Experts spurn campaign promises as whacking lies
Feature Stories - September 23, 2019

Experts spurn campaign promises as whacking lies

KABUL (Pajhwok): Promises by presidential elections contenders are imaginary and inapplicable, leading to a trust deficit between the people and candidates, as well as damaging credibility of the polls, Pajhwok Afghan News has found.

Campaign for the presidential elections kicked off on July 28 and will continue till September 25. The electioneering will end 48 hours before voting.

Some candidates have held out imaginary and unworkable promises while addressing campaign gatherings. Their statements are apparently meant for public consumption and strengthening their vote bank.

The runners have addressed a few campaign gatherings, in which they mostly criticised their rivals instead of outlining their future programmes.

President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Officer Abdullah were subjected to a lot of criticism by their opponents.

Some of the hard-to-keep promises made on the hustings are: Umari Justice — referring to the era of Hazrat Umar, achieving self-economic reliance in a year, increasing the annual revenue to $20 billion and supply of of electricity to all districts of Afghanistan.

Others vows include the purchase of agro products at a rate 50 percent higher than their market value, generation of job opportunities for one million people in a month, converting districts into provinces and raising salaries of teachers from 7,000 afghanis to 70,000 afs.

In addition, President Ghani and CEO Abdullah have pledged nation-wide security, creation of a youth and sports ministry, generation of jobs, electricity supply, economic stability and development.

Deceptive vows:

Although promises attract the public but according to some experts, their implementation is difficult, even impossible in some instance. Experts believe hollow promises are made to fox the masses.

An investigative report by Pajhwok shows Ghani, leader of the State Maker Team, pledged in his first election speech supplying electricity to all districts of Afghanistan in two years if he wins a second

He said: “In the next two years, every district of Afghanistan will have electricity and in three to four years, all villages on the other side of the Durand Line will also have electricity.”

But political commentators rejected such statements as incorrect. They asked the unsuspecting people not to take such promises at their face value.

Ghani also claimed weakening the grip of tyranny and persecution in the past five years. He asked the people to hand him another term so that he could enforce law and justice in the country. He ruled out any compromise with powerful individuals.

At another election gathering, Ghani promised “Umari justice” in society in case of his re-election. Umari Justice refers to the social order in Hazrat Umar’s era. In this system, the ruler strengthened Islamic principles of justice and equality.

While speaking to a public meeting, he vowed to end Afghanistan’s reliance on foreigners in five years and exploit internal resources for equipping the security forces.

Currently, more than 50 percent of Afghanistan’s annual budget and expenses of its security forces are funded by the US-led international community.

Some political experts spurned Ghani’s promise as an inapplicable slogan aimed to deceive the people. They said injustice had been the talk of the town over the past five years. How the president would be able to improve things if he wins another term, they asked.

This is not only the State Maker team that has made inapplicable promises; the Stability and Partnership team, led by Abdullah, also made similar promises to the masses.

Abdullah told a recent campaign gathering: “In the past five years, thousands of innocent citizens have been killed. One prime public demand is peace. If our team emerges victorious, we will establish durable peace in the country.”

But experts dismissed this statement of Abdullah as a shibboleth for public consumption. Over the past five years, they say, Abdullah has been part of the government. The Ministry of Interior has been under Abdullah’s loyalists. But with each passing day, the security situation has been deteriorating.

The creation of a youth ministry is another old pledge made by Abdullah’s team during its election campaign five years ago. It was reiterated recently.

Abdullah, at his first campaign meeting, acknowledged his inability to honour the promises made to youth in the past five years. He, however, once again assured the participants of keeping promise to set up a youth and sport ministry in the first days of his government.

Some youth say they can no longer be duped with false promises.

Anwar-ul-Haq Ahadi, a senior member of the Abdullah team, has affirmed his commitment to combating corruption and curbing the menace by 50 percent, in the event of winning the vote.

But some experts question if the fight against corruption was really possible, why it did not happen in the past five years when Abdullah was part of the unity government.

Expert termed the Stability and Partnership team pledge to eradicate corruption and bring it down by 50 percent another whacking lie and deceiving promise.

The Mother Watan Team leader Syed Noorullah Jalili is no exception. Addressing an election gathering on August 4, Jalili said: “I have a deep understanding of our society and know well how a teacher makes ends meet in a monthly salary of 7,000 afs.”

On the other hand, he noted, a minister’s son travelled in vehicle worth 200,000. “What type of justice is this? In case of victory, I will increase the teacher salary from 7,000 to 70,000afs and raise the pay of other employees.”

According to an investigative report by Pajhwok, Jalili made the promise without considering the country’s resources. As such, it cannot be implemented.

He also vowed to upgrade districts to the level of provinces and formally recongnise the government of the Islamic Emirate.

Led by Noor Rahman Liwal, the Responsibility and Justice Team has also made unrealistic promises to the people. Liwal told a rally he, if voted into power, would generate one million jobs in the first month of his government, two million more in three months and another10 million in five years.

His rivals have also pledge to create jobs in case of success at the polls. Faramarz Tamanna, for instance, has promised purchasing agriculture products from farmers at a rate 50 percent higher than their market value.

Views on candidate promises:

Hashmatullah, a high school graduate who is currently work in a garment store, told Pajhwok: “I have listened to speeches by the presidential, No one has a viable plan and most of their promises are plain lies and they cannot be kept in five years…”

“For example, (CEO) Dr. Abdullah has promised to create a ministry for youth affairs. It’s is a lie, because he held out the same vow five years ago as well in a campaign speech,” he argued

He went on: “President Ashraf Ghani told a gathering he would dispense justice like Hazrat Omar (RA). What has the president done over the last four years? Injustice has reached its climax. I think such promises cannot be fulfilled in the next 20 years.”

