Afghanistan | Freedom House

Freedom in the World

Freedom in the World 2017



Freedom Status: 
Not Free

Freedom in the World Scores

(1=Most Free, 7=Least Free)

Quick Facts

Press Freedom Status: 
Not Free

Afghanistan has a progressive constitution marrying its Islamic identity with commitment to a wide range of internationally recognized rights, within the framework of an electoral democracy. In practice, citizens have never enjoyed the full range of political and civic rights promised to them. Successive disputed elections and a tendency towards bargains between elites have weakened democratic accountability. High levels of violence, limited state authority, endemic corruption, and contested ideas of Muslim identity all limit political rights and civil liberties.

Key Developments: 
  • In September, it was announced that the current National Unity Government (NUG), led by President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, intended to serve Ghani’s full, five-year presidential term, but without convening a loya jirga, or grand council, to discuss constitutional reform.
  • Also in September, a new electoral law was passed by presidential decree, and in November, new members were appointed to the election commission. However, no date was set for the overdue parliamentary elections.
  • Members of the Hazara ethnic group led mass demonstrations in Kabul in the spring and summer, and authorities for the most part took a permissive stance toward the protests. However, one such demonstration was attacked by suicide bombers, killing some 80 people.
  • Around 700,000 refugees returned to Afghanistan, most of whom had been pushed out of Pakistan. 
Executive Summary: 

The National Unity Government, established to address a dispute over the result of the 2014 presidential election, survived its second year. Some elements of an emergent opposition had propagated the idea that the political agreement that had established the coalition government was to last only for two years, and that upon its expiration the NUG must convene a loya jirga to discuss constitutional reforms that would better define who was to hold executive power. Instead, it was announced that their NUG would operate for Ghani’s full five-year presidential term.

In September, the president issued a decree containing provisions of long-awaited electoral reforms, and in November, new members were appointed to the election commission. However, no date was set for parliamentary elections, nor was it clear how elections would be possible in the prevailing insecurity. The parliament elected in 2010 continued to govern, well past its original term.

The Taliban increased their control over Afghan territory, while violence against civilians continued at levels comparable to the previous year.

A highly competent attorney general was appointed, but faced a major challenge in terms of restoring the rule of law. The most prominent example of the entrenched impunity in Afghanistan came when the first vice president was accused of ordering assault and unlawful detention, and efforts to investigate the claims stalled.

A pattern of mass forced migration became even more complex in 2016. The Afghan exodus to Europe continued, though on a smaller scale than in 2015. Meanwhile, harassment of Afghans in Pakistan prompted some 700,000 people to return to Afghanistan, with the needs of returnees severely straining public infrastructure. 

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