I just wrote up a WHOLE entry only for it to get deleted! Will write again later after I get over it!
Archive for June, 2009
(* Entekhabaat is the Dari and Pashto word for ‘Elections’ and 88 is the Afghan calender year)
Only 18 minutes left before I finish work, let’s see how much I can type.
I’m done with my work work if that makes sense, and now I’m just kicking back waiting to go home. Nothing new is happening, I’m so over appearing ‘anonymous’. It really limits me revealing so much more. Like there was a Village Fete (V1) and it was so cool, it was a fun day for everyone. Of course the local Afghans thought ‘Family day’ meant showing up on their own *rolls eyes*. Only 2 brought their wives! a couple more bought their children so it was cool. I was doing the face painting for the kids and of course to them this was a huge mess! I managed to talk one of the kids into it and the father was like ‘you want to do your face????’ but he got over it when I explained that it washes off. There was a 1 year old American-Phillipino kid, she was SOO adorable – of course she was too restless and didn’t let me do her face. So I did her fathers instead. They played games like dunking ppl into the water and other stuff you wouldn’t’ normally see in Kabul!
Yesterday was officially the first day of campaigning announced by ECC, today on my way to work there were posters everywhere. Karza with his running mates – including Marshal Fahim (errrr… no comment!!!) Ashraf Ghani had begun campaigning a long time ago – and it was illegal to do so. Not setting a good example to the rest of the country!!! Despite warnings, he refused to stop. So anyways, there are even MORE posters of the long nosed, bald man everywhere. Haven’t seen much of Dr Abdullah around.
Personally, I think Ashraf Ghani is our hope! If he lives up to his word, he’s the ideal president. Not only that, he also selects his cabinet/running mates based on meritocracy – not based on ethnic backgrounds etc. And he was also Minister of Finance – Afghanistan is in dire need of someone to fix up the economy. My only problem is that his wife is Lebanese, I want Afghanistan’s first lady to be an outspoken, educated Afghan who will be a role model for the rest of the Afghan women. Zeenat Karzai failed to do that, and it was such a shame because of her medical background. Maybe Ghani’s Lebanese wife can make a positive difference in Afghanistan and be a useful ‘First Lady’. We’ll see…
(7 minutes left…)
Errrmmm… what else, work is alright! I so need a holiday! And I can’t WAIT to get one!
I’m going to sign out now.
Btw the other day we went to Chicken St and I bought this really cool turquoise set for $120. Will put pics up 😀
See ya, have some work to do before going.
(2 mintues left…_)
Update: Three unknown candidates have been kicked out by the ECC. The competition continues between the three biggies – Karzai, Ghani and Abdullah!
Campaigning begins tomorrow…
Ashraf Ghani, offering ‘a new beginning’ for Afghanistan
By Sardar AHMAD
June 13, 2009
Ashraf Ghani built an impressive international career during many years of exile and now he wants Afghanistan’s top job, emerging as one of President Hamid Karzai’s toughest rivals.
Ghani, whose campaign is billed “A New Beginning”, says he has a moral obligation to stand in the August 20 elections and offer his country an alternative to years of misrule.
“This is a government of corruption, violation of the human rights, continued violence, waste of public resources,” he told AFP in a recent interview.
The academic was himself once part of Karzai’s government, serving as finance minister between 2002 and 2004 after returning to Afghanistan at the ouster of the Islamist Taliban regime in 2001.
Ghani, an ethnic Pashtun born in a village near Kabul in 1949, had left in 1977 to do a master’s degree in anthropology but was stopped from returning by the Soviet invasion and ensuing years of war.
During his time in exile, he finished the degree and went on to earn a doctorate before taking on various academic positions at top US universities and joining the World Bank in 1991 as an anthropologist.
It was a job he held until the ouster of the Taliban, when he was quickly drawn into international efforts to help his destitute and shattered nation.
His stint as finance minister resulted in an achievement of which he is proud – the creation the National Solidarity Programme, a project aimed at empowering and helping the rural poor who make up the bulk of Afghan society.
“Over 500 million dollars has gone to these villages,” Ghani told AFP.
He believe this success will translate into votes at polling day.
“They know my voice,” he said. “The only person who has addressed the issues of rural Afghanistan has been me … you put me in front of any rural village in Afghanistan and see who connects to who.”
Ghani has meanwhile established one of the most sophisticated campaigns in the field of 41, including a website that offers wallpapers, widgets and web banners and describes him as the “most qualified candidate”.
His vision includes “one million dwelling units, one million jobs, 10,000 megawatts of electricity, the opening up of central Afghanistan, an agriculture where we raise our income per capita from one dollar a day to four dollars a day,” he told AFP.
He has a 20-year development plan to boost the economy and create jobs, saying that rampant unemployment is one key drivers of the Taliban insurgency which relies on young men recruits.
