Afghan Officials Sentenced to Prison for Graft
By Sayed Salahuddin
KABUL (Reuters) - An Afghan court has sentenced two deputy ministers and six officials in their ministry to prison on corruption charges in the first major case against graft in years.
President Hamid Karzai made the fight against corruption one of his top priorities when he won last October's election.
"The charges included a series of issues...fraud, graft, embezzlement and misuse of power," Ansarullah, chief of Kabul's Public Security Court, told Reuters Tuesday.
Those sentenced at the end of a public trial Monday included two deputy ministers at the Ministry of Religious Trust and Haj, Atta-Urahman Salim and Sayed Ahmad Jamal Mubariz, and six senior ministry officials.
Salim and Mubariz were sentenced to three years in prison each and fined thirteen million afghanis ($265,000), Ansarullah said.
Four others were sentenced to two years in prison and the other two to a year each plus fines. All of them can appeal.
None of the accused was immediately available for comment.
A court official said the charges largely related to the annual Haj pilgrimage to Mecca. He did not elaborate.
Afghans complain that corruption among the police, courts and state agencies is rampant.
One even has to pay a bribe in order to pay your taxes, some residents grumble.
Several thousand people protested last month against corruption in the southern province of Kandahar and some raised slogans in favor of the old Taliban government.
The hardline Taliban, ousted by U.S.-led forces in late 2001, imposed harsh penalties for wrongdoing and managed to stamp out much crime.
Afghanistan's Electricity to be Handed to Private Sector
Tuesday April 12, 9:00 AM Asia Pulse
KABUL, April 12 Asia Pulse - The US Energy Association Monday urged Afghanistan to hand over power generation and supply to the private sector to ensure a prompt provision of the facility.
The Afghan Water and Power Ministry responded positively to the suggestion floated at a seminar on reforming the conflict-battered country's power sector held in Inter-Continental Hotel here.
Afghan Water and Power Minister Ismail Khan, commenting on the proposal, told Pajhwok: "We are ready to involve the private sector in generation and supply of electricity in order to bring efficiency to this vital sector."
In the thick of the reconstruction effort, American Energy Association's representative Charles Ebinger proposed, Afghanistan should jack up power tariff with a view to speeding up the revival of its economy hit by decades of war.
He continued the private sector, provided with an enabling environment, was willing to work anywhere and anytime.
"But the price of electricity should go up," he reiterated, a call that drew opposition from other speakers.
Some participants and analysts believe the time is not yet ripe for handing over electricity generation to the private sector.
"How can an Afghan, earning barely US$50 a month, afford to pay higher power charges?" asked one speaker.
Professor of Economics Nazir Ahmad Shahidi thought it was difficult for private entrepreneurs to invest in the power sector in the prevailing situation.
"Investment in infrastructure development has to come from the government," he argued.
Even in this capital city, the electricity system continues to be grossly deficient - thanks to decades of debilitating war. Despite three years of hectic efforts to work it back to health, the system is marred by frequent power outages.
"Well-organized systems of generating, supplying and distributing electricity have to be put in place, with the government also playing a regulatory role," stressed American lawyer Tom West, who also spoke on the occasion.
The seminar was attended by representatives from the US, Bangladesh, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Uganda, Mongolia and India, who put forward proposals for streamlining the Afghan power sector.
(Pajhwok Afghan News)
US to bridge Afghanistan with Tajikistan
KABUL, April 11 (Xinhua) -- The US military in Afghanistan is going to connect the post-war Afghanistan with Tajikistan by building a bridge over Oxus River, chief of US Army Corps of Engineers in Afghanistan said here on Monday.
"We recently made to award a contract for the construction of the Afghanistan-Tajikistan Bridge spanning the Pyandzh River at Shir Khan in Kunduz province. This bridge will serve as a vital link connecting the central Asian region with outside markets," John B. O'Dowd told at a press conference.
Kunduz in northeast Afghanistan has been serving as the base ofmore than 300 troops of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) over the past three years.
The contract of the 28 million US dollars project was signed with the Italian firm Rizzani de Eccher S.P.A of Udine on March 21,he added.
"This bridge will contribute to the economic development and integration of both nations. It will also inevitably contribute tothe long term peace and security of this region," said John.
"We have requested nearly 800 million dollars for fiscal year 2005 and are pleased to show progress in effectively and efficiently awarding new projects to continue to improve the stability and living conditions in Afghanistan," the US officer said.
