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कृण्वन्तो विश्वमार्यम्


By Brigadier Chitranjan Sawant,VSM

Gandhari,queen of Hastinapur and wife of King Dhritrashtra of Mahabharat fame hailed from Gandhar that is Kandhar of today. Panchali or Draupadi was from Paanchal on the turbulent borders of the Punjab and the kingdom extended to Afghanistan. The area is as turbulent today as it ever was. We Indians of today feel rather close to the Afghans of today as we are each other’s kith and kin – the loved ones. Never mind our different faiths and mode of prayer. Notwithstanding a long passage of time since the days of Gandhari, Indians and Afghans are closer to each other than Afghans and Pakistanis are. Their being votaries of Islam matters little when self interests clash. So you see our greeting the President of Afghanistan has a long and chequered history behind it that cannot be wished away by a new nation like Pakistan. The Afghan Presidential election is just knocking at the main door and the Indian interest therein is quite logical.


Three thousand donkeys will carry election material like ballot papers, ballot boxes, allied equipment and so on to polling booths set up in remote areas of difficult terrain that are inaccessible to vehicular traffic. A donkey is the most reliable beast of burden and is least demanding. The election officer cannot ask for a better load carrier than a donkey and he has got as many as he wishes to have. Of course, the ever increasing fear generated by Taliban terrorists looms large over the election scenario, irrespective of the type of terrain. So be it. All presidential candidates have to face the danger and they, including female candidates, have chosen to brave bullets. In a male dominated Afghan society, a female candidate chose to don a male dress – a baggy salwar, a long shirt, a coat to cover her pistol and a black turban. She goes out and mixes with men and women albeit separately and asks for their votes to become President of the war torn country. She knows that her chances of reaching the Presidential Palace are rather thin but canvasses seriously regardless. That is the new spirit of democracy for which the Americans take the credit. They are not wrong.

The present incumbent of the highest office of the land is Mr Abdul Hamid Karzai who is in the fray for a second term of five years. He is an American educated technocrat who has won the trust of the Obama Administration like that of Bush before. Being a Pushtoon himself, he commands the respect, if not love, of the biggest section of Pashto speaking Afghans. The Pashtoons make 42 percent of the 33million Afghan population. Karzai commands the respect of some influential warlords and drug barons too. It sounds strange but it is true. Just before his first presidential election campaign in 2004, he had received support of ex-warlords; at a price though. This year too he is receiving full support of Abdul Rashid Dostum, a whisky drinking communist warlord who fought against the Soviet invasion but had to go into exile as he had become too big for his boots. He jetted back from Turkey in the nick of time to be beside Karzai in his hour of need. However, the Americans and Europeans are neither comfortable nor happy about Dostum wielding power in the next government dispensation. Karzai has pleased the Shiite population too by helping enact a law where a Shiite husband can deny food to his wife if she does not comply with his sexual demands and desires. Shiite Muslims make 20 per cent of the population of Afghanistan. Shiite husbands are now Lords of the Ring and they love it. Their votes are for Karzai and there are no two opinions on the subject.

As of now Abdul Hamid Karzai is likely to win the Presidential election. It is assessed that he will get 45 per cent of the votes polled. But that is not enough as a candidate must poll 50 percent or more of the total votes polled to win outright. If no one succeeds, there will be a second bout between the two candidates who have polled the highest number of votes. The supporters of Karzai are making a bid for the win in the first time poll. They are canvassing hard and winning more political heavy weights as allies. Karzai has even granted Presidential pardon to economic offenders and drug peddlers to extend the area of his support. He may, however, alienate law abiding citizens and foreign powers if he proceeds with pardons for known criminals. Indeed he will be doing a tight rope walk until the votes are counted and results declared. A strict check must be kept on harvesting poppy seeds and trading in other deadly drugs to win the war against Taliban terrorists who are presently staging a comeback.

Abdullah Abdullah is the next strong contender for the office of the President. A soft spoken eye surgeon, he has the support of the Northern Alliance and is also counting on the support of the Tajik ethnic minority because Karzai has the support of Pashtuns. Indeed the Taliban terrorists also enjoy support of Pashtoons. In fact the Taliban terrorists are by and large Pushtoons. Since inception of Afghanistan the Pashtun Kings have ruled the land but after the Soviet army withdrew it was the Tajik ethnic minority that bagged most of the plum posts in the Army, the Police and the Administration. They form only 24 per cent of the Afghan population and support Abdullah Abdullah who was once the Foreign Minister under Karzai. His supporters say that an outright win for Karzai will mean fraud against Abdullah Abdullah and in that case they will have no option but to take to streets. In Kabul it means bloodshed unlike in Tehran because every house in Kabul owns a Kalashnikov and plenty of ammunition to go with it. In the last rally addressed by Abdullah Abdullah in Kabul the large crowd listened to him with rapt attention and promised to convert the support into votes. Time alone will tell who voted for whom.


The Taliban terrorists have already announced from rooftops that they would not allow the Presidential election to go on smoothly. There have been blasts at important strategic points. No one is sure what will happen next. The surge in the NATO forces is to ensure a smooth sailing for the Presidential election. For the West Abdul Hamid Karzai is still the best bet. The Pushtoons may support him willy- nilly. The American Army is keen to get out of Afghanistan as early as possible. On the other hand the top American General is predicting a long stay there for the troops. General David Petrayes who has a successful ground experience of war in Iraq is in favour of the NATO troops staying put in Afghanistan to make the AF_PAK policy of USA a success. It is in their interest that Karzai registers a win in the first round to buttress the military position of the West. All said and done, the volatile situation may continue notwithstanding Karzai’s return to the Presidential Palace as the Man in Command.

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