Most Afghans optimistic about future: poll
KABUL (PAN): With presidential elections approaching and NATO-led troops preparing to leave, a survey found a majority of Afghans seemed optimistic about their future, saying their country was moving in the right direction.
More than half of 9,000 Afghans surveyed, 57 percent said Afghanistan was moving in the right direction, the highest number in more than half a decade, according to the nationwide survey released on Thursday by The Asia Foundation, an international development non-profit organization.
The report titled "Afghanistan in 2013: A Survey of the Afghan People" cites reconstruction efforts, better access to education for both men and women, as well as the active presence of Afghan security forces as some of the main reasons for the optimism.
The opinion poll also found that people's satisfaction with the national government’s performance has been gradually rising over the past five years, with three quarters of respondents currently giving Kabul a positive assessment.
"While the survey reveals a strong sense of unease and fear, Afghans are hopeful about the outcome of the upcoming election and the government’s reconciliation efforts to stabilize the country," Abdullah Ahmadzai, The Asia Foundation's deputy representative in Afghanistan, told a press conference in Kabul.
According to the poll results, Afghans expressed high levels of satisfaction with several basic services in their community, including education for children, drinking water, and the availability of clinics and hospitals. People also seem to recognise Kabul's reconciliation efforts with armed groups such as the Taliban.
Most of those surveyed (63 percent) say the government's efforts can stabilise the country. Moreover, around 75 percent of respondents state that their household economic situation is better now than during the Taliban rule.
Michael Kugelman, a South Asia expert based in Washington explained that with the news media's focus on all the bad news in Afghanistan, it's easy to forget that many quality of life issues have improved in recent years, especially in Kabul and in the northern and western parts of the country.
"Security problems have diminished to some extent, allowing for more mobility and freedom, as well as more commerce and economic activity. This translates to more secure livelihoods and satisfaction," Kugelman said. In fact, the survey shows that most Afghans (88 percent) have confidence in their military and slightly fewer (77 percent) in the police. Also, the condition of women has improved, and many girls, barred from school during the Taliban era, are now getting an education.
But the situation in the South Asian nation remains volatile, especially in the south and east, where Taliban influence remains strong.
According to the poll, Afghans continue to be worried about corruption and unemployment, but their main concern remains insecurity, with 59 percent of respondents saying they fear for their safety, up from 48 percent in 2012.
In the first six months of 2013, the United Nations registered a 23 percent increase in the number of conflict-related civilian deaths. The fighting has also led to almost 600,000 internally displaced people, a 21 percent increase since January and more than four times the number in 2006, according to the UN refugee agency.
The conflict in Afghanistan has led to almost 600,000 internally displaced people, according to the UN
Moreover, the survey results indicate that public confidence in a wide range of officials - especially on a regional and local level - and institutions has dropped to an eight year low, as corruption remains rampant at all levels of the state apparatus.
For instance, only half of Afghans said they are confident that perpetrators of violence or crime will be brought to justice. Afghanistan ranks third from last in Transparency International's corruption perception index.
Over half of Afghans say they are afraid of voting in the upcoming national elections due to a sense of insecurity
However, the survey reveals Afghans’ mixed feelings ahead of the poll. Although a majority of them (61 percent) say they believe elections in their country are generally free and fair, and more than half say that the upcoming presidential vote has the potential to improve their lives. A vast majority of those interviewed expressed fear about voting in a national election due to security concerns.
Download “Pajhwok” mobile App, on your smartphone to read and access latest news, features, interviews, videos and photos about Afghanistan.