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Modernising one village in Afghanistan.

MODERNIZATION in the Western World did not normally originate from the top but from below, through grass-roots participation in the economic, social, cultural and political arenas. Development trends were different for countries of the developing world; in these societies change originated and was implemented from above by the state, with little or no public participation or significant involvement in the process. The authoritarian state in the developing world neither provides opportunities for the public to participate in the development processes nor consults the public regarding their needs and priorities. The logic of the state, with regard to development, centres on the notion that the masses, due to their lack of education or sophistication, are not in a position to articulate their needs. The state then proceeded to take on its self-appointed role to define what communities needed and what type of development projects must be initiated. Development policies that are imposed from the top in this fashion have failed to transform the entrenched socio-political structure and its corresponding politics, ideology, culture and traditions.

Development has largely been defined in terms of economic achievements that lead to improvements in the standard of living of the people. Such a definition limits the perspective to mere economic determinism, because it does not view development as the totality of change and improvement in culture, politics, and social consciousness. Development in these areas also requires establishing a good governance system; a government which is accountable to the public. Scholars, policy makers and development practitioners have tended to postulate that considerable transfers of resources would contribute to economic development and effectively eradicate rampant poverty and backwardness. They did not recognize or consider the dialectical link between the transfer of resources and the establishment of socially responsible systems of governance based on active public participation in the process.

This article studies policies of the state toward the Hazarajat region, located in the central part of Afghanistan, and explores how development policies pursued by the dominant ethnic group, the Pushtuns, controlling the state apparatus deprived the region of social, political, economic and cultural development, suppressed their voice and denied the people the right to participate in the social, economic and political affairs of the country. It also studies how collaboration between the public and non-governmental organizations, NGOs, has contributed to the transformation of the lives of the Hazaras in one of the very remote and inaccessible villages, Acha Mazar, in the Waras district of Bamiyan province, and effectively ended the village's centuries-old geographic isolation, linking it with cities and towns in the country as well as the global village community.

Socio-Political Repression of the Hazaras

Hazaras primarily reside in the region known as Hazarajat. Bamiyan is one of the provinces in the central region of Afghanistan that is inhabited by the Hazaras. The word Hazarajat means the land of Hazaras, one of the ethnic groups that comprise the ethnic mosaic of the country. They have been settled in the region since time immemorial. There are different theories concerning the origin of the Hazaras. For example J. P. Ferrier argues that Hazaras had settled in the region since Alexander of Greece and his army conquered Afghanistan. H. W. Bellew maintains that Hazaras are descendents of the Mongols when Genghis Khan invaded Afghanistan and after Genghis Khan's army settled there they adopted the local culture, religion and language. Schurmann and Timorkhanov argue that Hazaras are a mixture of different racial groups such as Mongolian and Turks as the Mongol invading army conquered the region during the latter half of the thirteenth century and they gradually were assimilated into the local population.(1)

The majority of Hazaras adhere to the Shia faith of Islam followed by the Isma'ilis while a small number are Sunnis as they were forced to embrace the faith during the rule of King Abd al-Rahman in 1880-1901. Hazaras enjoyed semi-autonomy and the Hazara tribal chiefs opposed outside interferences into their territories. Abd al-Rahman was determined to bring the tribal chiefs under his authority and launched wars of conquest on Hazarajat. The Hazara rebellion exacerbated existing animosities between Sunnis and Shias and caused Sunni clerics to give Abd al-Rahman the legal ruling, fitwa to the effect that Hazaras are infidels. Abd al-Rahman who called himself Amir of the Muslims did not practise Islam as his personal physician wrote: 'His Highness the Amir does not pray, at least as far as I know. I have never seen him do so.' (2) Abd al-Rahman justified the military expedition on Hazarajat on the grounds that:

The Hazara people had been for centuries past the terror of the rulers of Kabul, even the great Nadir who conquered Afghanistan, India, and Persia being unable to subdue the turbulent Hazaras. The Hazaras were always molesting travellers in the south, north and western provinces of Afghanistan .... They were always ready to join the first foreign aggressor who attacked Afghanistan. (3)

