Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Offsetting Bribery

It has been three weeks since I decided to pay electricity, yet unsuccessful. it took me a week to find out how exactly to pay electricity bill; this is my first time, my bad is telling me that the payment mechanism has improved tremendously. Bribery has changed the culture of state sector but also people in general; people have become less helpful even in comparison with five years ago. On an upside note it is interesting to see how such changes can be deeply rooted over a short period of time. I had to go to the right meter box and then the right power junction and after that to the right electrician for my street, etc. Finding all this in a new neighborhood is hard and traditionally you rely on peoples' good manner and attitude to help you out. But these days people just wouldn't bother much to help out a stranger. They want to see what is their personal benefit in it. Life has become as dull as everyone is so concerned about how they could monetarily benefit from something. Monetary income has also become a determinant of statue. There is the public obsession at different tiers to worry about financial status of others; starting from a brother at family tier to politician at the government tier. People have lost interest in doing things because it is fun, nice or interesting.

Corruption breaks down social fabrics and functioning of the society. I was getting help because there was no recognized reason for them to take money from me; just giving information is not good enough to get bribed. But also I didn't know any of the guy at the power station. Another negative effect of corruption on state sector has been strengthen tribalism. You have to know somebody even to be allowed in the office. It is already a compounded problem – *corrupted tribalism* and it is only getting worst. People bundle up in blood relationships, interest groups, mates, gangs, mafia and etc to suck money out of the society. The believe is, you can only make money if you do it the wrong way and this belief is reinforced by living proofs. People who make money don't usually have good reputation and doing things the right way seem to be reserved predominantly for suckers. The belief is that there is a lot of money around at the hand of people who don't know what to do with it. Which is absolutely true. Now everybody is getting creative to get some of this money. The idea of doing something useful with the money is as strange as questioning God. An old mate who has a big business was telling me people of minister and MP level visits him for a bonus from a large project when he gets one. Bribery is now history and the fashion of the day is extortion. People in power are more creative in corruption than the rest, as usual.

I am now thinking what could be possibly done countermeasure the negative social consequences of bribery. I believe there is nothing wrong with the mania to get rich. However, the glorification of status material such as car, house and money to the extent that nothing is now considered bogus to gain them, is the problem. Changing the way people think about bribery is important in changing perception of corruption. I thought the concept of carbon offsetting can also be altered to bribe offsetting, carbon offsetting is well rehearsed in the west and at its root is also changing populous perception about a social demon.

Bribe offsetting is when individuals take bribe because they are in a position to facilitate, block, delay or hinder a public; they add to national corruption and social evils. bribeoffset offsets bribe takers (and bribe givers) by funding someone else to be clean and NOT take bribe. This neutralises the harm and unfairness that could happen when lower level staff try to extort from the most unfortunate, and leaves the bribe taker (and bribe giver) with a clear conscience.

Can officials offset all their bribery?

First officials should look at ways of reducing their bribery. Once they've done this they can use bribeoffset to offset the remaining, unavoidable bribery.

A bribe offset is a financial instrument aimed at a reduction in administrative corruption and subsequently all the social evil it causes. There are two markets for bribe offsets. In the larger, compliance market, companies, governments, international organisations or other entities buy bribe offsets in order to comply with caps on the total amount of bribe they can allow to happen due to organizational failure to detect. There is also much smaller, voluntary market, individuals purchase bribe offsets to mitigate their own contribution from bribe taking or bribe giving. For example, an individual might purchase bribe offsets to compensate for the bribery action caused by be in a position to take bribe or induced to give bribe. We will also offer companies, government, international organization and other entities with the option to offset bribery as an up-sell during the work process so that employees, clients and other stakeholders can mitigate the bribery related with their work or service (such as offsetting bribery related to a car taxation, electricity bill, police checkpoint, employment etc.) for example an international organization contracted by USAID to build 40 hospitals up-sell 40 bribe offsetting certificate related to 40 hospitals. The organization then reduces a small sum from all staff salary to finance upsell bribe certificate. Alternatively the organization can charge a premium to Afghan subcontractors who receive the contract to do the field work.

Offset is achieved through financial support of projects that reduce bribe taking. Officials and staff who are in a position to take bribe but think they can resist will be sponsor by a bribe offset.

