and Director of Middle Eastern Studies Program (1991-1994) at Indiana University.

Shahrani has held post-doctoral fellowships at Harvard and Stanford Universities and at the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars at the Smithsonian Institution. He has conducted extensive ethnographic field research in Afghanistan, and studied Afghan refugee communities in Pakistan & Turkey (1980s). He has published widely and is currently working on a book entitled Post-Taliban Afghanistan: The Challenges of State- Building, Governance and Security.

Dec 2, 2008

Karzari Soldiers at the Risk of HIV/AIDS

The 20th anniversary of the World AIDS Day in Afghanistan was celebrated in a situation that the National AIDS Control Program (NACP) has recorded 505 HIV positive cases of which 7 patients were died because of this disease while last year there were only around 250 positive cases.

The Public Health minister Mr.Amin Fatimi who attended in the World AIDS Day ceremony was very angry at one of his Rival parliament delegate who had criticized on his ministry but didn’t say anything worthy about AIDS challenges and current situation and the Russian Center in Kabul and many others in the other provinces in the 2008 ceremony.

Dr.Nimatullah Head of Health Commission of the lower house says that even though Health minister of Karzai Administration claiming his ministry one of the most successful, most of his ministry staff don’t exactly know what is HIV / AIDS and how it is transmitted? Why isn’t he starting awareness from his own ministry instead of getting mad on the delegates and media criticizing his ministry?

The most risk that endangers people to be affected with HIV/AIDS is the Russian Cultural Center in the west of Kabul city only one kilometer far from the parliament, here reports say that around 3000 drug users, injector and dealers are living and around 500 to 1000 stay there nights and at least 5 die a month in this place.

NACP claims to have recorded 2000 – 3000 positive all over the country along with 19000 Injecting Drug Users (IDUs)।This program wants to decrease the above number to 0.5 percent by 2010.There are only 6 Volunteer Counseling and Testing Centers (VCTs) in Kabul, Heart, Jalalabad, Mazar-e-Sharif, Badakhshan and Kabul Central Jail but still people don’t know or don’t want to go to these center due to many cultural and religious believes.

Currently , Harm Reduction, Advocacy and communication in the different layers of the communities, testing the use of Opiod Substitution Therapy (OST), Basic Health Packages for HIV/AIDS positives or HV/AIDS at Risk Groups, Integration of the HIV/AIDS educational materials in the curriculum of the schools and universities, Health shelter Programs, Coordination of HIV/AIDS activities all over the country with related institutions like Parliaments, Police, Related Ministries, Provincial Councils, Mullahs, Support and advise media on wider and better coverage of HIV/AIDS at national level are the projects’ activities that are presently being funded to implement project in the provinces, but how effective would these projects be is another main question that should be answered by Health ministry of Karzai administration।

In spite of the above activities and services, Karzai or the new upcoming administration substituting Karzai polluted administration should and will have to face stigma and discrimination, lack of access to the remote areas, political commitment, rapid improvement of injecting drug users, misunderstanding of HIV/AIDS transmission among communities and most at risk groups, interpretation HIV/AIDS positive as criminals based on the current laws, misuse of the financial aids , weak national coordination in fighting this disease and lack of professionals and expertise nationwide are the main challenges against fighting HIV/AIDS in Afghanistan।

World Health Organization (WHO) and UNAIDS 2007 reports shows that around 33 million of people are living with HIV/AIDS all over the world। In which 30.8 million are adults, 15.5 are women and 2 millions of such are children under the age of 15.

I am afraid if I write anything about condom and it is use here, I might be prosecuted or asked by Mullahs to explain them why to use condom or does it really safe the sex or promotes it?.
It is another concern of our community and a big challenge for Health ministry that has not been able to convince these powerful religious leaders and Mullahs to support them fighting these desease.And finally will they approach Taliban ruled areas or not? Let keep this in mind that AIDS breaks the borders and will immediately spread all over the country if we don’t stop it.

World AIDS Day began in 1988 when health ministers from around the world met and agreed on the concept of the day as an opportunity for all of us to come together to demonstrate the importance of AIDS and show solidarity for the cause. In 2008, this underlining principle of solidarity and awareness remains the same.

We have only two years to go for “the goal of universal access to comprehensive prevention programmes, treatment, care and support by 2010”[2006 Political Declaration on AIDS].To achieve this goal, leadership and action is needed now. Governments must deliver on the promises they have made. Communities must encourage leadership of its members. Individuals must feel empowered to access treatment, to know their rights and take action against stigma and discrimination, and to know and use methods of prevention against receiving and transmitting HIV.

World AIDS Day was first declared by the World Health Organization and the United Nations General Assembly (Resolution 43/15) in 1988. Since then, it has progressively become one of the most successful “international days” for raising awareness on a global issue.

Past Themes:

1988 – Communication
1989 – Youth
1990 – Women and AIDS
1991 – Sharing the Challenge
1992 – Community Commitment
1993 – Act
1994 – AIDS and the Family
1995 – Shared Rights, Shared Responsibilities
1996 – One World, One Hope
1997 – Children Living in a World with AIDS
1998 – Force for Change: World AIDS Campaign with Young People
1999 – Listen, Learn, Live: World AIDS Campaign with Children and Young People
2000 – AIDS: Men make a difference
2001 – I care. Do you?
2002 – Stigma and Discrimination
2003 – Stigma and Discrimination
2004 – Women, Girls, and HIV and AIDS
2005 – Stop AIDS. Keep the Promise
2006 – Accountability – Stop AIDS. Keep the Promise
2007 – Leadership – Stop AIDS. Keep the Promise
2008 – Leadership – Stop AIDS. Keep the Promise

Nov 29, 2008

Empty promises in Afghanistan


ASIA TIMES

SOUTH ASIA, NOV 21, 2008

COMMENT

Empty promises in Afghanistan

By M. Ashraf Haidari

More than 30,000 returned Afghan refugees - including women, children and the elderly - are now living under thin plastic tents pitched in an area without running water and electricity miles away from urban centers in eastern Afghanistan. They cannot return to their villages due to insecurity and unemployment.

With a harsh winter looming, more than 300,000 Afghans remain displaced throughout the country. Their deplorable situation is compounded by food insecurity and high food prices, a lingering drought and large-scale crop failure, and frequent casualties caused by the United States-led coalition's bombing of Taliban fighters who often use civilian shields.

The recent returnees face severe hardships as Afghanistan has reached its absorptive capacity for refugees and cannot effectively assist returnees. Now, the world has taken notice.

Delegations from more than 30 nations and international organizations participated in a day-long conference on the return and reintegration of Afghan refugees this past Wednesday in Kabul. Co-hosted by the Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the conference highlighted the government's limited resources to receive and successfully reintegrate large numbers of Afghan refugees from neighboring countries under the current precarious conditions in Afghanistan.

"Return, alone, does not mean success. It must be followed by successful reintegration, enabled by conditions conducive for the social and economic well-being," said Afghan Foreign Minister Dr Rangin Spanta, who co-chaired the conference.

Heads of the delegation - which included senior officials from Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the United States - admitted that preconditions such as security and availability of basic social and economic services had to be in place before Afghan refugees could be reintegrated successfully. They pledged strong support for the government's reintegration strategy within the Afghanistan National Development Strategy, whose implementation over the next five years is estimated to cost some US$509 million, but only if the situation in Afghanistan and neighboring countries allows.

