land the state and war property institutions and political order in Afghanistan, book,

Private vs Collective, property in chaotic Afghanistan

Book Name;

Land, the State, and War


Jennifer Brick Murtazashvili, Ilia Murtazashvili

The mountainous war-ravaged country of Afghanistan does not have a well-formed and established footing for securing private property as is common in other developed countries of the world. Being rural and clannish in nature, the utility and efficacy of such legal setups are not very useful in Afghanistan.

Individuals also do not solely rely on any such legal and governmental arrangements doubting their effectiveness for the resolution of their disputes.

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This book explores why common Afghans prefer the community-based registration of land for their properties to those of government registration.

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Private vs Collective, property in chaotic Afghanistan

1. The introductory chapter is about the growth and development of individual property rights, the changes both institutional and conceptual, and how they contribute to personal, economic and state-making has been discussed.

The modern socio-political and economic paraphernalia is a weighing stone for the political and economic development of a society.  But in the case of Afghanistan, this criterion could not be applied so easily.

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2. The common political theories of property rights, occupancy, labor, social contract, and utilitarianism are the brainchild of the West and may not have full applicability in some parts of the world. Problems related to governmental authority and setups could easily be overcome through the concept of self-government or, more specifically with the notion of anarcho-capitalism.

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Private vs Collective, property in chaotic Afghanistan

The organizations and arrangements whose roots and applicability exist within the society itself, not on any governmental supremacy. The authors also propose that their theory of property rights has two determining factors, how to define a property and how to get that property or to allocate it to a proprietor for usage. Such an inclusive approach would surely enhance the socio-political and economic growth of a society. 

3. The present-day state of Afghanistan took its shape in 1747 when Ahmad Shah Abdali, also lovingly known by the nickname of Abdali Baba, was selected as the first Pushtoon King of Afghanistan.  From then onward, the history of this land is a chronology of wars, insurgencies, and conspiracies. 

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This chapter details the emergence and development of property rights in Afghanistan from the beginning of the 20th century after the death of Amir Abdur Rahman in 1901. For 150 years there was no or almost very weak central political authority in Afghanistan making it a land of sedition and unrest.

The trading routes and land proprietorship were controlled by the tribes who had power and access to them. Which enabled them to be economically prosperous, though at the political cost Kabul had authority over them. 

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Private vs Collective, property in chaotic Afghanistan

But with Amir Abdur Rahman ascending to the Kabul throne in 1880, his consolidation of power reversed the clock.  He used ethnic and political rivalries of different tribes for his political leverage resulting in the stunted growth of political and property rights institutions in this country.

4. The period from the late 1930s to the 1970s was marked by both political and social calmness and unrest. The socio-political fabric of their country hindered both the Afghan kings and governments from establishing an organized mechanism for property rights and hence proper economic growth. 

The main reasons were the absence of an organized agency of violence for its implantation, state capacity failure, and the political willfulness of Afghan kings and governments, with a legal and political infrastructure obsoleteness multiplied the problem.

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5. The traditional and customary laws about property rights in Afghanistan are more effective than those of the governmental and legal ones.  The Hobbesian concept of the absence of justice and rights in a sense could not be perfectly applied to the Afghanistan case. 

Where the usage and application of these conventional property rights in the community are done by themselves making it akin to an all-inclusive self-governing structure supplanting the central government or king.

6. Natural resources or commons of a community are the socio-political backbone of any community.  Their destruction or reduction may not be a positive sign for them. 

In Afghan society Mirab, the water manager, and, the forest Shura, the council responsible for the community forest, vigil these two assets for their village or community. But they could not handle some factors like natural destruction or war destruction by themselves. For which they look to the government in Kabul.

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Private vs Collective, property in chaotic Afghanistan

They support the theory of American political scientist, Elinor Ostrom, on commons or natural resources in war-torn countries. 

7. What are the reasons that failed the institutionalization of property rights in Afghanistan?  Some major factors are, the weakness or failure of the state in the execution of its authority, political motifs of decision-makers, and the absence of all-inclusive organizations or institutions enjoining both government and citizens resulting in the lack of investment in commons or natural resources of the country.

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War-ravaged countries like Afghanistan do not have these prerequisites which causes the absence of a proper legal tilting or foundation in them. In such a scenario, traditional or customary laws of the land come to our help. 

8. The eighth chapter is an epilogue differentiating between the cause and effect of these property rights.  The usual literature on property rights is of the view that these laws cause prosperity and economic upturn in a society. Which in turn makes its people rich and stable.

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Private vs Collective, property in chaotic Afghanistan

Hence, the two elements, the cause that is property laws, and the effect of it, socio-political in a society, go side by side.  In this way, a new dimension to the accepted characteristics of the state adds itself which is self-government whose value must not be underrated. 

230 page book with tables, maps, and photographs, with a chronology of Afghanistan’s main events,  is a masterpiece on the political and economic structure of Afghanistan done empirically in villages and outskirts of this war-wrought country. 

Private vs Collective, property in chaotic Afghanistan

I am,

Murtaza Kaleem an educator, freelance writer, movie-watcher, melodious music listener and an avid reader about International Relations and World Politics with a decade long experience of education and teaching to students of different sociological and economic backgrounds. My social links are;

Twitter handle/murtazakaleem99 /murtazakaleem99

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