The name Bamyan is translated as “The Place of Shining Light”. It is one of the thirty-four provinces of Afghanistan. It is divided into six districts with town of Bamyan as the capital.
Located in the central highlands of Afghanistan, Bamyan Province is one of the most mountainous provinces with a cold climate. Historically, Bamyan was known by different names at different times – Bamika during 5th AD and Fan Yan Na in 132 AD according to a famous Chinese traveler. In ancient times, Bamyan was a key stopping point on the Silk Road.
In the north-east, Bamyan is bordered by provinces of Baghlan and Parwan; Wardak and Ghazni in the south-east; Daikundi in the south-west; Ghor in the west; Sar-e Pol in the north-west; and Samangan in the north.
Globally, Bamyan Province is known for its historical sites like the now destroyed Buddha statues surrounded by more than 3000 caves, Band-e Amir National Park, Dara-i-Ajhdar, Feroz Bahar, Astopa, Klegan, Kaferan etc.
As of September 2011, the total population of Bamyan Province was estimated at 368,395 – comprising of 190,310 males and 178,085 females. It has a sex ratio of 107 males for every 100 females, higher than the sex ratio reported for the whole country (at 105 males per 100 females). The large majority of the population resides in rural areas. According to Central Statistics Organization (CSO) data 2010-11 data, it was more than 97 percent.
The CSO data 2011 shows that Bamyan Province had a very young population with half of the population younger than 16.6 years.
For population aged 15 years or older, Bamyan had a literacy rate of 31.7 percent. It was 45.4 percent for males and 16.5 percent for females.
It is a multi-ethnic tribal society with overwhelming majority of Hazaras, followed by Tajiks and minority groups of Tatars and Pashtuns.
Bamyan is mainly an agrarian province with more than 80 percent of the households deriving revenue from agriculture. In rural areas, only 8 percent households depend on trade and services, around 47 percent earn income through non-farm related labor and for 36 percent, major source of revenue comes from livestock. Handicrafts are also produced in most districts of Bamyan Province but particularly in Waras, Punjab and in Bamyan
With the introduction of National Horticulture and Livestock Project in Bamyan in 2013, many farmers have been encouraged to engage in horticulture. As a result of this, about 200 hectares of land was turned into orchards and vineyards with support from local farmers.
Bamyan is very popular for its potatoes and is particularly famous for a “shuttle system” of planting. Seed potatoes are first grown in winter in Jalalabad (warm area) and then transported to Bamyan for spring re-planting.
Among the population aged 15 years or older, 60.5 percent of population was found to be ‘not working’, according to the Socio-Demographic and Economic Survey data from 2011. The proportion of the unemployed was highest for males having reached the university level in comparison to those with no schooling due to limited number of jobs available despite attaining higher education.
Mohammad Tahir Zahir is the current governor of Bamyan Province. He was appointed by President Ashraf Ghani in 2015. His appointment met with a lot of protests. It was alleged that Zahir was incompetent and was elected only because he campaigned for President Ashraf Ghani in the 2014 presidential elections. He succeeded Gen. Ghulam Ali Wahdat, who was appointed next to Habiba Sarabi – Afghanistan’s first female governor.
After the fall of Taliban regime in 2001, Bamyan has been among the relatively peaceful provinces of Afghanistan. However, insurgency activities continue to take place by anti-government armed militant groups. Last year in June, district governor was killed in the province in a militant ambush. Recently, an eleven member rebel group pleaded for reconciliation and peace in Bamyan Province.
An ‘Election Museum’ chronicling Afghanistan’s electoral journey has been recently inaugurated in Bamyan city.
Mukhopadhyay, D. (2014) Warlords, Strongman Governors and the state in Afghanistan. New York: Cambridge University Press
Morgan, L. (2012) The Buddhas of Bamiyan. Cambridge: Harvard University Press