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Developments in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan is rich in mineral resources which have yet to be explored. However, presently, natural gas is one commodity which can generate a substantial foreign exchange income necessary for imports. The gas fields are close to the borders of the newly independent republics of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tadzikistan, pipelanes also exist.

Afghanistan is in the grip of fierce power struggle. A long war of attribution is in sight. Notwithstanding the installation of the 51 member ruling council, Afghanistan is bitterly divided country. The present situation is that Ahmed Shah Masood, who engaged the Soviets in a military conflict for over a decade in the northern regions of Afghanistan, has managed to establish his hold over Kabul. Hikmatyar who shared the major portion of US Aid is bitterly at loggerheads with Ahmed Shah Masood, Prof. Burhanuddin Rabbani is due to replace Prof. Sibghatullah Mujaddedi. According to the agreement Prof. Rabbani would head a government with a Hizb. Prime Minister. This prime minister has already been named by Engineer, Gulbadin Hikmatvar.

A report in the press says that Prof. Mujaddedi has already acceded to the Hizb demand about the Uzbek militias. if that has happened, then the only objection Hekmatyar has to the present set-up in Kabul would be removed.

Afghanistan has lost its collective pride social cohesion and self- sufficiency. The population of Afghanistan was 18 million. About 5 million Afghans are now scattered in Iran and Pakistan. As many as 1.4 million were killed in the long drawn war, while about 2 million have become invalid. The economy is ccmpletely in shambles and just as the countryside is strewn with some 30 to 50 million mines, so the political landscape is strewn with ethnic and tribal rivalries rubbed raw by war and exposed now to the appeals of Tajik (in Tajikistan) Uzbek (in Uzbekistan) Shiete Muslim (in Iran) and Pushtun (in Pakistan).

Afghanistan's economy is based on agriculture or the few industrial enterprises that were established during the 60s and 70s in chemical and pharmaceutical sectors with the Western help. Considerable inflow of foreign aid for the recovery of the country can be expected from the US, Western Europe and Saudi Arabia,

Afghanistan is rich in mineral resources which have yet to be explored. However, presently, natural gas is one commodity which can generate a substantial foreign exchange income necessary for imports. The gas fields are close to the borders of the newly independent republics of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tadzikistan, pipelanes also exist. Most of the mineral resources - iron, coal, copper, limestone are in northern Afghanistan. Thus a North-South disparity may not be an economic problem but mayalsofuel an ethnic struggle if and when planning for exploration of these minerals starts.

Afghanistan's economic relations with the Central Asian Republics will have to grow, because of strong ethnic and cultural ties and proximity. This may create some problems with other neighbours, who presently are guiding the Afghan council. Afghanistan presents a challenging scenario in all fields of activity; a war - ravaged country has to be built anew. Roads, electricity, hospitals, educational institutions and industries, all have to be built, operated and maintained. The prerequisite is however, peace and political stability. All the past differences and enmilies have to be overcome and forgotten. Apart from peace and stability, the major requirement will be the availability of skilled and trained manpower and managerial know how. Dependence on expatriates will be necessary evil if Afghanistan embarks on an overnight change of affairs.

In the field of industrialisation a major factor to be considered is that from trucks to airplanes, from power stations to telecommunications, from road building machines to fertilizer plants, all are of former USSR origin and make. A switchover to Western technology will put the clock back; thus a large scale import of technological items from the former enemy would be necessary. It is estimated that before the war, about 35 per cent of school-age children in Afghanistan were being enrolled in schools. The child who bore the war began in 1978 is now 14 years old and the one who was just about to enter school is now 20 years old. Thus a majority of children up to the age of 20 are illiterate.

Consequently a generation of illiterate population now exists in Afghanistan, which will have a negative impact in all aspects of Afghan society. Crash educational programmes - academic and technical - will have to be given priority if this segment of population has to be made a useful and productive part of society. If left to their lot, these youngsters could turn either into religious fanatics or high-way robbers.

Afghanistan is the vital link between the newly freed Central Asian Muslim republics and Pakistan. These republics are occupying a vast area, rich in natural resources. They are also equipped with industrial and military know-how of a superpower level. After living under a failed ideology for more than sixty years, the nostalgic search of the people of Central Asia for their identity is a logic phenomenon. A peaceful Afghanistan would be instrumental in economic stability of the entire region. Not only would the Central Asian republics get away through to warm waters but new vistas of economic growth would also open up for all the countries of the region.

Ahmed Shah Mosood (40) the son of an army officer was educated at a French School in Kabul. He studied civil engineering at Kabul University where he joined the Islamist movement. During the Soviet occupation that ended in 1989, Masood thwarted them in seven attacks on his native Panjher Valley north of Kabul, earning the title of the "Lion of Panjsher" from his admirers. During his 14-year struggle, the former engineering student demonstrated talents for planning. organization, leadership and guerrilla tactics that inspired comparisons with Arggentina's Ernesto Che Guevara and Yugoslavia's marchal Tito. Practically alone among Mujahideen commanders, he has studied the works of such revolutionary leaders as Guevara, Mao Zedong and Ho Chi Minh, drawing lessons that helped him develop his own strategy for fighting the Soviets and their Afghan communist allies in this rugged, mountainous land. Yet, for years, Masood was virtually ignored by US policy makers and, the CIA.

Hekmatyar-an engineer by profession belonged to Hizbe Islami which is a part of the Islamic resurgence movement going on in may Muslim countries. Halmatyar is considered by many Afghans as a "strong uncompromising leader, one of the few among the Afhan Muljahideen able to take power and hold it" . . . . He "has built - with guns and money delivered by the United States and other countries during the 1980s-a regionally influential guerilla movement that has trained Islamic fighters from Bangledesh to Algeria." The Hizble Islami is linked with Jamal-e-Islami in Pakistan and Bangladesh, with Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan and elsewhere in the Arab world, with Islamic Salvation Front in Algeria and similar other Islamic movements in North Africa and the Middle East, Hakmatyar consumed the largest chunk of CIA arms and money and similar help from Muslim countries following the Western line of action against communist regime of the Homeland Party.
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Title Annotation:includes related articles; economic developments
Publication:Economic Review
Date:May 1, 1992
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