Don Ritter and Atiq Panjshiri
It is fair
to say the Afghan presidential election on Oct. 9 was a victory
for all of humanity, given the importance of democracy as an alternative
to radical Islam in that region of the world.
On this historic
day, the people of Afghanistan spoke loud and clear to the world
that they, too, traditional Muslims, love freedom. Afghans braved
bullets to cast ballots. The snow, the cold, the trek to the polls
did not deter them, either.
suffered over a million dead in their war to expel the brutal
Red Army were not deterred by the threats of those seen as Taliban
remnants and their al-Qaida paymasters. Afghans do not frighten
the run-up to the election, the people of Afghanistan said they
wanted government based on competence and integrity, not ethnicity,
tribe or militia; they wanted to show they are Afghans first and
that they want their leaders to be for national unity, not for
one group over another.
also want leaders who can help them further their living conditions.
They want food for their children and decent homes for their families.
They want their sons and daughters to go to school and they want
medical care when they get sick.
they need jobs and sustainable incomes to get off their dependence
on foreign life-support systems.
level of devastation of the country, Afghanistan needs a ''roll
up your sleeves,'' job-creating, rapid-growth-based economy to
improve things … now. Without it, too many Afghan men will
continue to seek employment with warlords and drug lords and the
religious extremists will come back and say, ''I told you so.''
competent and honest employees, wages for government jobs must
at least keep up with the cost of living. Otherwise, bribes and
corruption are irresistible, and the new economy is stymied from
reaching all levels of society. It's cheaper for America and others
to assist Afghanistan in fighting the war against corruption than
it is to fight a war against a resurgent Taliban. President Karzai
has made a good start. His election gives him the mandate to go
a lot further.
mentality of some in the leadership, resulting from decades of
Soviet infiltration into the Afghan economy where government was
the employer of choice, is obsolete. Businessmen deserve respect
because they are the ones who will create the jobs and wealth
needed to sustain the country.
economy,'' defined in the constitution as the economy of Afghanistan,
should be nurtured, promoted and practiced relentlessly. Competition
in the marketplace, not government fiat, should set prices for
labor, goods and services.
needs to get out of business and go from being a participant to
a regulator in the economy. Whether in telecommunications, mines
and minerals or the hotel business, government should cease to
partner with private companies when the alternative is available.
The old strategy, while convenient in the short term, can easily
lead to favoritism and wasteful, anti-market decisions.
for private firms that train and hire ex-mujahideen and militia
soldiers should be sharply expanded to reduce their dependence
on jobs with local commanders. In the future, the young men of
Afghanistan will carry tools for their work, not guns for their
On the drug
trade, government, along with the international community, working
with farmers and agricultural businesses can help promote alternatives
to opium that have higher market value than the basic grains.
Seeds, technology, investment capital and markets for export should
be facilitated for Afghan agriculture.
nations of Europe and elsewhere have deeply vested interests in
helping the producer nation curb the drug trade.
and women in Afghanistan have taken a big first step toward securing
pro-market economic policies and the promotion of investment in
the country. They have created the Afghan International Chamber
of Commerce (AICC), modeled on the principles of the world's most
effective business association, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and
its chapters across America.
In an historic
event, more than 2,000 businessmen and women gathered in Kabul
this past summer to inaugurate AICC and elect its first ever board
A strong private
sector can help pull Afghanistan out of the abyss of the last
25 years and into the future. It represents the only engine that
can drive the country toward freedom: not only political freedom
but freedom from want and freedom from fear.
capitalism,'' while providing for the needs of the Afghan people,
will make the Afghan economy the model for — and the envy
of — the nations in that part of the world.
can count on being well-received in Afghanistan these days; we
can personally attest to that. It's a lot like the American ''Wild
West,'' but remember, in those days, there really was ''gold in
them thar hills.'' With $28 billion in donor nation assistance
pledged over seven years, a lot of excellent business opportunities
are available to the adventurous. (However, when you think about
it, Kabul is probably safer than much of big-city America.)
the citizens of the Lehigh Valley to join with us in rebuilding
this deserving nation and making good money in the process.
represented the Lehigh Valley's 15th Congressional District in
Congress from 1979 to 1993. Today he is vice chairman of the Afghan
American Chamber Of Commerce in Washington, and is the senior
adviser to the Afghan International Chamber of Commerce (AACC).
His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org Atiq Panjshiri is an Afghan-American
businessman and President of the AACC.