Thursday, January 16, 2014

Was Muhammadzai rule the gilded age of Afghanistan?

Was Muhammadzai rule the gilded age of Afghanistan since the state’s founding in 1747? Critics of the Muhammadzais say under the royal dynasty there were two kinds of Afghan citizenry: first-class and second-class. That is absolutely true. But today Afghanistan has no class; everything is corrupted. Critics argue that Muhammadzais practiced nepotism and held a patronage network that privileged the royal clan and their affiliates in the provinces. This is also a true. But guess what? Every Marxist and Islamist regime since the collapse of the Muhammadzai era in 1978 until today’s narco-mafia-terror kleptocracy has made the country more exclusionary and more extractive than the previous one.

Let’s share some facts: Under Muhammadzai rule, there was no never-ending war. There was no foreign occupation, no refugees, no torture chambers, no looting of national treasures, no bomb blasts, no fraud, and no culture of abductions and espionage. And there was no Taliban.

Under Muhammadzai rule, Afghanistan was poor as it is today and there were periods of drought and flood where people suffered but there still was a self-sufficient economy and the countryside was the breadbasket of the region. Afghan rugs held a competitive edge in world markets and entrepreneurs thrived without roadblocks. The Afghan passport was treated with dignity. Afghan women under monarchial rule were granted suffrage long before the Liechtenstein, Portugal and Switzerland. Imagine if gender rights would have progressed under Daoud Khan's reforms, then today Afghanistan probably would have had a Hazara woman elected President and legalized gay-marriage.

The biggest success of Muhammadzais: Bridging the ties between all tribes; Afghan ethnicities and provinces were united like a tightly held medallion and under one national flag. Afghan tribes banded together to defeat the British Empire. The Muhammadzais were deeply steeped in Afghan traditions and cultivated a strong national identity and served the national interest. The national heritage sites like the Buddhist Statues of Bamiyan were preserved and half a million tourists traveled to Afghanistan every year. The Afghans who lived during that era were respected by the world. Many countries like Germany didn’t even require entry visa for Afghans. Just take a look at photos from that era and you will see the signs of progress everywhere.

When Afghanistan’s PDPA forced the Muhammadzais into exile, the whole country lost its lucky charm and prestige. Now, I might be biased towards Muhammadzais since my Mom belongs to that qawm. But my Mom is the greatest Afghan I know. She raised us like a disciplined military officer with incredible work ethics, morals, and principles and devoted her life to her family, faith, and nation. She worked multiple jobs and saved every penny to buy us a home in America, kept the home spotless and served us delicious cuisine to nourish our soul with love so we can study hard and pursue careers of the mind. My father and siblings are everything today because of the love and sacrifice of my mother. If all Afghans had the depth of spirituality like my Maadar jaan then Afghanistan today would not be a hellhole but the envy of the world.

We can't bring back the past nor should we. We must be better than that. Going forward we must create a new Afghanistan that empowers every single person to be first-class citizens residing in a first-rate nation but that can only happen when the institutionalized discrimination ends against the disenfranchised. My solution: 1) Absolutely get the highest level of education possible. Steal knowledge as it it your only source of power. 2) Make your kleptocratic Afghan government accountable for all the aid money they have siphoned to offshore accounts and ghost projects. 3) Pressure them to create robust industries that employ millions of unemployed; 4) End the bribery and barriers to entry for entrepreneurs who are being blocked from entering the game to creative dignified livelihoods and wealth for themselves and for their country. 

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