New Afghan governor pledges order
BBC News / 14 September
The man chosen to replace Ismail Khan as governor of Herat has stressed the need for restoring order in the riot-torn western Afghan city. Supporters of Ismail Khan, a legendary local strongman, rioted after President Hamid Karzai replaced him with Mohammed Khair Khuwa.
Aid agencies and the United Nations in Afghanistan have said they are dismayed at being targeted in the violence. UN staff were evacuated from Herat after rioters attacked their offices.
UN spokesman in Kabul, Manoel de Almedia e Silva says it was the worst violence he had seen directed at international organizations since the Taleban were ousted in 2001. "I have been here for two-and-a-half years and I have never seen anything like this," he said.
The offices of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan was targeted along with agencies such as the Afghan independent human rights commission and the International Federation of Red Cross Societies.
"The office is in ashes, everything is burned, they spilt gasoline and threw matches and the whole office does not exist anymore," deputy UN special representative in Afghanistan, Filippo Grande, is quoted as saying by AFP.
The BBC's Andrew North, who visited Herat over the weekend, says the violence is not a good start for the new governor. UN officials have a critical role in organising Afghanistan's presidential elections, due to take place next month, but are now unlikely to return to the city until order is restored.
Our correspondent says symbolically Mr Khuwa chose to meet with the press in a guest house once occupied by Ismail Khan. The governor pledged to take steps to ensure that the violence was not repeated and hoped that the aid agencies would soon return to Herat.
"I'm very sorry and sad over what happened to the United Nations and non-governmental offices here in Herat," he said. The guest house also houses a US military command post - suggesting Mr Khuwa, a former diplomat, could have trouble demonstrating he was not installed and protected by US firepower.
At least seven people are reported to have died in a weekend of violence, triggered by President Karzai's decision to remove Mr Khan from Herat and offer him a minister's job in the capital, Kabul - an offer he refused.
At least 60 people, including 15 US troops, were reportedly wounded. The new governor will have to contend with continued significant support for Mr Khan in the city, and the question of whether he will start disarming the militia force he controls, our correspondent adds. Mr Khan, one of the best-known former mujahideen leaders, had ruled Herat for years and has resisted the president's authority.
New governor of Afghan province wants aid agencies back
AFP Interview: KABUL, Sept 14 (AFP) - The new governor of Afghanistan's riot-hit western province of Herat has told AFP that he hopes aid agency staff, who pulled out of the provincial capital after violent attacks, will return soon.
The United Nations and several non-governmental agencies withdrew staff from the troubled city of Herat on Monday after their offices were attacked in weekend rioting by mobs unhappy over the sacking of governor Ismail Khan.
Agencies pulled more than 60 of their workers out of the city after demonstrators attacked their aid offices on Sunday. Four people were killed and more than 50 were injured in the clashes.
'Today I met with the UN staff, they complained about what happened,' governor Sayed Mohammad Khairkhwa told AFP by telephone. 'I assured them that it will not be repeated again, we will do anything that we can to ensure their safety,' he said, noting the aid workers were most needed in Herat.
'They will leave for a few days -- I hope they will come back very soon,' Khairkhwa said. 'I'm very sorry and sad over what happened to the United Nations and non-governmental offices here in Herat.'
Rioting by Khan's supporters began after President Hamid Karzai sacked the regional leader from his governor's post. Khan, an ethnic-Tajik, remains one of the most powerful Afghan mujahedeen warlords and was prominent in the fight to oust the Islamic fundamentalist Taliban regime in late 2001.
He regained power in Herat shortly after their fall, but has since been engaged in fighting with rival warlords from neighboring provinces. Khairkhwa said he had been appointed to head the region with the aim of securing peace.
'Herat has had problems internally and with neighboring provinces in the past -- the government considered me suitable to resolve these problems,' Khairkhwa said.
'The government considered that I can play a role in bringing peace and stability to the region,' he said. During his first day at work he met governors of neighboring provinces who assured him of their cooperation, Khairkhwa said.
Herat province, which borders Iran and Turkmenistan, was the scene of fierce factional fighting last month between militia loyal to Khan and those of rival commander Amanullah Khan in which scores were killed.
