Saturday, March 26, 2011

Around the World: Afghanistan ........... 4

From the Middle Ages to the 19th century much of today's Afghanistan was recognized as Khorasan. Two of the four main capitals of Khorasan (i.e. Balkh, Merv, Nishapur and Herat) are now located in modern Afghanistan, while Kandahar, Ghazni and Kabul formed the frontier region between Khorasan and Hindustan. The land inhabited by the Afghan tribes was called Afghanistan, which loosely covered the area between the Hindu Kush and the Indus River, but principally around the Sulaiman Mountains. Arab Muslims brought the religion of Islam to the western area of what is now Afghanistan during the 7th century and began spreading eastward from Khorasan and Sistan, some accepting it while others revolted. Prior to the introduction of Islam, Afghanistan was mostly Zoroastrian, Buddhist, Hindu, with unknown population of Jews and others. The Kabul Shahi rulers lost their capital, Kabul, in around 870 AD after it was conquered by the Saffarids of Zaranj. Later, the Samanids extended their Islamic influence into the Hindu Kush area from Bukhara in the north. Afghanistan at that stage still had non-Muslims who lived side by side with Muslims. By the 11th century the Ghaznavids had finally made all of the remaining non-Muslim areas become fully Islamized, with the exception of the Kafiristan region. The region was overrun in 1219 by Genghis Khan and his Mongol barbarians, who devastated much of the land. His troops are said to have annihilated the ancient Khorasan cities of Herat and Balkh. The destruction caused by the Mongols depopulated major cities and caused much of the locals to revert to an agrarian rural society. Their rule continued with the Ilkhanate, and was extended further following the invasion of Timur who established the Timurid dynasty. The periods of the Ghaznavids, Ghurids, and Timurids are considered some of the most brilliant eras of Afghanistan's history as they produced fine Islamic architectural monuments as well as numerous scientific and literary works.
Babur, a descendant of both Timur and Genghis Khan, arrived from Central Asia and captured Kabul from the Arghun Dynasty, and from there he began to seize control of the eastern Afghan territories. He remained in Kabul until 1526 when he and his army invaded Delhi in India to replace the Lodi dynasty with the Mughal Empire. From the 16th century to the early 18th century, the region of Afghanistan was contended by 3 major powers: The Khanate of Bukhara ruled the north, Safavids the west and the remaining larger area was ruled by Delhi Sultanate of India.
In 1738, Nader Shah and his army, which included Ahmad Khan and four thousand of his Abdali Pashtuns, captured Kandahar from the last Hotak ruler; in the same year he occupied Ghazni, Kabul and Lahore. In June 1747, Nadir Shah was assassinated by one of his officers and his kingdom fell apart. Ahmad Shah Abdali called for a loya jirga ("grand assembly") to select a leader among his people, and in October 1747 the Pashtuns gathered near Kandahar and chose him as their new head of state. Ahmad Shah Durrani is often regarded as the founder of modern Afghanistan. After the inauguration, Ahmad Shah adopted the title padshah durr-i dawran ('King, "pearl of the age") and the Abdali tribe became known as the Durrani tribe thereafter. By 1751, Ahmad Shah Durrani and his Afghan army conquered the entire present-day Afghanistan, Pakistan, Khorasan and Kohistan provinces of Iran, along with Delhi in India. He defeated the Sikhs of the Maratha Empire in the Punjab region nine times; one of the biggest battles was the 1761 Battle of Panipat. In October 1772, Ahmad Shah retired to his home in Kandahar where he died peacefully and was buried at a site now adjacent to the Mosque of the Cloak of the Prophet Mohammed. He was succeeded by his son, Timur Shah Durrani, who transferred the capital of their Afghan Empire from Kandahar to Kabul. Timur died in 1793 and was finally succeeded by his son Zaman Shah Durrani.
Zaman Shah and his brothers had a weak hold on the legacy left to them by their famous ancestor. They sorted out their differences through "round robin of expulsions, blindings and executions", which resulted in the deterioration of the Afghan hold over far-flung territories, such as Attock and Kashmir. Durrani's other grandson, Shuja Shah Durrani, fled the wrath of his brother and sought refuge with the Sikhs. After Durrani Vizier Fateh Khan was defeated at the Battle of Attock, he fought off an attempt by Ali Shah, the ruler of Persia, to capture the Durrani province of Herat. He was joined by his brother, Dost Mohammad Khan, and rogue Sikh Sardar Jai Singh Attarwalia. Once they had captured the city, Fateh Khan attempted to remove the ruler Mahmud Shah – a relation of his superior – and rule in his stead. In the attempt to take the city from its Durrani ruler, Dost Mohammad Khan's men forcibly took jewels from a princess and Kamran Durrani, Mahmud Shah's son, used this as a pretext to remove Fateh Khan from power, and had him tortured and executed. While in power, however, Fateh Khan had installed 21 of his brothers in positions of power throughout the Durrani Empire. After his death, they rebelled and divided up the provinces of the empire between themselves. During this turbulent period, Kabul had many temporary rulers until Fateh Khan's brother, Dost Mohammad Khan, captured Kabul in 1826.
The Sikhs, under Ranjit Singh, rebelled in 1809 and eventually wrested from the Afghans a large part of the Kingdom of Kabul (present day Pakistan, but not including Sindh). Hari Singh Nalwa, the Commander-in-Chief of the Sikh Empire along its Afghan frontier, invaded the Afghan territory as far as the city of Jalalabad. In 1837, the Afghan Army descended through the Khyber Pass on Sikh forces at Jamrud. Hari Singh Nalwa's forces held off the Afghan offensive for over a week – the time it took reinforcements to reach Jamrud from Lahore.
First Anglo-Afghan War (1839–42). William Brydon was the sole survivor of a group of 3,600 soldiers of the British 44th Regiment of Foot and 12,400 camp followers, who were attacked between Kabul and Jalalabad while heading to what is now Pakistan. During the 19th century, following the Second Anglo-Afghan War and the ascension of the Barakzai dynasty, Afghanistan saw much of its territory and autonomy ceded to British India. Ethnic Pashtun territories were divided by the 1893 Durand Line, an action which would lead to strained relations between Afghanistan and British India (later the new state of Pakistan). The United Kingdom exercised a great deal of influence, and it was not until the reign of King Amanullah Khan in 1919 that Afghanistan re-gained independence over its foreign affairs after the signing of the Treaty of Rawalpindi. King Amanullah moved to end his country's traditional isolation in the years following the Third Anglo-Afghan War. He established diplomatic relations with major states and, following a 1927-28 tour of Europe and Turkey, introduced several reforms intended to modernize his nation. A key force behind these reforms was Mahmud Tarzi, an ardent supporter of the education of women. He fought for Article 68 of Afghanistan's first constitution, which made elementary education compulsory. Some of the reforms that were actually put in place, such as the abolition of the traditional Muslim veil for women and the opening of a number of co-educational schools, quickly alienated many tribal and religious leaders. Faced with overwhelming armed opposition, Amanullah Khan was forced to abdicate in January 1929 after Kabul fell to rebel forces led by Habibullah Kalakani. Prince Mohammed Nadir Shah, Amanullah's cousin, in turn defeated and killed Habibullah Kalakani in October 1929, and was declared King Nadir Shah. He abandoned the reforms of Amanullah Khan in favor of a more gradual approach to modernisation. In 1933, however, he was assassinated in a revenge killing by a Kabul student.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Around The World: Afghanistan ....... 3

