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Last Updated: Saturday, 26 February, 2005, 00:17 GMT
Afghan woman eyes the governor's job
Habiba Sarabi
Habiba Sarabi says she is optimistic for the future
Habiba Sarabi, Afghanistan's former women's minister, has outlined the challenge facing her as she prepares to take charge in Bamiyan province - that would make her the country's first female provincial governor.

Ms Sarabi is set to be appointed governor by President Hamid Karzai after being selected from an all-women shortlist.

She told the BBC World Service's Outlook programme there were a wide-ranging number of problems facing the province - most famous for the giant statues of Buddha that were destroyed by the hardline Taleban regime in 2001.

"Poverty is a major issue. I have to work on the reconstruction, to find some jobs for people," Ms Sarabi said.

"And actually I want to change the face of Bamiyan a little bit, with the help of God and the international community. I want to work on the master plan of Bamiyan city - its historical heritage and as a tourist attraction.

"These are the big challenges."

New role

During the Taleban regime, Ms Sarabi fled from the Afghan capital, Kabul, to Pakistan, where she lived in the city of Peshawar - although she often returned undercover.

Following the US military action in 2001 that removed the Taleban, she was selected for Mr Karzai's cabinet.

She instantly became a high-profile figure. Under the Taleban women had been prevented from achieving high office.

Bamiyan, BBC
There are natural difficulties because [Bamiyan] is a very mountainous place, with a lot of snow for a long time
Habiba Sarabi

Her new role will see her tackling the warlords in Bamiyan.

She also said she hoped to see the province's damaged cultural heritage redeveloped.

"We can attract a lot of tourism and it can be a big income for Bamiyan city," she said.

"The historical heritage should be safe and secure for each Bamiyani. For me, it will be a responsibility."

A recent UN report warned of the "critical" situation in Afghanistan, with high poverty, low security and an education system condemned as the worst in the world.

Ms Sarabi admitted there were "very difficult" challenges in Bamiyan.

"There are natural difficulties because it's a very mountainous place, with a lot of snow for a long time," she said.

"The other problem is the lack of education, especially among women."

Future optimism

She stressed she had visited the province several times, and had received a very positive reaction following the announcement of her new position.

Afghan girls in school
Afghanistan's education system is the worst in the world, the UN says

"I have received plenty of calls from people in Bamiyan and representatives of the council, the traditional leadership," she said.

"They supported me and they were very happy - this is the reaction I have received."

And she added she was also optimistic about the future of Afghanistan.

"You can see that during the three years [since the Taleban] a lot of things have changed," she said.

"Of course we have a lot of difficulties - it doesn't mean we should forget these - but we have to solve these problems.

"Everything will go in a good direction in the future."


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