Thomas Paine once quipped that “The mind once enlightened cannot again become dark.” In a similar vein, a nation once awakened politically cannot revert back to dormancy. Despite decades of war and ravage, Afghanistan, while still continuing to suffer from all sorts of injustices, afflictions, and violence, is on the march toward democratization. Yesterday – April 5, 2014 – the country convulsed with exhilaration and jubilance, as millions of Afghans sallied toward the polling stations to elect their new president.
The current situation cannot be disregarded: the country is still swelling with uncertainty, owing to the American troops’ exodus later this year. However, the enthusiasm, the excitement, and the alacrity of Afghans to show up at the polls in the face of personal dangers furnish me with hope for a peaceful, democratic, and prosperous Afghanistan. From all across the country, men and women, old and young came out to perform their civic duty and vote for their favorite candidate.
What makes yesterday so special, so remarkable, and so auspicious is that such a turnout was not expected given the precarious security situation. Nevertheless, Afghans shattered all the crazy speculations of the political and security “experts” by demonstrating their lucid courage for a better tomorrow. In Jalalabad, a city in the eastern part of Afghanistan and in close proximity to Pakistan, an octogenarian came out to cast her vote. She is reported to have remarked: “I know I am not going to live long, but I’m here to ensure a brighter future for my children.”
Similarly in the western province of Herat, in spite of security threats and personal hardships, people travelled for miles on foot to cast their vote. My own mother, who lives in the beautiful city of Herat, also went out to leave her mark on this day. What makes her participation of significance to me is that she had just undergone a serious surgery and was still recuperating from it. Upon arrival at a polling station, she kindly asked the security not to check her because she still had stiches all over her stomach. Disarmed by her big, kind smile, the security guard had no choice but to say: “No problem, madam. You may vote for your candidate.” These people are voting today so that Afghanistan is enjoying a better, more peaceful tomorrow. How could a nation with such courageous people and so much interest in democracy fail? It cannot.
My hope is that this burgeoning excitement for a better tomorrow and for political effectiveness and transparency is not deciduous. And the new leadership has two choices: capitalize on this success and deliver on its promises, or fritter away this golden opportunity. What it chooses to do remains to be seen.