Michael Ubaldi, April 4, 2005.
uBlog's "Afghan Liberty," originally "Afghan Watch," predates the talented Arthur Chrenkoff's "Good News" compilations by eighteen months but possessing neither his time resources nor the incentive from ubiquitous coverage and audience expectation, I've sought to make this weblog brief sharper, concise reading featuring a few events occurring between "Good News" volumes — especially for those of my readers who might not read Chrenkoff. Publishing on the same day complicates this, so I've gathered only news reported within the last two days.
Hamid Karzai's government announcing flaws in the transformation of money into reconstruction aid could be considered a setback if Kabul weren't proposing improvements based on what we all hope revitalization will deliver — self-sufficiency:
A fierce debate is raging over slow progress in making Afghans' everyday life easier. Sunday Karzai accused non-government organizations (NGOs) of squandering funds channeled through them.
"The Afghan Government, as the ultimate body accountable to the Afghan people, must also be better informed about, and play its due role in, steering the development process," Karzai told an audience including representatives from some 40 donor countries.
One of the government's arguments against funds being channeled through NGOs is that it is stunting Afghan firms.
It's a valid complaint. Charity is rehabilitation, not dependency; aid outfits who pride themselves on their work too highly risk condescension for those they claim to help, leading to neglect of an increasingly resentful native community — most painfully evident from the United Nations' aristocratic profiteering in Prishtina, Kosovo. Fortunately, Karzai's men are candid, confident and ready to negotiate, looking to gain control of their country by winning the trust of their donors.
One of those donors is Japan, a profile in responsible national ascent. As Tokyo's foreign minister travels to Muslim neighbors Afghanistan and Pakistan two weeks after his American colleagues, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi is seeking a closer partnership with Afghanistan's primary security force, the multinational NATO:
Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi agreed Monday with the chief of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to join hands to help reconstruct Afghanistan. Visiting NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer told Koizumi in Tokyo that Japan and NATO can cooperate to help stabilize Afghanistan, according to a Japanese official.
Koizumi said Japan is ready to find areas in which it can cooperate with NATO. NATO has led the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan while Japan has cooperated with other countries to implement a project meant for the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of all armed factions in Afghanistan.
Japan's interest in helping the newly liberated nation is admirably long-standing. Hamed Karzai, who was recently promised American solidarity and commitment, would do well to consider Tokyo's leadership dutiful allies and mentors.
Pakistan's Pervez Musharraf does the otherwise discredited concept of benevolent dictatorship some justice. He proposed in a recent speech political, economic, and civil reforms to reach out not only to southeast Afghanistan but to Pakistanis living in rural areas still resistant to — or even bereft of — modernization. Relinquishing his usurped position to liberal democracy would be most preferable but Musharraf's gestures, however subtle, appeal to that end.
In the Washington Post today, a heartwarming account of Afghanistan's Persian New Year celebrations in Mazar-e Sharif, drawing thousands from across the country to join hands as one people:
[R]easons for journeying north are as varied as the provinces from which the pilgrims hail. There are giddy young men, who come to dance in the streets or listen to concerts. There are the devout, who come to pay solemn homage to Ali. And there are parents of disabled children, who come to beg him for a miraculous cure.
Within each group, Afghans from vastly different provinces are mingling with a degree of ease that is notable in a nation still struggling to forge a national identity after years of regional conflict.
...[A] middle-aged mother named Jamila looked on sadly as she cradled her sickly looking 4-year-old son. Yet her frown turned to a pleasant smile as she described the friendship that had sprung up between her and a 20-year-old woman with a mangled hand. "I didn't know anyone when I came here," said Jamila, who like many Afghans uses only one name. "Now she and I have become like mother and sister even though we are from different provinces. When it is time for me to go to the mosque and pray, I even leave my son with her."
Take a moment to read the article, a tribute to Afghanistan's vitality and the communion of democratic nationalism. Wise for all their troubles, Afghans know national heritage from multiculturalism. A Dutch scholar's attempt to foist foreign music on an audience was met properly: with lighthearted jeers.