The saga of Afghan refugees began in late December 1979: Afghans were an impoverished people but content with their agrarian and traditional way of life. They hardly ever wished to migrate abroad for economic opportunities. But their normal lives abruptly ceased in the days following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan as the country became a major victim of the Cold War, and Soviet tanks rolled into Afghan villages indiscriminately killing innocent civilians, destroying their livelihoods, and driving most Afghans abroad in search of protection and human security. More Afghans fled violence, persecution and ethnic cleansing and genocide as a result of regional proxy conflicts in Afghanistan throughout 1990s. Many sought refuge in neighboring Pakistan and Iran.

However, over the course of the past three decades, Afghan refugees have never hesitated to return home as soon as conditions have given them hope for the restoration of peace and justice in Afghanistan. In 1992 and 1993, for example, following the fall of the Afghan communist regime, more than 2 million Afghan refugees voluntarily repatriated from Pakistan and Iran. But their return ground to a halt shortly after the breakout of the civil war that plunged Afghanistan into anarchy and chaos for a decade.

Buoyed up by international re-engagement in Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban, more than 5 million Afghan refugees have returned home from Pakistan and Iran, making the largest voluntary repatriation in the UNHCR history.

Despite Afghan refugees' record repatriation and the many hardships they face on return, Iranian and Pakistani officials have occasionally politicized what is actually a humanitarian issue - inappropriately labeling Afghan refugees as "burden on our economy" or potential "recruits for terrorism". Unfortunately, these political stereotypes not only mischaracterize Afghan refugees but also disregard the many contributions that refugees actually make to their host societies and the world at large.

After all, refugees are ordinary civilians with dignity and human rights but whose normal lives have suddenly changed for the worse due to circumstances that have forced them to abandon their home for safety elsewhere. German physicist Albert Einstein and French writer Victor Hugo, for instance, were great intellectuals of their time, but they were suddenly refugees in a strange land after escaping persecution in their home countries. While in exile, they gave back much in knowledge to their host societies and continued making significant contributions to science and literature.

The millions of Afghan refugees in Pakistan and Iran are assets to those countries' economies. Many Afghans in both states fill a glaring need in the labor sector, working casual jobs at wages much lower than that paid to locals who may not even be willing to accept such jobs because of social taboos associated with casual labor. Other Afghan refugees use their special skills - such as carpet weaving - to produce quality Afghan rugs, which local firms purchase below market price, brand them made in the host country, and then sell them in developed countries for manifold profit.

Still, another large segment of the Afghan refugee population, particularly in Pakistan, receives monthly remittances of US$800 to $1,000 from their relatives in developed countries (mostly Europe, North America, Australia and the Gulf states), and spend the funds on housing and services in the local economies. Moreover, a great number of well-off Afghan refugees run businesses in Pakistan, Iran and the Gulf states, making notable contributions to those countries' economic growth. Since 2001, a large number of exiled Afghan businessmen have returned home and invested in key sectors such as telecommunications, construction, transportation and logistics, which in turn have facilitated increased trade and commerce through and between Afghanistan and its neighbors, particularly Pakistan and Iran.

Other allegations that terrorists recruit from Afghan refugee camps are utterly baseless and a political excuse to avoid cooperating sincerely in the "war against terror". Afghan refugees are actually victims of violence and terrorism, and abusing their status is clearly a violation of their rights under the 1951 Geneva Convention relating to the Status of Refugees. Countries party to the Geneva Convention and other international human rights pacts are obligated to respect refugee rights as human rights and safeguard them by providing refugees with protection from the violence, persecution, and insecurity that collectively make it impossible for most refugees to return home.

Although more than 5 million Afghan refugees have repatriated from Pakistan and Iran over the past seven years, most of the remaining refugees are reluctant to return home. When a UN reporter in June asked one Afghan refugee, Hazrat Shah, if he planned to repatriate, the carpet weaver now living in Pakistan replied: "There is no place in the world like home. But where would you go if your house were ablaze?"

He added, "Today two new graves have been dug for two brothers who were killed in a landmine explosion in Afghanistan." The two youngsters - not related to Hazrat Shah - had returned home to Gereshk in Helmand province the week before to find jobs and gradually to pave the way for the repatriation of their entire family from Pakistan.

The government and people of Afghanistan appreciate the humanitarian assistance Pakistan and Iran have provided to Afghan refugees over the past three decades. But "pull" factors such as improved security, enhanced protection and reintegration assistance, and increased employment opportunities in Afghanistan should determine "push" factors in host states.

The Islamic republics of Pakistan and Iran must honor the principle of non-refoulement rooted in international and Islamic law to refrain from the forcible deportation of Afghan refugees. The Afghan government maintains separate trilateral agreements with Pakistan, Iran and the UNHCR - a key provision of which is to facilitate voluntary repatriation of Afghan refugees from the two countries only if the conditions inside Afghanistan allow.

Although host states have an interest in encouraging refugees to go back home, the UNHCR is mandated to prevent and protect refugees from repatriating prematurely if the prevailing conditions at home are not ready for their return. Except for spontaneous returns during 2002-2003, Afghan refugees must have been warned about increasing instability and a severe lack of reintegration assistance in Afghanistan in the following years.

Contrarily, however, Afghan refugees have been encouraged to return home, as repatriation - voluntary or otherwise - has been viewed as a positive sign of stabilization and reconstruction progress in Afghanistan. The story of Gul Haider is an example. He was nine when the war against the Soviets forced his family to seek refuge in Pakistan in the early 1980s. "Now I have five children," Haider told an IRIN reporter in August in the Barikab returnees' township, about 60 kilometers north of Kabul. "We were encouraged to repatriate and were told that the government would give us a house, work and other facilities," said Haider. "But those were only empty promises."

The fall of the Taliban in 2001 - coupled with the political rhetoric of implementing a long-term strategy modeled after the Marshall Plan to secure the future of Afghanistan - made millions of refugees overly optimistic. Of course, a Marshall Plan for Afghanistan has yet to materialize. Nonetheless, the talk of it did re-displace hundreds of thousands of Afghan refugees who had a good life that took them more than two decades to establish in exile.

The fact that thousands of returnees have ended up internally displaced without assistance should be cause for serious concern to the UNHCR and the international community to halt further premature repatriation of Afghan refugees until the conditions in Afghanistan have improved. At the same time, the international community must honor the principle of burden sharing and provide relief assistance to states with large numbers of refugees. Assistance to Pakistan and Iran should aim at empowering Afghan refugees so that they will gain skills necessary both to contribute to their host societies and later to use those skills to earn an income on return home.

Additionally, developed countries must expand their resettlement programs, taking in more Afghan refugees from Iran and Pakistan on an annual basis. Resettlement of Afghan refugees in the developed countries will go a long way in helping rebuild and develop Afghanistan. Resilience and high achievement motivation that characterize most refugees will quickly enable resettled Afghan families to adapt into their new societies, taking advantage of social and economic opportunities there to establish themselves and to continue supporting their relatives at home, as well as in Pakistan and Iran.

In the long run, most resettled Afghans will have gained wealth and education which they would certainly use to invest in Afghanistan. Proof of this is evident in the return of many wealthy Afghans and technocrats who have made significant contributions to Afghanistan's reconstruction since 2002.

