REPORT: “Breaking Point: Measuring Progress in Afghanistan”

March 12, 2007

PCR Project commented:

Dear Safrang, Given your interest in Afghanistan, we thought you might be interested in our latest report, Breaking Point: Measuring Progress in Afghanistan. The PCR Project is a part of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a think-tank located in Washington, DC. Much more on Afghanistan and Pakistan can be found at www.pcrproject.com.
Best,
PCR Project.

Thanks PCR Project for bringing the omission to my attention. I am remiss not to have posted a link here, especially that I contributed to the report. (Safrang is a pseudonym and no reference to it can be found in the acknowledgements.)

َA summary of the report is available on the PCR Blog, and you can also download the full report there. According to the summary, the report’s key findings are:

  • Afghans are losing trust in their government because of an escalation in violence;
  • Public expectations are neither being met nor managed;
  • Conditions in Afghanistan have deteriorated in all key areas targeted for development, except for the economy and women’s rights.

Of course I am not biased in saying that the report (a follow-up to a baseline report published a year earlier) is one of the most insightful qualitative measures of progress in Afghanistan in recent times, both for its extensive data collection and the unique methodology.

It should be said, however, that the period covered in the report (July 2005 through Oct 2006) leaves out a number of key developments that have happened in the past few months and that could bear heavily on some of the trends captured in the report. The anticipation of these emerging developments makes the report all the more poignant.

Also of note is the telltale title of the report. Last year’s baseline report was titled “In the Balance” – this, at a time when most people had already billed Afghanistan as a success story. That fragile balance was tipped in 2006. This year, the ominous title reads: “Breaking Point”. Judging from the positive reception of the report, it seems that a lot of people are listening.

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BOOK: “The Hazara People and Greater Khurasan”

March 12, 2007

Basir Ahmad Hussainzada reviews M. Taqi Khawari’s new book about the Hazara people for BBC Persian here.

The book, titled The Hazara People and Greater Khurasan seems to be the most comprehensive and serious scholarly study into the origins and the history of the Hazara people since the publication of Dr. Said Askar Mousavi’s The Hazara of Afghanistan a decade ago.

According to the review, in the section dealing with the origins of the Hazara people the author authoritatively rejects the widely held theory that Hazaras are primarily remnants of the marauding hordes (organized into “hazars” or thousands) of Genghis’s Mongol armies. According to the author, a glance into the intra-ethnic diversity within the Hazara people (divided into more than 700 different clans) reveals that not all the Hazaras descend from any single ancestral gene pool.

The books also deals extensively with the waves of Hazara migration out of Afghanistan. According to the sources cited by the author, the westward Hazara mass-migrations into Iran took place in three stages: “during the reign of Nadir Shah Afshar and that of Nasiruddin Shah Qajar, and after the massacres of Hazaras by Abdur Rahman Khan.”

Furthermore, the author gives a detailed account of the prevalence of Shi’a Islam among the Hazara people, who constitute the bulk of Shi’a Muslims in the otherwise Sunni-majority Afghanistan.

As far as one can tell from the review, the author’s research into the Hazara migrations specifically into Iran and their subsequent settlement and acculturation there is groundbreaking. Most of the other topics dealing with the origins and the history of the Hazara people in Afghanistan have been previousely written about.

All the same, the book is a welcome addition to the still sparse scholarship about the Hazara people. In the preface to his own book about the Hazaras of Afghanistan, Dr. Askar Mousavi claims that the Hazara people are the “least well-known ethnic group in Afghanistan.” Although the events of 9/11 and the subsequent US toppling of the Taliban focused the world’s attention on Afghanistan, and more importantly, despite the publication of the bestselling novel The Kiterunner, the Hazara people of Afghanistan remain one of the least known and studied ethnic groups (not that reading The Kiterunner in itself would be of any help in this regard, but the novel was the closest thing to a first encounter for many with the Hazara people.) Serious anthropological and ethnographic studies are particularly rare as most of new research and writing deal with such contemporary interests as their history and politics.

The Hazara People and Greater Khurasan will hopefully be translated into English and read by a wider audience. If in five years it is still not translated, this writer -hopefully out of school by then- will make a serious effort at obtaining the translation rights.