October 13, 2003 - Personal Web Page: RPCV Ron Di Orio writes on "What form of government will work in Afghanistan?"

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Afghanistan: Peace Corps Afghanistan: The Peace Corps In Afghanistan: October 13, 2003 - Personal Web Page: RPCV Ron Di Orio writes on "What form of government will work in Afghanistan?"

By Admin1 (admin) (pool-151-196-177-60.balt.east.verizon.net - on Sunday, November 30, 2003 - 2:17 pm: Edit Post

RPCV Ron Di Orio writes on "What form of government will work in Afghanistan?"

RPCV Ron Di Orio writes on "What form of government will work in Afghanistan?"

What form of government will work in Afghanistan?

By Ron Di Orio (Mr. Di Orio, a historian, has served as Peace Corp Volunteer in Afghanistan in the 70's.)

In the first place, any government established in Afghanistan will have to consider not only the religious and ethnic make-up and traditions of the population of the area, but also the historical forces that resulted in this area of Central Asia becoming an independent state. While this may seem obvious, it seems unfortunately to be ignored by those who believe that Afghanistan is a state in the same sense that certain geographical and more or less ethnically/linguistically/religiously homogenous regions of Europe have resulted in the establishment of national states that then have had various types of governments.

The area that comprises the accepted boundaries of current day Afghanistan might best be categorized as a collection of "terrae irridentae" if Central Asia were to be divided into ethnic national states. Almost every ethnic group within Afghanistan has a correspondingly larger population across the border in an adjacent state (with some exceptions, the Hazaras being a prime example), and even those exceptions have other cultural or religious ties to populations in other states. In fact, one could assert that if the defining conditions that apply to a western national state were applied to Afghanistan, then there is little reason for an "Afghanistan" to exist at all.

But there are other factors that have resulted in the evolution of modern states other than linguistic/ethnic/religious homogeneity, the two most important being geographic and historic factors. When these factors are taken into consideration, there are in fact strong reasons for the existence of an "Afghanistan".

Geographically, there is a logical definable northern border, the Amu Darya, for Afghanistan. In the south, southwest and west, while the borders are rather arbitrary, they are for the most part merely lines in the sand. The Eastern boundary, the infamous Durand line, is another story. Yet perhaps the most important consideration is that for most of the various empires and states that existed over history the areas incorporated in their states that are parts of Afghanistan were on the fringes or frontiers of said empires, once again with a few notable exceptions.

Thus most of the area that comprises current day Afghanistan was inhabited by populations, regardless of their ethnicity, that had rather loose ties to the centers of the empire/state in which they were incorporated. Historically, therefore, a tradition of independence developed amongst those populations that has shown, with the exception of the Baluchis and Pushtoons, little desire amongst those populations to seek ethnic/linguistic/cultural unification with the neighboring majority population. In other words, non-Pushtoon Afghans, despite the presence of national states corresponding to their ethnicity, have still developed an identification as being independent and different in some ways from their neighbors, in much the same way that German, French or Italian inhabitants of Switzerland, while still conscious of the cultural and linguistic ties to their corresponding national populations and states, still have developed a consciousness of being Swiss.

Now while some would assert that this is because of the backwardness of Afghanistan, or in the Marxian sense a population that has been stuck in feudalism and lacks the development of a bourgeois class, or because development has been thwarted due to religious reasons, from the point of nation building, it is perhaps the result that is important more so than the causes. That is, there is an identifiable consciousness of being a resident of Afghanistan amongst all the ethnic groups that comprise current day Afghanistan.

Note, however, that I have hesitated to use the term "Afghan", and purposely so. This is because "Afghan" can be and often is virtually synonymous with "Pushtoon". And here lies one of the main problems as far as what the future government of Afghanistan might be. For it is safe to say that there can be little doubt that despite the consciousness previously alluded to in the above paragraphs as existing amongst all ethnic groups, no modern independent state in the area comprising Afghanistan would exist had it not been for the existence of the "Afghan" Pushtoon/Pukhtoon tribes that gave identity to Afghanistan.

