Printer Friendly

Economic reconstruction of Afghanistan.

The present travails of Afghanistan may really be ascribed what is claimed by the Russians and Communist elements in Afghanistan, as the 'Revolution' of April 1978. In actual fact Soviet Russia had been spreading its tentacles in Afghanistan much before 1978 and indeed American foreign policy had accepted the fact that Afghanistan fell within the Russian sphere of influence without, of course, conceding the right of take-over of Afghanistan or virtual Soviet domination.

Afghanistan is a land locked country and transportation is thus of vital importance. Despite the war and Russian occupation Pakistan has continued to provide transit facilities as in the past. Indeed much of the smuggling of goods in Pakistan takes place through the loopholes in transit arrangements with Afghanistan. Internally there are only about 9200 km. of all-weather roads. The main highway artery which runs through Afghanistan is the Asian highway A-I with branches.

At present the most important route is through USSR in the Torghundi and Permez sector. Of course the Kabul-Peshawar highway has continued to function for trade and transport with Pakistan and India. The third outlet is through Iran by way of Khorram Shahar and Bundar Khomeni Ports. There are large international airports at Kabul and Kandhar for domestic Bakhtar airline and Ariana - Afghan International Airline. The value of exports are around US $ 728 million and the value of imports is computed at US $ 846 million.

During the last ten years under Russian occupation and thereafter emphasis has been laid on land reforms and while it may b presumed that with the victory of Mujahideen, socialist elements in Afghan society will be eliminated it should be realized that it may not be possible to re-establish Feudalism in its old form, with nearly 45 per cent of the peasanst owning neither land nor implements nor cattle. While it is difficult to judge how far the land reforms introduced during the last decade have really changed agricultural scenario and agricultural society, there is no gainsaying that new expections have been raised and future development will have to take note of the changed environment. In industry, public sector has always had a leading position. Of the 336 industrial enterprises before April 1978, 195 belonged to the public secrtor, of which textiles and the food industries were relatively better developed.

In the absence of adequate statistics per capital national income in Afghanistan cannot be determined accurately and different estimates have been made ranging from US $ 65 to US $ 160. According to UN Statistics Afghanistan had stood 108th amongst the developing countries in terms of per capita income. While the claim of present Government in Afghanistan to wipe out literacy by 1990s may be taken with a large pinch of salt, in future development plans recognition should be given to the fact that during the last decade efforts have been made for considerable improvement in literacy and education.

Finally, unless the clock is set back under influence of obscurantist policy of certain groups which may gain dominance in post-war Afghanistan, future plans will have to take note of the fact that there has been considerable emancipation of Afghan women. It was recently stated that under a well considered policy Afghan youths have been taken in large numbers to USSR for education and brain-washing and that there are only about 5000 students as against 14000 or so that used to be the case in Kabul University. However, the vast majority of these 5000 students are girls. Laws have been enunciated guaranteeing the right to work, the right to choose their husbands, right to equal pay etc. Any plans for reconstruction in Afghanistan will have to taken not of these factors of agrarian reforms, cooperative ventures, mixed economy, active role of women etc.

The other side of the picture is one of unbelievable devastation caused by war. The report sponsored by the Swedish Committee of Afghanistan, written by Dr. Azam Gul, former Chairman of Department of Agronom, of Kabul University and the British Consultancy Group Agri System led by Tom Morrison has stated that "the destruction was not the random product of war but of a systematic programme of laying waste agricultural production". According to the report since Soviet occupation in 1979 food production has gone down by more than half; one third of all farms have been abandoned altogether. In the rest of cultivated areas cultivation is down by a third". Livestock population of oxen, goats and horses has gone down by half. Despite claim of regular supply of fertilizers and seeds in the documents produced by Afghan Government there has been gentle decline in the quality of crops. While launching his report in London in 1988 Dr. Azam Gul had stated "It will take years to replace the livestock. 300,000 pairs of oxen are needed. Even if the money is available where can we find them. There will be a need for power, credit, seeds and fertilizers." Professor Azam Gul, had opined that it could take two to three years to start producing enough food; also the three to five million mines dispersed in the country-side would have to be defused before they kill more men, cattle and sheep.

An official document of the present regime in Afghanistan has claimed that between 1979 and 1984 1,814 schools buildings, 31 hospitals, 14 health centres, 14 per cent of transport facilities, 14,000 kilometres of telephone lines had been destroyed and 14,000 cooperatives, irrigation systems and many industrial enterprises had been put out of service. The government of course blamed Mujahideen guerilla activities for all this loss. Engineer Ahmad Shah of Interim Afghan Government has claimed that "the Russians had inflicted a toll of 1.5 million Afghans, destruction of 70 per cent of residential areas and 65 per cent of irrigation system".

