Sunday, April 19, 2009

Afghanistan: Domestic call to ban human rights violators from presidential candidacy

Reuters reports that Afghanistan's state human rights body has said that warlord candidates (those with past human rights records) should be barred from the presidential election, as provided by the Afghan constitution. Massouda Jalal, the only female Afghan presidential candidate in 2004, said much the same when she was in Washington, so I infer that there's at least some support in Afghanistan for the idea (she'd say there's a lot).

Of course, there's the question of who, exactly, falls under this category--apparently, nobody's ever drawn up rules to implement the law. Even if this is worked out somehow, the parliament is still full of warlords, and the SNTV electoral system doesn't help matters by allowing anyone with a decent number of localized followers to get into parliament and discouraging strong political parties.

In a more general sense, this is just another example of Afghanistan's weak state and lack of capacity to enforce its own laws, but the question is whether or not the state is better strengthened by ignoring the issue and trying to achieve warlord buy-in (as has been done) or by actually taking the warlords out of the equation. Note that the Taliban was popular, for a while, because it actually accomplished the latter, and it does seem that no government including the warlords will be a well-functioning democracy. The dilemma for ISAF is, of course, that everyone going after warlords isn't going after Taliban. Two questions, then: (1) Is it worth taking the risk of going after these figures, if it means a better final chance of defeating the Taliban, but also, perhaps, a greater risk of losing? (2) Is it worth defeating the Taliban--and how much is it worth--if it upholds a corrupt Afghan pseudo-democratic government?

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