US air strikes kill 12 suspected Taliban in Afghanistan
Mon Apr 11, 2:58 PM ET South Asia - AFP
GARDEZ, Afghanistan (AFP) - Twelve suspected Taliban militants died in air strikes by US helicopter gunships and tankbuster jets in southeastern Afghanistan, officials said.
Two members of the US-led coalition were also injured after fighting broke out early Monday in Paktia province, a hotbed of activity by Afghanistan's ousted Islamic regime.
The battle began when insurgents fired a dozen rockets in a bid to kill a former Afghan military chief on a road between Kabul and Gardez, the capital of Paktia province, security commander Ghulam Nabi Salem told AFP.
Kheyal Baaz Khan Sherzai, the ex-military commander of neighbouring Khost province, survived the attack.
"But Afghan forces chased the attackers in the mountains and the fighting began. It lasted until late afternoon," Salem said.
US-led military air support was then called in, he added. Twelve insurgents were killed and their bodies were recovered by local troops and US-led forces.
"We recovered the bodies of 12 Taliban in Shiwak's mountains," Salem said, referring to a mountainous district some 35 kilometers (20 miles) south of Gardez.
The US military confirmed that its air and ground forces were engaged in the incident but did not confirm the Taliban fatalities.
"In Gardez there was a request from coalition forces for assistance. The coalition did assist with A-10s and helicopters," US military spokeswoman Lieutenant Cindy Moore told AFP.
A-10s, nicknamed Warthogs for their ungainly looks, are heavily armed jets famed for their ability to take out tanks and armoured vehicles.
"My understanding is two coalition members were wounded but are in stable condition," Moore said. She did not say how they were injured.
An AFP correspondent in the area saw at least four US helicopters and a jet flying overhead near Shiwak and also heard loud bangs, similar to air bombardment.
The battle comes in the midst of an apparent spring offensive by the Taliban, who have emerged from Afghanistan's harshest winter for a decade to launch a string of attacks on US and Afghan forces.
More than 18,000 US-led forces, including some 2,000 American airmen are based in Afghanistan to help root out the remnants of the Taliban. The US-led coalition ousted the Islamic regime in late 2001.
Sherzai, accompanied by a group of his soldiers who had been disarmed under a government and United Nations-backed programme, were travelling to Kabul when the attack took place.
Meanwhile Afghan forces on Sunday arrested six suspected Taliban fighters in Uruzgan province, also in the restive southeastern Afghanistan, according to a military commander.
"We arrested six Taliban," General Muslim Hamed, military commander of southern Afghanistan told AFP. "We had intelligence about their presence in the area," he added.
Dozens of people, including soldiers, police and civilians have been killed in Taliban-linked violence this year. In 2004 bloodshed blamed on the Taliban left over 850 dead.
U.S. Aircraft Kill Five Taliban Rebels -Governor
April 11, 2005
KABUL (Reuters) - U.S. military aircraft killed five suspected Taliban guerrillas in strikes in southeastern Afghanistan on Monday, officials said.
A jet and helicopter gunships were called in after a Taliban group attempted to assassinate Kheyal Baaz Khan Sherzai, the top former military commander of the province of Khost, not far from the border with Pakistan.
"Sherzai survived the ambush and as a result of the American air attacks, five Taliban were killed," Khost governor Mirajuddin Patan told Reuters.
Taliban officials could not be reached for comment and the U.S. military in Kabul said it had no immediate information.
Sherzai, a prominent ally of U.S.-led troops hunting the Taliban in Khost when he was provincial commander, was ambushed on a main road near the town of Gardez, Patan said.
The attack came amid a rise in violence in parts of south and east where the militants have been most active since their overthrow by U.S.-led forces in late 2001.
The attacks have followed a lull over the winter after the guerrillas failed in a vow to derail an October presidential election.
Last week, the guerrillas said they killed a senior provincial official after kidnapping him in the restive southern province of Zabul, the third such murder of a local official in the south in less than a week.
The guerrillas also killed five policemen in a firefight in Zabul on Thursday.
Afghan police arrest three men over attempted kidnap of American
Tuesday April 12, 8:05 AM AP
Police have arrested three men suspected of trying to kidnap an American civilian in the Afghan capital, an official said Tuesday, apparently as they were preparing for a similar attack.