Khan, besides resisting a national disarmament program, had been criticized by human rights' groups for his Taliban-style restrictions on women.
'I will provide civil rights for the citizens including women,' Khairkhwa said of his plans, asking people, including his predecessor, to cooperate in achieving the goals.
Khairkhwa, 50, an English speaker, was Afghanistan's ambassador to Ukraine before he was recalled to take up the Herat job. Khan's dismissal marks Karzai's latest effort, just weeks before October 9 presidential elections, to rein in the powerful warlords who control much of Afghanistan outside Kabul.
Khan, the self-styled 'Emir of Herat', had been accused of refusing to hand over lucrative duties earned on goods flowing across the border with Iran.
Aid workers dismayed after attacks in Afghan city of Herat
by Waheedullah Massoud
HERAT, Afghanistan, Sept 14 (AFP) - International aid workers in the western Afghan city of Herat expressed dismay Tuesday after being targeted in weekend rioting that forced many humanitarian staff to flee the city.
Offices belonging to international organisations and the United Nations were looted and torched when supporters of governor Ismael Khan went on the rampage after the regional warlord was kicked out of office at the weekend.
The targeted attacks forced the United Nations and several non-governmental agencies to withdraw some 60 staff from Herat on Monday. Four people were killed and more than 50 others including three US soldiers were injured in the clashes.
"Oh my God what have they done to our office," said Mohammed Shoib from the International Organisation for Migration as he returned to work Monday. His office was reduced to ash and blackened walls.
"The rioters throwing stones at the soldiers was the most scary part because they had to defend themselves and that could kill people," said Shokrullah, who uses only one name, as he helped his injured brother walk to hospital.
Khan loyalists were angered by President Hamid Karzai's decision Saturday to sack the governor, in what was seen as a move to stretch Kabul's shaky hold on power beyond the capital to the provinces ahead of October's presidential vote.
The United Nations' spokesman in Afghanistan, Manoel de Almeida e Silva, said the targeted attack was the worst violence he had seen directed at international organisations since the Taliban were forced from power. "I have been here for two and a half years and I have never seen anything like this."
Deputy UN special representative in Afghanistan, Filippo Grandi, said the damage to offices of the UN Assistance mission in Afghanistan was among the worst he had ever seen inflicted on premises used by the world body.
"I've seen in my life many destroyed UN premises but I have hardly ever seen the type of destruction that I saw. "The office is in ashes, everything is burned, they spilt gasoline and threw matches and the whole office does not exist anymore," said Grandi.
"Other aid agencies... the Afghan independent human rights commission, the Danish aid committee and the International Federation of Red Cross societies, all the agencies suffered attacks either of their offices or of their accommodation or both," said Grandi.
"The attacks where targeted, that is something that cannot be disputed," he said. "The houses which have been attacked are the only houses attacked, looted, and burned in a particular area."
"This was evidently linked to the political changes... and the one manner to express protest in a way that gets a lot of visibility is to attack international organisations," he said.
Khan appealed for calm on provincial television at the request of Karzai, in an attempt to end the violence. "I hope with patience, tolerance and a single aim you people ensure security and stability in your country," said Khan. A curfew was imposed on Sunday to quell the simmering tensions.
But Khan, seen to have run the province as his private fiefdom, was hesitant to disarm thousands of his private militia forces. Abdul Razaq from Herat hospital said in between treating the wounded that getting rid of Khan had been necessary.
"It was total warlordism, it was the right decision by the central government to change the governor. "The central government must have the authority to change and replace its governors so what are these demonstrations for?" said Razaq.
Herat province, some 700 kilometers (more than 400 miles) west of Kabul, shares a long border with Iran and Turkmenistan and is among Afghanistan's most prosperous and wealthiest.
The ancient city of Herat has been among a handful of stable parts of Afghanistan since the US-led forces toppled the Taliban in late 2001. Sayed Mohammad Khairkhwa, the new governor of Herat, said he hoped that aid agency staff would return soon.
"I assured them that it will not be repeated again, we will do anything that we can to ensure their safety," he told AFP, saying that aid workers were desperately needed in the province.
