Afghanistan has done better than expected. Successfully conducting a presidential election was never going to be an easy task. The Afghan Taliban still enjoy considerable influence in the country, and had promised to do all in their power to disrupt the exercise. Candidates as well as common people were threatened with dire consequences if they participated. But the Afghans were able to overcome their fear and many other challenges which stood in the way, and voted in huge numbers during the first phase. It was also a victory for Afghan security forces. Despite all efforts, the Taliban failed to carry out any major attack. This only emboldened the forces in favour of democracy, as we see that the final phase has also been completed without any major setback. Although the militants carried out several attacks and there are allegations of fraud in certain constituencies, it is still a job well done.

The people have shown through their participation that they prefer to rely over ballot rather than bullets, which is an extremely encouraging development. In a country which has been rife with violence for decades now, its best chance lies in a functional political system. This will be the first time a peaceful transition of power will take place in Afghanistan. The country can only be governed by a leadership which rises from within. Apart from the poor security situation, there are several other problems which need to be addressed. Poverty, illiteracy, unemployment – all these issues will have to be tackled by the new Afghan leadership. There are few better ways to counter militancy than sustained governance. On that front, Afghanistan will remain in need of assistance from the US and its allies.

Both Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani, the final two candidates, have been critical of Pakistan’s role in their country. The internal situation of both countries demands that their governments work closely to counter terrorism. There is a lot that they stand to lose from a hostile relationship, as it stands today. There are reports that the Afghan intelligence has been using the elements within the TTP as proxies. Similar suggestions are made about the Pakistani security forces and the Afghan Taliban. Clearly, it is not an ideal scenario which can be sustained for long. Perhaps this would be a good time to reassess policies, which have proven disastrous for everyone.