Almost 2,500 years ago, Euripides wrote, "There is no greater sorrow on Earth than the loss of one's native land." Indeed, for most Afghan refugees, like Hazrat Shah, no foreign land can ever replace their homeland where they will return as soon as they feel secure to do so. It is obvious that the real durable solution to the Afghan refugee problem is voluntary repatriation, which can only be guaranteed by security in Afghanistan. Hence, Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan's other neighbors can and must cooperate with the international community to stabilize Afghanistan first.

Durable stability and prosperity in the country would automatically attract Afghan refugees to voluntarily return home - negating the need for pressure or forcible repatriation by the host states. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, who co-chaired Wednesday's conference, stressed the fact that "ensuring sustainable refugee return and addressing irregular migration have at least one solution in common - an improvement in the overall economic environment and in employment opportunities. Progress in these areas will surely encourage more Afghans to return and provide reasons for others not to leave the country."

Most returnees are at the breaking point given the enormity of security and socio-economic challenges facing them in Afghanistan. They are indeed an unfortunate lot. Exiled life was imposed on many by the war against the former Soviet Union in Afghanistan. Other Afghans' displacement throughout the 1990s was caused by the West's premature disengagement from Afghanistan - a country they knowingly allowed to become a regional proxy battlefield and a terrorist base that saw nothing but death, destruction, destitution and despair for a full decade.

Allowing Afghanistan to slide back into the chaos of the 1990s is sure to endanger international peace and security. The international community, and the West in particular, is morally obligated to secure Afghanistan and must help its refugees reintegrate successfully in order to rebuild their country in the long run.

A former refugee, internally displaced person, and UN High Commissioner for Refugees field officer, M. Ashraf Haidari is the political counselor of the Embassy of Afghanistan in Washington, DC. His e-mail is haidari@embassyofafghanistan.org

(Copyright 2008 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.)

Nov 26, 2008

Islamic Scientific Scholarships International

We are a UK based not-for-profit organisation offering scholarships for undergraduate, graduate and postgraduate science students. We take the best students from deprived communities all over the Muslim world and provide them with funding that enables them to access some of the world's leading academic institutions. We strongly believe that it is only through education that the Ummah can progress.

We are proud to announce an exciting new scholarship programme designed to provide significant support to students in Afghanistan.

Islamic Scientific Scholarships International is inviting applications from students in Afghanistan who are seeking financial support to continue their academic studies. Successful applicants can expect to receive full academic funding plus maintenance costs for domestic or international study.

Please note that Islamic Scientific Scholarships International offers funding only. However, in exceptional cases we are able to facilitate applications to affiliate UK universities.

Application Form

Nov 25, 2008

A dew

Look at her, how you can encourage her when Taliban threw acid on the faces of two schoolgirls in Qandahar.

Nov 10, 2008

PUBLIC DIPLOMACY: CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES FOR INTERNATIONAL ENGAGEMENT IN AFGHANISTAN


PUBLIC DIPLOMACY: CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES FOR INTERNATIONAL ENGAGEMENT IN AFGHANISTAN
OCT 31, 2008 - 6:07PM PDT

By M. Ashraf Haidari
All posts by this author


I had heard many good things about Wilton Park's conferences, and was finally able to participate in one entitled "Public Diplomacy: Meeting New Challenges" on October 7, 2008. The conference consisted of several sessions, including one on Afghanistan that generated much discussion by a number of publicly renowned diplomacy experts and practitioners from some of the countries with forces in Afghanistan. We discussed challenges and opportunities for public diplomacy in my country in the context of international stabilization and reconstruction efforts.

In my remarks, I pointed out three key opportunities for international engagement in Afghanistan that have been underutilized. I stated that no recent post-conflict intervention had enjoyed as much international goodwill and consensus as Afghanistan. Today, some 70 countries are providing assistance to rebuild Afghanistan, while forces from 40 nations participate in the NATO/ISAF to stabilize the country.

Secondly, our international partners understand that no peace operation is successful without popular support. Unlike other post-conflict situations, the international community hardly needed to win the hearts and minds of the Afghan people upon re-engagement in the country seven years ago. In fact, the Afghan people played a key role in helping the Coalition forces overthrow the Taliban in less than two months. In the two years following the defeat of the Taliban, millions of Afghan refugees optimistically returned home in a show of support for international peace-building efforts and the new regime they helped establish in Afghanistan.

Finally, I pointed out that significant progress had been made with less international investment in the stabilization and reconstruction of Afghanistan over the past seven years. We have established the key institutions of a permanent government, and we have made considerable progress in rebuilding infrastructure, in expanding access to basic healthcare, and in providing education to an increasing number of Afghan girls and boys across the country.

I noted, however, that our international partners had been either unwilling or slow to capitalize on the above three strategic opportunities. Afghanistan's international partners have so far faltered on three key accounts to help secure the future of Afghanistan, and thereby serve their own national security interests.

First, they have been reluctant to provide the necessary level of aid resources to meet Afghanistan's basic reconstruction needs. Second, they have failed to coordinate their aid efforts with one another and with the Afghan state to ensure aid effectiveness. Finally, they have lacked an effective public diplomacy strategy to listen to the Afghan people and deliver on their very basic expectations. At the same time, our partners have not done enough to educate their own publics on how their involvement in Afghanistan ensures their own citizens' security and prosperity in a dangerous world where security is globalized as much as prosperity.

Unfortunately, a lack of progress in each of the above key areas over the past seven years has allowed peace spoilers—particularly the Taliban—to fill the gap and destabilize Afghanistan. As far as engaging the Afghan people is concerned, I argued that the international community had so far lacked a unified and effective public diplomacy strategy that was well connected to sound policy and policy delivery, thus helping ensure continued popular support for international peace-building efforts in Afghanistan.

For example, the Afghan government has been unable to keep its promises to provide poor Afghan farmers with alternative livelihood assistance. In 2005, poppy cultivation declined 21% as a direct result of an effective public information campaign spearheaded by President Karzai, who persuaded poppy farmers to give up cultivation in return for alternative livelihood assistance. However, the farmers went back to poppy cultivation the following year when they did not receive the necessary level of aid resources from the international community. We are again seeing a decline in poppy cultivation – 19% over the past year, but this success could be reversed if we do not deliver an effective combination of carrots and sticks to aid poor farmers and to enforce law against high value drug traffickers.

I also discussed the rebuilding priorities of the Afghan government, stressing the importance of engaging the Afghan people and maintaining their support for realizing long-term peace and democracy in Afghanistan. In fact, we cannot afford to lose popular support in Afghanistan. Our partners must seize the opportunity to regain the lost ground by involving and empowering Afghans to take control over our country's reconstruction process. Our partners can and must use their influence and resources to reward competence and moderation while weakening potential peace spoilers. Such actions will ensure that Afghanistan will stand firmly on its own feet once our partners have left.

I proposed to the Wilton Park gathering that they consider hosting a follow-up conference, specifically focusing on the practice of public diplomacy by some 40 countries in Afghanistan. The key purpose of the conference would be to share best practices and lessons learned by our multinational partners, and to work towards a unified international public diplomacy strategy to engage the Afghan people constructively in helping them rebuild our country.

