Term Paper: Afghanistan Is a Natural Crossroad for Invaders

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Afghanistan is a natural crossroad for invaders. It is predominantly Muslim, 77% of whom live in the rural areas. They are also called Pakhtuns. With the overthrow of the Soviets by the United States in 1989, a civil war turned the virtual rule of the country to the dreaded Taliban movement in 1996. After the September 11, 2001 bombings in New York, the U.S. crushed the Taliban forces in Afghanistan, introduced a new constitution and established a presidential form of government. Only five years later, the new government confronted problems, which included the rule of law, human rights violations and conflict resolution problems. The hujra was at the center of the social, economic and political existence of the Pakhtuns,

The Afghans' top priority as regards the rule of law, according to a countrywide survey, was the removal of violators in positions of power, their criminal trials, reparation and compensation. They also wanted these trials to be conducted within the country and not outside.

UN reports say that human rights continue to be massively violated in Afghanistan as though it has remained in the state of civil war. The Afghanistan government adopted a five-point plan of accountability in response but it still has to deliver effective results.

And as regards conflict resolution, the Afghans have relished the traditional mechanism of jirga, which is deeply rooted in their culture and history. In adapting to the changing times, the mechanism has expanded from the tribal and national level to the global sphere. Its centuries-old unwritten code Pashtunwali, or the way of the Pashtuns, continues to be observed in settling conflicts among themselves.

Discussion

Afghanistan lies in a southwestern Asian plateau in Central Asia, which includes Iran, Pakistan and China (Shroder 2007). Its capital and largest city is Kabul. It has been a crossroad for invaders in the continent, which explains its ethnic and linguistic diversity. The Pashtuns constitute the ethnic majority who came to be known as Afghans. The majority of them are Muslims. Today, the term Afghans is used to denote all the citizens of the country. Afghanistan was a monarchy from 1747 to 1973 with the king's overthrow by military officers and the consequent establishment of a republic. The Soviets invaded it in 1979 but the United States fought back by supplying military aid. After the Soviets' withdrawal in 1989, a civil war erupted and ended with the victory and control of an Islamic fundamentalist movement, the Taliban, in 1996. The movement provided refuge and support to the al-Qaeda terrorist network. Following the September 11, 2001 attacks on the Twin Towers in New York, U.S. military forces invaded Afghanistan and crushed the power of the Taliban in 2001. A new constitution was adopted and a presidential form of government set up in 2004 (Shroder).

About 77% of Afghanistan is rural and half of the urban population lives in Kabul (Shroder 2007). Post-civil war reconstruction has been slow and infrastructure investment has been minimal. Most cities suffer from shortages in sewer systems, water treatment plants and public transportation. Despite its defeat, the Taliban persisted with its activities in the remote parts of Pakistan. This year, it adopted tactics, included suicide bombings and roadside bombings. It attacked U.S. And NATO outposts in the countryside of Pakistan. While U.S. defense secretary Robert Gates reported that their military campaign would succeed against Taliban forces. However, Afghan civilian support for the U.S. And NATO cooled off some time last spring, especially after casualties occurred among the civilians. Earlier in April, 50 civilians perished in the small western Herat province. Afghan president Hamid Karzai told the U.S. And NATO that civilian deaths had reached an "unacceptable level." The Meshrano Jirga, the upper house of parliament called a ceasefire with the Taliban and scheduled to withdraw foreign troops. The decision was also influenced by the March incident in Nangarhar province where 19 Afghan civilians were killed and 50 more wounded by an open fire made by U.S. Marine Special Operations. Last June, the Associated Press reported that 2,300 had died from insurgency-related violence this year alone. Among that number were 400 American soldiers and 60 British, according to official reports (Shroder).

The hujra was at the center of the socio-economic and political affairs and life of the Pakhtuns (Khan 2007). Recently, the hujra was replaced by the Masjid. The change eventulally led to a change of power structure from Malik/Khan to Mulla. The Mulla in the traditional Pakhtun society was virtually without power. It was substantially dependent on and subjected to immense pressure by influential local individuals. His main function was to conduct daily religious obligations to the community. In the conduct of this duty, he was required to obtain the general consent and approval of these local and influential persons who represent hujra. The marginalized sections of the Pakhtun society likewise struggled for power-sharing and identity but were unable to share power with Khan/Malik. The traditional Mulla achieved this among the local elites. He managed to gain both worldly positions and fulfill religious duty. The evolution of religious fanatics into militants was among the consequences of the Afghan war (Khan).

Rule of Law

Intervening countries, which attempt to end period of bloodshed and destruction often focus and rely on the establishment of security, reconstruction of government institutions and reform of the justice system (Stromseth 2007). These steps help promote the rule of law, but are not enough to contend with the trauma and other grim consequences of abuses. Leaders of such societies as Afghanistan must confront the very difficult issue of accountability for the consequences. They face the risk that new structures they set will be built on flimsy grounds. Ensuring that those responsible for the trauma and atrocities would face reckoning would be necessary if the individual and the community must recover from the experience and go on with life. This appears the only way to help victims come to terms with their misfortune. It will also send help send the signal to all other victimized societies that further abuses would be prevented or discouraged. It is clear that the very process of pursuing accountability for the misfortune and destruction would reinforce efforts to re-establish a reform system or lend it credence (Stromseth).

Some victims would demand trial and punishment of those responsible, while others would require public acknowledgment and reparation or assistance more (Stromseth 2007). Considering these preferences, both intervening international bodies and local leaders must contend with limited resources and other challenges. They must balance justice, reconciliation and other critical goals. National justice systems, functional or not, have limited capability to render the fair justice required by the difficult situation. At this period, citizens are skeptical towards their legal institutions. These institutions' corruption, systematic bias, association with the past regimes, inability to address their grievances or the shortage in resources explains the skepticism. Those responsible may also still occupy a powerful position. Or the mechanisms of accountability themselves may create more violence and disruption. The real need is to establish a credible and working justice system to enforce the rule of law for a society to move forward. That system can grow out only from the people's confidence that they will be protected from violators and oppressors. They must trust that the system can resolve disagreements fairly and reliably without violence. They must be assured that legal and political institutions could and would protect their basic human rights rather than violate them. Only then can the rule of law be authentically set up. Among the measures that can be taken to enforce the rule of law are trials, truth commissions and amnesty (Stromseth).

The case of Afghanistan requires an understanding of its local goals and priorities (Stromseth 2007). The Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission's countrywide survey of 200 focus groups on their priorities concerning accountability revealed overwhelming urge to remove violators from positions of power. The demand for criminal trials was accompanied by this clamor. Afghans were not familiar with truth commissions although they also sought for some way to seek the truth to support their cry for reparation and compensation to destruction and damages. They also wanted criminal trials to be conducted within the country and not outside. They likewise preferred a hybrid tribunal, which would include Afghans along with international jurists (Stromseth).

Specific steps, which can be undertaken to establish the rule of law in Afghanistan, can include the following:

Build legislators' and the Secretariat's capacity for effective and relevant legislations;

Build the capacity of judges, judicial staff and lawyers in implementing laws

Provide inputs and draft legislations in the areas of global relevance and concern

Train law enforcement officials in the interpretation and implementation of national and local laws

Human Rights

Afghanistan continued to suffer the ravages of a civil war and political instability for the 21st consecutive year (Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor 2001). There was no functioning central government. The Pashtun-dominated Taliban movement controlled roughly 90% of the country, including Kabul. The Afghanistan government considered the human… [END OF PREVIEW]

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