Police detained the trio on Monday about 500 meters (yards) from the scene of the previous day's attempted abduction, Interior Ministry spokesman Latfullah Mashal told The Associated Press.
Two wore military fatigues and the other civilian clothes, matching descriptions of the perpetrators of Sunday's attempted abduction. Rifles, grenades, and walkie-talkies were found in their vehicle, which bore false license plates, he said.
"So far, they have not admitted the American case," Mashal said. "But we think they were also trying to kidnap or kill someone else."
He described the three, all of them Afghans, as "irresponsible militias and armed robbers" and said officials were still checking if they had links to Afghan security forces.
The victim of Sunday's attack had walked up a hill overlooking Kabul's upscale Wazir Akbar Khan neighborhood, home to many embassies and aid workers, when he was approached by three armed men who forced him into the trunk of their car.
The American, who hasn't been identified, managed to open the trunk with a tire wrench and throw himself from the vehicle as it sped toward Kabul airport.
Authorities including the U.S. Embassy have issued repeated warnings to foreigners in Kabul that they could be targeted for kidnapping since the abduction of three foreign U.N. workers in the city last November. The trio were released unharmed a month later.
Tension among the city's estimated 3,000 expatriates was also raised by the March 7 shooting death of a British adviser to the Afghan government.
Officials and residents in Kabul have complained that many former soldiers from militia units disbanded under a U.N. disarmament drive have turned to crime.
U.S. Citizens Warned as Afghan Kidnapping Foiled
Mon Apr 11, 2:29 AM ET By Sayed Salahuddin
KABUL (Reuters) - The United States has warned its nationals in Afghanistan about dangers including suicide attacks, hijacking and assassination and urged them to keep a low profile.
The warning came at the weekend, hours before an American man escaped a kidnapping attempt on Sunday in Kabul's upmarket Wazir Akbar Khan district, which is home to many foreign residents.
"The U.S. embassy in Kabul reminds American citizens living and traveling in Afghanistan that potential remains for attacks against U.S. citizens and interests in Afghanistan," the U.S. embassy in Kabul said.
Dangers included rocket attacks, suicide operations, assassinations, hijackings, shootings and bombings, said an announcement, a copy of which was obtained by Reuters.
U.S. citizens were told to maintain a high level of vigilance, to increase their security awareness and to restrict their movements.
The embassy has issued similar warnings in the past.
The latest comes after a series of Taliban guerrilla raids in southern and eastern parts of the country and worry over rising crime in the capital.
On Sunday, an American escaped kidnappers who bundled him into the boot of a car in broad daylight in Kabul's Wazir Akbar Khan area, where several countries have embassies and where many foreigners have homes and offices.
A Western security source said the man, who he did not identify, escaped by using a spanner to open the boot of the vehicle.
The embassy gave no details of the incident but warned Americans to avoid places where foreigners congregate, such as restaurants, markets and internet cafes, as well as places such as government buildings and military facilities.
Last month, a British adviser to the government was shot dead near a U.N. guest house. A road-side bomb hurt several people including one Filipino in Kabul several weeks ago.
In October, members of a Taliban splinter faction seized three foreigners helping organize a presidential election and held them for nearly a month before releasing them.
The same month, an American woman and an Afghan girl were killed in a suicide bombing on a Kabul shopping street.
The Taliban, ousted in 2001 by U.S.-led forces for sheltering al Qaeda and its chief Osama bin Laden, the architect of Sept. 11 attacks on the U.S. cities, have taken responsibility for most of the attacks.
ADB Recommends Pakistan to Finalise Gas Import Pipeline Project
Tuesday April 12, 8:41 AM Asia Pulse
ISLAMABAD, April 12 Asia Pulse - Asian Development Bank (ADB) has recommended to Pakistan to take a decision for at least one natural gas import pipeline project to meet its future energy demands.
The government is still working on three major projects including Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan gas pipeline, Iran- Pakistan-India gas pipeline and Qatar-Pakistan gas pipeline project.
About US$3.5 billion Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan (TAP) gas pipeline project, he said the audit report of Daulatabad gas field has also been completed. He said the Asian Development Bank (ADB) has funded the feasibility study of the project that was completed in June last year.
The engineering work and feasibility study of $3 billion Pakistan-Qatar gas pipelines has already been completed with the cost of $30 million. A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the government of Pakistan has been signed for import of up to 1.6 billion cubic feet of gas per day from Qatar starting from year 2010.