Salima Sidiqi, a civil activist in Kabul, said she had also heard speeches of many candidates but none of them is interesting because they trade allegations instead of presenting their priorities.

“As it is campaign time, all runners are striving to muster public support and influence people’s minds with high-sounding promises. Most of the candidates have been inactive in Afghan society,” she claimed.

According to Salima, most of the presidential hopefuls had come up with impracticable plans to steer the country out of the situation it has been in for decades.

She said: “President Ghani says he has not obliged strongmen but a number of powerful individuals, like Gen. Almas, his brother, Mullah Tarakhel, Muslimyar and several others, are part of his government.

“Noorullah Jalili says anyone who misbehaves with his wife will be punished publicly.  Again, this is a patently unpractical promise,” she continued.

She called on all wannabes, especially Ghani and Abdullah, not to hold out deceptive promises, as people no longer trusted them.

Zarghona Roshan, a Salam Watandar Radio worker, also hit out at unrealistic vows of candidates and said such unconvincing statements had undermined people’s confidence in the election.

She said: “Latif Pedram announced at a campaign gathering that he will form a federal government if he wins the election. Pedram should know his plan is impossible to implement because a federal government would divide the country, she explained.

Shapoor Bakhtiar, writer and journalist, said: “As a journalist, I have listened to speeches by candidates on the campaign trail but found no actionable plans. What they are saying are empty words and imaginary programmes.”

Referring to President Ghani’s campaign speech, he said: “One of the candidates says he will supply electricity to all districts of Afghanistan, even to areas across the Durand Line. Another one says he would increase teachers’ salaries from 7,000 to 70,000 afghanis. Several districts remain under Taliban’s control.”

Bakhtiar believed people had lost trust in candidates’ credibility, something that might affect their participation in the election, slated for Sept. 28.

Zabihullah Farhang, a political observer, says the events have been lackluster, as none of the candidates has so far participated in a national debate, where rivals could be defeated with creative ideas and plans for bringing prosperity to the country.

“One of the runners said during his campaign: We want to have mutually beneficial relations with all nations of the world. This he said in response to a query about his plan for water management. What does mutual respect mean here?” he asked.

“Another example: Some candidates say they will ensure neutrality on relations between India and Pakistan or among Iran, Saudi Arabia, Russian and the US. These slogans are imaginary and cannot be realised because Afghanistan can’t handle such things,” Farhang continued.

He said President Ashraf Ghani’s plans were somehow satisfactory. In the past five years, some work had been done in the economic sector and development of infrastructure. These sectors will improve over the next five years.

“Though President Ghani has been facing problems in implementing his plans over the past five years, yet I think he will do better, if re-elected. He has a better understanding of the current situation,” he commented.

Ahmad Saeedi, another political analyst, said: “None of the candidates has so far presented any interesting plan. I have been following campaign activities and speeches; they are only trying to deceive the public.

“President Ghani says he will reconstruct the Chahar Chata Bazaar of Kabul. Everyone knows this is a misleading promise. Abdullah has also made similar promises.”

Saeedi recalled Ghani and Abdullah had also made foxy promises during their 2014 campaign to provide millions of jobs, bring food to people’s tables and happiness to the nation

Such promises had made voters distrustful of candidates, elections and even the government, he added.

Taj Mohammad Akbar, an economist, also mocked the candidates’ plans and promises, saying most of them did not have workable ideas.

“Most of their promises sound unrealistic, as one of the candidate said he will increase the teachers’ salaries from 7,000 afghanis to 70,000 afs. And another boasted of dragging all corrupt individuals to court on his first day in office.

“He also promised peace and stability to the country, but we have seen security could not be ensured in the past 18 years. All these promises are intended to mislead the public.”

Shahla Farid, a Political Science teacher at the Kabul University, said Dr. Abdullah had promised peace and stability but he could not deliver on it. His aim was just to win votes and promote his personal interest.

She said: “Dr. Abdullah has been CEO for the last five years but we have seen the security situation has been on a nosedive.”

Candidates’ response:

In interviews with Pajhwok, most of the people assailed the ‘State Maker, Stability and Partnership, Responsibility and Justice, Motherland, and Plan and Advice teams.

Syed Baqir Kazimi, State Maker spokesman, told Pajhwok his team had never made deceptive promises. All promises the team has made would be implemented, he said.

Asked about the supply of electricity to all districts in two years, action against strongmen dispensation of Hazrat Omar-style justice, he said: “I won’t go into details but I should say all promises would be implemented and Ghani has committed to translate his plants into a reality.”

Reminded that a number of strongmen could still be seen around the State Maker team, he said: “Fist Vice President Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum calls himself a strongman but you have seen how the president has curbed his arbitrary style.”

Dr. Mohammad Yaha, running mate of the Noor Rahman Liwal team, said all of their promises and plans would be implemented.

On the creation of millions of jobs, Jalili said: “We have announced a reasonable plan. We will keep our promises in the first month of our rule; we have 500,000 civil servants who will be asked to work in two shifts. This will create job opportunities for another 500,000 people. The number of jobs thus generated will rise to one million in one month.”

Syed Noorullah Jalili, the Mother Watan team chief, said all his promises would be honoured, as none of them was imaginary.  “I will fund teachers’ pay raise with domestic revenue.”

Pajhwok tried to obtain comments from other presidential electoral teams as well but contact could not be established with them.

Zarghona Salehi

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