By KANDI HUGGINS
3rd Brigade, 1st Infantry Division
Throughout Zabul, government officials have been increasing their participation within the districts of the province through shuras and encouraging the population, as a whole, to stand up and take action.
In the past week, Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan officials conducted shuras in the outlying districts of Nawbahar and Atghar which have not had a provincial-level engagement in several years. They hosted shuras in Shah Joy and Tarnek Wa Jaldek districts as well.
The officials use the shuras to provide an opportunity for the district locals to speak about their concerns that are largely related to governance and security. In the more populated districts of Shah Joy and TWJ they also speak of commerce and electronic banking. The shuras offer officials, such as the director of women’s affairs, the chance to speak to women encouraging them to become registered voters and seek education for themselves and their children.
While Zabul boasts greater security than some neighboring provinces, security remains a serious concern.
“Afghan tradition states we must protect our homes and our country; now is the time to start doing that,” said Mohammad Jan Rassoulyar, the deputy provincial governor, at a shura held in the Nawbahar District. “When you don’t report the Taliban you are putting your family in harm’s way.”
He continued saying security is partially the villagers’ problem, too, because the government cannot put a police officer in every home.
Rassoulyar said either join the Taliban or join us, quit being the middleman that is on both sides.
On the way to the Nawbahar shura, Brig. Gen. Akram, commander, 2nd Brigade, 205th Corps, Afghan National Army, said they were attacked at a number of checkpoints and they know the enemy had to be staying in the villagers’ homes.
“Every village had at least four Taliban and one Pakistani, and they came from the villages you just came from,” said Akram. “You have people in your family who can join the (Afghan Local Police) and be paid by the government; why won’t you let them join (Afghan National Security Forces)?”
Akram said the ANSF have made notable strides in the province through joint counterinsurgency operations with coalition forces. However, they are just one avenue of deterrence against enemy attacks. He said the seed, which will produce a prosperous country, begins with each individual not just saying they want change, but also taking it upon him or herself to make that change.
“If you want to change things here, vote in people who will provide the change,” said Rassoulyar.
And that change included women becoming involved.
Sadiqa Jalali, the director of women’s affairs, told the men to encourage the women’s involvement in the politics of Afghanistan, because they are affected by what will happen in their country.
“You are soldiers of Afghanistan,” said Sadiqa. “It doesn’t matter if your women are from Nawbahar or Bagram, every woman counts.”
Mohammad Daoud Gulzar, former chairman of the provincial peace council,agreed with Sadiqa saying they must encourage women to register because theyhave equal rights just like the men do. Rassoulyar emphasized, “The Koran tells us women were involved in business and politics in the Prophet Mohammed’s time, it should be the same today.”
Daoud said they have 500 women registered to vote in Qalat, at least 54 are registered in TWJ, but they have none registered in Nawbahar.
“Nawbahar has become the center of war and the center of Taliban,” said Rassoulyar. “Americans are leaving. It’s time for us to stand on our own two feet.”