THE future for Afghanistan remains as unpredictable as ever, a British MP has warned, as the country prepares for the election of a new leader.
But Rory Stewart, who set up a charity in Kabul with the backing of Prince Charles and President Hamid Karzai, said he had seen a marked change in culture in Afghanistan, and the emergence of a new "plugged-in" generation.
The Scots-born MP for Penrith and the Border, established Turquoise Mountain in 2006 with the aim of transforming a dilapidated area of Kabul into a thriving artisan community.
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Nearly eight years on, the organisation has regenerated Murad Khane in Kabul's old city, turning it from a rubbish-filled area set for demolition into a centre of arts and crafts. From dilapidated houses buried under two metres of rubbish, the area now has water, electricity and sanitation, as well as a new health clinic and primary school.
It is also home to an internationally accredited Institute for Afghan Arts and Architecture, where a new generation of artisans learn woodwork, calligraphy, ceramics and jewellery.
The school trains more than 200 men and women each year, helping them set up their own businesses.
The organisation has sold nearly £1.4m-worth of traditional crafts and formed partnerships with international brands like Monsoon and the British Museum in the UK and Kate Spade in the US. One of its graduates is leading a team of calligraphers in a project to decorate a five-star hotel in Mecca.
But despite its success, Mr Stewart admitted the future of Turquoise Mountain is as unpredictable as that of Afghanistan itself.
He said: "I don't think in Afghanistan you can ever be completely confident about the future, it's an unpredictable country.
"We will watch carefully who comes out of this election. It's possible that a new president could come in and say, 'I don't care about heritage, we'll demolish all this."