When an independence day is celebrated with fading pride as an independent country…
If Indonesia is still in splendor of the 62nd anniversary of its independence day, Afghanistan is celebrating its 88th today. The British Treaty of Rawalpindi on August 8, 1919 admitted the self-determination of Afghanistan, of which foreign affairs formerly under British subject. Afghanistan had been arena of power struggle between nations since the beginning of its history, and at the end of the 19th century it became arena of the Great Game between Russian and British imperials. As both imperial powers were almost equally strong, Afghanistan was used as buffer to delimit Russian empire from the British India. Under British and Russian influence, the northern border with Russia (Amu-Darya River), the eastern border with British India (Durand Line) and the border with Persia were drawn. Afghanistan, under subject of Russian-British agreement, was given independence but not in its foreign affairs, which is under the British control. The king Amanullah Khan succeeded to force British to admit Afghanistan as fully independent country, by his invasion to India in 1919 and resulted the Treaty of Rawalpindi. The full independence of Afghanistan was proclaimed on August 19, 1919. This date on Afghanistan had full controls on its foreign relations.
Today, this caption of history has passed 88 years of age. A big celebration was designed in Ghazi Stadium in Kabul, the same place Taliban used to hold public executions on lawbreakers. Handsome Afghan youths in traditional costumes of different ethnics (Pashtun, Tajiks, Uzbeks and Turkmens), young Afghan women in colorful dresses, powerful Afghan young athletes, proud Afghan soldiers and military officers, are marching in front of President Hamid Karzai, respected ambassadors, and high-rank ministers and officers. The president smiled wide but in his independence address he reminded the nation that the country, despite of celebration of its independence day, was actually under attack of the enemy.
The 88th anniversary of Afghan independence is celebrated in irony. The Ghazi stadium was full of extravaganza, with beautiful parades and shows of a strong nation. But outside there, the atmosphere was quiet. I stroll around the city and I see no significant sign of celebration. Forget about image of Indonesian streets full of flags, penjors, and carnivals. There no such thing here in Kabul. The shops are closed, just like the other ordinary Fridays (the off day in Afghanistan). Quiet. It seemed that it was Independence Day or not does not make so much sense to people’s life. But office workers are happy because it is a holiday added to their annual leave. But pride of being independent for 88 years? Not so much of that.
In fact, some incidents happened recently. Just yesterday a pregnant German woman was abducted by gunmen when eating in French Bakery in Darulaman area in the center. Violent criminal like this, which I used to orientate only to the southern part of the country, now moves closer to Kabul. Street firing also happened last month. Don’t forget as well about the 19 Koreans still under hostage of Taliban in Ghazni province. Don’t forget about the giant blasts grilled 35 young policeman souls in Kabul two months ago. How about the slaughtered German hostages in Wardak? How about the martyred Afghan journalists in Kandahar?
But the nation is celebrating its national day, with full pride, at least in Ghazi stadium.
Karimzai, a young Pashtun friend, commented about the extravaganza inside the stadium and dullness around the city, “Yes, it was pride. It was pride under Amanullah, Zahir Shah, and Daoud. It was pride when we were really independent country. It was. But not now. How can we say we are independent when all of these foreigners are around, everywhere.”
If we see, NATO-formed ISAF soldiers and US-led coalition forces are still needed in putting security in the country under control, but for many Afghans it’s kind of losing sovereignty on their own land. Talking about security in Afghanistan is indeed a joke. Bombs, kidnappings, and random firing still happen in this capital. The foreign policy is much of compromise to suit different countries’ interests. Foreign NGOs with big budget are running around the country and foreign workers live with high standard of life, while locals die in poverty. When a foreigner is abducted it becomes big headlines worldwide, but when a war widow wrapped in burqa died on street, it didn’t make any news even to local newspaper.
When pride of independence is fading, independence day is not more than one-day holiday with colorful parades in a stadium.