Such a characterization of the Hazaras by Abd al-Rahman was a propaganda tool to rally the Sunnis in support of his politics. Abd al-Rahman's personal physician described Hazaras quite differently as a hard-working and peace-loving people, who were not easily roused unless they were subjected to cruelty and oppression, and then they fought with tenacity.(4)

Abd al-Rahman organized a tribal army, dispatched it to Hazarajat and crushed the rebellion in 1893. He enslaved Hazaras and rewarded the tribal army composed of Pushtuns with captured land, and ordered the sale of enslaved Hazara men, women and children. Abd al-Rahman's brutality caused a significant number of Hazaras to leave the country and settle in Iran and Pakistan and in Central Asia. Abd al-Rahman imposed heavy taxes on the Hazaras who remained in Hazarajat and his method of tax collection was very severe, including physical torture and murder of those who failed to pay.(5)

To consolidate his rule and to prevent the possibility of a Hazara uprising against him in the future Abd al-Rahman partitioned Hazarajat into three administrative divisions, Kabul, Bamiyan and Qandahar. Abd al-Rahman sent Sunni Pushtun administrators to Hazarajat to ensure Hazara compliance with his rulings. As a result of the war and repression parts of Hazarajat were depopulated and in 1894 Abd al-Rahman called on the Pushtun tribes to settle in Hazarajat. A significant number of Ghilzai tribes from Jalalabad, Laghman and Qandahar settled in Hazarajat and the vacated lands were distributed among the settler community that served as the backbone of the central government. Abd al-Rahman is alleged to have said that Pushtuns should be thankful to him for enslaving the Hazaras otherwise they 'would have had to work like donkeys if it were not that the slaving donkeys of Hazars changed the work for them.(6) The state's coercive policy toward the Hazaras changed the landscape of Hazarajat to the extent that major Hazara feudal landowners were wiped out and many Hazaras fled their houses, relocated to urban centres and struggled to eke out a living as unpaid or underpaid domestic servants and porters. Although the proprietary state abolished slavery and taxes from the sale of enslaved Hazaras in 1897, the Hazaras remained de facto slaves until Abd al-Rahman's grandson, King Amanullah (1919-1929) abolished slavery and declared equality of all ethnic groups before the law.

After the downfall of Amanullah in 1929 the proprietor ethnic group, the Mohammadzais continued to treat Hazaras as second-class citizens. Although a few Hazaras were appointed to cabinet posts in the late 1970s and 1980s, their roles were largely symbolic. (7) The Mohammadzais had supported the Kochis, Pushtun nomads who travelled to Hazarajat in the summer with their herds and pack animals, grazing their animals on the pasture lands and collecting rent from the tenant farmers. The Kochis gradually became wealthy businessmen as they had engaged in trade and provided loans to the local farmers that further contributed to the pauperization of the Hazaras. As Hazaras could not pay the debt they were forced to sell their lands to the Kochis and then worked as sharecroppers and labourers on the land they once owned. The Kochis visited the region once a year to collect the rent or the harvested crops from the tenant farmers. During the reign of King Mohammad Nadir (1929-1933) and his son Mohammad Zahir (1933-1973) the Kochis became a major stakeholder in Hazarajat to the extent that:
 Kochis became very land-hungry during the king's time, 1933-1973
 and would stop at nothing to get whatever land they could. When
 it came to big Hazara landowners, they paid for the land. But it
 was more common for Kochis to gain the land by carrying goods
 (tearopes, tobacco and cloth) with them. They would sell these
 to the people on the promise that they would pay later in seers
 of wheal |seven kilos of grain]. They always checked whether the
 person had animals or land before they gave goods on credit. When
 they came back at the end of harvest to ask for the seers of wheat,
 the seers had grown more valuable than early in the year or the
 year before. This was their way of getting interest. Most people
 could not pay the full amount, and the Kochis let them run up
 the debt until the next year. The debt would grow far, far beyond
 the value of the piece of cloth they had bought in the first
 place. After several years the Kochis would take the sheep belonging
 to the debtor and if that was not enough, the land. The land was
 never valued on its own, but was always assessed at the same value
 of the debt, whatever it was. So, in the end, people were selling
 their land for a piece of cloth or a box of tea. This made them
 angry. Some refused to give up the land and the Kochis would
 appeal to the government. The government always took the side
 of the Kochis and would make the people give up the land and
 would draw up a document, giving ownership to the Kochis.(8)

Such a policy continued and was reinforced during Mohammad Daoud's premiership (1953-1963) and his presidency (1973-1978). It is for this reason that most Hazaras consider the period of Daoud's rule to be the darkest period in Hazarajat as his administration turned a blind eye to the cruelty of the Kochis for exploiting the Hazaras, grabbing their land and property causing many poor families to migrate to urban areas.

