The population of Afghanistan includes many different ethnic groups, some of which also live in neighboring countries. Afghanistan’s largest ethnic group, the Pashtuns, long dominated the central government. After the Soviets withdrew in 1989, a coalition government that included Tajiks, Uzbeks, Hazaras, and … Continue reading
Egypt under the Fatimids, Mamluks, and Ottomans saw different administrative controls over the country. The Fatimids established a new Berber aristocracy in Egypt. The main wealth of the country, as always, was derived from peasant agriculture. Fatimid rulers granted Berber aristocrats huge … Continue reading
Two separate systems of education exist in Afghanistan. The older system is a religious one, taught by the mullahs, who conduct classes in the madrassas (mosque schools). They teach the religious precepts of the Qur’an, reading, writing, and arithmetic. The other system was introduced in Afghanistan’s 1964 constitution, which provided for free and compulsory education at all levels, although this was rarely achieved. This system was based on Western models. Special emphasis was placed on primary education. Secondary schools existed in Kabul and the larger towns. Five years of primary school and five years of secondary school were expected, although many Afghans could not attend because they lived in areas where there were no schools.
Decades of war effectively eliminated most education, and an entire generation grew up without any formal schooling. The civil war resulted in the closing or dismantling of most lower, middle, and higher educational facilities in the country. Many teachers quit their posts and left Afghanistan. The subsequent Taliban regime suppressed all schooling except in the madrassas, and forbade it for girls and women. Only rote memorization of the Qur’an in Arabic was officially allowed. Opposition groups in a few places in the country tried to maintain some education, but under very difficult circumstances.
With the removal of the Taliban from power in late 2001, people in Afghanistan began to rebuild a national education system. Schools such as Kabul University reopened, and student enrollments soared. However, the country was sorely lacking the educational facilities and resources it needed to meet the burgeoning demand. A mobile school system was set up to bring education to rural areas, and foreign universities and nongovernmental organizations donated books and teaching materials. By the 2003-04 academic year 4.2 million boys and girls attended about 7,000 schools around the country. The male-female ratio had returned to pre-Taliban levels, although boys still outnumbered girls. A major project to improve literacy rates throughout Afghanistan was launched in January 2003 with the help of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. The average literacy rate was estimated to be 36 percent for all Afghans aged 15 and older in 2000, with 51 percent literacy among males and 21 percent among females.
According to the 2004 constitution, Afghans are free to choose the language in which they receive their education. Primary and secondary educations are available in both Dari and Pashto, as well as in Afghanistan’s other languages, such as Uzbek. University courses are mostly taught in Dari. Kabul University, founded in 1932, is the country’s largest and most prestigious academic institution. Nine other colleges were established within it from 1938 through 1967. The University of Nangarhār in Jalālābād was established in 1962 to teach medicine and other disciplines. Important but small universities are also located in Kandahar, Herāt, Balkh, and Bāmiān. Before 1961 only men could receive a higher education; that year the government opened all public institutions of higher learning to women.
The unit of currency in Afghanistan is the Afghani, which is divided into 100 puls. The exchange rate of the Afghani has fluctuated widely over time. High inflation rates of up to 57 percent contributed to a drastic decrease in the purchasing power of the Afghani from 1981 to 1994, a trend that continued during the Taliban regime. The Afghani was so devalued by two decades of wartime inflation that the government issued a new Afghani, with a higher value per note, in late 2002. The exchange rate subsequently stabilized, and in 2005 one U.S. dollar was worth about 49.50 Afghanis.
Afghanistan’s central bank, founded in 1938, is the largest bank in the country. The central bank issues all notes, executes government loans, and lends money to cities and to other banks. All private banks in Afghanistan were nationalized in 1975, mostly because a lack of clear terms for borrowers and lenders had made it difficult for people to use the country’s credit resources. No stock market or other modern form of economic development exists in Afghanistan. Instead, traditional “money bazaars” exist to provide money-lending and foreign exchange dealings. This informal and largely undocumented money transfer system, called hawala, is common throughout the Middle East and South Asia, and is considered to be one of the means by which terrorism from this part of the world has been funded.
Despite its initial defeat following the U.S. invasion of 2001, the Taliban regrouped, using remote areas of Pakistan for refuge and staging sporadic guerrilla attacks in areas of Afghanistan near the Pakistan border. By 2007 the Taliban adopted tactics that included suicide bombings and roadside bombs, while also besieging remote U.S. and NATO outposts in the countryside. In June 2007 U.S. defense secretary Robert Gates expressed cautious optimism that the military campaign was having success against the resurgent Taliban. Defense Department officials said they believed NATO operations had helped thwart a planned spring offensive by the Taliban.
