Afghanistan is a mountainous country essentially in South-Central Asia and its location is geostrategic as it connects the Middle East countries with Central Asia and India. Afghanistan is officially known as the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. It is landlocked between Pakistan, Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and China. The capital of Afghanistan is Kabul which is also the largest city here. The official languages in Afghanistan are Dari (Persian) and Pashto. Afghanistan in Persian language means “the Land of the Afghans”. Large parts of the country are dry and fresh water supplies are limited and the country itself has a continental climate of harsh winters and severe summers. The country’s strategic position has made it possible for a congregation of several civilizations and cultures over the years.
The current day Afghanistan was once ruled by several kings of kingdoms like Greco-Buddhist kingdom and the Kushans, Ghaznavids, Mughals, Saffarids, Ghorids and Timurids. Famous emperors such as Alexander the Great, Chandragupta Maurya and Genghis Khan have ruled Afghanistan. Excavations of pre-historic sites in Afghanistan suggest thus that there has been human inhabitation as early as 50,000 years ago and also has proof of the earliest farming communities of the world. Ironically, Hinduism existed in ancient Afghanistan and justifies the names of the mountainous ranges of Hindu Kush and Pamir that border Afghanistan. The earliest inhabitants of this region are the Afghan tribes who are the ancestors of the modern day Pashtuns and it was not before 1747 that these tribes were unified. The region was also a British and Russian protectorate for a brief period and later gained its independence under British rule in 1919. Though democracy was introduced, it was a failure that ended in a 1973 coup and 1978 Communist countercoup. It was at this time that the Russian government lent support to the communist forces in Aghanistan thereby flagging off the destructive wars in Aghanistan. After 11 years of war, the anti-communist Mujahedin rebels succeeded in making the USSR withdraw from their land. However, this led to a long-lived civil war which saw the Taliban’s emergence in the capital Kabul. Taliban is a hardline Pakistani-sponsored movement that emerged in 1994 essentially founded to end the civil war in Afghanistan. These Taliban forces under the leadership of Osama Bin Laden, were primarily responsible for their barbaric terrorist acts throughout the world and the unforgettable 9/11 attacks in New York City and Washington D.C. These attacks brought Afghanistan’s name into the fore in all households and gave it a terror-country’s image. The Northern Alliance party in Afghanistan has long revolted against the Taliban and this factor helped that U.S and its allies to tie up with their forces in a joint military action to topple the Taliban and catch the mastermind Osama Bin Laden.
In 2001, the UN conducted a conference in Bonn to reconstruct the political scenario in Afghanistan and brought about a new constitution. Subsequently, presidential elections and National Assembly elections in 2004-2005 gave the first democratically elected president, Hamid Karzai, to Afghanistan. He continues to be in power for the second term now. Despite these efforts and the recent capture and killing of Osama Bin Laden, the Taliban forces continue to loom threat over this region and still signify political instability, terror and cultural handicap.
The chief economy in Afghanistan is a combination of cultivation and animal husbandry. Though there is significant use of irrigated agriculture, the process of pluvial agriculture has shown better quality crops. The main crops are Wheat, rice, barley and corn. The cash crops are almonds and fruits. Afghanistan exported cotton until the civil war and what remains of this agricultural land are acres of poppy cultivation for the heroin trade. The nomads and settlers of Afghanistan practice stock breeding as they trade all over the year even if the weather doesn’t allow them to procure dynamically. Owing to twenty years of war, there has been no industrial activity in the country. Due to this, almost all manufactured goods are imported like cars, air conditioners, refrigerators, televisions, radios, and stereo equipment through Pakistan. However most of them are soon smuggled into neighboring countries. Most of these imports are possible because the refugee and emigrant community here finances them. The agriculturists here are often in debt and are seen to depend on local headmen or landlords for money or power. The exported goods include hides, wool, dried and fresh fruits, and pistachios however it is narcotics that account for major export revenues.
The Pashtun tribes have descended upon this land for ages now and their culture reflects in the current day as well. The Dari (a Persian dialect) and Pashto are commonly spoken languages. There are also a significant number of nomads in Afghanistan who spend the summer in the highlands and the winter in the lowlands. The Taliban in the guise of making their society pure and organized, engage in inhuman and strict moral values. Civil and religious laws are intertwined and moral police punish anyone trying to violate even the smallest of rules. Punishments comprise of beatings, amputations, and public executions like beheading, stoning and shooting. The common Islamic food prohibitions are respected in Afghanistan. The Shiites avoid rabbit and hare. In formal gatherings, men and women are separated. The Taliban regime has driven away all the able scholars, artists, poets and musicians away from the country and the state of affairs is so pitiable that there is no possibility of higher education or scientific research.
The currency used in Afghanistan is the Afghani and is denoted by Afs.
Afghanistan has decent roadways as a part of global intervention for restructuring the economy and standard of living in the country. Bus services are preferred and other vehicles are common sight thanks to automobile imports from UAE. Rail services are limited and the only ones we can see are the railways projects connecting Pakistan Railways, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Herat and Iran. Air traffic is decently equipped with frequent flights operating between major cities of Kabul, Kandahar, Herat and Mazar-e-Sharif. International flights operate to countries like Dubai, Frankfurt, Turkey and other Asian countries. There are many flight carriers like Ariana Afghan Airlines (their national carrier) and domestic ones like Kam Air, Pamir Airways and Safi Airways. The Kabul International Airport in Afghanistan receives airlines from all over the world and the constant civil war, UN intervention, US military action and worldwide media attention have made the Kabul International airport a major airport to reckon.
The National flag of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan consists of black, red and green stripes with the National emblem in the centre. This National Emblem is white and made up of the Mehrab and Pulpit. Two flags hang from each side of the emblem. A sacred line is etched on the upper side that reads “There is no God but Allah and Mohammad is His prophet, and Allah is great". The bottom part of this emblem is etched with the word “Afghanistan” and the solar year 1298. The emblem is circled by two sheaves of wheat.