The situation changed considerably when Hazaras liberated Hazarajat from control by the pro-Soviet government in 1978-1979 and during the Soviet occupation of the country (1979-1989) and expelled the Kochis from the region. Hazarajat was ruled by individuals affiliated with several religious organizations that periodically fought each other until Abdul Ali Mazari of Sazman-e-Nasr (Victory Organization) succeeded in uniting these rival groups and formed Hizb-e-Wahdat (Unity Party) in 1989. After the collapse of the Soviet-backed government of Najibullah in 1992 Hazaras fought the government of Burhanuddin Rabbani, head of Jamiat Islami (Islamic Society) and demanded equal status for Hazaras in the government and recognition of Shia jurisprudence. Hazara leaders ruled Hazarajat and maintained their influence in other Hazara settled regions. Hazaras lost their brief autonomous status and authority when the Taliban militias conquered most parts of Afghanistan between 1996-2001. When the Taliban advanced toward Kabul in 1995 Mazari went to meet Taliban commanders to negotiate an agreement but the Taliban did not honour the protocol, captured Mazari and murdered him. The Taliban conquered Bamiyan in 1998 and launched a war of conquest on Balkh and Samangan which had a significant number of Hazara residents. The Taliban regarded Hazaras as Kafir (infidel) and declared Jihad [holy war] on them. The Taliban captured Bamiyan and the Kochis returned to Hazarajat. Naim Kochi, a prominent Kochi leader was a senior Taliban commander who was sent to the Panjab district, Bamiyan to crush the Hazara resistance in 1999. Kochi systematically disarmed the Hazaras, seized their livestock, crops and coerced them to pay sharecropping debts for the past 12 years. A Hazara farmer described the Kochis' intrusion and seizure of his land that:
 In some cases, even those who had no relations with Kochis and owed
 them nothing had their animals taken. I had animals on the common
 pasture which the Kochi soldiers said was their pasture, so they
 took my animals as payment for using their grass. (9)

The plight of Hazaras did not significantly alter after the collapse of the Taliban rule when the US-led coalition forces installed Hamid Karzai as head of the new state in late 2001. In May and June 2007 the Kochis went to Behsud, Wardak and attacked the resident Hazaras and seized their landholdings, causing many Hazaras to lose their houses and properties. Hazara leaders such as Mohammad Karim Khalili, head of Hizb-e-Wahdat-e-Islami Afghanistan and the second vice-president; Mohammad Mohaqqiq, head of Hizb-e-Wahdat-e-Mardum-e-Afghanistan and a member of the National Assembly and others did not take practical measures to defend the Hazaras and safeguard their rights. In the past these leaders had appealed to Hazara nationalism and their call for political and economic equality and social justice intended to rally Hazaras in support of their political and personal agendas. When these leaders became part of the bureaucracy they did not forcefully articulate the Hazaras' rights. Hazaras who were forced to abandon their homes and properties in Behsud organized a demonstration in Kabul demanding that the United Nations and Karzai restore their landed property and defend them against armed Kochis. In mid-July 2007 Karzai met the chief of the Kochis and representatives of the Hazaras and reached an agreement according to which the Kochis would temporarily abandon Behsud. He formed a commission of 56 persons from both the local Hazaras and the Kochis to discuss the issue and find an acceptable solution to the problem. (10) On 20 July the government declared that the Kochis had begun leaving the area; however five days later the remaining Kochis fought with the Hazaras and violated the truce engineered by the government.

