Fuzzy borders prove vexing for leader of 'model' district in Kandahar
DEH-E BAGH, Afghanistan - The young, energetic leader of Dand district — an Afghan area held up by Canadians as a model of peace and governance potential in the violence-wracked country — has a decidedly vexing problem:
Where exactly is his district?
Theoretically, it's the area that abuts the south end of Kandahar city to the north, the east end of Panjwaii to the west and Daman to the east.
In reality, Dand's borders are elusive, and therein lies Ahamadullah Nazak's headache.
"I don't know what areas I'm responsible for," Nazak told a reconstruction and development meeting Wednesday.
It's a point Nazak, 32, who has won leadership accolades from the Canadian and Americans who work with him, made repeatedly.
When discussing building new health clinics, Nazak noted pointedly: "We really don't know where to put those clinics."
Officially, Dand district barely exists, if at all, despite a decree recognizing it as such handed down in Kabul last year by none other than President Hamid Karzai himself.
For several reasons, Karzai's decree has done little to create any certainties.
For one thing, it has not been ratified by the Afghan parliament so is of no force.
Nor does the decree actually establish Dand's borders, although the presidential recognition appears to indicate that the district contains 34 villages.
Nazak, on the other hand, is laying claim to about 170 villages.
It's not just a question of mini-empire building: The fuzziness has real consequences in a local world of scarce resources.
Some people from Panjwaii and even parts of Kandahar city itself are making the trek to the Dand District Centre to seek aid, he said.
Some who should be ineligible because they aren't actually from the district get wheat seed or other help from Dand, then go back and double-dip in their own districts.
Other deserving individuals end up in a sort of no-man's land and get turned down everywhere.
Some elders simply refuse to recognize Nazak's authority in their areas.
Among those on hand to hear his plaint for clarity were assorted area elders, the provincial governor, the mayor of Kandahar city and Canada's acting Kandahar task force commander, Col. Richard Giguere.
Canadian officials say Nazak's political credibility is at stake. With its effective governance, villages look to Dand as something of a beacon.
But beyond noting the complexity of any border issues, especially in the anthropological quagmire that Afghanistan can be, they say they have no idea how or when the situation might get resolved.
"I've been asking that question for six months now," said one Canadian official, who asked not to be named on the grounds a federal-election gag order is in place.
"I do not have an answer."
They also point out that various maps in recent years draw the district differently.
Gov. Tooryalai Wesa, who praised Dand as a "good model for other districts," listened carefully.
"Borders are very important," Wesa told Nazak in the packed room at the Dand district centre, a building Canadian soldiers helped rebuild after a suicide bombing destroyed its top floor two years ago.
But the governor, beyond hinting at some kind of provincial working group to tackle the boundary issue, had little concrete to offer.