ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:
This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.
MICHELE NORRIS, Host:
NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson has the story.
SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON: That Bamiyan is one of Afghanistan's poorest provinces, it's apparent in its capital of the same name. Old cars and motorbikes bump frantically along what passes for Main Street near the famous giant Buddhas blown up by the Taliban. The road is covered with what Afghans call stone carpet, a mixture of rocks and dirt that makes for a teeth-clenching ride.
(SOUNDBITE OF GENERATOR)
SARHADDI NELSON: Privately owned generators roar in front of stores. They're the only way to get power here. Bakery owner Sia Hussein(ph) says that Bamiyan is best described in one word - frustrating.
SIA HUSSEIN: (Through translator) Bamiyan is Afghanistan's most left behind province. How could anyone be satisfied? If we for one minute stop hosing down the road in front of my store, the dust would be so bad I couldn't even work here.
SARHADDI NELSON: Down the street, bookseller Barad Ali(ph) who has spent all of his 60 years here says he doesn't believe things will get better.
BARAD ALI: (Through translator) Afghan President Hamid Karzai promised us in his first year that he'd pave the road but not even that has happened.
SARHADDI NELSON: Many residents share his anger at Karzai but surprisingly a few direct their ire at the governor - a staunch Karzai ally who made the same promises to Bamiyan residents when she took office two years ago.
ALI: (Through translator) She's one person and can't do everything. The governor is good.
SARHADDI NELSON: Governor Habiba Surabi smiles when told of such praise. But the 49- year-old also shares her constituents' frustration.
HABIBA SURABI: Of course, if I lack the success the province no one else will be success - this is the thought of the people and I think they are true.
SARHADDI NELSON: But for all of the governor's fame, Bamiyan which has none of the security issues that hamper reconstruction in most of Afghanistan has pretty much been ignored. Attention and funds are instead lavished on less safe provinces that are in danger of being lost to the Taliban. Paul Fishstein of the Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit - a think tank in Kabul.
PAUL FISHSTEIN: She doesn't represent any of the major political parties in Bamiyan and which obviously has plusses and minuses. On the one hand, she may not have access to the type of political power and influence that she would if she were. On the other hand, because she's non-political, she also retains support of many of the people.
SARHADDI NELSON: Surabi, a mother of three who has a pharmacy degree, says she gave up her personal life to take this job that Karzai offered her. She sees her husband and teenaged boys - who stayed behind in Kabul - once a month. But it was important to her to become a role model, especially because she's a woman and a Hazara, a Shiite Muslim descended from Mongol invaders. The Hazara has formed the majority in Bamiyan. Surabi felt it was a place she could make a difference. At first, her goal was to make Bamiyan a hallmark of post-Taliban Afghanistan - to turn it into a premier tourist destination and lift it out of poverty. Today, her dreams are far more modest.
SURABI: At least if I can put a cover of asphalt on the road in Bamiyan City then after that I will say goodbye to the people: This is my desire and my wish.
SARHADDI NELSON: Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, NPR News, Bamiyan.
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