M. Ashraf Haidari is the Political Counselor of the Embassy of Afghanistan in Washington, DC. His e-mail is haidari@embassyofafghanistan.org

Nov 6, 2008

The Dream of Martin Luther King Become True

From Afghan LORD

Today, early morning when I opened the news pages in Internet, I red “Obama became the next president of USA” I became excited and suddenly stood and shouted. I couldn’t control myself and I said “Greeting Obama! Oh great man in which the dream of Martin Luther King became true now. The people who were close to me they laughed at me but I couldn’t control myself, while I was shedding tears I came out from the net café. When I arrived home I wept full but tears from happiness. However I don’t believe to pray but I was praying for him to win, this was my hope and today I am the witness that my hope turned to real.


Obama
is the one who wants to change. He turned the dreams of millions of people to reality, millions of people who were hoping fall of the walls. Now, he is the winner and turned to a hero of his nation and people in his country. He is the one who once there was a great man in the US history who told to his people:

‘I have a dream, I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal."

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”


But today there is another great man appeared who can follow his way and turns his dream to reality. Today, there is another great man appeared in the 21 century, from the same people who tells loudly to his people:
“Things are fine just the way they are. Take a look around, our world needs a change, you can be that change.”

His appearance was with encouraging people and giving hopes to those people who were hopelessly living not for a single moment but hundreds of years. He appeared to assure his people that “Things are fine”, what a beautiful motto.

I write these words, while the tears falling down from my eyes. I shed tears for the happiness of those people who are happy today in the US, for the people who were dreaming to become the winner, for the people who were fighting against injustice, discrimination and civil rights. Tonight, what a fabulous night would be for them. I wish I was there, I wish I was one those people who shed tears of happiness and victory today.

You know, from what pain I suffer in this corner of the world? Only God knows from my heart. Everyday when I wake up, my moments starts with tension, an explosion in the city or suicide attack, all things thing along, remove security from me. Everyday I have to go out but when I go out, you know I am completely unsure, to come back safely.

You know, I haven’t seen my mother for months and she is waiting for months to see me and my hope is to meet my mother and leave myself among her arms and shed tears fully. But you know why I can’t reach her? Because in 150 kilo meters long the distance between me and my mother, everyday we hear that Taliban beheaded people, took them with themselves or killed them on the road. But I want to see my mother.

Nov 4, 2008

I AM AN ADDICT

video

New documentary about drug addicts.
Directed by Mustafa Kia.
www.Kabulistan.com

Oct 20, 2008

A WAY THROUGH THE AFGHAN LABYRINTH


A WAY THROUGH THE AFGHAN LABYRINTH
The Asia Times
Oct. 07, 2008

By M Ashraf Haidari

Since international re-engagement in Afghanistan was initiated seven years ago, the key institutions of a permanent government have been established. Considerable progress has been made in rebuilding infrastructure, in expanding access to basic healthcare, and in providing education to an increasing number of Afghan girls and boys across the country.

However, the country's progress is increasingly eclipsed by inter-connected challenges with domestic, international, regional and transnational dimensions that impede its stabilization and reconstruction. Each challenge facing the country feeds off the other and together they have engendered a vicious circle that is destabilizing Afghanistan and increasingly Pakistan too.

Afghanistan is geographically landlocked, politically and economically least-developed, and unfortunately located in a predatory neighborhood, where Pakistan's military establishment has traditionally seen a stable Afghanistan as a threat in the context of the country's hostile relations with India. Also, its nascent state institutions are weak and lack the requisite resources to deliver basic public goods to a population of vulnerable groups (eg, returning refugees, IDPs (internally displaced people), the disabled, former combatants, jobless youth, the elderly, and women and children), all of whom are engulfed in poverty and misery.

The lack of aid resources and a weak strategic coordination of aid implementation by the international community is another challenge. Observers of Afghanistan are certain to recall that, from the beginning, the international community has re-engaged in the country with a very light footprint. In 2001, during the initial planning stages for the war in Afghanistan, coalition member states agreed that a sound strategy had to include and combine combat operations, humanitarian relief and stability and reconstruction efforts.

In the years since the Taliban were driven from Kabul, coalition members have neither fully committed to the reconstruction task, nor have they ensured that there is a match between ends and means. As former US special envoy to Afghanistan James Dobbins notes, "Mismatches between inputs, as measured in personnel and money, and desired outcomes, as measured in imposed social transformation, are the most common cause for failure of nation-building efforts." Because too few troops and resources were committed to the country early on, this is exactly the direction Afghanistan is heading towards.

According to a recent report by the Agency Coordinating Body for Afghan Relief (ACBAR), Afghanistan received just US$57 per capita in foreign assistance, while Bosnia and East Timor received $679 and $233 respectively, in the two years following international intervention. Per capita security assistance to Afghanistan remains woefully low with 1.5 foreign troops per 1,000 people, compared to seven per 1,000 in Iraq and 19 per 1,000 in Bosnia.

When it comes to international aid, the numbers can be deceptive, as donors have tended to bypass the Afghan government and funnel assistance to foreign non-profit and private-sector institutions. As a result, an estimated 40% of aid has gone back to donor countries in the form of corporate profits and consultant salaries. Overall, some $6 billion has been spent in this way since 2001, according to ACBAR. It should be noted that each full-time expatriate consultant costs $250,000-$500,000 per year.

It is clear that the invasion and occupation of Iraq shortchanged Afghanistan's rebuilding priorities, robbing the new Afghan government of much-needed resources. The paucity of troops and resources has proven useful for potential threats like the Taliban, who have intensified their cross-border terrorist attacks and now control parts of the country.

Although it is now seven years since the fall of the Taliban, no clear institutional framework for Afghanistan's nation-building and reconstruction has emerged. Despite broad international consensus and goodwill for the rebuilding of Afghanistan from the start, the United Nations remains a weak player in Afghanistan due to a lack of resources to meet its recently expanded mandate. In the beginning, the UN was deliberately denied an operational role in Afghanistan, perhaps, due to fears that donor fatigue would soon kick in, resulting in undelivered pledges of assistance to Afghanistan.

Hence, a lead-nation strategy was adopted, whereby major resourceful countries assumed responsibility for the reform and building of Afghanistan's key state institutions. The lead-nation strategy assigned the United States to reform and build the Afghan National Army (ANA); Germany - the Afghan National Police (ANP); Japan to disarm, demobilize and fully reintegrate (DDR) former combatants; Britain to fight and eliminate narcotics; and Italy to reform and build the judicial system.

Except for substantive progress in the reform and building of ANA, the other sectors saw nominal or no progress. The lead nations neither established a collaborative mechanism to ensure strategic coordination across their assigned tasks, nor did they bring enough resources to bear on implementing the reforms effectively. In the end, the lead-nation strategy was discontinued, as the designated countries reconsidered their roles as lead-partners - reasoning that only Afghanistan should be the lead-nation with them as its major implementing partners.

A bevy of actors with overlapping mandates, competitive relations and minimal accountability for performance, have characterized international presence in Afghanistan. The divergent and diffuse efforts of donors have created diverse opportunities for factions including the Taliban, drug traffickers, and criminals to undermine and derail the nation-building process. Efforts to enhance structures for strategic coordination on the ground, both within the UN and beyond, have been frustrated by the sheer numbers of actors involved, the limited extent to which these actors accept the coordination authority and the absence of policy coordination structures at the headquarters level.

