Muslim Peace Fellowship
The World after 9/11


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Deonna Kelli Sayed is an
American-Muslim who has been active in the Muslim-American community and
with issues relating to the Muslim world. She is an active member of the
Muslim Peace Fellowship.

Sayed Aqa is an Afghan
aid worker who has been involved in humanitarian
activities and peace negotiations inside Afghanistan since 1986. He is the founder of two NGOs, the Mine Clearance Planning Agency (MCPA) and the
Afghan Campaign to Ban Landmines, a 1997 Nobel Peace Prize co-Laureate.
He currently works for the United Nations.
What the common Afghans want
By Sayed Aqa & Deonna Kelli Sayed

Afghans are accustomed to "hoping for the best and expecting the worst." The fragility of the current situation calls for great care and caution not to repeat past mistakes of western policy.

Great care must be taken in any steps in formulating a post-Taliban system for Afghanistan that includes an acceptable government as well as provisions for development and economic stability. More important - Доставка цветов в Твери, efforts in this direction must reflect the sentiments of ordinary Afghans inside Afghanistan in order to gain credibility and promote long-term stability. Sadly, these sentiments seem being ignored.

Currently, there are two distinct viewpoints on nation building - one held by Afghans in the West and the other by Afghans closer to home. The discourse on nation-building by the majority of expatriate Afghans in the West prefers restoring Afghanistan to what it once was by utilizing symbols from the past, as their vision remains embedded in the idea of what Afghanistan was at the time of their going abroad. The other point of view, found mostly among Afghans inside Afghanistan, envisions a future free from the baggage of the past and goes beyond politics and beyond a fascination for "ethnic representation."

The proposed Loya jirga is filled with good intentions but remains highly problematic. The idea is endorsed by Afghans in the West but does not enjoy uncritical enthusiasm among Afghans inside the country. It is important to remember that no government or political system has been established by Loya jirga in the recent history of Afghanistan. While jirgas are very effective and will continue to work in the local context to solve land or intra-family disputes, one must proceed cautiously at the national level, particularly at this politically sensitive moment in Afghan history.

What Afghans need is substance rather than symbolism in terms of governance. Attempts by the international community to find a symbol, be in it the former king or a Loya Jirga, may be useful in the short term but may seriously undermine long-term stability in Afghanistan.

Policy pundits tread on slippery ground on the question of ethnicity which disproportionately dominates visions of post-Taliban reality. This indicates that the perspectives of ordinary Afghans are not fully represented in policy considerations. Ethnicity was never a major issue among ordinary citizens as friendships and relationships have always formed across ethnic lines. For example, our own predominately Pashtun village in Logar has a Tajik as the tribal chief. Ethnic representation has importance but it is not the sole criterion to determine government structure. The current focus on ethnicity is primarily a post-Soviet phenomenon perpetuated by a small number of politicians and warlords in order to promote their interests in the absence of any other justifiable basis for decision-making.

The short-term goal of any process should be a Council of Leaders consisting of representatives from the different regions of Afghanistan. The Council could be selected through a transparent mechanism with the active involvement of UN observers.

These observers should include a large number of individuals from Islamic countries, including Muslim scholars and clerics. They can, for example, receive a list of 200 names nominated by the local jirgas (councils) from eight regions of Afghanistan.

Ninety per cent of the names should be from different regions while the remaining 10 per cent can be from the region being surveyed in order to assess how Afghans would choose their national leaders. It may include certain number of tribal elders, credible former Mujahideen, educated Afghans, etc.

These lists should then be studied and the persons figuring in the majority of the lists would be considered to form the Council of Leaders.

This Council would provide transitional leadership for a specified number of years and determine how political development would proceed at the end of the Council's tenure. While this Council is in place, economic assistance from the international community, along with monitoring of allocations and utilization of these inflows must foster economic progress to ensure stability. A mechanism for airing complaints and grievances must also be part of this process.

There are certain demographics in Afghanistan that must be involved in any discussions regarding governance: tribal leadership, religious leadership, intellectuals, and those who were involved in fighting against the Soviets.
There has to be certain criteria for choosing potential participants. For example, General Dostum, currently with the Northern Alliance, is widely regarded as being guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Many Afghans will find him an undesirable representative. It is important that representatives have credibility inside Afghanistan and are not overly controversial.

In terms of development, the international community as well as Afghans in the West can assist with investments, institution building, and human resource development at this stage. It is important that observers are present at every stage to ensure credibility and transparency. It is also essential that there are economic "observers" to oversee the process of economic development in an affort to prevent corruption. The World Bank, European Union, the UN and other bilateral and multilateral donors already use advisers on the ground to assist and report.

This proposal is different from the Loya Jirga idea as the international
community representatives will be involved at the local level to gather names from local Afghans and the Council is not just to discuss and debate but to lead the country through a transitional period of perhaps two years.
The presence of the world community representatives is essential at this stage to ensure the fairness and credibility of the processes involved.
Furthermore, such a process will inevitably bring ethnically diverse representatives as well as those affiliated with different political groups together to work towards common objectives, and yet local politics and ethnicity will not affect the credibility and acceptance of the representatives. The West must be ready to accept that many representatives may not be well known to western observers or among Afghans in the West, as local preferences of Afghans will be prioritized in this process.
Furthermore, the Taliban cannot be completely sidelined in this process.

A creative discourse of care and concern must be initiated by the
international community. Ordinary Afghans, those who have lived through twenty years of war and have remained relevant to the current realities in Afghanistan, must have an opportunity to determine their future.

This article was originally published in the Pakistani newspaper Dawn, November 16, 2001.

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Copyright ©2001 Muslim Peace Fellowship. All rights reserved.
Muslim Peace Fellowship
Rabia Harris, Coordinator,
The Muslim Peace Fellowship is part of the Fellowship of Reconciliation network