The idea is based on carbon offsetting that is a well rehearsed approached and that has gained some appeal and momentum among the public who have become aware and concerned about the potentially negative environmental effects of energy-intensive lifestyles and economies. The Kyoto Protocol has sanctioned offsets as a way for governments and private companies to earn carbon credits which can be traded on a marketplace. The protocol established the clean development mechanism (CDM), which validates and measures projects to ensure they produce authentic benefits and are genuinely "additional" activities that would not otherwise have been undertaken. Organizations that are unable to meet their emissions quota can offset their emissions by buying CDM-approved Certified Emissions Reductions. However, some critics object to carbon offsets, and question the benefits of certain types of offsets. Offsets are viewed as an important policy tool to maintain stable economies. One of the hidden dangers of climate change policy is unequal prices of carbon in the economy, which can cause economic collateral damage if production flows to regions or industries that have a lower price of carbon - unless carbon can be purchased from that area, which offsets effectively permit, equalizing the price.

Bribe offsetting may be more feasible and convenient alternatives to reducing one's own bribery affect.

The key problem for the approach is openness. Bribe giver offsetting certificate is more important than the takers. How can we get them to sign up. Any thoughts?

Here are some:

The rational is openness should start with high ranking officials to set open precedence.

Getting as much as possible evidence on dealings, asset and property prior to sign up high ranking official can be useful.

There has got to be some way to deal with the officials who hide corruption for instance they can remain anonymous.

In addition to bribe takers bribe giver can also offset.

We find match for bribe offset projects. The certificate holder can choose person in which sector should receive the money, police, judge. etc.

Monday, December 21, 2009

more random thoughts on cellphone project

Last couple of months I have been working on using cellphone in media and business communication. Most of the people I put the idea to is going, "but is this going to work in Afghanistan?" which basically means I don't like what you are saying but I find no way to hand you a bunch of better refutations. I have met with senior staff in charge of private sector support initiatives and they are so clueless about their job that they can't offer anything substantiating and constructive.

However, market uncertainty is a valid concern; so far in building Afghanistan and its private sector the players had dodged it. Aid agencies and NGOs just like to give goats or dig wells or drainage for Afghans. You think more than cattle as an afghan and your sanity is questioned. They look at you as though you suffer concussion; I spent half an hour the other day to practice turning my saliva into foam. Not doing good yet but I don't think I need it if I could get people to take the project seriously.  I think one way I could do that is to do a market assessment. Nonetheless, I have a big concern, I am all for doing market assessment for a new brand of tea but when you are combining two sectors, i.e. market connection and cellphone then using classic market assessment methodology will not prove a thing and wrongly disprove ideas such as iBazar (I mentioned it in my previous post). Moreover, the perceived level of complexity required by iBazar sellers and buyers might also foster unfavorable response. iBazar do present new market channels but the response to such a new phenomena in business especially when it is brought by technology is negative. Six years ago when I was telling people to do radio they were mocking me. Not even a handful of Afghans believed it will work. They could never believe that radio could be done without gigantic infrastructure or content could be produced without president decree or advertisement could bring revenue or … etc.

In the process of pitching cellphone related project ideas some aspects of Afghanhood seem sharper than ever before; and how it is niggling into the newly created business cramp. We are brought up to be conformative to the social and individual regime imposed on us but at the same time we are dreadfully egoistic. The roots for the problem can be traced to our early childhood. Most fathers ignore, disrespect and beat their children from the age of only a few months old and then their mothers console them. Children grow to be suppressed on the one hand but overcomforted on the other by their own mothers. Mothers tightly grip to children because they have no man to show affection, husbands pay no heed to their feelings.

Most Afghans do not have an in-depth understanding of their surrounding but comprehend from a single dimension. They are not fun because they cannot get to change perspective and look from different perspectives because they fanatically cling to certain values of their existing paradigm. The egoist and conformative individual understand and perceive the world from his perspective. The past is about what he did and how he did it. The present is what he thinks. He gives monologues; shows little willingness to hear and evaluate new ideas; communication is confrontational. Things are changing in the last few years people get to learn the social skills to communicate with others easier and they develop curiosity or copy cut curiosity to make their character more attractive. They shine better and function more successfully but at the end their understanding of the issues change little to the initial doctrines inserted by the society. Below the surface of communication and social interaction they remain the same people. In the business world they are easier to deal with but you cannot put a lot of trust in them because they are no better than the ME, ME, ME guy. They are slicker and can pretend better which are phony qualities added to the initial ignorance. But there is something very important to know about socially easy conformists who don't act and function like the rest of their compatriots. There are actually people who have understanding of the realities or are sincere and truthful in their views and self recognition.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Trading and market information with cellphone

