Afghan president fast losing his popularity

August 29th, 2008 - 12:34 pm ICT by IANS  

Kabul, Aug 29 (IANS) Afghan President Hamid Karzai is fast losing popularity in the streets of his capital, as he is being blamed for the absence of peace in the country, where the Taliban insurgency is gaining momentum despite the presence of over 8,000 soldiers of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).”Since his appointment as president he has never thought about the people of Afghanistan. Rather he is bent upon appeasing his foreign masters,” says Mesi Ameri, who has lived in Kabul since his birth in 1957.

“I’ve seen a kingdom, the rulers backed by Russia, the Mujahideen government and Taliban, but this man (Karzai) is the weakest ruler,” he told IANS at his electronics goods shop in this city where people live under the constant threat of not only terrorists but the security guards of different UN, NATO and ISAF organisations.

At every building, be it a bank, a foreign embassy or a UN mission, a private building or a hospital, several guards are seen standing alert, fingers on the triggers of their automatic weapons.

“The most unpopular man is in power, one who has never been seen at public places for the last five years. He is living in his highly guarded palace. How can he serve the nation?” questions Suliman Jalaluddin, teacher in a local high school.

Like him, many think that Karzai will not return after the next presidential elections scheduled next year. But they are not really looking forward to that, as many think that the US-led alliance will replace Karzai with someone else.

“We have to see whether the US wants Karzai to continue, as he has completely failed to deliver according to the wishes of people of Afghanistan and the alliance (ISAF),” Hamadan Pazhwak, professor in a local college, told IANS.

He thinks that Karzai has lost the confidence of the US and other international players in Afghanistan. “He is fast losing his friends and I am sure after President George Bush steps down in January next year, Karzai will be completely left alone and will be dumped by the new US administration,” Pazhwak said.

The Kabul that was ruined during the long civil war is gaining back its glory but may take at least 10 more peaceful years to establish itself as a modern city. On the one hand there are five-star hotels with all modern facilities and crammed with the latest costly vehicles from around the world; on the other, people living on the hills in areas around Bagh-e-Babur have to carry water to their homes on donkeys.

“The governments have done nothing for us, neither the Mujahdeen, Taliban nor President Karzai. We have no water, no electricity and are living in a miserable condition,” local resident Najib Ahmedzai told IANS, adding that they need a government that will care about the people.

The reaction from women is a little different, though. The president does have a few supporters among them, women who think he should continue in power in order to keep the Taliban away from Kabul. “You can’t imagine how we were living during the Taliban era,” says Zohra Pehlani, who was not allowed to continue her studies during that time.

Karzai was installed as president in 2003 after the Taliban government was overthrown by the ISAF forces which are now present throughout the country.

“I would say that NATO should stay in my country until Taliban forces are eliminated… still we are living under threat… it was a nightmare and if they again came to power I would prefer to kill myself rather than live under Taliban,” said Pehlani, covered from head to toe in a hijab, the all-enveloping veil.

“Hijab should be my choice. I like to cover my head and body according to Islamic tradition, but I don’t want someone else to tell me to do so,” said Pehlani, who completed her masters in political science after universities were opened to women once more.

Like Pehlani there are some others who want the “US man” in government and the ISAF personnel in the country as they feel only these groups can ensure the development of Afghanistan, a country torn by war since late the 1970s when the former USSR invaded it.

“As long as Karzai or some other person appointed by the US is in power and the ISAF troops are in Afghanistan, we will continue to develop,” said Naita Sultan who works in an NGO.

The Afghan currency is higher against the dollar than any other currency in the region, she pointed out. “And this is only because the US is controlling our government and economy, which to me is not bad,” she told IANS.

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