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Kingdom of Afghanistan (1926-1973)

Afghanistan became a kingdom in 1926. The government of Afghanistan was long monarchical under one hereditary prince, previously styled the Emir, whose power varies with his own character, skill, and fortune. The dominions are politically divided into five chief political divisions in the country — namely, Kabul, Turkestan, Herat, Kandahar, and Badakshan. Each province is under a hakim or governor (called Naib-ul-Hukuma), under whom subordinate officials dispense justice and collect taxes. Spoliation, exaction, and embezzlement are not infrequent. Under the governors of provinces the nobles and kazis (or district judges) dispense justice much in the feudal fashion. Apart from the universal system of bribery and spoliation to which they give rise, feudal methods are more popular (and possibly more effective with a people like the Afghans) than high courts and the slow machinery of civil law would be. Swift even-handed justice is by no means rare in Afghanistan.

On the north-east, the boundary followed a line running generally westward from a fixed point near one of the peaks of the Sarikol Range to Lake Victoria, thence along the line of that branch of the Oxus which issues from the lake, and so, following the course of the Oxus, to Khamiab. From Khamiab, the line runs in a south-westerly direction to Zulfikar, on the river Hari-Rud, and thence by Kal-i-Kalla to Hashtadan, thence to the south, between Hashtadan and Siah Koh, north of Bandan, the boundary is undefined. The Sistam lake and the Helmund river form the boundary between Siah Koh and Band-i-Seistan, and thence the boundary runs south in a straight line to Koh-i-Malik Siah, where the frontiers of Persia, Afghinistan and Baluchistan meet. Here the boundary turns round and runs generally eastwardly to the Khwaja Amran range.

The eastern and southern boundaries of Afghanistan long remained uncertain, but the basis of a delimitation was settled, in 1893, at a conference between the Amir Abdur Rahman and Sir Mortimer Durand, and the boundary agreed upon, with the exception of the KhaibarAsmar section, was since demarcated. The Amir agreed that Chitral, Bajaur and Swat should be included within the British sphere of political influence, while he himself was to retain Asmar and the Kunar valley above it, as far as Arnawai; also the tract of Birmal, west of Waziristan. In the subsequent demarcation, Kafiristan was included within the countries, under Afghan control, and was garrisoned by the Kings's troops. The King withdrew his pretensions over Waziristan. Between March, 1903, and May, 1905, the boundary towards Persia was demarcated from Koh-i-Malik Siah to the Helmnnd, and thence to Siah Koh.

The population was about 6,400,000, the dominant group being the Afghans, of whom the leading tribes were the Durranis and the Ghilzais, who amounted to about 2,200,000 souls ; then follow other Afghans, and the Tajiks, Hazaras, and Aimaks, and Uzbaks. The languages spoken are Persian and Pushtoo. The predominant religion was Islam. The only newspaper published in the country was the 'Siraj-ul-Akhbar,' which appeared in Kabul, the capital (population about 150,000). Other large towns were Kandahar (population 31,500) and Herat (population 20,000).

The revenue of Afghanistan was subject to considerable fluctuations. The Government share of the produce recoverable is said to vary from one-third to one-tenth, according to the advantages of irrigation. The total revenue is estimated at between 12 and 13 million rupees, but this estimate is probably too low. The late Amir received a subsidy from the Indian Government of Rs. 18,60,000 a year, in accordance with the treaty of 1893. But in accordance with paragraph 3 of the Peace Treaty of August 8, 1919, the arrears of the late Amir's subsidy have been confiscated and no subsidy is granted to the King. At the time the Kingdom was constituted, the Afghan army probably numbers nearly 50,000, distributed between tho military centres of Herat, Kandahar, Kabul, Mazar-i-Sharif, Jalalabad, and Asmar, with detachments at frontier outposts on the side of India. The Amir's factories at Kabul for anus and ammunition are said to turn out about 20,000 cartridges and 15 rifles daily, with 2 guns per week ; but it is probable that means are available for the acquisition of other military equipment than that manufactured in the country.

