By Sayed Niyam Alami
KABUL: President Ashraf Ghani has launched an unprecedented academic discussion around the topics of Afghanistan’s culture, history and national identity aimed at making them public knowledge and essentially turned to a national debate.
Lecturers, students, researchers and experts from three universities – including the Kabul University, the Polytechnic University and the American University of Afghanistan – on Thursday participated in the first-ever session of the ‘Discourse on the History, Culture and National Identity of Afghanistan’ at the Presidential Palace.
Opening the session, Public and Strategic Affairs Director Waheed Omer called this series of discussions as an innovation by the president, adding they would continue being conducted every three months.
Presenting as a researcher and analyst and not as a President, Ghani lectured the participants and provided comprehensive information regarding the purpose, means, methods, cultural assets and political assets of national identity.
Speaking about the purpose of national identity, the President in his speech said, the goal was understanding the assets which should be transmitted to the people and the government through plain and understandable method. “But as a nation we do not have the basic understanding of our assets. Unless we have a clear, scientific and specific comprehension of our capital and discussion, we cannot devise fundamental program or roadmap.”
Ghani said the teachers and students from these universities were invited to partake in this program for the same reason that “this task of exploring our identity isn’t only limited to our literary and linguistic lecturers but nation building is a common duty of all Afghans.”
Mentioning few literary examples dating back to centuries ago, Ghani said the role of women in Afghan history was prominent and perceptions towards this class of the society were distorted only after the 20th century.
Ghani pointed to the fact that Afghanistan being home to the world’s most important natural resources can be turned into a massive producer of copper and iron. “Mendeleev periodic table’s 14 rare elements are available in Afghanistan.”
Diverting the new generation’s – especially the university students – attention to this issue, he said natural resources can both be a source of development, as well as destruction.
Addressing the students, he said “Compare Congo and Norway! Both have huge natural wealth. Which one do you want Afghanistan to be?”
He asked the participants, especially the youth and students, to understand and pass on the knowledge about things this country has been gifted with to future generations. “Every Afghan, elder and youngster, should know this.”
Putting the responsibility of appreciating these national assets and explaining them to people, as well as steering this country towards development, on the youth’s shoulders, he posed the question: “Do you have the will and capacity to do this?”