Violence May Signal Final Phase In Effort Against Ismail Khan
RFE/RL 9/14/2004 Ron Synovitz
Prague - Experts on Afghanistan see yesterday's violence in the western city of Herat as the final phase of a long struggle between the central government and deposed Herat Province Governor Mohammad Ismail Khan.
The deaths of seven people during riots by Ismail Khan's supporters came a day after the powerful warlord was sacked as Herat governor by Afghan leader Hamid Karzai. But in fact, relations between Herat and Kabul have been souring for more than a year and a half over Ismail Khan's refusal to pay the central government millions of dollars in import duties that his militia fighters have collected on goods from Iran.
Since March, Ismail Khan's private militia also has battled several rival militia groups around Herat. Last month, Ismail Khan lost his ability to generate import-duty revenue. That's because militias like that of his long-time rival, the ethnic Pashtun commander Amanullah Khan, surrounded Herat and effectively cut the city off from key transit routes and a strategic airport.
Supporters of Ismail Khan stormed the gates of a UN compound in Herat before looting and burning the offices there. It was one of six compounds attacked by the angry crowd on yesterday.
John Sifton, a researcher for the U.S.-based group Human Rights Watch, has been reporting on the behavior of Ismail Khan and his militia forces for years. "Factors have been coming together and there is no simple explanation for how we got to where we are now," he told RFE/RL. "One thing that is clear is that Ismail Khan's power has been diminished over the last few months -- not only by advances of [his long-time rival, commander] Amanullah Khan, but by dissension of his own commanders who understand that in the long term, they may have a better chance of holding onto power by joining with the Kabul-based government of Hamid Karzai."
Sifton said there is no doubt that Ismail Khan was severely weakened by a series of military setbacks in recent months that have brought his rivals to the outskirts of Herat. But he also notes that Ismail Khan has a proven ability to make a comeback from seemingly hopeless situations.
"It is clear that he is not as strong as he was, otherwise none of this would have been possible. On the other hand, the fact that these supporters of his took to the streets and, with relative impunity, attacked six different compounds -- it either means that there's a lot of chaos on the streets or that he continues to have power. But either way, the situation is pretty fluid. And we will see in the next few days which way it goes," Sifton said.
But Ahmed Rashid, the author of the critically acclaimed book "Taliban," told RFE/RL that he thinks yesterday's events mark the beginning of the end of Ismail Khan's time as the ruler of a self-styled fiefdom in western Afghanistan. "I think [these protests against Ismail Khan's sacking] will blow over," Rashid said. "And I think most people in Herat will be quite happy to have a new governor. But it will take a bit of time. [Ismail Khan] can be a spoiler over the next few weeks. And he can certainly create problems. But I don't think he is going to be able to create major problems. And I think [the street demonstrations] will die down. I don't think there is that kind of public support for him. I'm sure he will be now watched very closely as to what he does."
Rashid rejected the analysis of observers who suggest Karzai sacked Ismail Khan to show voters that he will be a strong against warlords if he is elected on 9 October. "Clearly the timing is bad. And I don't think this is Karzai's timing. I think Karzai was very keen to get rid of Ismail Khan as early as May of 2003," he said. "What we did not have [in the past] was American backing for that move. The recent clashes between Ismail Khan and the Pashtun warlord Amanullah have finally made the Americans wake up to the fact that they have to back Karzai -- they have to back the Afghan government -- in getting rid of these warlords. So I think the timing has really been forced upon them -- upon the Americans. Whereas the Afghans have been quite supportive of wanting to get rid of [Ismail Khan] for more than a year."
The "Financial Times" of London today noted that local residents of Herat city have accused Pashtun government officials of orchestrating last month's attack on Herat by Amanullah Khan. The newspaper notes that one unnamed Afghan government official has said that the allegation held some truth.
"This is an accusation that Ismail Khan has made," Rashid said. "And I think certainly some of the leading ministers -- the reformists -- are Pashtuns in the finance and economic side in the government. They have been pushing Karzai very hard to get rid of Ismail Khan. But I don't think that really implicates these ministers in trying to rouse Pashtuns to join Amanullah and force [Ismail Khan] out through force."
