A British Army doctor named Henry Walter Bellew wrote these words after spending a fair bit of time in Kandahar and Kabul:
Now that our armies are in possession of Kandahar and Kabul ... the question arises, what are we to do with the country heretofore governed from these seats of authority, and latterly in the possession of the Ruler seated at Kabul.
We run the show. What do we do? How do we run it?
The question is one which must before very long be answered by the logic of accomplished facts, consequent on the stern demands of necessity more than of mere policy.
We have to figure this out. It isn't enough to just conquer and hope for the best. We need to have some kind of strategy, some direction that we can develop with (if not impose upon) the people of the country.
For having, as we have now done, completely destroyed the authority and government of the tyrannous and treacherous ... Rulers, whose power it has been our policy to maintain and strengthen during the past quarter of a century, it is now incredible that we shall deliberately abandon the vantage ground gained, ignore the great danger we have now thereby staved off, and leave the country a prey to internal anarchy ...
We put these kinds of people in power in the first place. They were our tyrants. We protected their power. And now?
In case you're wondering, the good doctor was writing from Lahore. In 1880. Yep, some things just don't change.
It's all in a fascinating book entitled The Races Of Afghanistan Being A Brief Account Of The Principal Nations Inhabiting That Country.
Words © 2010 Irfan Yusuf
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