Market linkages are critical for creating a trading area for small entrepreneurs, shopkeepers, sellers and businesses in Afghanistan. In order to create market linkages sellers need to identify their potential customers. Identifying their customers and reaching them is the daunting challenge for micro entrepreneurs in Afghanistan. Reaching the customer requires marketing and infrastructure. Many micro entrepreneurs even cannot afford to set up a place to sell. Many roadside sellers would be better off if they could set up a delivery system but if they are off the street they lose the limited number of customers. Hundreds of foreign agencies hand out things like a sewing machines and a couple of weeks of training. That woman with the sewing machine will never be able to find customers. My latest preoccupation has been to create a structure for economic activities in the face insecurity, limited mobility and crushing poverty.

I am designing cellphone business, simple enough to be used by low literate Afghans. In this project, we will focus on using cell phones, especially via SMS/MMS, but also voice, to create a market place where sellers can send product information and buyers can search for the lowest price with a reasonable quality. After finding the proper product information with the seller's contact information, buyers and sellers can finish the transaction. iBazar will have a web interface too; having an online credit card to iBazar gateway. The project will pilot in Kabul for three months and expand to six regional cities within a year. the scheme below shows how it works.

I am seeking investors and funders for this project and quite rightly many asks if this thing is actually going to work. The key effect on the will to invest is conditioned by factors namely; market demand conditions and market maturity. It will make it easier to invest in my proposal if demand and market uncertainties are low. There is a benefit for investing in- what I call- iBazar at this stage when market demand condition is almost impossible to determine or will cost as much as setting up the project. Investing in a market of uncertainty and demand indication will enable iBazar to enjoy economies of scale and scope in long run to maintain the profitability. iBazar as an early entrant will be well established in the market.

Demand uncertainty is predominantly exogenous because it is widely assumed that consumers' lack precedence for such a service therefore low confidence in attempting to use it, this is a valid point and has been tackled well in our marketing plan under outcome number three.

When we are talking about whether Afghan market is ready for iBazar we are inevitably asking the question of what is the level of certainty in the mobile market. mobile phones have been around for six years now, some 9 million Afghans are using them. To turn iBazar into a success we target a substantial number who are well informed and aware about features of cellphones and relative benefits; plus our marketing is designed to engage cellphone users which we find the best way to inform.

Demand uncertainty is not going to result in failure for iBazar because that is only certain in monopolistic cellphone market competition; Afghanistan has at least five large telecommunication operators with a very healthy and vibrant competition.

Another factor which reduces iBazar demand uncertainty is price. There is no initial cost for iBazar customer to start participation. They will not buy new devices or medium to connect but use handsets which are multi-functional device and already owned. The cost of use is low too. At the initial stage the eMobilizer (both voice and text) will be toll free to facilitate network diffusion.

Mobile phones are often used not only for work –essential communication tool - but also for entertainment and pleasure… missed call is a good example. It is probably one of the single acts which could have various different meanings. It means how are you? It means let's take a walk or... missed call which is the most basic feature of cellphone have been turned into something very useful and recreational.

perceived playfulness plays a significant role in the developing the intention to use as well as the attitude toward iBazar. iBazar is a simple platform which could be used to mean many different things. Additionally, system quality is inherently relevant to the model, many people will become reluctant to use iBazar if they experience frequent delay in response, frequent disconnection, lack of access, errors and poor security. The recognition of this point means system quality will be given enough attention.

A core question when assessing user attitude formation is why would an Afghan use iBazar? not from commerce or communication viewpoint but merely attitude.

Utilization of mobile products and services holds a far greater meaning than simply the purchasing of mobile handsets, sending message to Afghan Star, calling friends, buying ringing tones, flashy light and etc. Indeed, the consumption of mobile services is to a greater degree seen as a means of self expression, individual identity-formation, creativity, or even art. Using mobile technology, consumers express their identity by personalising the appliance itself through design, size, ringtones, logos and screensavers; as well as the actual use of the various available mobile voice and text products and services.

