Bashir Ahmad Fatehi has been busy with cultural and educational projects since completing post-graduate work in political science. Here, he gives his impressions of the political scene in post-Taliban Afghanistan, the challenges which lie ahead and the important role of young politicians in the prospects for a stable and vibrant future.
Heinrich Boell Stiftung: How do you understand politics?
Bashir Ahmad Fatehi: Well, as a matter of fact, the definition of politics fluctuates greatly. From my point of view, it is a methodology, a mechanism, and a way of thinking. It is finding the right path and traveling on it. It is thinking about others’ benefits.
How do you interpret post-Taliban Afghanistan?
I believe that the two-phase transition to democracy—freedom followed by the establishment of a democratic system—has been somewhat successful. But because of the growing strength of the Taliban and declining international military support, the process remains limited to these two phases only. The third phase, which is the institutionalization of democracy, requires conditions that are not possible in the country. Therefore, democracy is fragile and in the process of transition. We need more time to develop and institutionalize it.
Is the current climate amenable to young politicians?
It must be said that young politicians have always been the foremost victims when it comes to political dealings, and their place at the national decision-making table has always been empty. No doubt important opportunities are now available to young people, but the fact is that in post-Taliban Afghanistan, promises to young people have remained on paper. Those who fight for extremists are young people, and those who fight to defend Afghanistan are also young people. The role of young politicians is quite obvious, but it is unfortunately not given any importance. The main victims in the fight to reach peace and security are young people. Nonetheless, in government decision making, the role of young politicians is negligible; this shows what the government’s motivations actually are.
What role can young politicians play in the future?
Patriarchal and religious societies, in which elders have the final word and there is a very weak government, are spurring young people to go into the service of extremist groups. This is at a time when young people constitute a major portion of our population. If the condition persists, young politicians could fail to reach the status they actually deserve.
What is your perspective on the relationship between traditional and modern political cultures?
I think that traditional political culture is indeed based on values and norms left behind by previous generations, and those who subscribe to such politics mostly use traditional instruments. On the other hand, modern political culture is the culture that has allowed us to know and study nature and humans. By studying culture, its true meaning and its impacts on society can be better understood. Keeping that in mind, modern politicians have different views and enter into political debates with complex techniques. To them, the outcomes of action are not always totally favorable.
How effective are young people’s efforts to strengthen modern political values?
It has to be said that young Afghans still follow traditional politicians as inspiration for their activities, which is fruitless in the current climate. These politicians will never allow young people to grow.
How possible is it for young people to engage in politics at present?
As a matter of fact, society’s wants and needs change over time. Therefore, the current generation’s ideas and values differ significantly from their forefathers’ ways of thinking. But the question is: are our social and political conditions ready to accept the viewpoints of young politicians? The answer to this question is very much related to citizens’ awareness. The more young politicians study the traditions and customs ruling society, the more they will be able to perform successfully. However, the demands of the time mean that young people must come forward with their ideas despite serious challenges.
What can young politicians do to institutionalize democratic values in the country?
There are numerous features that differentiate a modern government system from traditional ones. Keeping that in mind, first young politicians must work to institutionalize the rule of law in the country so that democracy can be strengthened. Second, they must obtain more authority in government institutions. Third, the emphasis of the work must be on institutionalization. Fourth, there must be coordination to make use of the services of intellectuals. Fifth, efforts must be made towards political modernization. And sixth, the process of modernization must be facilitated so that an updated, youth-oriented political society can be established.
How have the activities of political parties helped in this regard?
In a democratic system, political parties play the role of the backbone and establish connections between people and the government. Political parties put forward civil desires and demands, educate people about issues, and manage competing interests. In societies where there are violent conflicts, political parties provide programs for social and political cooperation. Political parties can actually make a great impact on democratic values. But, unfortunately, this is not case in Afghanistan.
What are the greatest challenges in modern politics?
There are many challenges, such as the importance of modern politics being undermined, the reproduction of authoritarian culture, inefficiencies and structural dependence, ethnicity-based and monopolistic governments, and the lack of technical and committed professionals.
How do you envision the next ten years?
Government performance over the last thirteen years can be used to gauge what will the future look like. Time will present an answer to this question of whether Afghanistan will prosper in the future. But what is important is that the international community, despite numerous complaints about the Afghan government, has trusted it and has pledged to continue its financial support. This suggests that there is still hope for the international community, and for the Afghan government and its people. There is hope that Afghanistan might continue moving towards peace and prosperity, the elimination of corruption, and good governance.
This interview was originally published by the Afghanistan regional office of the Heinrich Boell Stiftung.