What has all this to do with the question at point, the form of the future government of Afghanistan, the reader by now undoubtedly bored with the above exposition may be asking? I have presented the above in order to demonstrate that the central problem with the form of future government in Afghanistan is the Pushtoon question. There can probably never be a successful government in Afghanistan that more or less takes into account the needs and desires of all the population of Afghanistan as long as the only "Afghans" are the Pushtoons. This would be like saying the only "Americans" are those of white English Protestant descent, despite the fact that the population of the United States would be, by this standard, largely composed of non-"Americans", just as the majority of the population of Afghanistan is composed of non-"Afghans", although Pushtoons remain the largest single ethnic group.

Yet one must recognize the all-important contribution of the Pushtoons to the creation and existence of Afghanistan as something more than a mere geographic area. Afghan traditions of hospitality, independence, and possibly less desirable traditions owe much to Pushtoonwali. At the same time, the technical and professional leadership demonstrated by Tajiks, the evolving position of women, and the blood sacrifices of all ethnic groups in the War of Independence against the Shorawi must also be taken into account in any attempt to form a new Afghan government. Failure to come up with an acceptable accounting could easily result in the long run in the dismemberment of Afghanistan--a "Northern" area allied economically and possibly politically to the Soviet successor states across the Amu Darya, Iranian occupation/incorporation of western Afghanistan, and a rump "Afghanistan" in the east and south, Pushtoon dominated yet still unable to resolve the Pushtoonistan issue with Pakistan.

Yet I do not believe that at this time the centrifugal forces that would tear Afghanistan apart are strong enough to create a situation similar to what happened in the former Yugoslavia. However, any central Afghan government cannot make the same mistake that the Serbs made in Yugoslavia, i.e., non-Pushtoons cannot be allocated second-class citizen status. Any future government thus must permit not necessarily provincial autonomy, but recognition of provincial differences and equal opportunity for all ethnic/religious/cultural groups. Such a government can only result from the promulgation of a constitution that recognizes and guarantees such rights, an integrated viable national army that represents all groups, and a central government that is not heavy handed in attempts to impose solutions to the many problems faced by Afghanistan. Therefore, it is apparent that what we are looking at for a future Afghan government is some sort of Constitutional Republic that allows participation of all the various factions within Afghanistan while recognizing the importance of tradition. A monarchy is not a viable solution primarily due to lack of a suitable monarchical candidate. Perhaps the government could have a bicameral legislature, one house based on the loya jirga, another based on popular parliamentary election, combined with an executive elected by either popular vote or some formula yet to be determined. Most importantly, a fully integrated and militarily viable independent national armed force must be created as soon as possible, to eliminate the occupation by foreign troops and to permit the Afghans to solve their own problems.

Note that I have not suggested that this state be either "secular" or "Islamic"--both terms have connotations that need not be imposed upon any future Afghan government, especially as Afghanistan has in recent history seen the excesses of the extremists of both types of state. Preservation of outdated cultural traditions must not be confused with Islamic practice, nor should secular goals be achieved at the expense of non-adherence to basic Islamic principles.

But as I stated in the beginning, it is not for me, an American, to attempt to decide what form of government that the Afghans should have, nor for the United States or any other state to impose a government on the Afghan people. I offer the above opinion as an historian and because it was requested by Soloman jan. I pray that, inshallah, a government that brings peace and allows the realization of the legitimate aspirations of all Afghans will sooner than later evolve in Afghanistan.

Thank you for your kind attention.

Xoda hafe

zRon Di Orio

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By Anonymous ( on Wednesday, October 31, 2007 - 1:40 am: Edit Post

Hi!How Are You im Amir From Afghanistan I Love
To Read The Histories Of Afghanistan.

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