SMS messaging is by far the most popular mobile data service both domestically and worldwide. In 2008 more than 140 billion SMS messages were sent world-wide, demonstrating the service as an ideal subject in the examination of mobile data consumption meanings. As with asynchronous text-based such as traditional email services, SMS messaging is valued because it allows users time to select, craft and edit the personality they present. Studies have shown that consumers develop new and deeper relationships through the use of SMS messaging.

Overall, the identity-building aspect of mobile use is the most revealing aspect of the technology's effect on consumer behavior. Studies reveal that many view their mobile devices as essential elements of the intimate, personal space, having integrated them as part of their own identity. Through the use of SMS messaging, consumers can construct their own virtual identity, free from the physical restraints of everyday life. Afghans, in general, are industrious people. Working hard to make a better living for their family which is a source of pride and pride is a central value of Afghanness. Afghans are diligent when no monerary reward is expected to help out friends or a common fellow. Diligence is encouraged and laziness is frowned on strictly. Hard work is a quality of good person. Creating an arena for business combines a key element of daily life with working class and entrepreneurial self expression.

Another important issue is when the venture is going to be actually start making money. Enterprises that are resolving strategic market chain bottlenecks are very lucrative. There are great profits to reap at various segments of supplying market chain connection. Certain aspect of market chain connections, such as market information and communication, are hard to monotise. This is perhaps the second biggest contributor, after lack of physical infrastructure, for fragmented markets and loss of millions in Afghanistan.

Should iBazar be charging buyers or/and sellers? The premise is simple: iBazar charge for the right to post product on the eMobiliser and for make asynchronous searches with an off-line cellphone possible. Product posting creates disproportionate amount of value for buyer and sellers in comparison to iBazar. For instance, let's evaluate agribusiness sellers. Farmers are only growing a small quantity of seasonal crops, such as onion or watermelon; enough for the family consumption and to sell at local Bazaar or a whole buyer but it is never large enough to cause major losses if it is not sold. Agriculture in Afghanistan is flactuating; at certain season there is plenty of onion but for almost 10 months the price goes up to 400% higher. At the season the farmer can not sell to enough people who can conserve or consume at large quanitity either at household level or business; due to lack of market connection. The onion farmer can benefit tremendously from iBazar. the basic law of capitalism compel to ask how will iBazar benefit.

It is pivotal quesiton: should iBazar open-platform orchestrators get compensated for adding value to user entreupreners? And would monetary incentive systems spur more value creation or possibly taint the dynamics that have made participatory communities, say ebay, google, paypal and hundreds of others, successful.

This seems like a simple question but to answer I look at successful participatory platforms; specifically at those which like our proposed idea match buyers to the sellers and vice versa such as gumtree, craiglist and many smaller ones. These companies have long been in the business to establish successful ecosystems.

I also want to say there are systems of value other than, or in addition to, money, that are very important to people but espicially Afghans: connecting with other people and markets (espicially for women and other marginalised groups), creating a business identity, not least, garnering other people's attention. iBazar –indeed Afghanistan- would be a much poorer place without the collective generosity of its contributors. The culture of generosity is the very backbone of the iBazar.

i expect to profit from iBazar, and profit handsomely if we can. We emphasize the need to build the largest network possible first, and it has been proven that the profits will soon follow. It sounds a little like dot-com logic, but the difference is that iBazar provide an envrionment for experimentation, and then seize on the things that users find valuable. The key to this is openness. Put profits first, and we will cripple the network we are building.

iBazar as a market chain connection and cellphone enterprise will be built openly and as big and as fast as possible; this will ultimatly put us in the best position to figure out where the real economic value is. Google built the world's most popular and useful search engine, and eventually became an ad company. Skype built a free phone service, and eventually sold it to eBay. Craiglist built a free classified –ads community, and is turning a healthy profit – while killing tradational publishers – with its comparatively low-cost job ads. The main reason for thoroughly piloting the project is to assess cash-flow and revenue generation forecasts, tested wherever possible upon the market and take into account each of the revenue streams.

