Modernising One Village in Afghanistan

Article excerpt

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. …