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Editorial: Dissenting voices shouldn’t be silenced

As Afghanistan is already preoccupied with the two most predominant national issues of electoral crisis and the resumption of peace talks, targeted killings and crimes seem to have less importance for the government. However, they shouldn’t be treated like petty crimes but to the contrary should be prevented. A recent such horrific incident happened on Wednesday when a prominent political analyst, Wahid Muzhda, was assassinated in an armed attack by two motorcyclists in the heart of Kabul city. This is something that follows a trend of serial targeted killings and attacks on individuals who work for peace and freedom of speech. Meanwhile, it also coincides with the fact that a few ex-members of the Taliban have been attacked by unidentified gunmen over the last month. One of them being Hassan Haqyar, a political activist who formerly worked in the Taliban regime as a director of the mining department, who survived the assault on him but received some injuries. Moreover, there was also reportedly a botched assassination attempt on Abdul Shakoor Mutmaen, who headed the Olympic committee during the Taliban era, three hours after Muzhda’s demise.

Muzhda’s death drew nationwide condemnation from Afghans, as well as political figures. Much to one’s surprise, the Taliban also denounced the act in strongest terms, blaming some “intelligence circles of the enemy’ for his killing. Following no claim of responsibility by an insurgent or terrorist group, the recent killing of the political expert shows that the enemies of our civil liberties and Afghanistan as a democracy, as well as the fifth column, are behind it. As Muzhda was known for expressing pro-Taliban opinions and was arrested a few times by the National Directorate of Security (NDS), some experts accuse the government of having a hand in the incident and being complicit.

Even if the government’s implication is ruled out completely, it has definitely failed to protect political activists. Besides, the murder of Muzhda is a callous disregard for human life and signifies the growing threats to our civil liberties – something that has lead other political activists to fear for their life and engage in self-censorship. The current circumstances bring into question the ability of the government security forces to safeguard political activism and dissenting voices – something that constitutes a tolerant democratic society. The government shouldn’t remain idle in this regard and should thoroughly investigate the terrorist attack, as well as direct security and judicial institutions to hunt, arrest and punish the perpetrators. Meanwhile, the intolerance which is rife in Afghan society and the threats to freedom of speech should be tackled and the dissenting voices shouldn’t be silenced but dealt with. Otherwise, if the current ominous situation continues, it will be the beginning of the demise of the fundamental values of democracy in Afghanistan.

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