Rosanne Klass, Director of the Southwest Asia centre of Freedom House in New York and Editor of books and articles on Afghanistan wrote in an issue of 'Foreign Affairs' in 1988 that "Afghanistan had been transformed by Soviet weaponry and tactics into a desert wasteland. Out of 22,000 villags in pre-war Afghanistan estimated 15,000 had been destroyed and another 5,000 made uninhabitable........." Millions of farm animals had been deliberately slaughtered. The millenia - old irrigation system hass been destroyed. The vineyards have been cut down. Water supplies, health care, educational system, road network - all have been wiped out".

A recent statement by Mr. Abdul Aziz Ferogh, the designated Minister for Planning in the Mujahideen Transitional Government has stated that during the past years of war over 300,00 houses have been destroyed, over 2000 schools and madrassas and 130 Rural Medical Centres have been destroyed. According to him of 2600 kilometres of asphalt road, 70 to 75 per cent of roads need to be reconstructed and 3000 to 3500 kilometers of secondary roads with bridges have also been damaged. About 30 per cent agricultural land has remained barren and uncultivated and 30 to 34 per cent of the rural population has been destroyed. Indeed "there is no place in Afghanistan which has been spared from damage".

A US State Department report dated December 1987 had stated that the figure in Soviet media for wartime destruction in Afghanistan was 50 billion Afghanis. According to a survey conducted by a Peshawar-based relief agency in 1988 farm production has fallen drastically to 50 per cent of the levels prior to the Soviet Military intervention. Moreover the crop yields had declined by 25 to 30 per cent.

S.J. Masty, another authority living in Peshawar wrote in 1988 "that the country's agricultural infrastructure has been bombed into ruins ..... that it will take 40 years for the Afghans to achieve the harvests they had in 1978. Even if the slaughters were stopped, without record breaking level of international assistance ..... they may face interim starvation of genocidal proportions".

The desctruction of schools, the murder or arrest of teachers and the attempt by the Soviets to sovietise the education system led to ruining of the Afghanistan education system. According to former Kabul University President, Dr. Abdul Azeemi, in the last ten years we had lost everything in education. According to a United Nations report "the Afghanistan educational system had virtually collapsed. More than 2600 schools including almost all the religious schools have been destroyed". According to United Nations assessment Afghanistan people are now among the least literate in the world.

The savage war which has lasted over 11 years has led to the wiping out of areas of the country side, caught as old villages have been in cross-fire of Russian bombing raids and Mujahideens attacks. According to survey carried out by Marek Slinwinski, a lecturer at the University of Geneva, Afghanistan had lost nearly 9 per cent of its population through killing in the war. The figure surpasses the highest total of 8.6 per cent being the tragic death rate of the Soviets in the Second World War. The UN report released towards the end of 1988 stated that Afghanistan's war had left it "one of the poorest, least developed country." Resettling the 7 million displaced Afghanis would be one of the largest ever operation of its kind because it would involve almost half of the country's population.

In this connection it may be noted that UNHCR has asked for minimum of US $ 1.5 billion just to get the refugees back and feed them over the initial adjustment period. The Swedish Committee has estimated that another 2 to 3 billion dollars would be needed to bring Afghanistan's agricultural production back to pre 1989 level. It has been emphasized elsewhere that Afghanistan had a very narrow industrial based and much of it has been destroyed. Added to these problems is the fact that despite developments in early 70s Afghanistan has had low rate of absorption of international aid.

Agriculture made up for more than 60% of the GNP, but this is no longer the case and the UN programme envisages spending 226 million dollars in first 18 months of reconstruction for agriculture alone. Nearly 160 million dollars will be needed every five years to re-establish the age-old technology of allowing karez carrying water from rain-fed mountains to the arid plains.

In the wake of Geneva Accord the most welcome development has been the active role assigned to Prince Sadruddin, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees; already offices have been set up in Islamabad and Kabul. While the main task of UNHCR is the repatriation of refugees from Pakistan and Iran their rehabilitation will be an integral part of the move.

In this connection it may be noted that Prince Sadruddin Agha Khan's apeal made some headway in international circles in the beginning but the desired target may take some considerable time to be reached though pledges of assistance have been made. Indeed even Moscow has already allocated 510 million dollars in reconstruction aid for war damaged areas. Norway, Sweden, Canada, Switzerland, Netherlands, Australia, Austria and Finland had agreed to provide contribution totalling 50 million dollars. The UN coordinator was hopeful of getting 16.4 million dollars from France. Prince Sadruddin had been insisting on aid of 1.166 billion dolalrs from the start of Soviet troops withdrawal in 1988 and had emphasised that this is minimal requirement. Of this 25 million dollars are earmarked for immediate educational needs.

