As parliamentary elections in “democratic” Afghanistan are postponed…
A bomb killed five people and President Hamid Karzai announced a delay in parliamentary elections Thursday, underlining the challenges for Afghanistan more than three years after the fall of the Taliban.
The developments came as visiting Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice pledged sustained support for Afghanistan’s democratic transition, though she said Washington has yet to decide whether to keep long-term military bases.
The parliamentary vote was scheduled for May but the United Nations and the Afghan electoral commission have been grappling with problems including a lack of census data and how to register thousands of returning refugees.
“The preparations are going on and now they told us, the commission chairman, that the elections will be held in September,” Karzai said at a news conference with Rice at his Kabul palace. “The Afghan people are waiting very eagerly to send their members to parliament.”
Afghanis long for the security and stability they knew under the Taliban.
“We are savage, cruel people,” the kidnappers warned in a note sent to Abdul Qader, demanding $15,000 to spare the life of his son Mohammed, 11. The construction contractor quickly borrowed the money and left it at the agreed spot. But the next morning, a shopkeeper found the boy’s bruised corpse lying in a muddy street.
A wave of crime in this southern Afghan city — including Mohammed’s killing two months ago and a bombing Thursday that killed at least five people — has evoked a growing local nostalgia for the Taliban era of 1996 to 2001, when the extremist Islamic militia imposed law and order by draconian means.
Residents reached their boiling point last week, after a second kidnapped boy was killed. Hundreds of men poured into the streets, demanding that President Hamid Karzai fire the provincial governor and police chief. Some threw rocks at military vehicles and chanted, “Down with the warlords!” Witnesses recalled some adding, “Bring back the Taliban!”
Both provincial officials are former militia leaders — commonly called warlords in Afghanistan — whose fighters reportedly preyed on residents before they were driven out by the Taliban. They regained power, like a number of other current officials, by joining the U.S.-led military forces that defeated the Taliban in late 2001.
Human Rights Watch, a U.S.-based advocacy group, charged last week that numerous former warlords, who hold many provincial governorships and top police jobs, “have been implicated in widespread rape of women and children, murder, illegal detention, forced displacement, human trafficking and forced marriage.” There are also allegations that some militia leaders and civilian officials are involved in drug trafficking.
The rising discontent in Kandahar could prove particularly problematic for Karzai, who was born here and has drawn much support from the region’s Pashtun ethnic group to which he belongs. Many Kandaharis, once alienated by the harsh rule of the Taliban, say their early support for Karzai is now giving way to a grudging nostalgia for the Taliban era.
At that time, many said, a person could walk around the city carrying quantities of cash and drive roads long after dark without fear. Today holdups are common, few people venture out after sunset, and many are haunted by a sense of vulnerability.
Nazar Khan, who sells television sets in a bazaar, said that as a teenager, he hated the Taliban for banning music and forcing him to listen in secret to his favorite singers. “But at least under the Taliban we had security,” Khan said.
“Imagine how things are, that we are wishing for the Taliban again,” [stadium painter Zahir Jan] muttered.