More than 70 countries, international organizations and non-governmental organizations are present in Afghanistan. Yet, they have consistently worked outside of the Afghan government. For example, of all technical assistance to Afghanistan, which accounts for a quarter of all aid to the country, only one-tenth is coordinated among donors or with the government. Nor is there sufficient collaboration on project work, which inevitably leads to duplication of effort. This has seriously undermined the Afghan government's ability to build its capacity for effective governance and implementation of the rule of law.

The ultimate aim for both international donors and the President Hamid Karzai administration is for Afghan authorities to take ownership of the reconstruction effort. But the lack of international attention to the rebuilding effort from 2001 through 2004 had a detrimental effect on efforts to build the capacity of the Afghan government. More specifically, it enabled corrupt practices to become deeply entrenched. In addition, the scarcity of financial resources hampered the government's ability to compete with the private sector for services of the best minds. Many of the government's most skilled workers have departed to take higher paying jobs with international organizations. The resulting weak institutional capacity coupled with underpayment, in turn, fuels corruption, which damages the government's image in the eyes of Afghans.

Afghanistan would be far less instable if the country were not geographically cursed. Afghanistan's political and economic stability or instability is closely linked to the type of regimes in power in the region, those regimes' particular regional interests, their socio-economic conditions, and more importantly their relations with one another and with major world powers such as the United States. Without understanding and addressing the challenges posed by the regional dynamics, it is extremely hard to achieve long-term stability in Afghanistan. As we know, today, the main source and cause of instability in Afghanistan lie outside the country in neighboring Pakistan.

Transnational threats to Afghanistan such as al-Qaeda and its affiliates have fully reconstituted themselves seven years after 9/11, and are increasingly guiding and directing the Taliban's cross-border terrorism in Afghanistan. Operating from safe sanctuaries in Pakistan, al-Qaeda and its Pakistani affiliates continue to inspire, indoctrinate, and brainwash jobless and frustrated youth in the Pakistani madrassas, which the Taliban use as recruiting ground for their operations in Afghanistan. At the same time, transnational drug mafia has found Afghanistan a permissive environment for mass drug production to meet global demand. They have strategically joined hands with the Taliban and other threats to stability in Afghanistan for ongoing drug production and trafficking.

The fact that these challenges are inter-connected and feed on one another make Afghanistan by far the most complicated and resource-intensive international intervention since the end of the Cold War. Thus, securing and rebuilding Afghanistan is a far more challenging task for the international community than was Bosnia, Kosovo, East Timor, or even Iraq. But there are no options for the international community in Afghanistan but to succeed there. We know that the specter of revisiting September 11, 2001 is ever becoming likely with the al-Qaeda and Taliban resurgent in Pakistan's tribal region, from where they have managed to score frequent tactical gains across south and east of Afghanistan.

If the West is keenly aware of the cost of neglecting Afghanistan in the 1990s, and is determined to prevent it failing now, what is the best way forward now? First of all, in a country where there are so many interconnected and overlapping problems competing for urgent resolution, it is important to narrow down our priorities and focus on the key issues, including those with the greatest potential to help resolve the full range of problems. This means departing from ad hoc approaches to nation-building in Afghanistan, where the precious assistance of tax payers in donor countries has so far been wasted on quick fixes that have made no real difference in the lives of the Afghan people over the past seven years.

It is critically important as a priority to strengthen nascent Afghan state institutions so they will soon gain the capacity to fulfill their mandates and contribute to effective government. Without security and good governance, Afghanistan will be unable to attract foreign investment in the natural resource and infrastructure sectors, which we know can help provide alternative employment for poppy farmers and jobs for youth and returning refugees. We know from the experience of many developing countries (such as China, India, Brazil, Turkey, South Korea, Malaysia and others) that only sustainable economic growth, and not relief aid and hand-outs, will help reduce poverty in Afghanistan.

It is important to stress that Afghanistan cannot achieve self-reliance and self-sufficiency unless the international community enables it to do so. In light of the country's massive rebuilding needs, the international community must match ends with means. Committing long-term resources is absolutely necessary, but so too is ensuring that aid is effectively delivered through the Afghan state institutions to achieve the objectives of the Afghanistan National Development Strategy (ANDS). Therefore, the international community must deliver on the commitments made at the recent Paris Support Conference by aligning their aid with the objectives of ANDS, a key priority of which is to build capacity in the Afghan state institutions.

Regionally, the United States and NATO recognize the fact that the Taliban cannot be defeated in Afghanistan without dismantling their command and control infrastructure in Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), from where they daily launch terrorist attacks inside Afghanistan, mostly killing innocent civilians. And unless external institutional support for the Taliban insurgency ends, military and civilian casualties will continue rising in Afghanistan, gradually giving the terrorists an upper hand. Pakistan's military and intelligence establishments must be persuaded to cooperate sincerely in the war against terrorism, while the country's civilian government must be strengthened to ensure stability in Pakistan and the rest of the region.

At the same time, NATO needs to bolster its military strength in the fight against cross-border terrorism in Afghanistan. The commanders on the ground are asking for three additional well-equipped brigades (about 10,000) with a flexible mandate to secure Afghanistan. The US recently announced deployment of some 4,500 additional troops to Afghanistan by early next year, which should be complemented with more forces from other NATO member states to bolster military efforts to contain and defeat the Taliban.

Ultimately, however, the key to securing Afghanistan will rest in the build-up of a professional Afghan army and police. The Afghan government plans to expand the size of the Afghan National Army (ANA) to 134,000 soldiers within the next five years, as well as jump-starting the reform and development of the Afghan National Police (ANP) to meet Afghanistan's security and defense needs.

For Afghanistan to realize these objectives, however, the international community must firmly commit to providing the country with long-term military and law enforcement equipment and training resources. Doing so will dramatically cut down on the current financial and human cost of the international military presence in Afghanistan, while enabling Afghans to defend their country more effectively now and in the future.

After seven years in Afghanistan, the international community understands that failing to secure the country will only strengthen the Taliban and weaken the trust of Afghans in democracy and weaken their support as a strategic partner in the fight against terrorism. The tragedy of September 11, 2001 reminds us that failure in Afghanistan is not an option, and peace can hardly take hold in Pakistan and the rest of the region without stability in Afghanistan. Nor can global security be ensured without consolidation of Afghanistan's democratic achievements over the past seven years. All stakeholders must commit to success in Afghanistan, leaving the country only when the Afghan people can stand on their own feet against the twin threats of extremism and terrorism.

M Ashraf Haidari is the political counselor of the Embassy of Afghanistan in Washington, DC. His e-mail is haidari@embassyofafghanistan.org

Oct 7, 2008

علاقمندان نمایشگاه عکس در کابل

"مــرکز فوتوژورنالیزم چشم سوم،مرکز فرهنگی فرانسه"کابل" به مناسبت افتتاح "مـــرکـــــــــز فـــوتـــوژورنـالیــــزم "چشم ســـوم
اولین نمایشکاه عکس خویش را بنام چشم سوم برگزارمینمایند

زمــــــان: پنجشنبه 9 اکتوبر برابر با 18 میزان 1387ساعت 3 بعد از ظهر
مـــــکان: تالار لیسه استقلال مرکز فرهنگی فرانسه

Photo Exhibition in Kabul

Photo Exhibition
The 3rd Eye photojournalism center is an only photojournalism center which recently started there activity here in Afghanistan with objectives of:
To help National and International Media to give them Photos.
To register the creative photographers.
To arrange photo exhibitions for world wide tourist.
To cooperate governmental and non-governmental institutions by giving them the cultural, political, News photos.
To teach the photojournalist in high level standards.

