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Last Updated: Wednesday, 12 November, 2003, 16:29 GMT
Regenerating Afghanistan's Buddha region
Bamiyan Buddha statue
One of the statues later destroyed by the Taleban
The central Afghanistan region of Bamiyan became the focus of world attention in February, 2001, when the ruling Taleban destroyed two giant statues of the Buddha there that were 1,800 years old.

The bitter international condemnation of the Taleban also brought to light the suffering of the local Hazara people at the hands of the Taleban.

Now the people are getting much better food, health and education.

And officials say that much of the thanks for that goes to the international troops now stationed there.

"The people of Bamiyan are very happy with this force" Muhammad Raheem Alliyah, governor of Bamiyan province, told the BBC World Service's Assignment programme.

"Its presence here is a big help both for security and for the economy."

Persecution

The Taleban spent many years trying to control the 100 kilometre-long Bamiyan valley, and their occupation was often brutal.

Troops hand out wheat to Hazara people
Just by being here, we give confidence to people
Colonel Neville Reilly

Well over 1,000 Hazaras were killed, and four mass graves have been found in Bamiyan town alone.

But now the international peacekeepers are helping the region get back on its feet.

"We're here for several reasons, the most important of which is to promote stability in the region," Colonel Neville Reilly, commander of around 120 New Zealand troops in Bamiyan, told Assignment.

"Just by being here, we give confidence to people."

The army of New Zealand has set up camp in Bamiyan to operate what is known as a provincial reconstruction team (PRT).

The PRT uses horses to patrol the region. Together with several international aid agencies, it says it has met an overwhelmingly positive response from the Hazaras.

Colonel Reilly says "99%" of the Hazaras are happy to see them there.

The PRT also aims to promote economic development, providing help to the subsistence farmers in the area who rely on their crops to survive, and promote the influence of Afghanistan's central government.

"This is a region that hasn't seen a lot of central government over the years, so we hope to promote projects that central government wants in the area," Colonel Reilly explained.

Not enough

However, there have been criticisms that too many large-scale projects to help Bamiyan are failing to materialise.

Hazara people
The Hazara people suffered greatly under the Taleban
A road linking Bamiyan to the capital, Kabul, for example, has been proposed for two years but remains in the planning stage.

"To some extent this is true, because the aid agencies should organise themselves with a systematic plan and work closely with the Afghan government," Mr Raheem Alliyah confirmed.

"They could do a better job here."

But he added that some in Afghanistan had to lower their expectations, and that not everything could be built at once.

"I think our people are in a little too much of a hurry. They think that everything can be rebuilt within a year or two.

"But that's not possible. We've inherited a country that we've destroyed over 25 years of war.

"It'll take a long time to rebuild - we need patience."

The United Nations co-ordinator of the aid effort in Bamiyan, Peter Maxwell, said that the current programmes would soon develop into major improvements.

"There is a lot going on to put in place decent health facilities. There will be many more children going to school - that's already starting to happen," he argued.

He also argues that tourism will play a major role in bringing money to the region.

"What I hope very much is that Bamiyan as a cultural centre will actually be starting to come on stream [with its] Buddha sites and the Band-e-Amir lakes and other world-class attractions," he said.

"That brings us on to the four or five year spectrum, where I think you really will see good roads, lots of tourists - that will mean that Bamiyan is where it deserves to be, a major and worldwide attraction, which will have quite transformed economic prospects for this area."


SEE ALSO:
Japanese aid for Bamiyan remains
15 Sep 03  |  South Asia
Talks over Bamiyan Buddhas' future
21 Nov 02  |  South Asia
The hunt for Bamiyan's third Buddha
06 Sep 02  |  South Asia
'Human remains' in Bamiyan graves
11 Apr 02  |  South Asia
Bamiyan looks to the future
25 Jan 02  |  South Asia
Hazaras survive on aid
24 Jan 02  |  South Asia



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