How civil society shapes Bamyan’s destiny
BAMAYN CITY (Pajhwok): Civil society groups have been playing more active role in raising awareness among people about government’s activities in central Bamyan province compared to other provinces.
Over the past one decade, the civil society has taken many steps to draw government’s attention towards people’s basic needs. In a novel way of criticism, the activists once plastered a portion of a road with mud to mock the government for not paying attention to the condition of roads in Bamyan.
In another unusual move five year back, civil society activists decorated a donkey with a medal for carrying drinking water to Zargaran village on the outskirts of Bamyan City, as a protest against non-implementation of water supply schemes by the government.
After the novel way protest, some water supply schemes were implemented in the city, but still many families use donkeys to fetch drinking water.
Another famous act of the civil society was making and installing a big lantern at the main square in Bamyan City to show there is no electricity in the province and government officials should pay attention to the issue.
Besides, Bamyan University students had carried out a series of protests against the lack of electricity, taking to the streets at nights.
At the beginning, people would make fun of civil society activists and would say they are wasting their time and local authorities would consider them weak. But after hard-work and struggle, the activists enlightened people’s minds and convinced them that their voice has the power to attain justice.
Afghanistan Civil Society Association chairman Hussain Dada Ahmadi told Pajhwok Afghan News that fortunately media, civil society, legal and human rights groups had improved a lot over the past few years in Bamyan and their role in supporting democracy was incomparable in Afghanistan and even on the global level.
Their activities and movements created a positive environment and encouraged more supporters from among citizens, he said.
“The strong social position of the civil society and media has not been achieved easily, but with hardships and sacrifices,” he said.
“If shopkeepers, artisans, labourers, hotel and restaurant workers, men and women and even students are asked about civil society movement, their response will be that the movement can bring about positive changes to different sectors especially public welfare.”
Ezatullah, a shopkeeper in Bamyan City, said whenever civil society activists took out a rally, shopkeepers used to close their shops and participate in the demonstration because such protests were aimed at sending people’s voice to government officials.
He said had participated in all demonstrations because he knew these protests were crucial to resolving important issues.
Ali Madad Hussaini, a civil society activist, said their movement had strengthened in Bamyan City and called for more work to extend the movement to districts as well. He was confident no threat could harm the developed structure of the civil society movement in Bamyan.
He said a lack of media coverage at district level discouraged civil society organisations to gain strength and thus their activities received little response from the public. He said civil society represented all individuals in Bamyan in raising their voice for their legal rights.
Hussaini said the people of Bamyan had a different behaviour and they always analysed issues from logical angles and provided solutions accordingly.
The civil society has helped execute multiple projects in Bamyan such as asphalting of roads with USAID assistance and other organizations and the construction of airport which had been in a bad condition.
The society has also played a vital role in implementation of large projects such as the construction of a 100-kilometre road between Bamyan City and Yakawalang district centre, a project costing $70 million provided by Japan.
The asphalting of Ghorband-Shibar road with US help, the Wardak-Bamyan road with Italy help has recently been kicked off and their completion would connect the province with the entire country and shorten the distance between Kabul and Bamyan.
Besides all these developments, a wind power system was established for the first time in Aq Rabat locality on the outskirts of Bamyan City, providing electricity to 350 families in the area. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) helped establish the facility.
In Bamyan, besides active presence of civil society organizations, political parties are also mushrooming. A total 40 registered civil society groups are active in the province.
Last week, Haidar Ali Ahmadi, head of the political parties’ coordination council, at a press conference asked civil society activists to keep informed members of political parties from their programmes and activities.
He said as many as 12 political parties active in Bamyan needed to increase their coordination with civil society groups.
The governor’s spokesman, Abdur Rahman Ahmadi, said the provincial administration had always heard and accepted criticism from people and paved the ground for residents to express their reviews openly.
“The effectiveness of civil society institutes in Bamyan is known from their efforts at turning Bamyan city into an example of a positive culture and civilization in the region and the whole world,” he said.
Ahmadi added Bamyan people always preferred peaceful means in meeting their demands and the local government had always responded in positive to their demands. “This is the reason Bamyan was declared as the cultural capital of SAARC and one of world’s creative cities in the United Nations,” he added.
Civil society activists in Bamyan say though some residents are still living in caves, suffering from poverty and joblessness and deprived of development projects, but they have always kept supreme their civilization, honesty and nonviolent activities over destructive activities like burning schools, blowing up welfare assets or fueling violence.
Six years ago, Bamyan people during a protest gave a hurricane lamp to a government delegation to hand it over to US President Barak Obama so the US and the international community could see balance in implementation of development projects in Afghanistan.
A second hurricane was given to Mohammad Ismael, a former minister of energy and water, to indicate that Bamyan people are still using hurricanes and fuel lamps.
Bamyan people say they had never demanded an illegal thing with their movement from the international community, but they aim to attract foreigners’ attention to the situation of Bamyan residents.
Sharing sympathy with quake-affected Japanese was another civic movement of Bamyan residents.
Few years ago, Bamyan civil society activists expressed their sympathy to the Japanese after their country was hit by a strong earthquake, killing and wounding thousands of people. At the time, the civil society activists had been chanting: “We have no money but we feel your pain.”
This movement of Bamyan civil society activists was repeatedly shown on Japanese televisions and Japan provided $17 million for Bamyan’s reconstruction.
The activists had suggested the Japanese aid should be spent on the construction of the 15-kilometer Dara-I-Foladi road and two kilometers of road in Bamyan city. The suggestion was approved by Bamyan local government and the roads were constructed.
The activists also carried out rallies after Nigerian militants kidnapped girl students. Scores of Afghan girls and civil society activists rallied in Bamyan City demanding safe release of the Nigerian school students kidnapped by Boko Haram, an anti-government militia, in 2014.
Mohammad Sadiq Ali Yar, a political and society expert, believed civil society with its role could eliminate violence and provide environment for co-existing.
Discrimination still persisted in Afghanistan and the civil society could help remove the problem, he said.
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