The 3rd Eye Photojournalism Center has opened the first huge Photo exhibition which is titled “The 3rd Eye” in Istiqlal High School , French Cultural Center ,
Date: 9 October - 23 0ctober, 2008.

Opening Time: 03:00PM – 05:00PM
From 08:00AM – 04:30PM every day
Your presents are most welcome in our exhibition.
Basir Seerat
Editor in cheif of 3rd Eye Photojournalism Center
http://www.3rdeye.af/

If you love to visit email me here : basirseerat@gmail.com

What they don't want to talk about


Over the weekend, John McCain's top adviser announced their plan to stop engaging in a debate over the economy and "turn the page" to more direct, personal attacks on Barack Obama. 

In the middle of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, they want to change the subject from the central question of this election. Perhaps because the policies McCain supported these past eight years and wants to continue are pretty hard to defend. 

But it's not just McCain's role in the current crisis that they're avoiding. The backward economic philosophy and culture of corruption that helped create the current crisis are looking more and more like the other major financial crisis of our time. 

During the savings and loan crisis of the late '80s and early '90s, McCain's political favors and aggressive support for deregulation put him at the center of the fall of Lincoln Savings and Loan, one of the largest in the country. More than 23,000 investors lost their savings. Overall, the savings and loan crisis required the federal government to bail out the savings of hundreds of thousands of families and ultimately cost American taxpayers $124 billion. 

Sound familiar? 

In that crisis, John McCain and his political patron, Charles Keating, played central roles that ultimately landed Keating in jail for fraud and McCain in front of the Senate Ethics Committee. The McCain campaign has tried to avoid talking about the scandal, but with so many parallels to the current crisis, McCain's Keating history is relevant and voters deserve to know the facts -- and see for themselves the pattern of poor judgment by John McCain. 

So at noon Eastern on Monday, October 6th, we're releasing a 13-minute documentary about the scandal called "Keating Economics: John McCain and the Making of a Financial Crisis" -- it will be available at KeatingEconomics.com, along with background information that every voter should know. 

Watch a preview right now and share it with your friends. 

The point of the film and the web site is that John McCain still hasn't learned his lesson. 

And this time, McCain's bankrupt economic philosophy has put our economy at the brink of collapse and put millions of Americans at risk of losing their homes. 

Watch the video to see why John McCain's failed philosophy and poor judgment is a recipe for deepening the crisis: http://my.barackobama.com/page/invite/keatingvideo
http://my.barackobama.com/keatingvideo 





Oct 6, 2008

If I were an American, I would have vote for Obama

Sep 29, 2008

A message from Michael Moore



Friends,

Let me cut to the chase. The biggest robbery in the history of this country is taking place as you read this. Though no guns are being used, 300 million hostages are being taken. Make no mistake about it: After stealing a half trillion dollars to line the pockets of their war-profiteering backers for the past five years, after lining the pockets of their fellow oilmen to the tune of over a hundred billion dollars in just the last two years, Bush and his cronies -- who must soon vacate the White House -- are looting the U.S. Treasury of every dollar they can grab. They are swiping as much of the silverware as they can on their way out the door.

No matter what they say, no matter how many scare words they use, they are up to their old tricks of creating fear and confusion in order to make and keep themselves and the upper one percent filthy rich. Just read the first four paragraphs of the lead story in last Monday's New York Times and you can see what the real deal is:"Even as policy makers worked on details of a $700 billion bailout of the financial industry, Wall Street began looking for ways to profit from it.

 

"Financial firms were lobbying to have all manner of troubled investments covered, not just those related to mortgages.

 

"At the same time, investment firms were jockeying to oversee all the assets that Treasury plans to take off the books of financial institutions, a role that could earn them hundreds of millions of dollars a year in fees.

 

"Nobody wants to be left out of Treasury's proposal to buy up bad assets of financial institutions."

 

Unbelievable. Wall Street and its backers created this mess and now they are going to clean up like bandits. Even Rudy Giuliani is lobbying for his firm to be hired (and paid) to "consult" in the bailout.

The problem is, nobody truly knows what this "collapse" is all about. Even Treasury Secretary Paulson admitted he doesn't know the exact amount that is needed (he just picked the $700 billion number out of his head!). The head of the congressional budget office said he can't figure it out nor can he explain it to anyone.

And yet, they are screeching about how the end is near! Panic! Recession! The Great Depression! Y2K! Bird flu! Killer bees! We must pass the bailout bill today!! The sky is falling! The sky is falling!

Falling for whom? NOTHING in this "bailout" package will lower the price of the gas you have to put in your car to get to work. NOTHING in this bill will protect you from losing your home. NOTHING in this bill will give you health insurance.

Health insurance? Mike, why are you bringing this up? What's this got to do with the Wall Street collapse?

It has everything to do with it. This so-called "collapse" was triggered by the massive defaulting and foreclosures going on with people's home mortgages. Do you know why so many Americans are losing their homes? To hear the Republicans describe it, it's because too many working class idiots were given mortgages that they really couldn't afford. Here's the truth: The number one cause of people declaring bankruptcy is because of medical bills. Let me state this simply: If we had had universal health coverage, this mortgage "crisis" may never have happened.

This bailout's mission is to protect the obscene amount of wealth that has been accumulated in the last eight years. It's to protect the top shareholders who own and control corporate America. It's to make sure their yachts and mansions and "way of life" go uninterrupted while the rest of America suffers and struggles to pay the bills. Let the rich suffer for once. Let them pay for the bailout. We are spending 400 million dollars a day on the war in Iraq. Let them end the war immediately and save us all another half-trillion dollars!

I have to stop writing this and you have to stop reading it. They are staging a financial coup this morning in our country. They are hoping Congress will act fast before they stop to think, before we have a chance to stop them ourselves. So stop reading this and do something -- NOW! Here's what you can do immediately:


1. Call or e-mail Senator Obama. Tell him he does not need to be sitting there trying to help prop up Bush and Cheney and the mess they've made. Tell him we know he has the smarts to slow this thing down and figure out what's the best route to take. Tell him the rich have to pay for whatever help is offered. Use the leverage we have now to insist on a moratorium on home foreclosures, to insist on a move to universal health coverage, and tell him that we the people need to be in charge of the economic decisions that affect our lives, not the barons of Wall Street.

2. Take to the streets. Participate in one of the hundreds of quickly-called demonstrations that are taking place all over the country (especially those near Wall Street and DC).

3. Call your Representative in Congress and your Senators. (click here to find their phone numbers). Tell them what you told Senator Obama.

When you screw up in life, there is hell to pay. Each and every one of you reading this knows that basic lesson and has paid the consequences of your actions at some point. In this great democracy, we cannot let there be one set of rules for the vast majority of hard-working citizens, and another set of rules for the elite, who, when they screw up, are handed one more gift on a silver platter. No more! Not again!

