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Afghan village in the calm before the storm

Waghjan in Logar province enjoys a precarious peace in one of the country's most dangerous areas.

Last Modified: 22 Oct 2013 17:26
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Logar's governor was killed in a bomb hidden in a microphone last week [EPA]

Waghjan, Afghanistan - Each time Wali Shah makes the 45-minute journey to Kabul he experiences the shock in people's voices when they learn where he travelled from. "You came from Logar!" they say, astonished.

Though a short drive from the relative calm of the capital, Logar province has long been one of the country's most dangerous regions. Last week the governor, Arsallah Jamal, was killed at a mosque after a bomb concealed inside a microphone he was speaking into exploded.

Heading into Logar, the smooth pavement suddenly turns bumpy - a legacy of improvised explosive devices strategically placed along five canals. Further down the road, heavily armed Afghan Special Forces stop to search passing cars for weapons and explosive devices.

By 5pm, the road back to Kabul is devoid of soldiers and police who stopped cars in the morning, leaving passers-by vulnerable to Taliban attacks. But for Wali Shah and other farmers, the danger ends at the entrance to the nearly seven hectares of land they tend to in Waghjan village.

For Halima, another area farmer, the tree-lined orchards are one of the only places in the area where she can raise her family in peace. The sense of security Halima feels in Waghjan - where a British base is located - contrasts with the instability that is forcing her relatives out of the nearby village of Zarghun Shar.

Having spent her whole life here, Halima is well aware that lack of security has rendered much of the district inaccessible. Halima described her native village to the southeast as being "overrun" with Taliban.

"My husband couldn't even go to Zarghun Shar for the burial of a martyred girl because of fighting," she told Al Jazeera.

Kabul's disinterest

But with the landowner threatening to raise their rent, and the government providing little by way of assistance, the farmers in Waghjan said their bubble of security could burst at any minute.

Inside Story - Afghanistan after Karzai

Despite its proximity to the capital, Logar residents said the presence of the federal government hasn't been felt in their province in nearly two decades.

"Not since Dr Najib [Mohammad Najibullah Ahmadzai, Afghanistan's former president] has there been a leader that has worked for Logar. Not [Ahmad Shah] Massoud. Not [former President Burhanuddin] Rabbani. Not [President Hamid] Karzai," said Karim, who has tilled the land for more than 20 years.

Karim does acknowledge the creation of one mosque, one madrassa and "some paved roads", but said little else has been done for Logar in the 12 years of Karzai's rule. 

"They came and installed some electrical poles, but we still don't know what that electricity looks like. Is it red, is it white? We don't know."

This perceived lack of interest by Kabul has not gone unnoticed in Waghjan. "Karzai is focused on the government, not the nation it represents," said Karim.

At a February conference in Kabul, officials also decried what they said was the central government's lack of interest. Ghulam Farooq Wardak, Afghanistan's education minister, said continued "inconsideration of the government" would only lead to greater insecurity in Logar as people's faith in Kabul diminishes.

Wali Shah, for instance, said he was alienated when the government refused to admit his 18-year-old daughter to engineering school in Kabul, assigning her instead to study in the faraway northeastern province of Badakhshan, despite her high test scores.

'Over-promises'

While Waghjan residents complain of an inattentive government, two men born just a few kilometres away are campaigning to become the next president of Afghanistan.

People think that billions came in and they should have a Rolls Royce parked in their driveway.

- Hashmat Ghani Ahmadzai, presidential candidate

Off in the distance, past the apple trees, Karim points to the adjoining lands of Ashraf and Hashmat Ghani Ahmadzai - both candidates for the presidency.

The brothers hail from Sorkh Ab village, several kilometres away, but several Logaris speaking to Al Jazeera questioned their contributions to the province of their birth.

"If they had done anything [for the community], do you think Ashraf would have gotten only five votes in Sorkh Ab in the last presidential election?" one local asked.

For his part, however, Hashmat maintains that he has served both the land and its people.

"The dam was built by me. The access road was built by me," he told Al Jazeera. The issue, said the candidate, is that the "over-promises of the government and international agencies" have created unrealistic expectations.

"People think that billions came in and they should have a Rolls Royce parked in their driveway," Hashmat said.

Though he says he makes every effort not to "cater to one province", Hashmat said people must remember what he has brought to Logar was done despite "limited access".

"I was not part of the government. All this I have done through my political will and connections."

But villagers here are not counting on beneficial changes emanating from Kabul any time soon. Karim puts his faith in the only thing he can control. "I rely on my hands - and nothing else."

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Source:
Al Jazeera
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