Initial Steps toward Modernization of Hazarajat

Hazarajat remained one of the neglected regions as the proprietor state did not initiate development projects to transform the lives of the people. The proprietor state was the sole dispenser of development aid and decided which region was to receive funding. It coerced members of the community to provide labour for state-sponsored development projects such as building state administrative structures, roads, etc. that intended to entrench the system. Community leaders known by the titles of Malik, Qaryadar or Arbab served as intermediaries between the public and state functionaries whenever the state demanded a pool of labourers to work on state-funded projects. Local leaders used their privileged position to ensure that development assistance would benefit them as well and strengthened their position in their respective communities.

The role and authority of tribal leaders were eliminated after the Soviet-backed government formed Village Cooperative Committees and deputized party loyalists and sympathizers to mobilize communities in support of government policies. Decisions were made by party loyalists on behalf of the public. The new rulers regarded the public as illiterate and uneducated masses that needed a messianic figure to deliver them. When Hazaras liberated Hazarajat from government control in the early 1980s clerics associated with several religious parties ruled Hazarajat. They neglected to provide opportunities for people to express their views on issues related to the welfare of the community and like their domineering predecessors ruled according to their own mindset, decided what was good for the community and coerced the public to support their socio-political agendas. The nascent Hazara ruling elite amassed considerable wealth as they exploited the military might and religious authority and seized public and state-owned lands and properties and engaged in transnational business activities. They did not pay any attention to the needs or requests of the people, nor did they make any plans or take measures to improve living conditions.

Grassroots participation in the process of development remained an alien concept to the clerics and commanders who ruled Hazarajat. However, after the collapse of the Taliban rule efforts were made by the interim governments to encourage grassroots participation, including women's participation in decision-making on issues related to community welfare. These polices were similar to the policies pursued by the pro-Soviet government in the 1980s, albeit utilizing a new nomenclature to distinguish its programmes and policies from those initiated by the Soviet-backed government in the 1980s. A development policy Barnama-e-Hambastagi-e-Milli, the National Solidarity Program (NSP) was adopted with the objective to strengthen working relationships between state agencies and local communities. The state used this strategy to expand its base of support in the struggle against warlords and commanders associated with various Islamic fundamentalist parties. The NSP provides block grants to each community for development projects. The block grant is US$ 200 per family with a maximum amount of US$ 60,000 for each community. (11) The community contributes to capital costs, operations and maintenance and ensures transparency and accountability of the budgets. However, the old power structure dominated by influential commanders, clerics and big landowners continues to influence the political process.

The Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) is one of the NGOs in Bamiyan that works to build the local capacity, enhancing rural livelihoods; it provides services in the areas of health and education, vocational training, adult literacy as well as training in watershed management. One of the AKDN's community projects includes helping the community in the installation and maintenance of solar panels producing light. One particularly remote and inaccessible village that benefited from the solar project is Acha Mazar in the Waras district of Bamiyan province.

Geography and Social Structure of Acha Mazar

Bamiyan is one of the underdeveloped provinces of Afghanistan. Its geographical coordinates are: Latitude, 34 50 N; Longitude, 67 49 E with an altitude of 1,472-2,700 metres from the sea level. Bamiyan covers an estimated area of 17,453 sq kilometres and its population was estimated at half a million in 2003. Ethnic composition of the province includes 82 per cent Hazaras, 12 per cent Sayyeds, 5 per cent Tajiks, 1 per cent Qizilbash and a few Pushtuns. ([12]) Bamiyan acquired the status of a province in 1964 and at present it has seven districts: Bamiyan Central, Yakawlang, Shibar, Saighan, Kahmard, Panjab and Waras.

Waras is situated in the Western part of the province and covers an area of 2,823 sq kilometres. Its elevation from sea level is approximately 2,500 meters. There are about 553 villages in the Waras district with an estimated 12,242 households and 88,000 people. The village of Acha Mazar did not receive any support from the government and NGOs for development until 2006, in large part due to its geographical isolation and extreme climate.