Rashid explained that the Afghan Finance and Economy ministries have been trying for years to get Ismail Khan to deliver to Kabul the import duties collected on goods transported from Iran. The United Nations has complained since 2002 that Ismail Khan's "prohibitive" import duties were blocking humanitarian aid shipments. Payments demanded by Ismail Khan's fighters also have prevented many poor Afghan refugees from returning from Iran.
74 Spanish troops embark on mission for Afghanistan
MADRID, Sept. 14 (Xinhua) -- A contingent of 74 Spanish troops embarked on a trip to Afghanistan on Tuesday to join the international force deployed in the Central Asian country.
Aboard a Boeing 707 plane, they left Zaragoza for Manas, from where they would be taken to the Afghan cities of Kabul and Mazar- e-Sharif on a Hercules C-130 cargo plane, according to press reports here.
The Spanish contingent is tasked with proivding medical assistance to the international force in Afghanistan and helping maintain security during the elections slated for Oct. 9.
Afghan Reconstruction Minister Criticizes PRTs
Afghanistan's reconstruction minister, Amin Farhang, has said that the Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) fielded by U.S.-led coalition forces have failed to instill security, AFP reported. In an interview to be published on 14 September in the German business daily "Handelsblatt," Farhang said the PRTs are not dealing aggressively enough with insurgent activity.
"I criticize the concept of the PRTs fundamentally," Farhang said. "For me, the PRTs were from the beginning for a combination of security and reconstruction. You can do reconstruction when you have security. But when the PRTs do not intervene when something happens, that is wrong." Farhang said that German-led PRT teams are ignoring the drug trade and failing to take military action when needed, such as in the case of recent clashes in the northern town of Faizabad.
"Drugs and reconstruction cannot be separated from each other," Farhang said. "Otherwise it is a waste of money." There are currently 14 coalition PRTs in Afghanistan, and Germany has offered to set up an additional team this month to speed reconstruction efforts ahead of presidential elections scheduled for October.
Complete mission in Afghanistan, Inderfurth tells Bush
Indo-Asian News Service 9/14/2004
Washington - The US and the world community should recommit themselves to finish the task of preventing Afghanistan becoming a "sanctuary for international terrorism and drug trafficking", says South Asia expert Karl Inderfurth.
The Iraq war has distracted the Americans from finishing what was started in the former Taliban-controlled country. A larger crisis looms large unless the US recommitted itself to the unfinished task in Afghanistan -- "the incubator for Al Qaeda and for the Sep 11 terror attacks on the US," Inderfurth said.
In a recent article titled "Afghanistan: A job half done", he quoted the 9/11 commission's final report to say that the US and the international community should signal a renewed and strengthened long-term commitment to Afghanistan and redouble efforts "to secure the country, disarm militias and curtail the age of warlord rule".
The 9/11 commission found that almost three years after US-led forces removed the Taliban regime from power, "grave challenges" remain. "Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters have regrouped...Warlords control much of the country beyond Kabul...Economic development remains a distant hope...The narcotics trade is again booming."
Some warn, the commission reported, that Afghanistan is near "the brink of chaos". The recent deadly bombing in Kabul by the Taliban -- the forerunner of a campaign to disrupt Afghanistan's Oct 9 presidential election -- underscores this dire prediction.
Inderfurth, a former assistant secretary of state for South Asia in the Clinton administration, said after initial success in toppling the Taliban, "the Bush administration has mishandled Afghanistan badly. Its reliance on local Afghan warlords, in many cases the same warlords who made Afghanistan a failed state in the 1990s, very likely allowed Osama bin Laden to escape at Tora Bora."
The administration compounded that mistake by diverting critical intelligence and military resources to Iraq before the mission was accomplished in Afghanistan despite warnings from many concerned US experts, he said.
According to Inderfurth, a successful plan for this "key battleground in the war on terror" includes moving on many fronts simultaneously in close cooperation with "our partners in the international community."
After resisting pleas from the Afghan government and the UN for nearly two years, the Bush administration finally agreed to expand the size and mission of the International Security Assistance Force now under North Atlantic Treaty Organization command.