While Prince Sadruddin has been urging for early international aid and while the present government in Afghanistan has made a bid for international assistance, successfully resisted by Pakistan Delegation in ECOSOC, it is clear that international help will come only when a National government is formed in Kabul. The optimism of various spokesmen notwithstanding it would be realistic to assume that the repatriation of 5 million Afghan refugees from Pakistan and Iran may take considerable time to be completed, notwithstanding Diego Cordovez's enigmatic but meaningful remark of "an entirely different situation". Indeed the problem is bedevilled by the fact that millions of land mines have been planted by the Soviets all over the country and as the withdrawal of Soviet troops was accompanied by on-slaught of the Mujahidden there was no orderly withdrawal and the land mines will have to be cleared before refugees can go back.

While a number of 35,000 villages have been abandoned or the population in those villages has been drastically reduced, UN officers have estimated that in the present situation they would not be able to reach more than 10,000 villages. Indeed one of the suggested strategies in areas worst affected by continuing warfare is to drop 3 to 6 months worth of essential supplies to avoid having to visit them repeatedly.

In this connection it may be noted that 80% of the refugees who crossed into Pakistan left homes in regions within hundred k.m. from the border, making their physical return relatively easy and yet it may not be forgotten that these areas have suffered the worst destruction because of intensive guerilla activities.

We may not forget that while demand for reparations has not been made on the Soviets in the Geneva Accord, the point has been moted. In its pledge to UNHCR Coordinator USSR may have intended to ward off the demand by making a substantial offer. Again, the bombastic claim of Mikhail Konarovski, Counsellor of the Soviet Embassy in Kabul that USSR was "planned to help in the reconstruction of entire sectors of the Afghan economy till the year 2000" may not materialise after the Government of USSR has already made its exit from Afghanistan and particularly if a new National Government takes over. The international community, particularly USA, which under Geneva Accord almost bailed out USSR by agreeing to Soviet withdrawal without insisting on compensation to Afghanistan, may continue to raise its voice for full USSR commitment to reconstruction, no matter what is the complexion of Government in Afghanistan.

Richard S. Williamson, US coordinator for Afghan Affairs stated in 1988 that he was making it clear to the Soviet Union that it should make a major financial contribution to the special international efforts because the Soviet Union destroyed the country of Afghanistan and "is obligated to pay a major part of the bill to re-build it", a form of reparation for losing the war and damage done.

It has been proposed in Pakistan that a plan of export of commodities, machinery, technology and services should be taken up right now and later for implementation for assistance to a friendly Afghanistan. Indeed Pakistan can play a pivotal role in international efforts for relief and reconstruction of Afghanistan, and just as Pakistan was a conduit for American arms assistance to the Mujahideen Pakistan can become the channel for international assistance, in particular for industrialisation and assistance in technology ans services. In this effort Pakistan could well secure assistance by developing joint ventures in civil engineering, manufacture of light engineering goods, exports of technology expertise in cooperation with China, Japan, South Korea and North Korea.

When the Regional Cooperation for Development (RCD) was set up by in 1964 between Turkey, Iran and Pakistan, Afghanistan was keen to join the grouping, but despite support from Iran, Pakistan would have none of it. The time may soon come when Afghanistan could be inducted in the revived grouping (ECO) of the three countries. Pakistan has been fortunate in having had the full support of OIC and Arab countries in the Afghanistan policy; that goodwill could now be mobilised in getting pledges for assistance for economic reconstruction of Afghanistan with assistance from Pakistan.

At the same time it must be emphasised that while making use of the economic opportunities Pakistan must clearly demonstrate fulfilment of its obligation for humanitarian aid and while Pakistanis have played their part as hosts to Afghanistan refugees, suffering incalculable harm in heroin and Klashinkov culture, they will have to demonstrate that they will be second to none when the need for humanitarian aid in matters of health, education and other areas comes up for action.

The role that Pakistan can play in economic reconstruction of Afghanistan is not only a humanitarian obligation but also of "catapulting Pakistan into a dynamic economic trajectory". One can only hope that all this, however, should be attempted in a participatory role without giving the slightest reason for any misunderstanding as being exploitative. On the trading front it is interesting to note that despite disturbed conditions markets not only of Kandhar but of other main cities of Afghanistan are full of a number of Pakistan goods.

Kabul's bazars are crammed with goods from all round the globe, Radios from Japan, Clocks from Shanghai, Bicycles from England, Vegetables and fruits from Pakistan, Tea from India and Cooking oils from South East Asia, with money changers ready to exchange any currency of the world. However, the prices are high and many families live only on a diet of bread, raddish and tea.