Acha Mazar is surrounded by villages such as Spagho in the east, Khake-Sayed Qooli in the west, Kharzar in the north and Band-e-Koosa in the south. The weather in Acha Mazar is extremely cold in winter and heavy snowfalls block the roads for several months of the year, severely restricting peoples' movement outside the village. The road to Acha Mazar from the Waras provincial centre via Band-e-Koosa takes three hours of driving by jeep. A new road built in 2006 has reduced travel time to one and a half hours via the Daman-e-Jaw Palal mountainous range. River-fed agricultural land is scarce and the main agricultural products include wheat (for human consumption), barley, potatoes and alpha alpha (fodder for animals). Plane trees are found in abundance in the village and are used for building materials and fuel. People also use cow dung for fuel; dung is collected and made into patties that are dried on rooftops. Residents of the village are poor but they have not succumbed to the temptation to engage in cultivating poppies. Although they are well aware that communities in other provinces cultivate poppies and earn substantial amounts of money from the sale of opium, they consider cultivation of poppies to be against their faith and thus haram, illegal.

There are 53 families residing in Acha Mazar, they are mainly farmers. With an average family consisting of ten persons, the total population of the village is estimated to be 530 persons. Residents of the village are Shia Ithna Ashari in their religious orientation and remain punctual in the practice of their faith. The Shia faith does not prohibit people from soliciting intercession of saints and visiting shrines of spiritual figures. There is an old shrine in the vicinity of Acha Mazar and people from far away villages come there to pay their respect and solicit its help in averting a possible disaster and bringing good fortune, prosperity and happiness to their families.

People live in mud-built houses with several rooms and the guest room is decorated with pillows and mattress made by women. Women are responsible for domestic chores, they also help men work the farm and yet they are not regarded as equal to men. Arranged marriage is a common practice and women are married at a very young age to older men.

Landownership divides residents of the village into two groups: those who possess agricultural land and those with little land. The latter work on their farm and on the farm of owners who left the village and settled in urban centres. Average landholding is 5 Jeribs (unit of measurement of about 0.2 hectares) of river and rain-fed land and the

highest size of landowning is 6 Jeribs. Farmers plow the land by using traditional methods of agriculture, oxen or donkeys and also employ oxen as they thresh the hay. Oxen are critical to the village life and a family who owns one shares their ox with the family who also owns one to make a pair for plowing the land and thrashing seeds. Agricultural land is irrigated by streams that divert water from rivers, water reservoirs (small ponds) and springs. Raising livestock is common among residents of the village and the average family owns 8-10 sheep and goats while a wealthy family owns between 40-50 sheep and goats. Sayed Baqir Sadar is the largest land owning family who owns 6 Jeribs of agricultural land and Shujayi is a wealthy farmer who owns about 50-60 sheep and goats. Because of the scarcity of pasture land residents of Acha Mazar take their animals to the Spagho pasture land for grazing. The community hires a shepherd, who is usually the son of a landless or poor farmer, and provides him with agricultural products in exchange for his services at the end of the harvest season. In the Spagho area Kochis own majority of the fields and rent them to agents of the Hazaras who in turn rent them to farmers. An agent annually collects an estimated Afs 1,500,000 or US$ 30,000 (US$ 1 = Afs. 50 in August 2007) by mortgaging the land, keeping a fraction of the fees for himself in exchange for the services he provides to the absentee landlord and the rest he delivers to the Kochi landlord who resides either in cities, such as Kabul, or in Pakistan.

There is no market or shop in Acha Mazar and people buy consumer items, i.e. sugar, cooking oil, soap, fabrics, when they journey to markets or bazaars in the sub-provincial or provincial centres, Waras and Bamiyan. Acha Mazar is by necessity and circumstance a self-sustaining community. In addition to agricultural activities people also pursue seasonal work such as spinning and weaving rugs and carpets as well as producing leather goods which they sell to supplement the income from agriculture. Residents of the village not only pay taxes to the government on the income from the land and livestock but also pay zakat, religious taxes, and Khoms, one tenth of their annual income to Sayyeds and Shia Ayatolahs. Religious leaders are called by the titles of Mullah or Sayyed Mullah. Sayyeds trace their genealogy to the first Shia Imam, Ali and thus they are accorded a status higher than ordinary Mullahs. Some of their claims are spurious and are difficult to prove with certainty. Sayyeds exploit familial connection to Ali and their knowledge of religious issues to maintain their authority over the Hazaras. They regard themselves to be the sole custodian of the Shia faith interpreting religious scriptures to the community of illiterate people, the Hazaras. Sayyeds consider themselves superior to Hazaras and do not allow their women to marry Hazara men while their men are allowed to marry Hazara women.