Additional troops from Italy and Spain will bolster security for the October presidential election. The next step would be to demobilise the warlords. The presence of large warlord militias -- with as many as 60,000 fighters across the country -- remains a continuing challenge to security in Afghanistan and the authority and viability of President Hamid Karzai's government.
The UN demobilization programme has been moving at a snail's pace in part because the US has remained aloof. The third step would be to attack the drug trade. The US should double its counter-narcotics assistance to the Karzai government, develop guidelines for joint operations to destroy labs and interrupt trafficking and, with the UN and other partners, do more to promote alternate crops, Inderfurth said.
The fourth step would be to accelerate rebuilding efforts. President George W. Bush promised a Marshall Plan for Afghanistan, but he has not delivered. In fact, the administration's budget for next year cuts reconstruction funding nearly in half.
The Afghan government and the World Bank estimate reconstruction needs at $28 billion over the next seven years. The US should make a multiyear funding commitment to support half of that amount -- a modest $2 billion a year -- and challenge the international community to cover the other half, Inderfurth wrote.
There must be no "half-measures" when a new administration takes office in the US next January. Afghanistan's future - and the national security of the US - depend on success.
"We must finish the job we have started in Afghanistan," said Inderfurth, currently a professor at the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University.
Pak to release over 200 Afghan detainees
ISLAMABAD - Pakistan has announced to release more than two hundred Afghan prisoners soon. According to a BBC report on Tuesday this decision of releasing Afghan prisoners was in the wake of an accord reached between President General Pervez Musharraf and Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
Pakistan already has released many Afghan prisoners who were held captive on minor charges and release of more Afghan prisoners is in the offing. The swap of prisoners will further improve Pak-Afghan relations, said Abdul Hali Farahi head of Afghan consulate in Peshawar.
According to a report of VOA on Tuesday he has appreciated this swapping of prisoners as recently Afghan authorities handed over 368 prisoners to Pakistani diplomats in Kabul. All these prisoners have now arrived in Peshawar.
He also welcomed Pakistan decision to release of more than 200 Afghan prisoners. Afghan government on the other hand has released more than 360 prisoners held in Afghan jails since fall of Taliban government.
A jehadi's idealism dies in Afghan jail
Indian Express 9/14/2004
PUL-I-CHARKHI - Amir Khan was an idealistic young man studying at a madarsa in Pakistan when the call to arms replaced the call to prayer.
Days after the September 11, 2001 attacks and the US threatening the Taliban with an invasion unless they handed over Osama bin Laden, clerics at the madarsa Khan attended began recruiting.
''The mullahs in my area said that we should go to Afghanistan to fight a jehad,'' the 22-year-old said today, after being freed from nearly three years of captivity in Afghanistan.
''There were many of us who volunteered,'' he said. ''I have asked myself why I went, but the truth is everyone else was talking about it. It seemed like the right thing to do.''
Khan was one of 368 Pakistanis freed by Afghan authorities today. While his faith remains as powerful as ever, his faith in the mullahs has been shattered. ''They sold us,'' he said. ''We learnt later that for every 10 mujahideen that they sent, they would receive Rs 5,000.''
Khan crossed into Afghanistan from Peshawar. He was deployed in Mazar-i-Sharif, where he was told he would receive three months of military training. The Taliban did not last that long.
With the US-backed Northern Alliance forces overrunning Mazar-i-Sharif just two days after his arrival, Khan was captured by forces loyal to Uzbek warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum.
After an international scandal over the treatment of foreign prisoners of war, Khan said conditions improved. As the prisoners left on Sunday, many embraced the wardens. The Pakistanis — almost all with thick beards — carried their meagre possessions in bags.
Asked who he bore resentment towards for his nearly three year ordeal, Khan blamed himself. ''I can't blame the Taliban, I can't blame the Americans,'' he said. —(Reuters)
Will Hamid Karzai Win Afghan Presidential Elections?
RIA Novosti, Russia 09/14/2004
No one in Kabul doubts Hamid Karzai's victory during forthcoming national presidential elections; his rivals also agree with this. Moreover, quite a few contenders including Rashid Dostum, who is an extremely influential ethnic-Uzbek leader, are really interested in Karzai's victory, perceiving their own victory as even less important.
