The rise and fall of the liberal Hezbe Watan or Homeland Party in Afghanistan, 1949-52

Faridullah Bezhan

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    Afghanistan is largely known as a tribal peasant society, where the dominant organised socio-political forces are the tribes and the religious establishment, and where democratic and secular movements have been generally absent from the political scene. It is the tribal chiefs and the religious establishment that represent and mobilise people. However, liberal and constitutionalist movements in the country have had a relatively rich background since the early twentieth century. While the first constitutionalist political party emerged in the early 1900s, the first liberal party, Watan (or Homeland), emerged in the late 1940s in the aftermath of World War II, when the government allowed some changes in the method of ruling. The party became the most vocal and influential in political circles at the time. This article examines how a liberal-nationalist political party emerged and operated even though the ruling class had little desire for fundamental changes such as the separation of powers, freedom of expression or rule of law. It explores the features of the party, including its platform, goals, social and ethno-religious make-up and the method of struggle chosen to achieve its objectives, which also enabled it to take a leading role in the political process in the early 1950s.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)401 - 426
    Number of pages26
    JournalBritish Journal of Middle Eastern Studies
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 2015


    • democracy
    • government relations
    • liberalism
    • nationalism
    • party politics
    • political history
    • political power
    • political process
    • power relations

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