Ahmad Idrees Rahmani

2005-06 International Policy Fellow
Open Society Promotion in Predominantly Muslim Societies working group


The geography of Afghanistan divides the country into hundreds of individual communities making it vital for the formation of a decentralized political structure. Traditionally the domestic politics of the country have always favored a centralized form of government, which is no longer capable of responding to the requirements of an increasingly politically aware rural population.

This paper explores the traditional power structure of the village and examines whether the National Solidarity Project (NSP), the largest rural development project in Afghanistan, can be a potential instrument in the modification of this power structure. The NSP is seeking to replace the traditional players of the rural power structure with a new elected group, the Community Development Council. In half of the country, in the absence of NGO and government services, social services including education, health and public information are provided by the mosque, whose support is crucial to the success of any CDC initiative.

Traditionally the Mullah Imam, or religious leader, was the legal and judiciary body of the village and the other powerful players would need his blessing in order to exercise their power. Teachers are increasingly seen as the main competitors to rural religious leaders, wary of seeing their influence diminish and believing that education outside the mosque will dilute their influence.