There are nine families in Acha Mazar and they claim to be Sayyed. From among them Sadr and his brother are in charge of the community both in the political and religious arenas. Sadr received rudimentary Islamic education at a local madras a in his hometown, sent his son to Kabul to study in a reputed religious institution and sent his nephew to Iran to master the Shia jurisprudence. Poverty and war forced 28 individuals to leave Acha Mazar for Iran as early as the Soviet invasion of the country in 1979. They work as labourers and itinerant traders and send remittances to their families. (13)

Residents of Acha Mazar supported Sayed Ali Behishti, head of the Shura-e-lttifaq (Council of the Union formed in 1979), during the war of national liberation in the 1980s and after his death they followed his son Sayed Jamal Fukoori (he is an elected representative from Bamiyan to the National Assembly since the parliamentary election in 2005). Mohammad Akbari is another influential commander in Waras who supported Behishti but later split and formed his own organization, Sepah-e-Pasdaran (Revolutionary Guard Corps) in 1981. Shura-e-Ittifaq was severely criticized by the younger generation of Hazaras who had studied at various religious institutions in Iran. Many had returned home and formed organizations to fight the Soviet-backed government. They deplored traditional religious leaders and regarded them as feudal landlords. They also opposed moderate religious leaders, secular, liberal and radical individuals and eventually managed to reduce their influence in Hazara politics. Prominent radical Islamic organizations include SazMan-e-Nasr, Sazman-e-Mustazafin, and Sepah-e-Pasdaran. In 1989 Abdul Ali Mazari of Sazman-e-Nasr (Victory Organization) united the Shia Hazara parties by establishing Hizb-e-Wahdat (Unity Party). (14) Hizb-e-Wahdat split into two groups during 1992-1994 when Mohammad Akbari left because of personal and political differences and formed a sepa rate party, Hizb-e-Wahdat-e-Milli-e-Islami Afghanistan. When the Taliban defeated Khalili, the successor to Mazari and drove him out of Bamiyan in 1998, Akbari supported the Taliban. Mohaqqiq and Akbari were elected as representatives to the National Assembly in 2005. Hizb-e-Wahdat was further weakened when Mohammad Mohaqqiq, the Minister for Planning resigned from his cabinet post in 2004, left Hizb-e-Wahdat and formed a separate party, Hizb-e-Wahdat-e-lsmail-e-Mardum-e-Afghanistan.

During the war of national liberation Shujayi served as a commoner in Acha Mazar. He and Sadr (who later allied with Akbari) participated in the fight against the Soviet-backed government in regions such as Shibar, Bamiyan and Sheikh Ali, Turkman, Surkhparsa and Lolinj districts of Parwan province. When Akbari split from Behishti, Sadr remained loyal to Behishti. There are no public structures such as government buildings, basic health centers, etc. in Acha Mazar other than an elementary school. Students and their parents complain about the quality of education and lack of educational materials and textbooks. After graduation from the school students pursue their further studies in high schools in the Waras and Panjab districts and families that can afford the expense send their children to Kabul for higher studies.

Modernization of Acha Mazar

Acha Mazar remains isolated from the provincial centre, Bamiyan and other regions. The proprietary ethnic group both in and outside the state did not initiate any development project to improve the standard of living of the people. Clerics in charge of religious institutions lacked the vision and planning capabilities to provide public services but still demanded the public submit donations and labour toward building masjids and takyakhanas, centres for performing religious ceremonies, and retained a portion of the donation for their own use. These leaders did not or would not comprehend the concept of community development; they clung to the belief in their self-appointed role to be the guardian of the community's spiritual life, while neglecting entirely the current and deplorable living conditions before them. They did not involve themselves in activities to improve the material well-being of the community. These leaders lacked the adaptive capabilities of their ancient predecessors demonstrated in the heyday of Islam, who pioneered or championed advances in the sciences, education, health, etc. Instead, they deliberately did not promote modern education for Hazaras out of the fear that educated Hazaras would not submit to their governance. These rulers only supported a rudimentary form of religious education that did not add any practical value to the daily lives of the people.

