Political Parties in Afghanistan
Political Parties in Afghanistan
Table of Contents
  1. Overview
The U.S. and the Taliban after the Killing of al-Qaeda Leader Ayman al-Zawahiri
The U.S. and the Taliban after the Killing of al-Qaeda Leader Ayman al-Zawahiri
Briefing 39 / Asia

Political Parties in Afghanistan

As parliamentary elections approach in September 2005, early hopes that a strong, pluralistic political party system would help stabilise Afghanistan's political transition are fading.

I. Overview

As parliamentary elections approach in September 2005, early hopes that a strong, pluralistic political party system would help stabilise Afghanistan's political transition are fading. Karzai government policies, accompanied by an inappropriate voting system, are sidelining the parties at a time when there is increasing popular dissatisfaction with the slow progress in economic reconstruction, rising corruption and continued insecurity. This is worrying since it was marginalisation and intolerance of political opposition that stunted the development of a pluralistic system, and was largely responsible for past violence in Afghanistan. If current laws constraining party functioning are not changed, political stability will be illusory.

In the absence of strong pluralistic and democratic institutions to mediate internal tensions, political bargaining and the competition for power will most likely continue to occur outside the institutions of government. Because of their past shortcomings, however, many Afghans regard political parties with suspicion. Yet, post-Taliban Afghanistan has witnessed the emergence of many small democratic parties that offer a break with this past, and the means to create a stable and democratic parliament. And many Afghans, especially young people, now recognise parties as an essential component of the legal democratic process.

The government of President Hamid Karzai would be best served by bringing any political party, regardless of its political leanings, into the legal fold if it demonstrates a willingness to work peacefully and democratically. In particular, it should:

  • clarify Article 6 of the Political Parties Law relating to ethnic, racial and sectarian discrimination and violence;
     
  • revise the Political Parties Law to remove unnecessary curbs on party formation and functioning and to clarify apparent contradictions with the application of sharia (religious law) regarding women's rights;
  • simplify the registration process;
     
  • ensure an even playing field in the September 2005 parliamentary elections by shifting oversight of parties from the ministry of justice to an independent election commission; and
     
  • support healthy political development by providing government funds to parties so as to reduce the scope for private interests to buy influence, and by facilitating training to enhance the participation of women in the political system.

The government should also urgently reconsider the possibility of amending its decision to conduct the parliamentary elections under the single non-transferable vote (SNTV) system, which is likely to produce unrepresentative results in a country that lacks well-organised parties.

Major donor countries and the UN Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) should support the above measures and should pay special attention to the provision of security for liberal, democratic parties that are operating in an uncertain environment.

Kabul/Brussels, 2 June 2005

Podcast / Asia

The U.S. and the Taliban after the Killing of al-Qaeda Leader Ayman al-Zawahiri

This week on Hold Your Fire! Richard Atwood speaks with Crisis Group’s Asia Director Laurel Miller about U.S. policy in Afghanistan, the Taliban’s foreign relations and what the killing of al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in the Afghan capital Kabul says about the threat from transnational militants in Afghanistan a year into Taliban rule.

On 31 July, a U.S. drone strike killed al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in the Afghan capital Kabul. Zawahiri appears to have been living in a house maintained by the family of powerful Taliban Interior Minister Sirajuddin Haqqani. His death came almost a year after U.S. troops pulled out of Afghanistan and the Taliban routed the former Afghan security forces and seized power. The Taliban’s uncompromising rule over the past year has seen girls denied their right to education, many other rights and freedoms curtailed and power tightly guarded within the Taliban movement. The Afghan economy has collapsed, owing in large part to the U.S. and other countries’ freezing Afghan Central Bank assets, keeping sanctions against the Taliban in place and denying the country non-humanitarian aid. Levels of violence across the country are mostly down, but Afghans’ plight is desperate, with a grave humanitarian crisis set to worsen over the winter. The Taliban’s apparent harbouring of Zawahiri seems unlikely to smooth relations between the new authorities in Kabul and the outside world. 

This week on Hold your Fire! Richard Atwood speaks with Crisis Group’s Asia Program Director Laurel Miller about U.S. policy in Afghanistan and the Taliban’s broader foreign relations after Zawahiri’s killing. They discuss what his presence and death in Kabul mean for U.S. policy and what they say about the threat posed by transnational militants sheltering in Afghanistan. They look into how countries in the region are seeking to protect their interests in Afghanistan, including by engaging with the de facto Taliban authorities, and how those countries – particularly Pakistan, which has faced an uptick of violence in the past year – view the danger from foreign militants in Afghanistan. They also look in depth at Washington’s goals in Afghanistan a year after the withdrawal and what balance it should strike between engaging the Taliban or seeking to isolate them. Just over a year after the U.S. withdrawal and Taliban takeover, they reflect back on Washington’s decision to pull out troops. 

Click here to listen on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

For more on the situation in Afghanistan, check out Crisis Group’s recent report Afghanistan’s Security Challenges under the Taliban.

Subscribe to Crisis Group’s Email Updates

Receive the best source of conflict analysis right in your inbox.