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Mahbouba Seraj Headshot

Afghanistan Taken Hostage by Its Politicians

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I don't know how much longer the people of my country Afghanistan will tolerate what is being done to them under the elaborate pretense of "democracy," "freedom to choose" their leaders and the devotion, duty and allegiance they supposedly owe to the "saviors" of their land, the legendary and heroic big men of the Mujahideen.

We Afghans are all fearful today of what might happen. We are constantly on the lookout for the next move of every one of the players: the President of Afghanistan, the multi-headed international community, the United Nations, the presidential candidates and their running mates and supporters. We are continuously holding our breath for fear of what they might do tomorrow.

The Afghan media has shifted into high gear. Television screens are filled with political commentators and analysts talking, talking, talking about all sorts of possibilities, both familiar and strange. Some men -- they are all men -- speak with good care and consciousness, while others just shoot off their mouths. They describe new and previously unimagined plans, perhaps just gossip or perhaps unfolding as they speak. They mention, for example, the prospect of President Hamid Karzai staying on in office as president of the country for an indefinite period to be decided by unknown agents, or more likely, himself. But that is only one of many unforeseen possibilities that occur to the talking heads from one day to the next and keep us all watching, listening, and holding our breath.

One thing the political commentators and analysts agree upon. To a man, they advise and encourage the people of Afghanistan to be tolerant and patient. And so we are. After all, if we are not patient, what other choice do we have? Afghanistan is a Hostage Nation. Our so called leaders and their spokesmen and the media commentators and analysts can ask us anything and we citizens will say, Yes. Yes, of course, we will. We don't want Afghanistan to go deeper into conflict and war. We don't want our country to be destroyed one more time, together with everything we have worked so hard for since that last invasion in 2001. We cannot bear more conflict.

But among ourselves, we wonder. What about the lack of tolerance and patience in our self-appointed "leaders"? One of these two men competing in the second round of elections to become the President of the nation couldn't even wait for the preliminary results of voting to be announced before he yelled "corruption, corruption," and demanded that the vote-counting cease.

I am not saying that there was not corruption in the election process. Of course there must have been corruption, just as there was in the last presidential election when President Karzai's cronies were caught on videotape stuffing the ballot boxes, only to have the powerful representatives of the international community decide that the corrupt election was "good enough" for Afghans.

Yet at the same time, in this election as in the last, an electoral system has been put in place and made known to the voters. Call it a weak system, if you will, but a system it is, agreed to by candidates and citizens alike. Don't you think we should at least respect that and let the process take its course? After all, both candidates and their designated representatives signed on to the procedures well before ballots were dispatched to voting stations all over country and citizens even in remote villages lined up to make their marks and come away with purple fingers.

As the people of Afghanistan, we are very tired and very worried. Things all around us are deteriorating daily: There is a shortage of food, there is no work, foreign aid is being withdrawn or placed on hold, the government is losing money, the economy is on the verge of collapse. Tents have been raised everywhere in Kabul and the surrounding areas by various factions supporting disgruntled competing "leaders." We the people are just waiting, holding our breath, hung out to dry by our own "heroes" who hold the future hostage to the past. We are indeed a hostage nation.