Afghan Elections: Taliban Exposed, U.S Licked

Wednesday 26 August 2009, by Farooq Sulehria

Hamid Karzai or Abdullah Abdullah? It is not yet clear who will win the Afghan presidential election held on August 20. Both frontrunners, Hamid Karzai and Abdullah Abdullah, are claiming victory. The official announcement may take ten more days. Most likely the pre-election opinion polls, predicting a run off, will prove wrong. Like his Iranian counterpart, the sitting Afghan president would not take the risk of a second round. The ’Independent’ Election Commission will announce his victory.

Abdullah Abdullah will make hue and cry. In fact, he already has started levelling corruption allegations and his claim to victory is an attempt to spark a controversy on the election’s outcome. He was using the colour green during his electoral campaign like Iranian opposition. But don’t expect million marches on the streets of Kabul. Unlike Iran, we don’t have even a semblance of civil society left in Afghanistan owing to a never-ending civil war.

An embarrassed White House will either dismiss the rigging charges or will avoid taking a stand. Abdullah Abdullah will be silenced with some lucrative deal. This will, however, further de legitimise the democratic façade U.S. imperialism had planned to shroud the occupation. Also, it will isolate the Afghan people. Already, they have no hope left in the political process initiated eight years ago. This was largely evident from the low turn out compared to 2004. In the previous presidential election, back in 2004, the turn out was 69 percent. This time, it has been reported between 40 percent to 50 percent. The official figure is not available yet. Similarly, Hamid Karzai---- the U.S. poster boy in previous elections----has not been presented as the saviour.

It was not merely five years of inefficiency and impotence that rendered Hamid Karzai so unpopular that he resorted to rigging, intimidation and bribes to win elections. That the karzai family has emerged, in last five years, as one of Afghanistan’s richest family is the fact engaging popular imagination and fuelling wide-spread indignation in the country. It was this realisation that the U.S media were careful this time in presenting Karzai as the saviour of Afghan nation. In fact, almost entire Western media were lacklustre ahead of August 20 elections. But media were quick in declaring August 20 a success owing to Taliban’s failure in securing any substantial hit. Also, President Obama thought it was ’’a successful election in Afghanistan despite the Taliban’s efforts to disrupt it.’’

True, Taliban were not able to disrupt either the canvassing or the polling process. They were able to launch their attacks in 15 of 34 Afghan provinces while 73 incidents of violence across the country were reported. Even in south, an area where Taliban command a strong control, they resorted to firing rockets. No suicide bomber, a deadly and effective Taliban weapon, was able to penetrate the polling stations. In Kabul, two suspected suicide bombers were shot dead by Afghan police even before they could leave their hide out. Even important is the fact that millions of people went to polling stations (even if turn out was low as there were 17 million voters). This despite the Taliban threat that purple coloured fingers would be amputated. In previous elections, Taliban appealed for boycott but did not resort to violence. "The attacks would have claimed innocent lives, therefore we refrained from attacks," a Taliban spokesperson told BBC back then. It was not the concern for innocent lives that Taliban desisted from violence. Bask in 2004, a deal was struck between Taliban and their Pakistani bosses. Also, Taliban back in 2004 were too weak to create any mayhem. This time they were too confident, hence too proud, to agree on a truce. Wali Karzai, Hamid Karzai’s brother, desperately negotiated with Taliban to neutralise them. But Taliban did not budge. Consequently, their (as well as their supporters’) claim as a popular resistance force yet again exposed. A popular resistance force, in the first place, does not need to issue threats, dispatch suicide bombers or fire rockets to effect an election boycott. A boycott appeal should suffice.

But Taliban’s failure does not qualify as an endorsement for Obama’s evaluation of August 20 election as ’’an important step forward.’’ That a majority did not go to cast a vote has in fact deprived the US occupation of ’’democratic cloak’’ White House was seeking through an electoral exercise. The rigging allegations will further delegitimise the ’’democracy’’ brought to Kabul on board B52s.

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