Though the modern state of Afghanistan was established in 1747, the land has an ancient history and various timelines of different civilizations. An important site of early historical activity, Afghanistan is a country at a unique nexus point where numerous civilizations have interacted and often fought. The region has been home to various peoples through the ages.
Arachosia, Aria and Bactria were the ancient satraps of the Persian Achaemenid Empire that made up most of what is now Afghanistan during 500 BC. Some of the inhabitants of Arachosia were known as Pactyans, whose name possibly survives in today's Pakhtuns / Pashtuns.
Archaeological exploration done in the 20th century suggests that the geographical area of Afghanistan has been closely connected by culture and trade with the neighboring regions to the east, west, and north. Artifacts typical of the Paleolithic, Mesolithic, Neolithic, Bronze, and Iron ages have been found in Afghanistan. Urban civilization may have begun as early as 3000 BC, and the early city of Mundigak (near Kandahar in the south of the country) may have been a colony of the nearby Indus Valley Civilization. After 2000 BCE, successive waves of semi-nomadic people from Central Asia moved south into the area of modern Afghanistan, among them were Indo-European-speaking. These tribes later migrated further south to India, west to what is now Iran, and towards Europe via north of the Caspian. Many of these settlers were Indo-Iranians, the area was called Ariana.
The ancient Zoroastrianism religion is believed by some to have originated in what is now Afghanistan between 1800 to 800 BCE, as its founder Zoroaster is thought to have lived and died in Balkh. Ancient Eastern Iranian languages may have been spoken in the region around the time of the rise of Zoroastrianism. By the middle of the 6th century BCE, the Achaemenid Persian Empire overthrew the Medes and incorporated the region within its boundaries. An inscription on the tombstone of King Darius I of Persia mentions the Kabul Valley in a list of the 29 countries he had conquered.

