Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change
Afghan Youth Debates: Civil Society Helps Paktia Poll Success
Civil society groups made an enormous contribution to the success of the Afghan elections, panelists told an IWPR-organised debate at Paktia university in the southeast of the country.
Ahmad Shah Ahmadzai, head of the Paktia youth association, told the April 15 gathering that the growth of civil society had been one of Afghanistan’s success stories after the overthrow of the Taleban in 2001.
Ahmadzai noted the ways in which NGOs had supported elections.
“You know that civil society groups organised gatherings with people to raise public awareness, launched various debates, and used the media to invite people to participate in the elections,” he said. “Young people also carried out these activities through democratic movements and gatherings.”
Mohammad Yusof Molatar, southeast regional head of education at the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, also praised the role of NGOs.
“There are three fundamental principles of democracy,” he said. “First is freedom of speech, second is the media, and the third one is civil society. Democracy is a new thing in Afghanistan, so we need to wait for it to evolve gradually.
At the same time, Molatar accused some civil society institutions of supporting specific candidates, an issue that was also raised by other participants in the debate.
Ehsanollah Mahjur, a member of the Awoshtun Cultural Society, said this might have happened, but said the groups that did it were commercial enterprises rather than true products of civil society.
“Afghanistan is a country stuck in a vortex of compromises,” he added.
Bismillah Hamdard, a member of the students’ association in Paktia, noted that his peers worked to get out the vote, especially among illiterate people.
“All past governments in Afghanistan have been changed by force,” he said. “It is a matter of pride for us that Afghanistan has reached a point where its leader is replaced through elections. The Afghans have realised after enduring many difficulties that they needed to elect a leader and work for the future.”
The panelists concluded by promising to continue monitoring the ballot count until the final results were announced, calling on the Independent Election Commission and the Electoral Complaints Commission to respect the will of the people.
Abdulraqib Nuri is a student at Paktia University and an IWPR trainee.
This report was produced as part of Open Minds: Speaking Up, Reaching Out – Promoting University and Youth Participation in Afghan Elections, an IWPR initiative funded by the US embassy in Kabul.
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