Despite concerted efforts by the leadership to shield the community from the changes taking place in the modern world, the Hazaras are eager to transform their lives. The civil war forced a number of people to leave the country and settle in the neighbouring countries. They experienced life in exile and were exposed to a different lifestyle and way of thinking. People in Acha Mazar were also exposed to a new way of life both during and after the war. One of the significant changes in the post-civil war period in the 1990s is the people's right to participate in the political affairs of the country as they cast votes for the presidential election in September 2004 and the parliamentary and provincial council elections in 2005. However, the nature of the tribal system demanded eligible voters to cast their votes in favour of the candidates of their tribal head's preferred or arranged choice. Mohaqqiq was a candidate in the presidential election but failed to win the election. Akbari, Fukoori, Mohammad Sarwar Jawadi and a female candidate, Safura Elkhani, were elected as representatives to the National Assembly from Bamiyan. Although people welcomed the new political era, they were dismayed when the elected president and representatives failed to carry out their campaign promises, i.e. building hospitals, schools, building new and improving existing roads, and providing financial aid for socio-economic development in the region.

Due in large part to the remoteness of the village neither the government nor the NGOs ventured that far out to provide development aid to Acha Mazar until recently. The Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) is the only development agency that began to work in the village in 2006 as participating and implementing partner for the NSP programmes. One of the AKDN's programmes includes provision and instalment of solar panels to generate electricity for the village. With the solar panels provided and installed through the public-NGO partnership scheme, the village life has been transformed as light became available. Even in the distant past people never dreamed that they would see electricity in their lifetime. Kerosene lamps were the sole and limited source of light, and radios were the only source of outside communication; now as solar panels provide electricity and light families are experiencing modern accessories and entertainments such as Indian-produced movies on DVD. A solar panel charges a battery that generates enough power to light almost every room in a house for two to three days of regular usage. Families also extend a line on top of the entrance door to the house to light a common alley making it easier for people to walk in the alley at night. Water is easily heated for performing ablutions before prayers at any time of the day or night. An octogenarian man was particularly excited to have electricity, saying that it made life much easier for him and his family. He relates that whenever he goes to the stable he now switches on the light and sees this animals, instead of laboriously hunting for matches and a kerosene lamp. Now everything has changed and he simply switches on the light and sees everything around him.

In the process of modernization of the Acha Mazar community the government provided Afs 10,000 while each family contributed Afs 1,000 for the purchase of a solar panel. Every household contributed a fee of Afs 10 per month for maintenance of the solar panel. The landscape of this inaccessible mountainous village has completely changed and a visitor to the village now sees satellite dishes and solar panels on the rooftops of every house, alongside the drying cow dung patties.

Although the community experienced significant material lifestyle changes, the more difficult issue of women's social status remains unresolved. Women continue to suffer from domestic violence and forced marriages. (15) In a male dominated society the traditional tribal Jirgah arbitrates and mediates conflicts and decides the fate of women if they violate established rules. With the establishment of the Shura (Village Council) women are beginning to play a role in issues related to community development. The head of the Shura is elected by members of the village who organize meetings, prioritise the community's needs and collect funds for village development to supplement the fund provided by the NSP. Women participate in the Shura and sit on its meetings and exchange views with male members of the Shura on matters related to village development programmes. There are five male and five female members of the Shura. Sadr's niece, Fatima is head of the female members of the Shura and he himself is head of the male members of the Shura. Women often discuss minor issues and then consult male members of the Shura for their opinion. They then jointly decide which projects should be considered for development. Since the Shura began its work in 2005 Women Shura collected Afs 3,000 from the sale of handicrafts, i.e. felt, carpet and rugs and leather products and used the money to fund another community project. (16) Young people are eager to continue their education to become engineers, doctors and civil service officers and help the people of Acha Mazar and the country to become part of the modern world.