Initially, the project is to supply 1.6 billion cubic feet of gas per day and is ultimately projected to go up to 3.5 billion cubic feet per day. The capital cost of the project is estimated at $1.8 billion. The third proposed project under discussion was in a $4.2 billion pipeline project that would extend from Iran to Pakistan and could go onto India.
Minister calls on donors to coordinate legal reform
KABUL, 11 Apr 2005 (IRIN) - The Afghan authorities have called for strengthening of the justice system in Afghanistan saying that more than 50 percent of Afghans do not have access to judicial and legal services in the post-conflict country.
Afghan Minister of Justice Ghulam Sarwar Danish, told IRIN on Sunday in the capital Kabul that donors and international organisations had spent millions of dollars on improving the justice sector, but that there had been little tangible sign of improvement.
“We need much more coordination, in fact we should be given the chance to prioritise our needs,” he said, adding that many justice reform projects were selected and implemented by international organisations.
According to the ministry, a lack of professional staff and buildings for courts, prisons and training facilities were among the chief problems that need to be addressed. “Only 15 of 380 courts have buildings, while we haven’t got buildings for prisons in more than 20 provinces of the country,” Danish added.
After three decades of conflict, civil war and rule by the hardline Taliban regime, the legal system in rural areas remains ineffective, or in many places, nonexistent.
Even in Kabul, despite the existence of courts and a justice system, people complain of corruption, long delays in cases coming to court, the rule of the gun and general inefficiency in the legal system.
“In the central prison of Kabul, we have prisoners who are jailed for many years with no clear sentence, in the women’s prison for example, we have women who are criminals before tradition not the constitution,” a legal expert at the Ministry of Justice told IRIN on condition of anonymity for fear of losing his job.
Civil servants have told IRIN that legal resources outside the cities were in very short supply. “In fact all the lawyers and judges are in three or four key cities, no one wants to go to rural areas due to insufficient salaries and insecurity,” he said.
Danish said his ministry needed over US $100 million to improve provincial and district justice systems in 2005. “We have nearly 5,000 judges in the entire country and we need to double the number and raise their capacities to meet our most urgent needs,” he said.
Italy is the lead nation in supporting the Afghan justice sector. Rome has made a 22 million euro ($17 million) contribution to improving the system over the last three years. Meanwhile, according to officials at the Italian Embassy, Canada has allocated $5 million for training in the legal system this year.
“The contributions are big sums but little compared to the vastness of the task,” Ambassador Jolanda Brunettigoetz, the government of Italy’s special coordinator for the justice sector in Afghanistan, told IRIN.
She called on all donors and international organisations to coordinate activities in improving the justice sector in the country. “The concern is that there should be more cohesion among donors in order to create a system of rule of law. We need to know what the others are doing,” she said.
Pakistan Records Rise in Fruit Exports
Tuesday April 12, 8:56 AM Asia Pulse
KARACHI, April 12 Asia Pulse - The export of kino (orange) to Iran and Afghanistan and potato to Malaysia and Sri Lanka has registered 48 per cent increase during three months of 2005. While retail prices of onion, ginger and garlic despite their imports has been remained high side.
Mateen Siddiqui, chairman Fruit and Vegetable Exporters and Processors Association (FVEPA) has said on April 9 the exporter's body is ready to prepare a short term and a long term plan to enhance export of potato and kino (orange) in case it is in surplus and government to fulfill certain demands of the body in this regard.
Mr Siddiqui said the non-traditional export of the commodities would cater national exchequer, foreign exchange to billion of rupees per year if Export Promotion Bureau (EPB) and federal commerce ministry extend cooperation to the FVEPA. He said these commodities would fetch better perineum price if concern government departments show willingness to provide this low added valuation sector an appropriate support for exports.
He said we should learn from Australian technology, which produces onion of quality only due to research and facilities to their stakeholders. He said Australians onion with three scalps provides longer shelf life compare to commodity of ours. He said export of potato could be increased manifold if some elements in the sector give up the tendency of claiming 25 per cent freight subsidy on export, as the government provides subsidy on export less than $ 10 million export. (PPI)
Afghanistan introduces new coins
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
KABUL, Afghanistan -- Afghanistan launched its first new coins in three decades on Monday and its officials backed proposals to turn a war-damaged former royal palace into the home of the future parliament.