However, Afghan civilian support for the U.S. and NATO military operations waned in the spring of 2007, particularly after a series of attacks that resulted in civilian casualties. In early May, following an April ground attack and air strike on a small village in western Herāt province in which about 50 civilians were reportedly killed, Afghan president Karzai told U.S. and NATO officials that civilian deaths had reached an “unacceptable level.” About a week later lawmakers in the upper house of parliament, the Meshrano Jirga (House of Elders), passed a resolution calling for a ceasefire with the Taliban and for setting a date for the withdrawal of foreign troops. Many of the legislators cited an incident in March in which a U.S. Marine Special Operations force opened fire on civilians lining a highway as the marines fled the scene of a suicide bombing attack. The incident in the eastern Afghanistan province of Nangarhār resulted in the deaths of 19 Afghan civilians and the wounding of about 50 others. A U.S. military commander later determined that the marines had used excessive force and he referred the incident for a possible criminal inquiry.
By June 2007 the Associated Press reported a death toll of 2,300 in insurgency-related violence in 2007 alone. The International Red Cross said that violence was occurring throughout Afghanistan. The Department of Defense reported nearly 400 U.S. military deaths in Afghanistan since the 2001 invasion, and Great Britain reported the deaths of 60 British soldiers during that same period.
The British decolonizing process was more haphazard and often more African-driven in its initiatives. The Gold Coast led the way, becoming independent Ghana in 1957. Thereafter, the pace of liberation of British colonies largely depended on how long it took the population to agree on its leaders and form of government. Most sub-Saharan British colonies became independent in the period from 1960 to 1964. It was only in the colonies with substantial numbers of white settlers that the process was seriously delayed or fought over. Thus, the Mau Mau Rebellion of the 1950s was required to persuade the British to drop their backing of white settler power in Kenya. The British did little to prevent the white settlers of Rhodesia from declaring the independence of their own white minority regime in 1965. After a decade of guerrilla warfare, Zimbabwe was finally liberated in 1980.
White settler power in industrialized South Africa was more entrenched. The white South African government overrode the wave of African nationalism in the 1960s and 1970s by the use of widespread oppression and imprisonment. Through the 1980s internal rebellious pressures combined with the loss of Western support finally prompted the South African government to change. South African-occupied Namibia became independent in 1990, and the government negotiated an end to the oppressive apartheid system with the country’s African majority from 1990 to 1994.
Sheikh Mujibur Rahman‘s Awami League, which won a landslide victory in 1970, is probably heading for a split. The league’s amorphous ideological character has always encouraged divisive tendencies, but they have been held in check in the past by the fervent nationalism that converted the 1970 general elections into a referendum on autonomy as well as by Rahman’s charismatic personality. Both forces appear to have lost some of their compelling power, and a polarization between right and left is evident.
The breach became open on the eve of May 20 student elections at Dacca University, when the leaders of the student Chhatra League split into two groups, one dedicated to socialism through parliamentary democracy (‘Mujibism’) and the other demanding Marxist economics and a ‘revolutionary’ government. Two months later, the rival factions called separate conferences on the same day in Dacca. Rahman inaugurated the meeting favoring parliamentary government. He was flanked on the ceremonial dais by the leader of the pro-Moscow National Awami Party (NAP) and by several dignitaries of the Bangladesh Communist Party, which is also aligned with the Soviet Union.
Rahman’s plea for socialism, secularism, nationalism, and democracy was received with thunderous applause, the massive gathering roaring ‘Mujibism! Mujibism!’ each time he stood up to speak. The breach became final and Mujibism was approved as the country’s guiding philosophy.
Marxist revolutionaries are being expelled from unions and are being weeded out of the Awami League’s ranks, but the radicals are believed to be waiting only for an opportune moment to announce the formation of a new party. When that happens, many prominent Awami Leaguers are expected to defect. Up to now, opposition groups seem to have made little headway. A ‘hunger march’ staged by the pro-Peking United Front in September fizzled out, and even the well-organized NAP has only one representative in the Constituent Assembly.
Monetary unit, taka; T1 = US$0.1325. Budget (est. 1972-1973): revenue, T2, 853.8 million; expenditure, T2, 184.3 million; surplus (including capital deficit), T588 million. Development plan (est. 1972-1973): T5, 010 million (including T3, 750 million foreign aid); agriculture, T1, 030 million; education, T437.2 million; defense, T400 million.
Despite lingering resentment toward American support of Pakistan in 1971, the Bangladesh government has taken a moderate stance with respect to the United States, possibly because of U.S. aid. In the first six months of 1972, the United States contributed $267.5 million of the $800 million received from abroad. But U.S. recognition on April 4, when Bangladesh had already been recognized by 55 countries, was too late to have any dramatic effect on the country’s international status.