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the sampling design initially determined and were (in Nangarhar and Ghazni) close to the provincial centres.

  • 4.

    Trends in perceptions of democracy are difficult to detect due to the fact that people’s views on the subject are changeable. This was clear in some cases when second interviews were conducted with respondents and different perspectives were related each time. The analysis in this paper is presented as an indication of some of the common themes found to exist among diverse and differing viewpoints.

  • 5.

    The word “democracy” is itself problematic. This is because for many, the English word is more familiar than its Dari or Pashto equivalent (mardum salari and woleswaqi). As such, it carries connotations of the Soviet regime in Afghanistan under the PDPA, or of Western liberal culture. The research teams were careful to acknowledge this difficulty and thus used alternative ways of exploring the issue— such as in talking about decision- making in a village or the selection of leaders— over the course of the interview. When at the end of the interview questions about the word “democracy” in particular were asked, the English word was used first since it was more familiar to most people (it tended to be more educated respondents that referred to the term by its Dari or Pashto equivalents). This was followed by the Dari or Pashto term if “democracy” in English was not understood.

  • 6.

    Democracy is also often used as a word very similar to or sometimes synonymous with “freedom” or “azadi.” When respondents used the word azadi, this was duly noted by the research team.

    • 3.2

      Provincial contexts

Kabul Province

As the administrative centre of Afghanistan, Kabul Province is unique in almost all respects. Kabul City alone is thought to have between three and five million inhabitants and is growing rapidly as

Deconstructing “Democracy” in Afghanistan

the urban centre of the country due to rural-urban migration. The city is ethnically diverse, although certain areas within it are dominated by particular ethnic groups. Outlying rural districts in Kabul Province, such as Qarabagh, Istalif, and Surobi, are largely comprised of Tajik and Pashtun inhabitants.

As might be expected, Kabul has a comparatively high literacy rate and is a centre for state and private education at the primary, secondary and tertiary levels. With 24-hour electricity now installed in most central areas of the city, a large number of Kabul residents have access to TV and radio along with print media. Security is relatively good in the city; while insurgent attacks may disrupt daily life from time to time, in general people carry out their day-to-day business unhindered by security concerns. Good security has also resulted in a disproportionately visible international presence compared to the rest of the country, though international military forces have become less prominent since security for the city itself was handed over to the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF).

Data from interviews in Kabul strongly reflect these provincial characteristics. Although a mixed demographic was selected for the sampling design, all perspectives given were educated and reflected a clear awareness of the political activities of candidates, for example, in the run up to the presidential and PC elections. Interviewees included members of political parties, whose central offices were based in Kabul, and other activists in the nongovernmental organisation (NGO) and advocacy sector. The city is also home to a number of Afghans who have spent significant time abroad. This accounts again for high levels of education and also an awareness of how governments in other countries function and provide services for their citizens. It also contributes to the city’s political diversity, which encompasses a spectrum of different political and religious views from liberal to staunchly conservative.

Powerholders in Kabul City are plentiful and range from influential wakil-i-gozars (heads of small urban areas) to religious elders and mullahs, and commanders and party leaders. The Mayor of Kabul


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