“In two years, my goal would be that 60 percent of the population will be saying that things are going in the right direction,” he said confidently.
Ghani, who gave up his US citizenship to run in the election and has two children with his Lebanese wife, has also been chancellor of Kabul University.
In 2006 he was in the running to replace Kofi Annan as UN secretary general.
He offers the Afghan public a sound plan for growth that has been lacking, analyst and parliamentarian Ahmad Behzad told AFP.
“Presenting serious economic projects will be his slogan and that could well influence the public since Karzai’s government has had no proper economic strategies for the country,” he said.
Oh I WISH!!!
You were born in Afghanistan, raised in the west, considered yourself ‘Afghan’ all your life. You decide to come to ‘Kabuljan’ for a holiday. You hang around, dressed in your peraan tomban thinking you fit in and that these people don’t know you’re from ‘khaarij’.
Body of abducted Afghan-American found in well
By Frozan Rahmani
The dead body of an Afghan-American was found in a well in Paghman district five months after his abduction from Kabul City and his killers have been arrested, National Security Directorate (NSD) said in a statement on Thursday.
The body of Sultan Ahmand was recovered from a well in Qala-Naw area of the district with his hands and feet tied, the statement said.
Ahmad was abducted five months back from Kabul by Shamim Ahmad, a resident of 9th district of Kabul and Mohammad Daud and Mohammad Sidiq residents of Paghman district along with his motor car, the statement said.
The accused had confessed to their crime and said they killed Sultan Ahmad on the very first day of his abduction and thrown his body into a well in Qala-i-Naw area of Paghman district.
The perpetrators had unveiled that they wanted to transfer Sultan Ahmad to Kapisa.
The case is under investigation and the dead body has been subjected to forensic check up, the statement concluded.
So, I was told that my blog is ‘drying up’. And now here I am to water/moisturise it. Kabul has been very relaxed lately. It’s great, but I can’t help the itty bitty pessimism in me and think that a big explosion is bound to happen anytime soon. Especially with the upcoming elections just around the corner, let’s see what our Mullah Omie (Omar) has in store! Actually, how about let’s NOT see! I hope he’s given up and realized that there is no hope for him to win.
On my way home yesterday, I was looking at the people and I don’t know why – I just felt sorry for them but at the same time a touch of admiration. I wonder what keeps them going, what motivates them? What is the driving force in their life? If I was in their place, I would be devastated at the lack of opportunities and not a future with no finishing line – no goals. Not to mention the low quality schools. Maybe I’m just being naïve and plain ignorant but I can’t help it! Ah well… I guess I have plenty lots to learn.
Wow, it’s June already, time FLIES! The end is near for us – we are leaving Afghanistan at the end of this year, Inshallah. Even though I’m beginning to like it, or maybe it’s because I know I’m leaving that I’m starting to like it. Ha! Anyhoodles, I just want to leave safe and sound. Just like Iraq, the tension in Afghanistan is going to heighten heaps more and then drop sharply. That’s what the experts are predicting!
Oh yeah, another phrase used by the military which I find complete BS is ‘escalation of force’. What is that you may ask… here is an excerpt from an article:
How Afghanistan’s Little Tragedies Add Up
By Jason Motlagh
Tuesday, May. 26, 2009
There are large-scale civilian deaths in Afghanistan that make headlines; and then there are the small incidents that are barely noticed at all. That was the fate of 12-year-old Benafsha Shaheem.
On May 3, she was traveling with family members from her village in western Farah province to a wedding party in the neighboring province of Herat. Packed into a white Toyota Corolla wagon, they neared the outskirts of the city of Herat when, according to a report compiled by the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, the vehicle was fired on by an Italian patrol convoy. Benafsha was seated in the middle of the backseat wearing a red dress, her relatives say. She was shot in the face and died instantly. Her mother was wounded in the chest. (See pictures of U.S. troops operating in Afghanistan’s deadly Korengal Valley.)
Italian security forces based in Herat province said the vehicle was repeatedly warned to stop before it was fired on. Benafsha’s uncle, Ahmad Wali, who was driving, says traffic was moving in both directions but that rain made visibility poor. Suddenly, he recalls, sparks flew in front as armored vehicles came into view. Glass was sprayed into his face.
Such incidents are not uncommon in Afghanistan today and parallel thes situation in Iraq where similar shootings were instrumental in turning popular sentiments against the Coalition forces led by the United Sates. In Afghanistan, as it was in Iraq, when civilians die, international forces say that a suspicious vehicle approached a checkpoint or convoy and failed to heed calls as well as possibly warning shots to stop. After those standard procedures are done, an “escalation of force” takes place.