Three key points stand out from my business model. First, all applications of a new technology go through an evolutionary process in which a period of early experimentation gives way to shakeouts, and then the truly viable business models emerge. Second, radical decentralization and openness create tricky environments in which to build genuinely viable business models – success lies in "closing up" the right parameters and monetary rewarding without destroying the characteristics of the system that make it innovative. Third, iBazar will only remain viable for as long as all the stakeholders are adequately and appropriately compensated for their contributions – we are not offering free ride forever.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Fired for suggesting lunch improvments

I used to work as a media and communication consultant for IRD, SPR project, a major USAID contractor building 400 million dollars worth of roads in southern and eastern Afghanistan. My contract was terminated on the 23rd June by the Chief of Party, Frederick Chace, for allegedly ‘accusing IRD of separation of classes’. here you can see the termination letter http://docs.google.com/fileview?id=F.e11fd414-7ef6-4b8c-807d-12e47233de91. The termination letter is a false accusation and I was wrongly terminated. I did not protest against the treatment of Afghans or the privileges of expatriate staff. The day before my termination (June22) I complained about the poor quality of office lunch but what I then thought important was some suggestions about improving lunch environment and space. My suggestion was in response to an email which offered special food only for expatriates. This is the email.
From: Leonard Fexton Chitekwe

Sent: 22 June 2009 07:45

To: International; National Staff

Subject: July 4th

July 4th is America’s Independence Day holiday. This is a public holiday for ALL staff. SPR offices in Kabul and Kandahar will be closed for business on this day.
A special meal for expats is being arranged and if you have ideas contact Johan Venter. Details will follow later.

Leonard Chitekwe-Mwale
Senior Director of Finance and Administration
SPR_SEA Program
International Relief and Development, Inc (IRD)
Kabul, Afghanistan
Ph: +93 (0) 796 110 003
I found this email quite disturbing. We are celebrating American national holiday in Afghanistan, but Afghans are not welcomed to fully celebrate the occasion. Special meal is only offered for expatriates. This resembles very much the colonial ages; rules and regulations are placed to compel locals to observe the dominant nation’s culture but they are not fully welcomed.
I am a fan of American culture and I think many IRD Afghan employees would enjoy American cultural occasions. Both Afghan and expatriates celebrating Afghan and American cultural occasions together could bridge the current distrust. Afghans generally are hospitable and welcoming to share happy occasion; although, I can not ask Leonard or IRD in general to invite me and Afghans to 4th of July special meal; but I think the email was ungenerous at best and rude, especially when it was addressed to both Afghans and expatriates.

I thought an invitation to a single occasion, particularly when it could be more special to expatriates than Afghans, could not make a difference in perceptions. I wanted to make a suggestion with longer term effect on attitudes. I suggested that Afghans and expatriates eating lunch together would be effective in improving relationships.
in response to leonard I sent this:
From: Sanjar Qiam

Sent: 22 June 2009 09:07

To: Leonard Fexton Chitekwe; Johan Venter

Subject: lunch
Dear both,
It is great that you are celebrating 4th of July; it is a great cultural exchange for Afghans and third country nationals.
I had a suggestion on a separate issue – lunch. I have been in IRD but I have rarely been to lunch; the quality of food, service and environment is poor and in some ways degrading. The food is served in basement packed with hundreds of IRD staff, white plastic chairs and tables and flies. The food is poorly cooked; most often super greasy. It is only one course and one item.
Segregation of Afghans is unpleasant. Working for Afghans and segregation – a system based on phobia - doesn’t go hand in hand; this raises questions about motives of IRD management.
My suggestion is to mix Afghans and foreigners lunch. Obviously, that would mean foreigners would lose some privileges but that is for a good cause – improvement of afghans lunch. It won’t be possible to have lunch in one location so staff has to be divided between several buildings and food should be cooked in each building with different menu so people can have a choice.
Looking forward to changes,

