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Citizens’ evaluation of Ghani’s government

Feb 12, 2020 - 16:08
Election Articles

President Ghani’s governance has given an impression of an enigma to Afghans and international observers of Afghanistaninfo-icon. The majority of young urban, rural, educated Afghans, including outspoken womeninfo-icon, continue to think that there is no replacement to Ghani, a Pashtuninfo-icon Ahmadzai, despite his years as a lecturer in the best universities in the US. Nonetheless, his proven blend of rare intellectualism and Afghan sentimentalism of the common variety that blinds his rationality at times. A discussion with people holding diagonally opposite politically opinions to Ghani’s five years as the president of the country leads to an interesting collage of views.

Ghani’s best acts:

Ghani inherited a fragile state from his predecessor and accepting the National Unity Government was a mistake that drained his energy for the first two years. Bringing peace to table as an Afghan narrative is the best Ghani has done, conveying that Afghans are resilient while not allowing national independence with foreign aid.

During the past four years, warlords have been reduced in size and strength which caused jubilation amongst the Afghan youth.  The country for the first time collected taxes from all customs departments, meaning the writ of the state replaced that of warlords whose invincibility had become part of the national psyche. The state has been to some extent insulated against non-systemic influences. Some of the warlords attempted a re-entry into the political realm in search of protection with partial success which Ghani must watch if he remains in office for a second term.

Ghani’s second most talked about act was his reform in various fields. He sought reform in the Ministry of Educationinfo-icon, National Procurement Authority, recruitment to state institutions, National Security Institutions, tax, land and water management, to just name a few. However, he has achieved partial success and needs more time to implement his plans to reach his goals. His plans have unsettled networks inside the country as well as outside. He has decreed many laws to improve governance and implementations. He needs foreign support of his reforms.which may not come unconditionally even if it is most helpful to poor.

President Ghani is recognized for concluding some strategic projects of national importance and he initiated many that will have nationwide impact; work on several small and medium size dams, highways, trade, diversification of import routes to avoid blackmail by some countries, promotion of exports and work on several historical projects as a part of developing collective identity are worthy and evoke national pride. It’s a key step to softly construct a new shared identity and congeal it.

The current government has brought youth to the limelight. Afghanistan has very young cabinet of ministers and most of the deputy ministers, including women, are below 35 years old.  President Ghani has given youth from across the country immense opportunity and authority to bring new ideas and implement them as part of larger plan to create  space for next generation of leadership.  The First Lady is credited as the invisible force behind Ghani’s trust in youth  especially women.

Intolerance of corrupt officials is among his best acts. He acted on information and independent reports to hold to account his ministers and those who were corrupt. Those lazy in fighting corruption were fired. He did not spare powerful donors suspected of corruption. He created and supported several anti- corruption institutions to highlight corruption and inform the debate.

Ghani’s bad acts:

At the other end of spectrum, President Ghani is accused of several wrong acts that has shaped public opinion against him. The public feeds on mass media even if it’s manipulative. No one can deny that Ghani failed to build a good team to govern the country. There were corrupt officials in his team whose acts impacted state policies and behavior.

Poverty has almost doubled during the past five years of the National Unity Government which also means lower purchasing power, unemployment and a weakened manufacturing base of the country. Poverty has led to more youth joining conflict in rural regions or forced to migrate out of the country.

Insecurity has increased hugely leading to massive civilian casualties especially in villages. The NUG [National Unity Government] in the past one year has killed more civilian in night raids than any other year. Accounts from remote villages reveal stories of horror at the hand of the Afghan National Defense Security Forces. Organized crime in the urban centers have increased, often forcing businessmen to relocate their business abroad. Much of the organized crime is carried out by politically connected individuals. Ghani overlooks the role of intelligence in security.

President Ghani tried to reduce corruption, however he not only failed, but his closest officials committed the worst forms of corruption. The National procurement authority, ministry of finance, ministry of telecom, ministry of agricultureinfo-icon, ministry of foreign affairs, ministry of interior, municipalities, civil service institute, ministry of commerce, ministry of mines and petroleum, attorney general and his senior advisers all continue to be involved in corruption. Ministry of Foreign affairs and the Civil Service institute have been managed by the most incompetent people. The President’s own office has been a hub of corruption. Some of his advisers engaged in sexual exploitation of their female employees.

One of his most criticized acts was the creation of a parallel decision making structures in his office. The intention was to speed up the process of decision making and implementation but its implications for several state institutions have been stressful. It has led to the concentration of authority in his office which his closest allies have grossly abused.

President Ghani has been impulsive in recruiting people for his own office. All his closest advisers and staff have earned millions of dollars and bought villas in the best parts of the worldinfo-icon out their current positions in the government. The President has come under influence of the First Lady and now Amrullah Saleh. Mr.Mr. Saleh had a long stint with National Directorate of Security and he is accused of human rights violation. Mr.Saleh has extensively benefitted from the illegal extraction of gemstones. Mr Saleh is like any other warlord who joined Ghani’s election team to protect the ill-gotten wealth of Panjshirs. Another point in case is Ajmal Ahmadi, an Afghan who does neither understand any of the local language nor the culture. Some of Ghani’s officials and advisers know his soft side and they have extensively misused it for their benefits. Some of the people he appointed to key positions have maligned him comprehensively in parties hosted by foreign embassies in Kabulinfo-icon. Dr. Abdullah’s team has not shied away from bad-mouthing Ghani even to street vendors, while the president’s teams have squarely failed to shape a narrative based on his achievements.

Ghani’s foreign policy is driven more by emotions than realism. His visit to Pakistaninfo-icon to seek peace was futile, driven by his lack of understanding of the character of Pakistani state. Allowing Pakistanis to redraw the Durand Lineinfo-icon has irked people on both sides of the line. His trip to India to seek military hardware, along with engagement with China hoping to bring their investment in the country, may be smart but it can’t outsmart the reach and plans the US has for the region. Key members of his team display war-mongering in public. Among his biggest failure and humiliation is his absence from the peace talks between the US and Talibaninfo-icon.

President Ghani has demonstrated his political acumen which may seem like a puzzle to his foreign backers who until 2015 thought that he was a fine technocrat. Ghani is an intellectual of a certain caliber, however, overlooking his indoctrination in a capitalist West would be a mistake when analyzing his policies disconnect with the country and its failures.

Dr. Abdullah the better half of the NUG has not been an effective partner. Abdullah’s main focus has been on his dresses and looks rather than outlooks for the country. Dr. Abdullah has been a hurdle generally that has delayed reform process.

View expressed in this article are of the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Pajhwok’s editorial policy.

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