By Sadat Shad - Nangarhar
The problem is that the electorate has been wooed so often with empty promises that they no longer believe the candidates’ slogans.
Emal Khan Mohammad, one such candidate, has put employment for youth at the top of his agenda. He says that he will bring people’s concerns to the attention of the government if he is elected.
“In fact, no real attention has been paid to the problems of youth over the past nine years,” complained Emal Khan. “Parliamentarians should make it a priority to find work for the unemployed. That is what I will do if I succeed.”
But rival candidate Rahmanullah Dawlatzai has a different approach. “Members of Parliament cannot solve this problem directly; they should ask the state to develop and implement constructive programs to provide educational opportunities, enhancing the capacity of our young people and creating work opportunities for the unemployed,” he said. “Unemployment is one of the major problems plaguing our youth.”
Anifullah, a resident of Jalalabad city, hopes that at least some of the promises are real. “Unemployment is a major problem for the youth and it affects them psychologically,” he said. Parliamentarians should pass new laws to decrease the level of unemployment if they really want to work for people.”
Barsaat, who graduated from the Department of Agriculture at Nangarhar University three years ago and is still jobless, said that there were many youth with higher education, but none of them could find work.
“The level of unemployment will decrease significantly if both the executive and legislative branches of government work together,” he insisted. “Neither the state nor the Parliament has adopted any effective measure yet to tackle unemployment.”
According to voters, candidates need to do more than chanting slogans during their election campaigns. If they become Parliamentarians they must also take constructive steps to solve people’s problems. And the electorate has a long memory for broken promises. “The new parliamentarians should learn from past failures and promise only what they can really deliver if they are elected,” said Haroon-u-Rasheed, a resident of the Shirzad district of Nangarhar province.
A number of Nangarhar residents do not want to participate in the upcoming parliamentary elections at all. They say that their former representatives in the parliament did nothing for them, and have little hope that the new Parliament will be any better.
“Candidates promised a lot in the last parliamentary election, but when they became parliamentarians they forgot their promises and just worked for their own benefit,” said Khalid Mohmand, a resident of Lal Pur district. “The new parliamentarians will follow the same approach.”
But MPs from Nangarhar reject the accusation.
“To the best of my ability, I have done what I promised to do,” said Farooq Marani, who is running to retain his seat in Parliament. “Some candidates made promises they could not possibly keep,” he explained. “Parliament is a legislative body and parliament members cannot provide work for hundreds of thousands unemployed people. They can ratify laws in this regard or they can force executive branch of the government to create jobs.”
There are 160 candidates running for 14 seats in Nangarhar. This is Afghanistan’s second parliamentary election since the fall of the Taliban, and some politicians are just beginning to figure out what it is that the different branches of government are supposed to do.
“Elections are still new in Afghanistan,” explained Mohammad Bashir Dodwal, a lecturer in economics at Nangarhar University. “Many candidates do not have a firm idea of their rights and responsibilities. They cannot differentiate between the different branches of government. Parliamentarians have the right to pass laws, to modify or abrogate them. They cannot create jobs.”