Buddhas of Bamyan. Buddhism was introduced for the first time during the Maurya Empire (322 BC–185 BC). In addition, Hinduism in Afghanistan has existed for almost as long as Hinduism itself, as Greater Persia overlapped with Greater India in the Hindu Kush and Pamir mountains. The religion was widespread in the region until the Islamic conquest of Afghanistan. Alexander the Great and his Macedonian army arrived to the area of Afghanistan in 330 BCE after defeating Darius III of Persia a year earlier at the Battle of Gaugamela. Following Alexander's brief occupation, the successor state of the Seleucid Empire controlled the area until 305 BCE when they gave much of it to the Indian Maurya Empire as part of an alliance treaty. Alexander took these away from the Aryans and established settlements of his own, but Seleucus Nicator gave them to Chandragupta, upon terms of intermarriage and of receiving in exchange 500 elephants.
The Mauryans brought Buddhism from India and controlled southern Afghanistan until about 185 BCE when they were overthrown. Their decline began 60 years after Ashoka's rule ended, leading to the Hellenistic re-conquest of the region by the Greco-Bactrians. Much of it soon broke away from the Greco-Bactrians and became part of the Indo-Greek Kingdom. The Indo-Greeks were defeated and expelled by the Indo-Scythians by the end of the 2nd century BCE. During the 1st century, the Parthian Empire subjugated the region, but lost it to their Indo-Parthian vassals. In the mid to late 1st century CE the vast Kushan Empire, centered in modern Afghanistan, became great patrons of Buddhist culture. The Kushans were defeated by the Sassanids in the 3rd century. Although various rulers calling themselves Kushanshas continued to rule at least parts of the region, they were probably more or less subject to the Sassanids. The late Kushans were followed by the Kidarite Huns who, in turn, were replaced by the short-lived but powerful Hephthalites, as rulers of the region in the first half of the 5th century. The Hephthalites were defeated by the Sasanian king Khosrau I in CE 557, who re-established Sassanid power in Persia. However, in the 6th century CE, the successors of Kushans and Hepthalites established a small dynasty in Kabulistan called Kabul Shahi.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Around The World: AFGHANISTAN ........ 2

A landlocked and mountainous country, with plains in the north and southwest, Afghanistan is variously described as being located within South Asia, Central Asia and sometimes Western Asia (or the Middle East). It lies between latitudes 29° and 39° N, and longitudes 60° and 75° E. Afghanistan's highest point is Nowshak, at 7,485 m (24,557 ft) above sea level. The climate varies by region and tends to change quite rapidly. Large parts of the country are dry, and fresh water supplies are limited. The endorheic Sistan Basin is one of the driest regions in the world. The country is frequently subject to minor earthquakes, mainly in the northeast of Hindu Kush mountain areas. 


