Thursday, April 17, 2014

Did Pakistan cause Afghanistan's lack of economic development? --- Carlotta Gall's recent book squarely blames Pakistan for Afghanistan's and Pakistan's misfortunes. Pakistan, at least since the late 70s, has been instrumental in the wars waged in and on Afghanistan. An important question to ask though, is how Afghanistan was performing before that. --- The post-Soviet invasion Afghanistan has been the subject of extensive scholarship and academic curiosity. Ms. Gall’s The Wrong Enemy: America in Afghanistan, 2001-2014 is the latest in a rich and productive series of books on the region that started to appear after the attacks in the US in 2001.While thousands of academic articles, professional reports, and books have been published on Afghans, Afghanistan, and its neighbours, yet little, if any, details are available in the current discourse about the economy of pre-war Afghanistan. More importantly, one is hard-pressed to find any discourse on the economic indicators and trends for Afghanistan from the 50s and the mid-to late 70s. --- The poor state of Afghanistan's economic development in the past four decades could very much be attributed to violence and wars that have killed several hundred thousand and forced millions more into refuge across the world. Pakistan, the United States, Saudi Arabia and other Jihad-infatuated Arabs share the blame with the Afghans who took part in the destruction of their homeland. But how did Afghanistan's economy fare before the foreigners extended their unwelcome reach? Was Afghanistan on a road to socio-economic salvation that got interrupted by Pakistan-based jihadis? -- The answers to the above-mentioned questions are hard to find. The academic and professional literature is rather sparse on the economic and human development of pre-Soviet Afghanistan. While many an anthropologist and social scientist studied the land and people, Afghanistan’s economy, however, failed to attract local or global scholarship. Academic literature and data covering Afghanistan's economy in the 50s and 60s is riddled with holes and gaps making it difficult to knit a complete portrait of the socio-economy. ---- The land of insolence - It is true that Afghanistan as a State and an entity existed for longer than Pakistan has. Still, its current geography and the heterogeneous mix of ethnicities is not the result of deliberate state building, but rather an outcome of successful conquests by the British backed Amir Abdur Rahman, who ruled parts of present day Afghanistan from 1880 to 1901. -- The British helped him set up the Emirate of Kabul (not Afghanistan) and supported him with an annual stipend (Lieberman, 1980). Over the years, Abdur Rahman subdued Tajiks, Uzbeks, Hazaras and others, and founded ‘Yaghestan’, the land of insolence. Abdur Rahman also agreed, rather reluctantly, with the British in 1893 to have Durand Line as the de facto border with British India. -- But cobbling together a country with diverse ethnic groups – who shared neither culture nor history, and who only had age-old mutual contempt for each other in common – meant that these groups were bound to struggle in sharing geography. Lieberman (1980) rightly points out to the historic origins of the Afghan crisis when he states: --- … [T]he tensions [were] built into the Afghan state from its inception; the divisive geographic and ethno-demographic features; the demographic regime of exceptionally high fertility and mortality and rapid population growth; and the limited gains resulting from a strategy of ‘guided’ development and reform that was adopted in the 1950s. --- By April 1980, the Afghan crisis forced 680,000 refugees into Pakistan. The number of refugees over the years swelled to almost 4 million. However, the origins of this crisis were hidden in the painful creation of Afghanistan and in the rule by subsequent regimes who transitioned only with blood-stained coups staged by palace insiders. Habibullah (1901-1919), Abdur Rahman’s younger son, who succeeded him, also failed in finding a narrative that would keep various tribes and ethnicities from staging rebellions. Amanullah (1919-1929), who succeeded Habibullah, faced rebellions from Pakhtuns and Tajiks. His reign ended up in anarchy until Nadir Khan (1929-1933), a former army commander, took over and restored order. Nader Khan (Shah) called himself the king, but was soon assassinated in 1933. -- Nadir Shah’s brothers, Hashim Khan (1933-46) and Shah Mahmud (1946-1953), acted as regents for his son, Zahir Shah, whose reign lasted from 1933 to 1973. Zahir Shah, however, remained overshadowed by regents and other proxies who ruled on his behalf. One of the key players who enjoyed two stints during that period was Mohammed Daud Khan who first became the prime minister of Afghanistan from 1953 to 1963, and later served as President of Afghanistan in 1973 after he overthrew the monarchy of Zahir Shah, his first cousin and brother-in-law. - MORE, Murtaza Haider, Dawn - at:


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