Bracing for polls
As the news of journalist Anja Niedringhous’s fatal shooting in the conflict-ridden poll-bound Afghanistan comes in, despair grips wider media and political watchers over the eventual outcome of the 5 April elections. Touted as the first ‘peaceful and democratic transfer of executive power’ by observers, Saturday’s elections might make or break Kabul’s stature in the global dais of diplomacy. Already ravaged by the decades of strife, internal and external, and branded as the ‘graveyard of foreign policy’ despite outgoing president Hamid Karzai’s best intentions, Afghanistan is on the verge of falling off the international radar, with donor fatigue setting in among most of the Euro-American and Asian players having a stake in the Af-Pak experiment. With three contenders slated to attract maximum number of votes – Abdullah Abdullah, Zalmai Rassoul and Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai – splitting the votes in triangular fashion, the contest will be neck-to-neck. But given the political and military contingencies, with NATO withdrawing its troops within this year unless the Kabul signs the draconian Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA), much depends on the poll outome. What is of enormous consequence is whether the allies and the Taliban recognise the poll results as legitimate, with the latter already threatening to inflict as much violence and cause maximum disruption during the polling process. Moreover, a bitter and despondent Hamid Karzai, outgoing Afghan president and the leader of the country for almost 13 years, leaves a tangled legacy which the new president would have to unravel.