The NSP programmes initiated by the MRRD and implemented by the AKDN transformed many facets of the primitive lifestyle of the people of Acha Mazar who were suffering at the hands of bureaucratic state functionaries and their own local elites for years. It also evokes in the community the confidence that they can integrate themselves into the life of the modern world and can organize their resources. By working together they can realize their true potential for transformation--a potential once exploited for opposing and fighting each other on behalf of capricious or venal political and religious leaders, with little benefit or positive impact on their own lives.

Active involvement in community development projects also enabled people to develop and nurture their own capacities and to learn negotiation, management and administrative skills essential in carrying out projects. In the process of building upon their abilities they will become independent thinkers in their own right, and can work to develop their strengths and eventually eliminate their entrenched dependency on traditional elites for leadership and management of their lives.

Fostering a good local governance system based on a participatory approach will ensure sustainability of community projects and grassroots participation will instill the perspective to members of the village that they are the main stakeholder and will thus have the incentive to make the effort to maintain the infrastructures and enterprises developed for the community. Dialogue among members of the village on issues related to the community will also contribute to the downgrading of fractious and confrontational communications, paving the way to greater tolerance and acceptance of openness and diversity of opinions. Public involvement in issues related to the welfare of the community gives citizens a greater say in the process of development and transformation of their lives. The modernization case study of Acha Mazar not only validates the above argument but also demonstrates that even the most remote locations have a chance to end their geographical isolation. Building and improving roads enables people to travel safely and easily to other villages and regions and provision of solar power to remote villages enables access to radio broadcasts and awareness of political and economic developments in the local, national and international arena.


(1.) Hassan Poladi. The Hazaras (Stockton: Mughal Publishing Company, 1989); Sayed Askar Mousavi. The Hazaras of Afghanistan: An Historical, Cultural, Economic and Political Study (London: Curzon, 1998).

(2.) John Alfred Gray. At the Court of the Amir: A Narrative (London: Richard Bentley and Son, 1895), p. 95.

(3.) Sultan Mahomed Khan (ed.) with introduction by M.E. Yapp. The Life of Abdul Rahman: Amir of Afghanistan, Vol. 1 (London: John Murray, 1980). Reprinted in Karachi by Oxford University Press, 1990, p. 276.

(4.) John Alfred Gray. At the Court of the Amir: A Narrative. op. cit., p 206.

(5.) Hassan Poladi. The Hazaras. op. cit., pp. 350-358.

(6.) Sultan Mahomed Khan. op. cit. p. 277.

(7.) Abdul Ali Sarabi was Minister for Planning and Yaqub Lali Minister for Public Works during the last decade of Monarchy (1964-1973) and Abdul Karim Misaq was Minister for Finance in 1978-1979 and Sultan Ali Keshtmand served as Prime Minister from 1981 to 1988.

(8.) Cited in Liz Alden Wily. Looking for Peace on the Pastures: Rural Land Relations in Afghanistan. (Kabul: An Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit. December 2004), pp. 52-53.

(9.) Cited in Liz Alden Wily. Looking for Peace on the Pastures: Rural Land Relations in Afghanistan., op. cit. p. 54.

(10.) Wahidullah Sabawoon. "Kochiha faisala kardand wuluswali Behsud ra tark guyand.' [The nomads decided to leave the Behsud district], Anis, 18 July 2007, p. 1.

(11.) Discussions with Sujeet Sarkar, Kabul, Afghanistan, 11 July 2007.

(12.) UNHCR Sub-Office Central Region. District Profile 18 September 2002.

(13.) Discussions with a resident of Acha Mazar Village, Waras, Bamiyan, 7 July 2006.

(14.) For detailed information see, Hafizullah Emadi. 'The Hazaras and their role in the process of political transformation in Afghanistan.' Central Asian Survey, 16:3 (1997): pp. 363-387.

(15.) Amnesty International. Amnesty International Report 2007. The State of the World's Human Rights (London: Amnesty International, 2007). p. 48.

(16.) Fieldwork in Acha Mazar, Waras, Bamiyan, 7 July 2006.

Dr. Hafizullah Emadi is a scholar and consultant in the US writing on political and institutional development in the Middle East and Central Asia.
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Author:Emadi, Hafizullah
Publication:Contemporary Review
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:9AFGH
Date:Jun 22, 2008
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