By Mohammed Gul SAHIBBZADA
Now that political reconciliation was reached between President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani and Dr. Abdullah Abdullah by signing a power-sharing agreement on 17 May 2020, the Government should step up efforts to prepare a comprehensive, multi-faceted National Agenda, rally people around it and prioritize long due tasks of true nation building. As the country is passing through a critical point in history, it is the responsibility of Government leaders to guard against ongoing, consistent aggression by the enemy to divide the nation under various grounds, including ethnicity, geography, religious and sectarian. Formation and promulgation of National Agenda should be at the top of Government priorities during its upcoming five years term, and it should succinctly include the following major areas: – a) increase of budget for quality and expansion of primary, secondary and higher secondary education for the children across the country; b) funding and creation of quality vocational training, teacher training, mines and gemology institutions in all thirty-four provinces; c) funding and undertaking rehabilitation of historic, national monuments that should celebrate, flag and encompass representation of population of all ethnic background; d) undertake an extensive overview of Afghan Security and Defense Forces (ASDF) for course correction in areas of logistics support, procurement, command and control, extensively take stock of strength and weaknesses and to re-evaluate the present model of the forces in term of economic viability, affordability and feasibility; e) formulation of effective economic policies that should enable people of all ethnic background for equal access to a pre-arranged network of resources to enable individuals, families and firms to stabilize their economic standing and rise their living standards; f) provide lavish assistance in term of resources, technology and training to farmers, livestock owners and agrobusinesses to uplift agricultural and livestock products in the country, which in turn can uplift living standards of more than sixty percent of population; g) support and facilitate development of a strong industrial sector by providing affordable electricity, land, and access to market for products and services; h) provision of protection and security for people of all ethnic background across the country; last but not least i) Government should bring major reforms in judicial institution of the country.
The list above may look ambitious in term of time, resources, and the present situation in the country, but for a country with ongoing conflict and a history of four decades of continuous war, the need for services and support to the people and economic organization by a legitimate source i.e. Afghan Government, is the need of the hour. Presence of a strong central Government with powerful economic means can change the equation in the ongoing proxy war in the country. Solution to all problems in the efforts to building a strong nation is to establish strong networks of schools, educational and vocational institutions and to impart quality education, training and skills to the people. While fighting the insurgency and provision of security to the cities and districts all over the country are the most pressing tasks for the Government, facilitating economic and employment opportunities, development of industrial and services sectors and access to market can produce positive results in settling people’s worries and increasing their trust in the country and their future. Higher participation of people in Government projects, support for the Government and belief on the part of the people that Government is a reliable source of power that can be trusted, will be a blessing for Government and strong blow to enemies trying to divide and support to the ongoing war in the country.
Economic independence is one of the most critical needs for the Government of Afghanistan. The country is sitting on natural resources including mines of highly valuable minerals, precious gemstones and petroleum reserves. Afghan Government should focus extensively on formulating effective mining and extraction policies and enrich the Ministry of Mining and Petroleum (MoMP) with skills, resources and people with expertise (even to hire and appoint them from abroad) to facilitate contracting and awards of mines. Of course securing mineral resources and gem extraction sites that are currently under the control of mafia structures who are enjoined with insurgents, is one of the important tasks on the part of Government security apparatus, speedy award of mining and extraction contracts to affluent and professional international firms for lower rate to compensate for these companies’ investment in construction of roads, tunnels, bridges and power generation facilities could be a fair deal. Most of the mining and extraction sites are located in tortuous mountains where access without infrastructure will not be possible. Initial investment and offering concessions for companies which undertake the tasks of building infrastructure can be accommodated as contract clauses in the award of contract.
In order for Government to work around National Agenda, a degree of financial independence is a critical requirement. Without monetary backing and resources, it cannot be possible to embark on large scale national development projects. The same is true for educated, professional and skilled subjects in a country. Provision of services and development of production houses require skills, profession and highly educated cadre in a country. Therefore, investment on people to educate require economic means, which the Government can obtain by leasing out and awards of natural resources. Keeping and continuously training security and defense forces is one of the most important tasks before Afghan Government as it is waging a war against an entrenched insurgency, supported and headquartered in Pakistan, aimed at conquering Afghanistan to become a client state. Foreign grants and donor-based resources pouring into the Government coffers are aligned with certain agendas, which Afghan Government cannot afford to digest, so all the prevailing situation points to generation of resources flow into Afghan Government from indigenous sources such as mining and petroleum. People of Afghanistan deserve respite from ongoing mercenary war in the country that day-in-day-out causes deaths and destruction of our people and country. It is incumbent upon the Government of Afghanistan to take heed of this scourge and get the people and the country rid of it.