Yours,
Michael Moore

MMFlint@aol.com

MichaelMoore.com

 




Sep 17, 2008

REMEMBERING AFGHAN REFUGEES


EURASIANET

AFGHANISTAN: REMEMBERING AFGHAN REFUGEES


By M. Ashraf Haidari
9/11/08


As Americans reflect on the tragic events of seven years ago, they should also recall that the September 11 terrorist attacks caused the international spotlight to refocus on Afghanistan. The US-led invasion in late 2001 succeeded in driving the Taliban from power, and paved the way for a humanitarian success story. Of late, however, the international commitment to Afghanistan seems to have lost traction. One way that Americans can honor the September 11 victims is by keeping Afghan reconstruction efforts on course, and doing their part to ensure that millions of Afghan refugees feel secure enough to return home.

Over the course of the past three decades, Afghan refugees have never hesitated to return home as soon as promising conditions have given them hope for restoration of peace and justice in their homeland. In 1992 and 1993, for example, following the fall of the Afghan communist regime, more than 2 million Afghan refugees voluntarily repatriated from Pakistan and Iran. But their return ground to a halt, shortly after the breakout of the civil war that plunged Afghanistan into anarchy and chaos.

Buoyed by international re-engagement in Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban in late 2001, more than 5 million Afghan refugees returned home from Pakistan and Iran during the early 2000s, making the largest voluntary repatriation in the history of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

But there still are over 3 million Afghan in Pakistan, and over 1 million in Iran, and these remaining refugees are now reluctant to return home. Deteriorating security, widespread poverty and unemployment, and a severe lack of social facilities such as access to education and healthcare constitute major obstacles to voluntary repatriation of most Afghan refugees. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive]. In many areas, especially in southern Afghanistan, the Taliban has once again emerged as a force to be reckoned with. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive].

When a UN reporter in June asked one Afghan refugee, Hazrat Shah, if he planned to repatriate, the carpet weaver now living in Pakistan replied; "There is no place in the world like home. But where would you go if your house were ablaze?" He added gloomily, "Today two new graves have been dug for two brothers who were killed in a landmine explosion in Afghanistan." The two youngsters--not related to Hazrat Shah--had returned home to Gereshk in Helmand province the week before to find jobs and gradually to pave the way for the repatriation of their entire family from Pakistan.

The government and people of Afghanistan appreciate the humanitarian assistance Pakistan and Iran have provided to Afghan refugees over the past three decades. But pull factors such as improved security, enhanced protection and reintegration assistance, and increased employment opportunities in Afghanistan should determine push factors in host states.

Pakistan and Iran must honor the principle of non-refoulement, rooted both in international and Islamic law, to refrain from forcible deportation of Afghan refugees. The Afghan government maintains separate trilateral agreements with Pakistan, Iran, and UNHCR--a key provision of which is to facilitate voluntary repatriation of Afghan refugees from the two countries only if the conditions inside Afghanistan allow. Although host states have an interest in encouraging refugees to go back home, UNHCR is mandated to prevent and protect refugees from repatriating prematurely if the prevailing conditions at home are not ready for their return. Except for spontaneous returns during 2002-2003, Afghan refugees must have been warned about increasing instability and a severe lack of reintegration assistance in Afghanistan in the following years.

Contrarily, however, Afghan refugees have been encouraged to return home, as repatriation--voluntary or otherwise--has been viewed as a positive sign of stabilization and reconstruction progress in Afghanistan. Consequently, the fact that most returnees have ended up becoming internally displaced due to conflicts and an expanding drought should be cause for serious concern to UNHCR and the international community. It should also be a signal to halt further premature repatriation of Afghan refugees until the conditions in Afghanistan have improved enough for their safe return home.

At the same time, the international community must honor the principle of burden sharing and provide relief assistance to states hosting large numbers of refugees. Assistance to Pakistan and Iran should aim at empowering Afghan refugees so that they will gain skills necessary both to contribute to their host societies and later to use those skills to earn an income upon return home.

Additionally, developed countries must expand their resettlement programs, taking in more Afghan refugees from Iran and Pakistan on an annual basis. Resettlement of Afghan refugees in the developed countries will go a long way in helping rebuild and develop Afghanistan. Resilience and high achievement motivation that characterize most refugees will quickly enable resettled Afghan families to adapt into their new societies, taking advantage of social and economic opportunities there to establish themselves and to continue supporting their relatives at home, as well as in Pakistan and Iran.

In the long run, most resettled Afghans will have gained wealth and higher education which they would certainly use to invest in Afghanistan, as we know from the return of many wealthy Afghans and technocrats who have made significant contributions to Afghanistan’s reconstruction since 2002.

In pondering resettlement programs, one myth must be confronted head-on: Contrary to frequent allegations that Afghan refugees are a burden on their host countries’ economies, the opposite is most often true. The millions of refugees in Pakistan and Iran are assets to those countries’ economies. Many Afghans in both states fill a glaring need in the labor sector, working casual jobs at wages much lower than that paid to locals who may not even be willing to accept such jobs because of social taboos associated with casual labor. Other Afghan refugees use their special skills--such as carpet weaving--to produce quality Afghan rugs, which local firms purchase below market price, brand them made in the host country, and then sell them in developed countries with manifold profit. Most importantly, a significant number of Afghan refugees have found success as entrepreneurs and have risen to operate midsize and even corporate-level businesses in Pakistan, Iran, and the Gulf states, making notable contributions to those countries’ economic growth.

Other allegations that terrorists recruit from Afghan refugee camps are utterly baseless and a political excuse on Pakistan’s part not to cooperate sincerely in the war against terrorism. Afghan refugees are actually victims of violence and terrorism, but abusing their status as a scapegoat is clearly a violation of their rights under the 1951 Geneva Convention relating to the Status of Refugees. Countries that are party to the Geneva Convention and other international human rights regimes are obligated to respect refugee rights as human rights and safeguard them by providing refugees with protection from violence, persecution, and human insecurity that collectively make it impossible for most refugees to return home voluntarily.

Almost 2,500 years ago, Euripides wrote that "there is no greater sorrow on earth than the loss of one’s native land." Indeed, for most Afghan refugees, like Hazrat Shah, no foreign land can ever replace their homeland where they will return as soon as they feel secure to do so. It is obvious that the real durable solution to the Afghan refugees’ problem is voluntary repatriation, which can only be guaranteed by security in Afghanistan. Hence, Pakistan, Iran, and Afghanistan’s other neighbors can and must cooperate with the international community to stabilize Afghanistan first.

Durable stability and prosperity in the country would automatically attract Afghan refugees to voluntarily return home. At the same time, the international community must honor the commitments they recently made at the Paris Support Conference to provide the Afghan government with long-term resources to implement the objectives of the Afghanistan National Development Strategy--a key priority of which is to help reintegrate returning refugees and internally displaced persons into their communities.


Editor's Note: A former refugee, internally displaced person, and UNHCR field officer, M. Ashraf Haidari is the political counselor of the Embassy of Afghanistan in Washington, DC. His e-mail is haidari@embassyofafghanistan.org

Posted September 11, 2008 © Eurasianet
http://www.eurasianet.org

The Central Eurasia Project aims, through its website, meetings, papers, and grants, to foster a more informed debate about the social, political and economic developments of the Caucasus and Central Asia. It is a program of the Open Society Institute-New York. The Open Society Institute-New York is a private operating and grantmaking foundation that promotes the development of open societies around the world by supporting educational, social, and legal reform, and by encouraging alternative approaches to complex and controversial issues.