Photos of the Shaheem family’s vehicle show that multiple bullets passed through both the front and rear windshield. Afghan investigators point out that the incident took place in daylight, in moving traffic on a main road, and most of the passengers were women. Given these facts, they say, it’s hard to gauge why shots were fired. A coalition spokesman in Kabul said he was not free to discuss the shooting in more detail because of an ongoing probe.
Benafsha’s death yielded just a few paragraphs in the day’s wire reports, lost in the stream of bigger names and numbers. She was wrapped in a blanket inside a particle board coffin, and loaded into the trunk of the Toyota where her brother sat next to her remains for the long drive back. Within hours, another deadly U.S. airstrike in Farah’s Bala Boluk district would kill scores of civilians and reverberate from Kabul to Washington. Criticized around the world and beset by demonstrations in Afghanistan, U.S. military continues to dispute the high death toll estimates in Bola Boluk. But even so, it is low-key tragedies like Benafsha’s that are adding up.
According to United Nations figures, of the 2,1118 Afghan civilians killed in 2008 — an almost 40% increase versus the year before — coalition and Afghan forces accounted for 828, largely from errant airstrikes and raids. Until the Bola Boluk incident, one of the worst tolls was exacted on celebrants of another wedding occasion in July in eastern Nangarhar province. Mistaken intelligence reports of an insurgent gathering prompted a U.S. airstrike that left 47 people dead.
The Taliban is still to blame in most instances, using misinformation and human shields to intentionally draw civilian casualties and exploit the backlash to their advantage. Brig.Gen. Richard Blanchette, the coalition spokesman, says the stricter protocols have come into force down the chain of command to ensure operational decisions are fully vetted, with additional confirmation on the ground before airpower is deployed. This means “taking more time” if necessary, he explains, or if civilians are at risk: “just cancel it.” While roadside incidents are trickier since they involve split-second judgment, there is a top-down emphasis on restraint. “We are spending an enormous amount of time trying to make the system as safe as possible for civilians,” he says. (See pictures of the perils of childbirth in Afghanistan.)
In the aftermath of Benafsha’s death, investigators from the Afghan rights commission said the presiding Italian commander contacted them to inquire how compensation might be made. Past settlements have averaged about $2,000, distributed through the Afghan government. In a rare gesture, the commander himself later traveled by helicopter to Benafsha’s village in Farah where they say he offered her family several thousand dollars. The family refused to accept the money upfront. But when it was agreed the funds would go toward building a school in Benafsha’s honor, they relented.
Contacted by phone, Aref Shaheem, Benafsha’s father, angrily said that coalition forces were “only killing people.” They claim to be here to protect Afghans, he says, but they continue to take innocent lives. “They can’t be trusted.” As a result, he argues, the Taliban in his area only grows stronger. He says it was little consolation to learn the soldiers responsible for his daughter’s death were punished, as investigators say they were told. (The coalition would not confirm.) She is gone, he says, and so is any vestige of faith he had left in the Afghan government and its foreign backers.
Escalation of force, nice use of words to lessen the agro of the situation. Oh yeah, and how the article mentions ‘compensation’ for the families after they shoot one of the children, they have a term for that too – solatia!
Nevertheless, I don’t entirely blame the soldiers. I’ve said this before in my previous post and my stance has not changed. I’ve seen the way some of the drivers drive behind ISAF tanks – they swerve their dodgy looking Corolla in zigzag patterns, trying to bypass the tank or what I say ‘being cocky’. It’s like WHY BOTHER? You won’t get through! They are supposed to keep clear, a distance of at least 10 metres or so – but they just don’t get it.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not fair that the children suffer. But I partly blame the driver for being cocky and the soldier for being ultra paranoid!
Anyhoo, another thing that happened just this morning was a document that I needed to print for the upcoming elections. I told the national staff EXACTLY what I want, and they did it fine! I cross checked it with other colleagues and they understood it perfectly. Then along comes UN foreign expat and decides she knows the language better than the nationals. Which she does not! So I’m meeting with her today and will tell her nicely that we are in no position to tell the locals how to speak their language.
Oh yeah, I’m going to start up a ‘You know you have been in Afghanistan for way too long when…’ list! So yeah, it should be cool! J Actually, I’ll do that now 😀
As for the previous trips we took around Kabul, I promise to put pics up. I’m at work right now so I will put it on my flash drive tonight and upload it soon!
Oh another thing, the other night, we had a ‘movie night’ and we watched La Vie En Rose – a French movie based on the life of Edith Piaf. AMAZING actress – she got the Oscar awards and rightfully so. It was a depressing movie, I guess that’s because she had a morbidly depressing life. But it was truly amazing! I highly, highly recommend it!
In the meantime, khuda hafiz.
In my upcoming posts – I will write a true story about a 52 year old man who married a 13 year old girl, just have to figure out some complications first.