The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan is to elect its first president by direct and universal suffrage October 9, 2004. (The country's new name is stipulated by the latest Constitution, which was passed by the Loya Jirgah in January 2004 - Ed.). More than 10.5 million voters have registered to date, with women accounting for just over 40 percent of their total number. Afghanistan's entire population is estimated at some 25-28 million; consequently, a really substantial voter turn-out is expected; looks like, this voter turn-out will hit an all-time high for this country with a nearly 100-percent Moslem population. It's an open secret that women living in Islamic countries usually exercise their rights only nominally.
However, Afghanistan is something special. The people of Afghanistan, who have never shied away from politics, would be expected to make an extremely difficult choice at this stage. They must choose their next president from among 18 candidates, also choosing between two political systems, i.e. a strictly clerical Islamic republic or a country attaching priority to secular European-style standards.
Most Afghan voters consider Hamid Karzai to be Washington's protege; consequently, he will serve to guarantee US investment. His victory during presidential elections would facilitate subsequent US investment for economic-rehabilitation purposes; such investment would also make it possible to restore Afghanistan's state structure. In short, Karzai's name is associated with money.
Some other no less important factors should not be overlooked either. Ordinary Afghans will heed such factors, while choosing the country's next president.
Afghanistan continues to reassess various events and processes of the last 12-15 years rather seriously. The people of Afghanistan are sick and tired of that fratricidal war, which has been dragging on for more than 25 consecutive years. They are even more tired of all those endless Mujahedin squabbles, as well as arbitrary rule and impunity on the part of the so-called "field commanders". Afghan voters will therefore support anyone, who offers a specific peaceful-life program.
Hamid Karzai's program for restoring Afghanistan, as well as his approach toward solving traditionally complicated inter-ethnic and inter-regional problems (i.e. social, political and legal problems), highlight this man's greater chances of being elected as president of Afghanistan. As a matter of fact, Karzai's chances are more impressive than those of any other candidate. Surely enough, Karzai is a Pushtun national; still he doesn't encroach on the rights of Tajik, Khazarean, Uzbek and other ethnic groups. Naturally enough, Karzai would like a modern secular society to assert itself in Afghanistan; still this process should not be detrimental to Islam. Most importantly, Karzai has unequivocally made it clear that he doesn't want to reconcile himself to the presence of unofficial paramilitary units on Afghan territory.
He also advocates the disarmament of field commanders, i.e. former Mujahedin leaders, regardless of their old-time merits in fighting Soviet forces or the Taliban movement. The list of such field commanders includes Ismail Khan in Herat, as well as General Dostum and Ata Mohammad in Afghanistan's northern provinces. And, finally, Karzai's domestic policy enables all Afghans to find their own place inside modern Afghan society. This doesn't concern "moderate" Talibs alone, who were pardoned by Karzai; by the way, some leading Afghan politicians subjected him to a political boycott for this move. Karzai's policy equally concerns representatives of leftist parties and movements, who had served as high-ranging statesmen and military leaders under Dr. Najibullah and Babrak Karmal. The latest appointments highlight this aspect, as well. Such a policy, which closely resembles national reconciliation, suits ordinary Afghans perfectly well. Those opposing Karzai's policy are outnumbered by its supporters, rank-and-file Afghans, in the first place.
Everyone agrees that Hamid Karzai has every chance of winning the election race. He is mostly opposed by ethnic-Uzbek leader General Rashid Dostum. A former northern-alliance leader Yunus Qanuni, who is an influential person, also has pretty good chances. Dostum will be fighting Karzai in order to prove his popularity in northern provinces to the incumbent and Karzai's US supporters. Meanwhile the situation with Qanuni is somewhat different.
Yunus Qanuni, who had headed the Afghan delegation at the 2001 Bonn conference on Afghanistan, and who is a member of the current Afghan political elite, had advocated Karzai's candidacy until the last moment. However, Qanuni nominated his own candidacy, right after Karzai decided to replace Marshal Fahim's candidacy as vice-president; it took Qanuni only a few hours to submit all the required documents, including 10,000 copies of signatures in his support, to the Central Election Commission. No one doubts the fact that Qanuni is just about the only contender, who wants to challenge Karzai in real earnest, possibly even winning the elections. At the same time, he is counting on the support of such Afghan political heavy-weight warriors as Marshal Fahim and Foreign Minister Dr. Abdullah.
Still it seems that Karzai has outmaneuvered his rivals here, as well. He has made a subtle and ingenious move, replacing Qaseem Fahim with Ahmed Ziyah Masood, the brother of the late national hero Ahmad-Shah Massoud. (Ahmed Ziyah Massoud had formerly served as Afghanistan's ambassador to Russia - Ed.) Moreover, Ahmed Ziyah Masood is son-in-law to Burhanuddin Rabbani, leader of the influential political party Islamic Society of Afghanistan. Instead of losing, Karzai has thus enhanced his popularity among prospective voters.
Karzai simply lacks any other rivals at this stage. One can also mention the candidacy of Latif Pedram; still Afghanistan is not yet ready to accept a program for establishing a modern European-style society. In other words, one has some reasons to say that the world will learn about the incumbent Afghan head of state Hamid Karzai's victory October 10.
At the same time, one should not rule out just about any scenario on Afghan territory. For instance, those losing the elections might raise a fuss and contend the legitimacy of such elections. This seems to be the worst possible scenario, destabilizing the situation and compromising the election process. The results of such elections might even be declared null and void, all the more so as some people still hope that presidential elections can be put off until the spring of 2005 and combined with parliamentary elections.
Architects provide know-how for Afghanistan
swissinfo 09/14/2004 By Pierre-François Besson
Ivica Brnic, Florian Graf and Wolfgang Rossbauer, who are all in their 20s, won a competition run by the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich to mark its 150th anniversary next year.
Even though they strayed away from the original brief, their project, Polynational, won ahead of 48 other competitors. "The task was to build a pavilion for SFr500,000 ($398,500) to be set up on the terraces of the Federal Institute in Zurich," Graf told swissinfo.
"But we thought the money would be better invested in a sustainable project with a global vision." Graf said he and his student colleagues were not interested in "architecture for the sake of architecture", but wanted to respond to real needs. People can watch progress being made at the construction site in Bamiyan via the web.
The three architects have designed a four-storey rectangular tower measuring 500 square metres at the base. It is similar in style to traditional buildings found in Afghanistan's second-biggest city of Kandahar, which lies in a region prone to earthquakes.
The planned building includes meeting rooms, a library, computer facilities, a terrace and student accommodation. Graf said Polynational was the result of "high-tech thinking and low-tech production". The building is technically complex but uses material from the area and relies on local craftsmen.
Polynational takes into account the climate of Kandahar – hot summers and cold winters – and has an inner shell of reinforced concrete and an outer mantle of clay bricks. "It is a mixture of Afghan traditions and modern Swiss architecture," added Graf.
But because of the uncertain political situation in Kandahar, the project has been relocated further north to Bamiyan, a town renowned for its huge Buddha statues destroyed during the rule of the Taliban.
"This region is much safer than other parts of Afghanistan," said Mario Fontana, a professor at the Federal Institute of Technology and member of the competition jury.
The Zurich institute is also involved in a project constructing a three-dimensional model of the Buddha statues. During their fact-finding mission to Bamiyan, Brnic, Graf and Rossbauer will try to determine the exact needs of the local university.
They expect construction work to begin next spring and to complete their project in November 2005 in time for the anniversary celebrations at the Federal Institute in Zurich.
The architects intend to leave the building management to local experts, hoping to contribute to the transfer of Western architectural know-how to Afghanistan.
"It is important to involve locals in our project. At the moment all the effort in reconstructing Afghanistan goes into engineering work," said Graf. For more information on this project, please go to: http://www.brnic-graf-rossbauer.com
|Back to News Archirves of 2004|
Disclaimer: This news site is mostly a compilation of publicly accessible articles on the Web in the form of a link or saved news item. The news articles and commentaries/editorials are protected under international copyright laws. All credit goes to the original respective source(s).