Afghanistan’s Digital Future

The new government of Afghanistan has not yet decided on the timing of entering new biometric identity cards in operation. The project is born in 2010 and came after the episodes of violence that followed the 2009 presidential elections marred by corruption.

The launch of a biometric identity card has been considered a crucial step towards electoral transparency and progress towards democracy because votes will be based on information relating to each registered voter. But a sensitive issue appeared which blocked the launch of the ID Card, because of ethnicity.

Some believe that only the word “Afghan” should be mentioned in the nationality field, while others require that ethnicity would be mentioned. Others, again, believe that all references to nationality or ethnic origin should be omitted by only showing the official name of the country, the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.

In fact, Afghanistan is a multi-ethnic society of 31 million citizens, but members of the Pashtun group (42% of the population) regard themselves as the true heirs of the name “Afghan”. As a result, they want to be distinguished from members of other small ethnic groups such as Tajiks, Hazaras and Baloch. Afghanistan’s history has been marked by a series of bloody conflicts between different tribal groups and the opposition still continues in today’s society, rural or urban, wanting to emphasize the difference with any radical group supported by fundamentalist ideas related to Islam.

The government plans to link the ethnicity of every person on the chip of the card, without making it visible on the ID Card. The declaration of nationality would also be deleted. These arrangements would nevertheless be consistent with international standards.

But the Pashtuns of Afghanistan feel frustrated to be left out of decision-making at the national level. For their part, ethnic minorities argue that the use of “Afghan” (historically synonymous with Pashtun) allows a tribe to strengthen its dominant position. Tempers flare and the question of nationality (and national IDentity Card) has become a “life or death” matter. In short, what is proposed to improve the lives of citizens in the frame work digital future has become one of the toughest battles ahead. See more in www.equaltimes.org/

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