In addition to his regular army, the King's military forces were largely supplemented by local levies of horse and foot. The mounted levies were simply the retainers of great chiefs, or of the latter's wealthier vassals. The foot levies were permanently embodied, and as irregulars formed an auxiliary to the regular infantry. The mountain batteries were believed to be serviceable. As engineers, the Hazara 'sappers,' who are regularly enrolled, are excellent workmen. The Afghan army is said to number 98,000 men, including 18,000 cavalry and 8S? guns. The real military strength of Afghanistan lies in the rugged and inhospitable nature of the country, the absence of roads, and in the capacity and aptitude of its inhabitants for guerilla warfare, which have been greatly enhanced of recent years by the wholesale importation of rifles and ammunition from the Gulf.

Afghanistan was not a member of the International Postal Union, so that the sending of letters or parcels to the country was attended with some uncertainty and inconvenience. Letters, etc., from all parts of the world have to be addressed care of the Afghan postmaster, Peshvwar, India, who forward them to their respective destinations in Afghanistan. The amount of the postage for Afghanistan must either be deposited with the Afghan postmaster at Peshawar or else paid for by the recipients in Afghanistan. Letters were despatched by runners twice a week; between Peshawar and Kabul, a distance of about 180 miles, they require three days for delivery.

Although the greater part of Afghanistan is more or less mountainous, and a good deal of the country is too dry and rocky for successful cultivation, yet there are many fertile plains and valleys, which, with the assistance of irrigation from small rivers or wells, yield very satisfactory crops of fruit, vegetables, and cereals. There are four classes of cultivators—1st, proprietors, who cultivate their own land; 2nd, tenants, who hire it for a rent in money or for a fixed proportion of the produce; 3rd, baxgan, who are the same as the mitayers in France; and 4th, hired labourers. There are two harvests in the year in most parts of Afghanistan. One of these is sown in the end of autumn and reaped in summer, and consists of wheat, barley, Ervum Lens, and Cieer arietinum, with some peas and beans. The other harvest is sown in the end of spring and reaped in autumn. It consists of rice, millet, arzna (Panicum italicum), Indian corn, ic. The castor-oil plant, madder, and the assafoetida plant abound. Fruit, viz. the apple, pear, almond, peach, quince, apricot, plum, cherry, pomegranate, grape, fig, mulberry, is produced in profuse abundance. They form the principal food of a large class of the people throughout the year, both in the fresh and preserved state, and in the latter condition are exported in great quantities.

Iron of excellent quality came from Bajaur (outside Afghanistan), and the Famuli district (or Birmal), and a gold mine was being worked under the supervision of a British mining expert at Kandahar; gold in small quantities was also brought from the Laghman Hills and Kunar. Badakshan was famous for its precious stones, especially lapis lazuli. Silks, felts, carpets, articles from camels' and goats' hair, were some of the principal industries. At Kabul, soap, cloth, boots, and some other articles were manufactured for local consumption, but chiefly for the army. The sheepskin coat, or postin, manufacture is one of the important industries. The government factories and workshops at Kabul had as their partial object public education in mechanical methods and appliances, and as a feature of such work classes are organised in different industries.

An extremely curious variety of fat-tailed sheep was native to Afghanistan. It is characterised by the immense weight and size of its tail, caused by development of masses of fat, forming stores of nourishment which are drawn upon during the winter months, when fodder is scarce. These sheep furnish the principal meat diet of the inhabitants, and the grease of the tail is a substitute for butter. The wool and skins not only provide material for warm apparel, but also furnished the country's main article of export.

Education was confined to most elementary principles in Afghanistan. Of schools or colleges for the purposes of a higher education befitted to the sons of noblemen and the more wealthy merchants, there was absolutely none; but the village school was an ever-present and very open spectacle to the passer-by. Here the younger boys were collected and instructed in the rudiments of reading, writing, and religious creed by the village mulla, or priest, who thereby acquired an early influence over the Afghan mind. The method of teaching was confined to that wearisome system of loud-voiced repetition which was so annoying a feature in Indian schools ; and the Koran was, of course, the text-book in all forms of education. Every Afghan gentleman could read and speak Persian, which was the language of the court, and which was, indeed, more often heard in Kabul than Pushtu; but beyond this acquirement (to which must certainly be added the arts of good manners) education seemed to be limited to the development of the youth by instruction in horsemansjip. Such advanced education as existed in Afghanistan was centered in the priests and physicians; but the ignorance of both was almost phenomenal.



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