At 249,984 sq mi (647,456 km2), Afghanistan is the world's 41st largest country (after Burma). It shares borders with Pakistan in the East, Iran in the west, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan in the north, and China in the far east. The country does not face any water shortage because it receives huge amounts of snow during winter. Once that melts, the water runs into rivers, lakes, and streams, but most of its national water flows to neighboring states.
The nation's natural resources include gold, silver, copper, zinc, and iron ore in the Southeast; precious and semi-precious stones (such as lapis, emerald, and azure) in the Northeast; and potentially significant petroleum and natural gas reserves in the North. The country also has uranium, coal, chromite, talc, barites, sulfur, lead, and salt. It was revealed in 2010 that the country has about $1–3 trillion in untapped mineral deposits.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Around the World: AFGHANISTAN ............. Part 1

Afghanistan officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked and mountainous country in south-central Asia. It is bordered by Pakistan in the south and east, Iran in the west, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan in the north, and China in the far northeast. The territories now comprising Afghanistan have been an ancient focal point of the Silk Road and human migration. Archaeologists have found evidence of human habitation from as far back as 50,000 BCE. Urban civilization may have begun in the area as early as 3000 to 2000 BC.
The political history of modern Afghanistan begins in the 18th century with the rise of the Pashtun tribes (known as Afghans in Persian language), when in 1709 the Hotaki dynasty rose to power in Kandahar and Ahmad Shah Durrani established the Durrani Empire in 1747. The capital of Afghanistan was shifted in 1776 from Kandahar to Kabul and part of its territory was ceded to neighboring empires by 1893. In the late 19th century, Afghanistan became a buffer state in the "Great Game" between the British and Russian empires. On August 19, 1919, following the third Anglo-Afghan war and the signing of the Treaty of Rawalpindi, the nation regained control over its foreign policy from the British.
Since the late 1970s, Afghanistan has experienced a continuous state of war, including major occupations in the forms of the 1979 Soviet invasion, a Pakistani military intervention in support of the Taliban in the late 1990s and the October 2001 US-led invasion that overthrew the Taliban government. In December 2001, the United Nations Security Council authorized the creation of an International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) to help maintain security and assist the Karzai administration. The country is currently being rebuilt slowly with support from the international community while dealing with the Taliban insurgency and widespread political corruption.

The name Afghanistan means the "Land of Afghans", originating from the word Afghan. The first part of the name "Afghan" designates the Pashtun people since ancient times, the founders and the largest ethnic group of the country. This name is mentioned in the form of "Abgan" in the 3rd century CE[23] and as "Avagana" in the 6th century CE. From a more limited, ethnological point of view, "Afghan" is the term by which the Persian-speakers of Afghanistan designate the Pastun. The Pastun tribal confederation is by far the most important in the country, numerically and politically. The term "Afghan" has probably designated the Pastun since ancient times. Under the form Avagana, this ethnic group is first mentioned by the Indian astronomer Varaha Mihira in the beginning of the 6th century CE in his Brihat-samhita. A people called "Afghans" are mentioned several times in a 10th century geography book, Hudud al-'alam. Al-Biruni referred to them in the 11th century as various tribes living on the western frontier mountains of the Indus River, which would be the Sulaiman Mountains. Ibn Battuta, a famous Moroccan travelling scholar visiting the region in 1333, writes “We travelled on to Kabul, formerly a vast town, the site of which is now occupied by a village inhabited by a tribe of Persians called Afghans.”
Muhammad Qasim Hindu Shah (Ferishta) explains extensively about Afghans in the 16th century. For example, he writes “The men of Kabul and Khilj also went home; and whenever they were ques­tioned about the Musulmans of the Kohistan (the mountains), and how matters stood there, they said, "Don't call it Kohistan, but Afghanistan; for there is nothing there but Afghans and dis­turbances." Thus it is clear that for this reason the people of the country call their home in their own language Afghanistan, and themselves Afghans.”
In the writings of the 17th-century Pashto poet Khushal Khan Khattak:
“Pull out your sword and slay any one, that says Pashtun and Afghan are not one! Arabs know this and so do Romans: Afghans are Pashtuns, Pashtuns are Afghans!”