A recent US-based survey conducted by Asia Foundation suggests Afghan optimism about the overall direction of the country and confidence in government fell to its lowest point in a decade.
Meanwhile, fear for personal safety increased to a record high. Afghans have cited deteriorating security conditions, unemployment and corruption as the main reasons for their pessimism.
Survey of The Afghan People 2015 released on November 17 reveals Afghan optimism rose steadily in 2014 but declined this year, tipping to the lowest point in a decade. Around 57.5 per cent Afghans believe their country is headed towards inevitable destruction.
According to Asia Foundation survey of 2015, 37 per cent of respondents nationwide believe their country is moving in the right direction. The figure has dropped from 55 per cent reported last year. The number of Afghans who fear for their personal safety has reached 67.4% – the highest recorded level this decade. Nearly 71.4 per cent of the Afghan youth attributes the problems to unemployment and 26.5% to illiteracy.
One of the key aspects in thae survey was a widespread support for peace with the Taliban and other armed groups. According to the document, 62 per cent Afghans believe government’s efforts to reconcile with the Taliban will ensure stability in Afghanistan.
The widespread support among people for truce between the government and the Taliban demonstrated by the 2015 survey serves as a strong indicator for two-headed national unity government’s new policies and strategies.
The matter becomes even more poignant with the onset of winter. If President Ashraf Ghani does not address the public’s security concerns immediately, Afghans will be forced to fight even in winter.
Unveiling a new strategy becomes even more pressing considering major international stakeholders including the US and China have also urged Kabul to reconcile the peace process.
On Friday, The White House said US vice president and Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif have “reaffirmed their strong commitment to establishing peace in Afghanistan and support a reinvigorated reconciliation process in coordination with Kabul.”
Ignoring the internal and external quest for stability will be a highly naïve move on Kabul’s part and will only encourage detractors of the incessant peace.
Growing pessimism among Afghans has encouraged Ghani’s opponents to launch political campaigns against the government. According to Afghan media, an opposition leader launched a scathing attack on Thursday, accusing Ghani’s government of allowing the country to fall into a state of crisis.
Afghanistan National Congress chief and Parliament member Abdul Latif Pedram told the opposition, “The government’s inefficiency has caused thousands of young Afghans to flee the country.”
Last month, Omar Daudzai, a close confidant of former president Hamid Karzai and former Interior Minister, told Tolo TV, “My suggestion to Ghani has always been to come forward, take a daring decision and hold elections as soon as possible.” He added this will ensure a president with clear authority and legitimacy emerges soon.
It is widely believed Karzai, who still enjoys a wide support in the country, is behind Daudzai’s move. People also speculate Karzai is likely to convene a traditional loya jirga to mount pressure on Ghani.
Senior leader and former finance minister Anwarul Haq Ahadi announced he was also in the process of launching an opposition party.
Political opponents are now debating about the legitimacy of the Parliament. They say despite Ghani’s extension of the parliament period, its constitutional term had in fact ended in June and since the government failed to hold parliamentary polls on time this year, the Parliament was no longer legal. They attribute this to political wrangling.
Ghani is also under pressure to start preparations for calling a loya jirga in order to change the position of the chief executive to that of prime minister.
Moreover, even a section of the media is critical of national unity government’s performance and Ghani’s failure to honour his commitments. Ghani had promised to provide one million people with employment, but thousands of people have lost their jobs. In this state, people will naturally be displeased with the government,” stated Pashto daily Sarnevesht in its editorial comments this week.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 21th, 2015.