The coins worth one, two or five Afghanis - 2.3, 4.7 or 12 cents - will be accepted all over the country immediately, the Afghan central bank said. Officials said the coins will be more durable than existing bank notes and handier for small payments such as bus fares.
The last coins, introduced in 1975 according to Central Bank chief Noorullah Delawari, were made worthless by runaway inflation after the collapse of Afghanistan's communist government in 1992 and fell out of use. The coins were minted in France.
In another sign of progress, Afghan officials on Sunday said they backed plans to turn a palace destroyed in the civil war of the 1990s into the eventual home of parliament.
But Afghan Economy Minister Amin Farhang said it would be up to wealthy Afghans and foreign donors to pay the estimated $60-$70 million cost of the 10-year reconstruction.
The war-shattered Darulaman Palace, envisioned as the legislature's eventual home, was built under King Amanullah in the 1920s and destroyed in civil war in the 1990s. It is now used by NATO snipers keeping order in Kabul.
The palace's much-photographed shell on a hilltop in western Kabul has become a symbol of the destruction of the city.
An Afghan architect living in Germany, Hamid Faruqui, has drawn up a plan to restore the palace.
Parliamentary elections are slated for Sept. 18, and work has already begun to restore another building to house the new assembly once it is chosen.
Afghanistan successfully held presidential elections in October, choosing Hamid Karzai as chief of state. The parliament vote is seen as a key next step in the country's move toward democracy after a quarter-century of war.
The U.S. military has 17,000 troops in Afghanistan, pursuing remnants of the Taliban and al-Qaida, and bolstering Karzai's fragile government.
Late snow kills 21 children in Afghanistan
KABUL: Unusually late cold weather and snow at the end of the worst winter in years have killed 21 children in Afghanistan, state media reported on Monday.
The snow also destroyed 150 homes and killed hundreds of farm animals in the northeastern province of Badakhshan, near the border with Tajikistan and China, media said, citing state news agency reports from the remote area. “The increasingly cold weather...has made people worry as snowfall in the past two days has killed 14 children in the village of Chitnoo and seven in Shakro village,” the Anis Daily said.
Snow was one metre (three feet) deep in the remote and inaccessible Wakhan area in the far northeast, an official in the area told another newspaper.
Afghanistan had its worst winter in a decade this year and several hundred people were killed - first in heavy snow that blanketed parts of the country and more recently in floods caused by melting snow and rain. reuters
Philippine Govt Angry Over Mindanao, Afghanistan Comparison
Monday April 11, 4:51 PM Asia Pulse
MANILA, April 11 Asia Pulse - Malacanang said on Monday that any insinuation that Mindanao could be the next Afghanistan "is out of tune with what is happening on the ground."
Reacting to a statement by a top United States official, Press Secretary and Presidential Spokesman Ignacio Bunye said that on the contrary, the government is making gains against terrorism and poverty every single day and week that passes.
"Such negative hyperbole to describe the Mindanao situation is out of tune with what is happening on the ground," he said.
Bunye was reacting to a statement by US Embassy Charge dAffaires Joseph Mussomeli that lawlessness and extreme poverty in Mindanao could make it the next Afghanistan.
"The threat is more long term; that Mindanao is such a lawless certain portions of Mindanaoare so lawless, so porous the borders that you run the risk of becoming like an Afghanistan situation," Mussomeli was quoted as saying in an interview with SBS-TV Australia.
In the same interview, however, Mussomeli stressed that the US government continues to support the peace initiatives between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
He said Washington had even offered million as an incentive for the MILF for development assistance should the separatist Muslim guerrilla group succeed in forging a peace deal with the Philippine government.
"Were still hoping and pushing for the peace process to succeed," Mussomeli added.
That statement buoyed up hopes that all is not lost for peace in Mindanao.
"With the United States as an ally, we are elevating hopes for a region that is being transformed from an area of conflict into an area of peace, development and harmony for Christians, Muslims and Lumads," Bunye said in a statement.
Japan gov't appeals court approval of Afghan man as refugee
Tuesday April 12, 10:31 AM
(Kyodo) _ The Japanese government has appealed a court ruling that approved refugee status for a 33-year-old Afghan man, government officials said Tuesday.
The appeal, filed with the Hiroshima High Court, argues that the state sees a problem in the March 29 Hiroshima District Court ruling determining Abdul Aziz as a refugee, according to the Justice Ministry's Immigration Bureau.