The views expressed in this publication do not necessarily represent the position of the Open Society Institute and are the sole responsibility of the author or authors.

Sep 7, 2008

Towards a Successful 2009 Afghan Presidential Election



Towards a Successful 2009 Afghan Presidential Election

Remarks by M. Ashraf Haidari, Political Counselor, Embassy of Afghanistan
The Near East South Asia Center (NESA) for Strategic Studies

Washington, DC
July 28-29, 2008



Many thanks for that kind introduction, Mr. Sharp.


First of all, I would like to thank General David Barno, Mr. Robert Sharp, and Mr. Peter Maher for organizing this very timely conference on next year's elections.


Over the past few weeks, there has been much debate about the situation in Afghanistan at various think tanks in DC, but almost none has specifically focused on what is actually on everyone's mind. The views and comments raised here since yesterday have been quite informative and enlightening on the upcoming Afghan elections.


Other panel speakers and those in the audience have identified the key challenges ahead of us, as well as the opportunities that need to be ceased to build upon the progress we have made in the social, economic, and security sectors to encourage voters' participation in the upcoming elections.


I would like to share with you my thoughts on a few issues that I think are important to keep in mind, as we plan and prepare for the upcoming elections in Afghanistan.


At the outset, I would like to stress, as Ambassador Jawad did yesterday, that holding presidential election next year is of deep symbolic importance to the Afghan people, both inside and outside our country.


Afghans view next year's elections not only as another step forward in our new democracy but also as an opportunity to make their voices heard on the many challenges facing our population of what I call vulnerable groups (e.g. returning refugees, IDPs, the disabled, former combatants, jobless youth, women and children, and the elderly).


I am optimistic that we will have a high voter turnout in the upcoming elections if security allows. I think that regardless of weak governance over the past four years that may be a cause for low voter turnout, the demographic landscape of Afghanistan has generationally changed in favor of a multi-candidate and competitive presidential election next year.


The voting age is 18, and if you recall from 2004 presidential elections, there were 10.5 million eligible voters, 80% of whom turned out to cast their votes. By the following year for the parliamentary elections, the number of eligible voters at 18 years of age rose to 12.5 million.


So, if we add two million eligible voters to the electorate each year since 2005, we will have at least another five million young voters. This means that the majority of the electorate in 2009 and 2010 will be between 18 and 40 years of age.

Compared to the previous electorate, this age group is far more literate, educated, and aware of the domestic, regional, and international issues that affect the stabilization and reconstruction of Afghanistan. To give you an example: in 2004 and 2005, young Afghans were just getting cell phones and beginning to take intermediate English courses across urban Afghanistan.


Today, they know how to text-message better than most of us here; they have multiple e-mail accounts; and they daily write blogs, discussing Afghan issues in the regional and global contexts. This age group dominates both urban and rural populations; they constitute the largest jobless segment of our population and yet they are the bread winners of their families; they are active in the formal and informal marketplace; and they are high school and university students, looking forward to a better future.


So, I think the caveat to keep in mind is that it is important to engage this young electorate both from a civic education and participation perspectives from the beginning. Failure to do so will be easily taken advantage of by peace spoilers; we know that jobless and frustrated young professionals can be very destabilizing in any society, particularly in Afghanistan's complicated political environment.


Second, security will continue to worry all of us until after the elections are over. I think there are two types of security threats to the upcoming elections: traditional and non-traditional. On the traditional threat, as Ambassador Jawad pointed out yesterday, a strategic commitment by the government of Pakistan is needed to cooperate with Afghanistan and our common allies to ensure the security of upcoming elections.


We sincerely hope that Pakistan will truly mobilize its deployed forces along the border to curb cross-border terrorist activities in Afghanistan. I also think effective intelligence sharing between Pakistan and our common allies will be key to neutralizing terrorist plots against strategic targets such as candidates, international observers, relief workers, polling staff and stations in key provinces, and civilians.


On the non-traditional security threat to the upcoming elections, we should be concerned about an abundance of narco-money and funds from foreign peace spoilers that could be used to destabilize the political and security situation in major urban areas with large numbers of voters. This means that we must have a two-pronged strategy, one that simultaneously addresses security threats in rural south and east, as well as in large populous cities, where security incidents are least or minimally expected to take place.


Third, on the issue of legitimacy of elections as far as the impartiality of the international community is concerned, we hope that our international partners, as Ambassador Jawad and General Barno pointed out yesterday, will have a hands-on approach. By default, the Afghan people expect UNAMA—as mandated by the UN Security Council Resolutions— to play an effective oversight role to ensure that no electoral institution will violate its independent status in favor of any contesting candidates.


In the Afghan context, a lack of effective oversight can easily lead to such violations, which could undermine the legitimacy of the whole process, as well as that of its implementers, Afghans and non-Afghans alike.


Fourth, we Afghans like bargaining too much, negotiating days and months, getting rough and tough. This is quite reflective of the culture and diversity of the Afghan people, but we are also a people sincere and serious in our words and actions—in spite of our differences. Afghans tend to reach consensus on the most difficult issues as quickly as we might sweat over small ones.


Needless to say, the upcoming elections will involve much bargaining and negotiating over anything and everything. This will require a listening ear first and foremost by the UNAMA leadership and its supporting UN family of agencies. Ambassador Kai Eide's most challenging and yet rewarding task would be to talk to Afghans endlessly, listen to what Afghans have to say, and work with them on a consensus in the greater interest of the Afghan nation.


Afghans do have a good record of coming together to do the impossible for their country, of course regardless of their ethno-sectarian background and political ideology. But each time they have gotten close to a national compromise, they have been divided by regional peace spoilers in the past. Ambassador Eide must be supported strongly by the international community to prevent this from happening before, during, and after the elections.

Fifth and most important of all, we all agree that holding elections one after another round without actually strengthening our state institutions to deliver on the promise of elections is meaningless. Afghans resort to elections as a means to achieve an end. If we continue to fall behind in making progress towards our end goal over the next five years, Afghans will increasingly be forced to choose between us and dangerous alternatives for survival. Therefore, we hope that the international community will deliver on the commitments they made in the recent Paris Support Conference to align their aid resources with the objectives the Afghanistan National Development Strategy—a key priority of which is to build institutional capacity in order to deliver basic services to people.

I think it is important to stress that Afghanistan cannot achieve self-reliance and self-sufficiency unless the international community enables it to do so. In light of our massive rebuilding needs, the international community must match ends with means. Committing long-term resources is absolutely necessary but ensuring that aid is effectively delivered through Afghan state institutions to achieve the objectives of our National Development Strategy is equally important.

To ensure strategic coordination across the donor community, the international community must provide the requisite resources—as recently requested by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon—to operationalize UNAMA in Afghanistan, and be willing to be coordinated by UNAMA.

Finally, a significant number of Afghan citizens reside in developed countries in Europe, Australia, and North America who wish to participate in the national elections. In 2004 and 2005, we received many calls from the Afghan Diaspora, complaining why they were not given a chance to vote.


The Afghan Diaspora is an important voting bloc that should be given an opportunity to vote, particularly in an effort to strengthen moderates in Afghanistan and to give resourceful Afghans abroad a stake in returning home to help rebuild Afghanistan.


Thank you for your attention to these issues. I look forward to your comments.