Democratic Islamic Government; possible option for Afghanistan’s future political system
One of the plans for formation of an Islamic government in Afghanistan that would be acceptable to both domestic and foreign actors, and at the same time reflects the Taliban's wishes is a structure that, while maintaining the existing democratic mechanism, includes a large state council with legislative power. The council, which has the legal authority to oversee the government, is made up of the Taliban and other factions. According to unofficial reports, Taliban wants to create such a structure which has an executive power rather than an advisory one, and consider it as the only possible means of consolidating the presence of its leaders in the power structure. The optimism in creating such a government, which is a combination of democracy and aristocracy, stems from the fact that the existing government also seeks to simulate it and lay its necessary groundwork.
By: Mir ahmad Mashaal
Although the Afghan peace process is still in abeyance and there is no clear prospect for the progress of the negotiations, the question is that what kind of structure will be formed in Afghanistan if an agreement is achieved? If we consider the Taliban, the United States and the government of Afghanistan as the major players of the Afghanistan’s war and peace arena, we can assume several key possibilities for the post-peace era in the country:
1- Continuation of the republican system
2- Possible return of the Emirate
3- Consultative Islamic State
4- Democratic Islamic Government
5- Parliamentary system
Continuation of the republican system
The most important question facing the republican system is that whether the Taliban will be satisfied with joining the republican system and accept it with the principles defined in the 2004 constitution? Two main reasons can be mentioned in favor of this scenario. First, the acceptance of this system is the demand of a large part of the people and influential movements in Afghanistan. The current republican system, despite its fundamental shortcomings and inadequacies, still has strong supporters among the people and political elites of Afghanistan. Another reason is that the existing system is supported by the international community. Leaving aside the issue of international law, the structure of government system in Afghanistan is not only an internal but also an international issue and therefore its structure must be approved by the international community, especially the Afghanistan’ donors. From this perspective, it can be said that all the financial and political supporters of Afghanistan are in favor of continuation of the existing system, and some of them even have made their support conditional on maintaining the existing structure and what they call "maintaining the twenty-year achievements." This issue is important because if the international community does not support the post- peace Afghanistan financially, politically or even militarily, it will definitely collapse.
However, the most important reason against the continuation of the current republican system is the explicit opposition of the Taliban. In fact, if we consider the presence of foreigners in Afghanistan as one of the main reasons for continuation of the 20-year war, another reason behind the Taliban’s war is the existing structure that is not compatible with the group’s beliefs and interests. The Taliban have several reasons for rejecting the existing system: First, such a structure cannot guarantee the survival of the group's leaders structurally and fundamentally. Second, acceptance of this structure calls into question the meaning of the Taliban's 20-year war. Although the Taliban cite the presence of foreigners as the biggest reason for their war, the group sees the establishment of an Islamic system as another reason for the fight, because the group has had such a system in the past. The third reason, which somewhat overlaps with the previous reason, is the replacement of the current system with the Taliban Emirate system. In fact, if the Taliban accept the current system, albeit with a high share in it, it will mean recognizing the system. This comes as this group has never used the word “system” or “government” for the existing structure and has always referred to it as the "Kabul administration". As a result, since the Taliban are claimant and the current war is raging because of their will, so the group's demand is more likely to be realized than the continuation of the existing system.
Possible return of the Emirate
In contrast to the republican system, what is explicitly raised by the Taliban is re-establishment of their self-proclaimed Islamic Emirate. First of all, this group is well aware of the fact that there is no possibility of return to the Talibani Emirate. The only way to get back to such a system is cheating, which is impossible. Even if the Americans and their allies leave Afghanistan completely, the Taliban will not be able to re-establish their Emirate, because then a full-blown civil war will break out, which is not acceptable for both the Taliban and the United States. Apart from these reasons, there are several other reasons that make the return of the Emirate impossible: Just as the Taliban cannot adapt itself to the current system, the new Afghanistan which has formed in the last twenty years cannot be merged with an Emirate. Besides the fact that the structure of the Emirate is suffering from structural and behavioral deficiencies, such a name corresponds with neither the Afghan people’s desire nor the international community’s demands.
Consultative Islamic State
The most likely scenario that could be agreed upon is the formation of a system called the "Islamic State". Although this title is reminiscent of the Mujahideen’s Islamic State in early 1990s, it is the only option available to overcome the issue of naming the future government of Afghanistan. However, the name issue is not the only important problem. For the Taliban, the most important thing is a structure that can guarantee their long-term presence in the power. Apart from the name and title, which is a solvable problem, the structure of the future government is a very important issue that is very difficult to be agreed upon. The Taliban's position shows that the group will not tolerate a democratic structure in which the head of the state is elected via an election. The Taliban is looking for a top-down political system. The group wants to create a macro-level council with two specific tasks: electing the head of the state and overseeing the government.
This council is what the Taliban says has existed during their rule, and now has elected Mullah Hebatullah Akhundzadeh as the current leader of the group. Moreover, the plan of selecting the Muslim’s leader through a council, as an Islamic mechanism, had also been proposed in the past. The Ahl al-hall wal-aqd (a council composed of qualified persons to appoint or depose a caliph or another ruler on behalf of the Ummah), although had no historical background, was also proposed at the time of the formation of the Islamic State of Afghanistan in early 1990s. Although the title of the Islamic State is not very problematic, the election of the head of state through this mechanism cannot be accepted, and on the other hand, the international community, especially the United States, will strongly oppose to such an undemocratic mechanism.
Democratic Islamic Government
One of the plans for the formation of an Islamic government in Afghanistan that is acceptable to the domestic and foreign actors as well as the Taliban is a structure that, while maintaining the existing democratic mechanism, includes a large state council with legislative power. The council, which has the legal authority to oversee the government, is made up of the Taliban and other factions. The unofficial reports say that the Taliban want to create such a structure, albeit with an executive power and not a mere consultative one, and consider it as only possible means of consolidating the presence of its elders in the power structure. The optimism in creating such a government, which is a combination of democracy and aristocracy, stems from the fact that the existing government also seeks to simulate it and lay its necessary groundwork.
Another structure that has a lot of supporters in the republican front is the parliamentary system. This system, which has been experienced in Afghanistan in the past, is considered by some to be the only way to save Afghanistan from rigid centralism as well as unilateralism. Such a structure also appeals to Americans. The cornerstone of the National Unity Government (NUG), which was a parliamentary system and did not come to fruition, was laid down by Washington. However, will such a system be desirable for the Taliban as well? If we consider the Taliban as a group whose ultimate desire is to build a government with an ethnic hegemony, such a plan will certainly not be accepted by them. Moreover, the Taliban cannot obtain the necessary power in a parliamentary system as they expect, because more power-sharing would lead to more reduction of the Taliban's hegemonic desires. Therefore, this plan could not be viable too, because despite its attraction inside Afghanistan, it would not have a chance if it is not accepted by the Taliban.
In general, it is very difficult to create a structure that divides power among all the groups and factions, especially the Taliban. However, it is certain that if the Taliban wants to participate in the next structure through an agreement, that structure will not be an Emirate. Among the scenarios examined in this article, the most likely option that satisfies domestic actors and the international community is a Democratic Islamic Government. The word "democratic" may not be to the liking of the Taliban, but if it is structured in such a way that grants the Taliban a legislative power, it will definitely can satisfy the group’s desire.