This is a challenging year for Afghanistan, not only because we completed a decade of war with international forces, but also we soon will have a government that is not taking power by fighting, but by the votes of the people.

This is a year in which every minute changes not only the history of Afghanistan, but also the destination of our people. Will they have a peaceful life or will there be more anarchy and fighting?

Despite risks, Afghan people participated in a peaceful election day on April 5th. At the end of the day there was a lot of optimism for the future of Afghanistan. The gathering and participation of people, women and youths was incredible that day, but the question remained: Can Afghanistan stand on his own feet?

None of the candidates won over fifty percent of the votes required, so now the election goes to its second round. But Afghanistan doesn’t have experience with a second round. Some people don’t understand the need for it. Others are concerned about security or they don’t trust who will select the president after the voting, or that the second round costs too much—that the money could be used for other projects in reconstruction of the country.

The two final candidates, Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, are experienced candidates who ran for election the last time when President Karzai won. Dr. Abdullah is a Tajik and participated in jihad with the Mujahideen during the fight against Soviet Union.

Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai is interested in building better relationships with Pakistan and was a finance minister during the Karzai government. Both of them were candidates five years ago when Karzai won the election.

People have very different views of the two of them. Abdullah represents Tajiks. Ghani is known as a very intelligent man, but too nationalistic and Pakistani. This really divides Afghanistan people into two parts. Both of them have enormous hopes and wishes for the people of Afghanistan; they are trying their best to win by making promises in the name of God.

Abdullah is asking people to vote for him because he has been brave enough to live inside the country. Ghani lived abroad for many years and is not considered a “real Afghan.” Afghan people are tired. Tired of experiencing the Taliban and tired of the corrupt government of Hamid Karzai; but still they are hopeful. But many still don’t dare to vote because of security reasons; they don’t feel they are safe or they think their vote will not be counted, or that America will select the president.

This is a challenging and important time for Afghanistan’s future. The new president will have enormous responsibilities and strong enemies: Taliban and Al-Qaida, poppy smuggling and corruption.

The government of Afghanistan doesn’t have the ability to solve all Afghanistan’s problems. During the recent natural disasters like the landslide in Badakhshan, the government was not able to help the victims, either dead or alive. The government declared the village a cemetery without even searching for the people buried and that was the end of the story.

The problems in Afghanistan are huge; you cannot find an Afghan family without problems. They wonder and wait for the next suicide attack and wonder will it be their turn. Afghans who live outside of the country also face enormous challenges. It is a pity that talented, educated young Afghans who could play an important role in the future of Afghanistan must work outside of Afghanistan only to support their everyday lives.

Meanwhile many more Afghan migrants sink in the oceans with no one to ask who they were.

Afghans have huge responsibilities; first by participating in the election and selecting the new president and then to work together with the new government for change, so that we Afghans will not have the experience of North Korea.

Change doesn’t happen by itself; it is up to the Afghan people to work for change. This is the time to show that Afghans who survived the past can rebuild their country, will defeat the Taliban and every other enemy of Afghans and Afghanistan. God bless Afghanistan.

By Pari