The court nullified the ministry's decision in 2002 that denied him the status, saying Abdul Aziz, a member of an anti-Taliban Hazara ethnic group, was likely to face persecution at home at the time Japan denied him refugee status and issued a deportation order against him.
He entered Japan in June 2001 at Fukuoka airport on a false passport and applied for refugee status in November that year, claiming he would be persecuted by the Taliban if he returned home, according to the ruling.
The government denied him asylum and refugee status in February 2002, saying there was no threat of persecution after the collapse of the Taliban government in December 2001.
The boy singers of Kabul
They were beaten and jailed under the Taliban. But now child singers such as 13-year-old Mirwais Najrabi are fêted as stars, despite the taint of corruption that clings to them
By Nick Meo 12 April 2005 Independent News & Media (UK)
In the cramped upstairs office of a theatre in central Kabul, thirteen year-old Mirwais Najrabi is standing up to sing. As he begins the first sorrowful verse of a traditional Afghan lament, it soon becomes clear why this is the most sought-after voice in the city.
Dressed in an embroidered shalwar khamiz and green velvet jacket, with a great mop of hair falling over an innocent face, Mirwais sings like an angel. In post-Taliban Kabul, a voice like that can earn its owner - and his agent - up to $1,000 (£500) a night.
Of all the extraordinary changes of fortune to affect Afghans in the past three years, few have seen their luck change for the better as much as Kabul's boy singers. During the rule of the Taliban, they were a despised breed. Boys were often beaten and jailed if caught plying their trade; now they are showered with dollar bills and fêted as the showbiz stars of Asia's most broken-down city. The two singers' bazaars in the backstreets of Kabul's old town are crowded with hundreds of boys - talented aspirants, established singers from famous musical families, and for the really big names, canny agents.
The biggest stars make their main money from the lucrative wedding party appearances that pay up to $1,000 a time, plus tips. And Mirwais is the biggest star of them all. His father, Mazari Najrabi, was a famous singer; Mirwais discovered his gift singing along to tunes his elder brother played on an instrument similar to an accordion.
About a year ago, with the Taliban gone, he started attracting attention. Then a Svengali-like figure, Sidiq Darayee, an impresario and theatre owner, began to organise Mirwais's business affairs. Soon he was singing until 3am at wild wedding parties before going to school the next day.
I met Mirwais and his entourage in Darayee's theatre in the week he was putting on a comedy. After what they've been through in the past 25 years, Afghans like a good laugh. Two cousins accompany the boy everywhere; in lawless Kabul, a 13-year-old with a marketable voice is a valuable commodity, and it is not unheard of for commanders to arrange the kidnapping of boys they take a fancy to.
Darayee did most of the talking. Mirwais sat patiently on a worn couch as the agent explained rather bitterly that foreigners were not spending enough in Kabul. Later, eyes shining, the theatre-owner demanded $600 for a private singing appearance by Mirwais. Meanwhile the child star said little. He enjoyed singing. He would like to be famous. Coming to England is one of his ambitions.
He seemed a cheerful lad, if taciturn. And the rewards of his trade were obvious. Round his neck was a gold pennant on a gold chain and, on his finger, a gold ring. Farhad, my translator and one of Afghanistan's few true peaceful souls, was rather shocked. "What is such a young boy doing wearing gold? If my son did that I would strike him for not showing respect."
But Mirwais and others like him can scarcely be blamed for exploiting their temporary good fortune. The boy singers may be practising an art form with an ancient role in Afghan tradition, but their time at the top is brief, starting, if they are lucky, at the age of 12 or 13. Most of them are finished forever by the time their voice breaks a couple of years later. That doesn't leave long to rake in the cash, and the wooden huts of Chor bazaar where the boys and their families base themselves, resound with the harsh sound of haggling for fees as much as the sound of young voices showing off their talent.
Nor do the singers occupy a comfortable place in Afghan culture. Pre-pubescent boys with sweet voices are highly prized and highly praised, but they will never manage to shake off the taint of corruption that clings to even the most innocent of them.
In a land where women are unavailable outside marriage, except as prostitutes, sex with young boys has always been socially acceptable in most layers of society and not just in the southern city of Kandahar where it is a famous vice.