Dubai's innovative traders and shippers have come out with several solutions to overcome the problem of supplying goods to war-raided Afghanistan. Every month over 200 tons of goods like textiles, tyres and consumer durables are despatched to Kabul via circuitous routes. The first one is sending the containers to Hamburg in West Germany, from where they are sent by road and then by train through the Siberian railways to Herat, Kabul and other cities. The second route is Dubai-Antwerp Turke, from where train takes the goods via the Soviet railsways into Afghanistan. The third route uses the ships going to the Soviet Black Sea Ports, from where they are loaded on to trains going to Afghanistan. Some goods are also sent to Afghanistan via the Far-East and Eastern Soviet ports.

A Round Table Conference was held December 1989 in Islamabad with representatives of countries which were aiding in reconstruction, prominent Afghans, Pakistani experts and reprsentatives of private volunteer organisations which was inaugurated by Professor Burhanuddin Rabbani, the Re-construction Minister of Afghanistan Interim Government. Professor Rabbani presented a three phase reconstruction policy of his Government i.e. the return of refugees, the reconstruction of the country and its development.

While many members of Dr. Najibullah's Government are interested in settlement which gives them a stake in the National Government Dr. Najibullah is not. He is encouraging a system of local commanders by giving recognition and autonomy by Kabul--and some time even being armed-in return for allowing the passage of supplies.

It is reported that part of Afghanstan has achieved a sort of peace. This is the part in the North-East ryn by Ahmad Shah Massoud, the most successful guerrilla Commander. Her has built up a civil administration in 6 provinces on the edge of the Hindu Kush with base in Tarloqan in Takhar provice. The Kabul regime not merely tolerates this development but gives it full support as a practical measure. Reconstruction has begun there in right earnets, financed by some Mujahideen's quarters in Peshawar and partly from taxation, mainly tax on export of Lapis Lazuli, sheep and goats. Western Aid Agencies have also been helping and health and education programmes are getting into shape. The plans, however, to capture some Government towns in his area before contemplating an assault on Kabul has been frustrated by the struggle between his party, the Jamiat Islami and the Hizbe Islami of Gulbadin Hikmat Yar. It is not unlikely that other regions of Afghanistan will develop along the lines of Massoud's little kingdom. Massoud himself believes that it may take 3 to 5 years to remove the Communist regime in Kabul. While this kind of system may leave the Afghan Interim government without a constituency the prospects of a United Afghanistan may disappear in the foreseeable future.

Thus a dreadful scenario, if there is no national consensus, is that circumstances of anarcy may develop which may take many years to subside. All the work that was finished by Amir Abdul Rehman to unify Afghan nation may be undone. the Mujahideen groups may be replaced by war lords based on tribal or regional consideration.

Despite internecine quanels Mujahideen are in no mood to lay down their arms, fired as they are by the spirit of jehad. They point out that for the first four years they carried on their jehad without assistance from USA and claim that they can carry on their fight into Afghan territory for long time.

Engr. Gulbadin Hikmatyar's has been urging that the present stalemate in Afghanistan can only be ended with the holding of elections. Several groups have started to favour elections but the plan seems to b still born. Americans seem to be veering round to give respite to Dr. Najibullah before a Government of National reconciliation is formed. Some elements of AIG (Afghan Interim Government) and others find in ex-King Zahir Shah an individual as the person to head the interragnium before a Loi Jirga election to form the future government after peace is restored. The situation is thus pregnant with all kinds of possibilities.

Despite many uncertainties it must be our hope and belief that it will not take very long for the new dawn to emerge in Afghanistan and it may not be unduly optimistic to hope that a new government may be ushered in by the middle of 1991. It is in this hope of early ushering in of settled conditions in Afghanistan after more than a decade of suffering that Afghanistan's reconstruction plans can be undertaken.
COPYRIGHT 1990 Economic and Industrial Publications
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1990 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Jafri, S.S.
Publication:Economic Review
Date:Feb 1, 1990
Previous Article:Bleak prospects of taming global unemployment.
Next Article:Plea for economic justice.

Related Articles
AFGHANISTAN - Nov. 7 - World Bank Sets Framework For Reconstruction.
Should we rebuild Afghanistan? Afghanistan has suffered through decades of war. Should the U.S. military now lead the way in its reconstruction?...
AFGHANISTAN - March 17 - Int'l Donors Pledge $1.7 Bn Of Aid.
AFGHANISTAN - Mar 31 - Donors Pledge $4.4 Bn.
US Ambassador calls on Chairman BOI.
Pakistan determined to stabilize Afghanistan situation: FM.
Electricity export from Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan discussed at Afghanistan conference in Pakistan.
Qureshi says Pak committed to play main role in Afghanistan's stability.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2017 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters