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'Obama of Afghanistan' hopes U.S. president's name will buoy his election chances

From Wednesday's Globe and Mail

Candidates emulate the American's Internet strategies to reach out to young voters ...Read the full article

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  1. Catherine Medernach from Winnipeg, Canada writes: Recently read a book called 'The Al Jazeera Effect' which deals with how the new global media is impacting on politics around the world. This is an example of what the book talks about. It is unfortunate that many Afghans may not have much access to the internet but for those that do it is opening up new opportunities for them to participate in the political process in a way most never have. This is one factor that can help promote the democratic process. It is a way to help people access information and connect with others. This is also an indication that many in Afghanistan, despite the naysayers, do want more say in the government of their country and are ready for a more democratic process. This is good news - that despite the continuing conflict in their country - Afghans are finding ways to participate and make their views known.
  2. abdul yusofzai from ottawa, Canada writes: This demagogue is no obama! what kind of reporting is this? Your story would not sell in Afghanistan. God save Afghanistan from this half-crazy, populist demagogue named bashardost. He is known across afghanistan as a charlatan who claims to be with the poor but is actually a fake who has amassed maney in foreign bank accounts from Afghans in exile and thru simplistic western media like yours. I just came from Kabul and here is what i heard the "Afghan Obama" say in local interviews: 1. he claims that Taliban are not problem and that 99% would disappear as soon as we exterminate 500 corrupt afghan leaders. The remaining 1% are affiliated to foreign neighbors and he could take care of them. 2. When asked how do you take care of 1%, he said: i will send a commando teeam of 1000 afghans to iran and Pakistan and get rid of the leaders who support these terrorist elements. 3. when asked how you solve the corruption issue, he said: i would get rid of all the top administrators and bureaucrats and replace them with clean people with no legal process or anything. 4. when asked how do you provide better services and governance, he says: I will ask all the donors to give me the money or shut them down and the same applies to all NGOs. 5. when asked how owuld you deal with the local warlords and commanders, he said: i would eliminate them with my commando team. Now it does not surprise me to see a simple report about a dangerous and dillusional simpleton like bashardost. This guy is no OBAMA! The readers deserve a better standard.
  3. Richard Roskell from Naramata, Canada writes: abdul yusofzai, unfortunately, the foreigners who installed "democracy" in Afghanistan were as simple-minded as the individual you describe.
  4. abdul yusofzai from ottawa, Canada writes: Richard. Dont get me wrong. afghans want dmeocracy. you ay ask why? because they dont feel it was imposed. they saw the process unfold between 2002 and 2004. they were part of it. but also, they have seen everything else in the book for the past 30 years. you westerners sometime are too arrogant and too condescending. you dont understand our history. Until 1973 the afghans experienced monarchy and a democratic constitutional democracy (1963-73). then they experienced a dictatorial republic with certian freedoms. then in 1978 till 1992, they experienced soviet style communism. they fought against it and finally it collaped giving way to an islamic republic in the middle of civil war. then in 1995 they started to experience radical taliban islamic rule. so they know what this regime is all about and most afghans think its the bst thing so far even though it has many flaws and is not very advanced democracy like our canadian democracy where there is no corruption, no abuse, no rights violations, no taser use and so on...
  5. Catherine Medernach from Winnipeg, Canada writes: abdul yusofzai - precisely! Too many people on these threads are making demands for things we have not been able to deal with here after years of democracy. From what I have seen and read, Muslims in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq - and probably other autocratic countries - want a more democratic process. However that does not mean they want the Western style of secular democracy anymore than they want a Taliban style theocracy. The main idea of democracy is that the people get to choose for themselves how their country is run.

    As for the individual mentioned in the article, I know little about him and certainly am in no position to suggest if he is a viable candidate. What I think is good for Afghanistan is that people have found ways to access information and get actively involved in the democratic process despite the conflict that continues. This gives them a greater measure of control over the outcome which is to their benefit.
  6. Richard Roskell from Naramata, Canada writes: abdul yusofzai, thank you for your interesting comments. As a Westerner, and possibly arrogant and condescending as you describe, I nevertheless will not claim that I know what Afghans want in the way of a government. Please explain how it is that you can.

    Afghans have never been collectively asked what form of government they wish to have. The recent experiment with democracy is a Western initiative, barely three years old. Contrary to your claim, no democratic government has ever previously existed in Afghanistan. During the period you cite, 1963-1973, the country was ruled by a king (Zahir Shah) who permitted the people to elect one third of the delegates to a national legislature. It was a step in the democratic direction, but it was not a constitutional democracy as you claim.

    Once you've explained how it is that you know the Afghan people want democracy, there remains a nagging question. The Afghan people are largely illiterate, rural and agrarian. They are living in the poorest nation on the planet. By comparison, Haiti (the poorest nation in the Western hemisphere) has a GDP three times as large. Yet according to you, these illiterate, agrarian tribes-people who have never previously known democracy are sure that they want it. How did that come about, exactly?

    I don't presume to know what the Afghans would choose for a government, but I do reliably know several things.

    1. Afghans did not choose the form of government they currently have, nor have they previously had a democratic government.

    2. Illiterate tribesmen-and-women of an agrarian country that's never experienced democracy are unlikely to be clamouring for it.

    3. Afghans, like every other people, are interested in a form of government which provides them with what they want. No sane person would prefer to vote rather than eat.
  7. Catherine Medernach from Winnipeg, Canada writes: Wrong again Roskell - you might try to verify some historical facts for a change. Afghans had a constitutional democracy before. King Zahir Shah developed a new constitution in 1964 (not the first attempt btw) which was approved by Loya Jirga. It turned Afghanistan into a democracy with a parliament that had separate and independent executive, legislative and judicial branches. Included were free elections, civil rights and emancipation for women. All members of the Royal family were excluded from high office. There was provision for the establishment of political parties, and a free press. King Shah also established the first modern university. Women had more freedom than under any other ruler in Afghanistan. This was a period of relative stability and the country's growth was its highest in history and people were relatively happy including in rural areas.
    It was a coup led by former Prime Minister Daud Khan(who had been asked to step down) that destabilized Afghanistan once more.
  8. Richard Roskell from Naramata, Canada writes:

    Is there a name for this parallel world you inhabit, Catherine Medernach? It bears a superficial resemblance to Planet Earth, but events in your world are not what we see here. Your claim that King Zahir Shah created a constitutional democracy does not exist in this world.

    Zahir Shah created a constitutional monarchy. He was the head of state.

    Having a legislative body under a hereditary or absolute ruler is not by itself democracy. Zahir Shah only permitted the people to elect one third of the representatives to the legislature: is that what they think of as democracy in your world, Medernach? Nor did Zahir Shah permit political parties to form. Each elected official had to run as an independent candidate. Again, does that sound like democracy? After all, they have elections in China, too.

    Zahir Shah was progressive by Afghan standards. By Afghan standards, so was Ho Chi Min. But neither were democrats. Zahir Shah also introduced reforms for women. So did the Communists. But again, neither were democratic.
  9. Catherine Medernach from Winnipeg, Canada writes: King Zahir Shah may not have managed the change to democracy very well - and it is not possible to know if that would have changed over time. Implementation was a problem for people who did not understand their roles and Shah dealt with the situation in a less than productive fashion. And he did backtrack in some areas on the advice of others. However, he did establish a modern university with specific programs to teach people how to apply civil law and supported the emancipation of women. You may choose to focus on the negative because it fits better with your views.

    The fact of the matter is that there was a constitution and it was approved by the Loya Jirga - so your contention that the ideas of constitutions and democratic style governments is a totally foreign element introduced and being imposed by the West is pure bunk.
  10. Richard Roskell from Naramata, Canada writes:

    You really need to read more widely than Soldier of Fortune magazine, Catherine.

    Cuba, Vietnam and the People's Republic of China all have constitutions, (as does every nation in the world of which I'm aware...) but they're not democracies.

    And just to make your claims even less relevant, the constitutions of Cuba, Vietnam and the PRC all describe their governments as "democratic." The PRC's constitution describes "democratic" government processes four times in the first few articles.

    King Zahir Shah introduced reforms to the way Afghanistan was governed, just as the Communist government of Afghanistan did a decade later. Neither party made the country a democracy.
  11. Catherine Medernach from Winnipeg, Canada writes: Never have read soldier of fortune - but I am sure my reading is much broader than yours Roskell. You will use any argument to justify your contention that there has never been any move toward a more democratic system of government before and that the whole concept is foreign to Afghanistan. Afghanistan had its first written constitution in 1923 although that did not last over time. However, just because previous efforts have failed does not mean that the current effort is being 'forced' on the Afghans - although there are people who would like to compel Afghanistan to be a secular state. People were not forced to stand in line to vote against their will - it was their choice to participate. The current constitution was approved by a Loya Jirga which is a traditional part of decision making in Afghanistan.
  12. Richard Roskell from Naramata, Canada writes:

    Getting desperate now are we, Catherine? LOL

    Never have I stated that there's, "never been any move toward a more democratic system of government," in Afghanistan. That would be an absurdity refuted by history; not just about Afghanistan but about most countries on the planet.

    What I stated was that prior to a few years ago, there's never been a democratic government in Afghanistan. That's a historical fact. Stating- as did you- that under King Zahir Shah Afghans had a "constitutional democracy" is likewise an absurdity refuted by history.
  13. Richard Roskell from Naramata, Canada writes: Due to the G&M's recent policy of delimiting comment on Afghanistan, I must pay my respects here to those Canadian soldiers who have died in non-combat related incidents in Afghanistan.

    To the families and loved ones of Major Raymond Ruckpaul, Bombardier Jérémie Ouellet and Major Michelle Mendes I express my sincere condolences.

  14. abdul yusofzai from ottawa, Canada writes: hi there sorry i was away. I see you guys had an interesting debate going. I have to say Rochard that you are wrong and catehrine is right. i am of afghan origin and lived thru that period oin the country. Zahir shah introduced a democracy that was unparraleled in islmaic world at that time. he took power form his own fmaily and gave 3 branches of govt power. The afghan parliament was made up of two houses, senate (where one third was selected by king) and the lower house that was 100% elected. i remember freedom of media (including commusint and islamic and liberal newspaers) and many street demonstration tolerated by govt where poeple were free to criticize the king and anyone. Women were free to study and work. it only lasted 10 years but demoicratic countries like canad and US did not support it!!!

    learn your lesson RIchard!

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