Everybody knows that beautiful young beardless boy singers are a source of lust for wealthy commanders, who would be embarrassed to take a female mistress. The pre-pubescent boy draped in gold, wearing the finest clothes and well known as a concubine, is a Kabul cliché, although such liaisons will never be acknowledged by either the boy or the commander. Many are chauffeured around in expensive vehicles and treated with deference by the commander's men. "You must be careful with some of these boys and their families even though you may despise them and what they represent," said one Kabuli. "If you laid a finger on them or said a bad word against them, the commanders would have you killed."
As the commanders enrich themselves on drugs and corruption, the number of kept boy singers proliferates and the parties become wilder.
Whether the boys have personally been corrupted or not, and even if they are stars, they will never be truly free of the low-life reputation which surrounds their calling. But for all the dubious morality of the profession, Afghans love music and are happy to celebrate the return of the boys with beautiful voices.
Music-making here nearly perished for good in the war and during the Taliban persecution that followed. Even now, in more relaxed times, it remains at risk of being eclipsed by youthful Kabul's new obsession with all things foreign and especially anything emanating from Bollywood.
But slowly, the old ways and habits of Kabul are regaining a foothold, and Afghans are rediscovering a part of their heritage.
The district where musician families lived for centuries, Kocha Kharab, used to be famous for its racy nightlife. Afghans would go in search of the sad songs of longing sung in the classical Mahali tradition, with their hypnotic beats on tabla drums and a range of stringed instruments such as the 19-stringed habab, a kind of mandolin, and a traditional accordion.
According to mood, men would sit in clouds of hashish smoke chatting with friends and letting the music wash over them, or clapping along with the beat and getting up to dance, hands waving above their heads in wild abandon.
Afterwards, many would discreetly slip into Kocha Kharab's brothels in search of boys or girls according to taste, or would even put a bid in for the dancing boys or the young singers. Like so much else in the city, Kabul's unlikely bohemian world came to an abrupt end when the rockets of the fundamentalist leader, Gulbaddin Hekmatyar, flattened it during the war - Kabulis claim the puritan, psychopathic warlord singled out Kocha Kharab for his special brand of violent attention.
The musicians' families were then scattered across the city. The Taliban destroyed the instruments and threw anyone caught dancing or singing into prison. To an Afghan puritan, Kocha Kharab was Afghanistan's Sodom and Gomorrah. Notwithstanding the return of the singers, it will probably never return to its heyday. But in a city of overnight millionaires and with the freedom to once again perform in public, the success of boys like Mirwais underlines a mini-revival.
During the three month wedding season before Ramadan, he was booked every night, singing songs of impossible love, bloody betrayal, and heroism. As with many Afghans, these are themes that have touched his own family.
Mirwais's father was killed when he was five, and the family lived on the front line during the fighting between factions that tore the city apart. When the Taliban came, they had to bury their instruments in the garden.
After such traumas, he is at the top of the singing hierarchy, for now. According to Darayee, he has rivals but the agent refused to name them.
"They laughed at Mirwais when he started singing because he is small," he said. "But they are not laughing now."
One rival, reportedly, is Wali Fateh Ali Khan, 14. There are others. But Mirwais proved his worth by winning a singing competition at the Park Cinema last year, blowing the competition away with his stage presence.
His cassettes sell out routinely. Shaky DVDs of his performances at wedding parties outsell Bollywood hits. Posters of him adorn the teashops of Kabul.
Protected from press questioning by his entourage, it is difficult to say what effect all this is having on his 13-year-old mind. He insists school is fun and he is treated the same as any other boy. As for the unwanted attentions of older men, Mirwais is lucky; his family are respectable musicians and the protection of his cousins can be relied upon. He is probably safe from the predations of corrupt old men. But other boys do not have such protection, as post-war Kabul becomes ever wilder.
One horrified Afghan even reported that he had seen women dancing at a wedding party thrown by one of the capital's richest families. They were beautiful girls, he admitted, and demurely dressed, but they were clearly prostitutes, and therefore to see them in public was even more shocking than seeing a kept boy. Boys who had been corrupted by commanders were also there, and the illicit alcohol had been flowing freely.
"I have never seen anything like it," the man said. "Ninety per cent of the men there were criminals. There were dozens of police outside protecting the party. I left when it started turning violent."
Many Afghans are pleased their musical tradition has survived, but are embarrassed it is turning out to have such a sleazy side. In Kabul, perhaps inevitably, beauty comes at a price.
"These songs are beautiful. They make me close my eyes and dream," said one. "It is when I open my eyes and look that I have such a rude awakening."
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