Frederick Chace IRD-SPR chief of party asked me to see him in his office at once. Nadir Abdullah, HR manager, and an IT officer were present too. Frederick Chace was very aggressive and rude; every other sentence contained the ‘F***’ word.
- ‘There is no difference between Afghans and expatriates in IRD. It is only in the narrow minds of people like you who make bigotry statements.’ Said Frederick.
- ‘what do you mean there is no difference? When I came to the gate of your building they wanted me to show my ID and they searched me thoroughly; when an expatiate is coming s/he is being escorted by a bodyguard and the door opens prior to his or her arrival. There is even special expatriate desk and there is afghan desk and it goes to many other little things. The system is through to segregate. This whole system of privileges places expatriate psychologically above equally qualified Afghan counterpart’ I said.
- ‘I was shot in my head by Taliban … but I came back… Expatriates leave everything they have and come to work in Afghanistan. They have a better life at home and they come to a very poor situation, this is not a privilege’ said chace. Frederick’s wife is the reporting manager while my departments’ manager appointed his wife as my direct supervisor. So they are not exactly leaving everything at home. Expatriates like Frederick are running IRD like their home.
- ‘Expatriates are paid several times more than equally qualified Afghans. In the last four months since I work in IRD I had no time off; my expatriate colleagues were paid at least two to three times for their holidays’ I said. here is IRD benefit package for expatriates http://docs.google.com/fileview?id=F.ab2b4c9a-5d29-4928-93ef-04886da60d2b . There are some 26 benefit packages; expatriates only receive 70% of their base salary in post differential and danger pay. The only thing I received as an Afghan was a salary and no paid leave let alone paying for holidays.
- ‘Expatriates have high expenses and they used to be paid better at home. Afghans are making 1000 – 1500 dollars a month. Nobody used to make this kind of money in this country… They don’t need that kind of money…’ said chace.
- ‘This is sick – Afghans don’t need money – this is the same thing told about the slaves – why do they need wages when they can have food and shelter. Everybody needs money but a sound social system allocates this scarce resource not based on our nationality and creed but by our excellence and hard work. Everybody should be paid based on their contribution and merits, not their nationality.’ I said.
- ‘expatriates are putting their lives at risk … and they are going to what is now home for some quite time and food… something narrow mind people don’t understand’
- ‘IRD only value the lives of expatriates, not Afghans. Foreigners are given half a dozen body guards and two armoured vehicles when travelling inside Kabul city and even more security when going to provinces. Afghans are constantly at risk. An Afghan colleague was made to resign because he had a family emergency and couldn’t travel to a province where he was provided no security. He was very concern about his safety and informed so his expatriate manager who asked him to resign if he is not prepared to go. When Afghans travel they take public transport. Yet, statistics shows Afghans are the victims than expatriates.’ I said. There have been at least three cases since I had worked in IRD where IRD staff or contractors were killed and they were all Afghans. In a couple of instances IRD-SPR concealed it from its funder USAID.
- ‘what statistics! I was shot in the head by Taliban… The person who you are talking about is an isolated case which I do not now about… IRD-SPR puts its staff, especially Afghans, safety at most importance.’ Said Frederick.

This conversation went on for an hour and then he told me he categorically can not accept such remarks and he has fired four employees before me for making such comments and he has to do the same with me. ‘I have to treat everybody the same’ he said. When I left his office with the IT and HR persons, both Afghans, were strangely quiet. Nadir walked around with his head hanging and said ‘I am sorry’. I said ‘don’t be. I don’t need this job; it is excruciating’. He said ‘not for that but for what he said and his attitude.’ But what can he do except being sorry along with thousands of other Afghans. They need their jobs and have to put up with people like Frederick.

I wonder if zero tolerance policy to suggestions about office lunch that challenges well trenched segregation policies could be considered discrimination.

Thursday, May 28, 2009


during a routine footpatrol a company of american troops reached an unknown Afghan village perceived hostile where they are taking position in preparation for possible attack. an Afghan man unaware of their frantic condition is bringing tea for a crouching troop while the other one in the background seems surprised.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Stop Human Rights Violators from becoming President

Hereby, we a number of victims of Daikundi province would like to draw your attention to the background and atrocities of a number of provincial council candidates in the province. The nomination of the people, who have committed and continue to commit heinous violations of human rights, to run for the provincial council elections is a matter of serious concern for the people of Daikundi, especially the victims of their crimes and atrocities.
Nomination of infamous and known human rights abusers, such as Arif Hussain Dawari and Anwar Moballigh is indeed a mockery of elections and democracy. This is equivalent to rewarding of criminals for their crimes. Just as examples, we would like to draw the attention of your respected Commission to the following:
1. Rape and forced marriage: Dawari has committed numerous rapes. The victims of his rape are known in every village. Some of them were killed or forced to leave the area. Victims have registered complaints with various authorities. Some of his rape cases have been documented by human rights organizations . He has forcibly married many wives, including Wolesi Jirga Member Sherin Moheseni who was wife of some body else.
2. Murder: Dawari has committed horrendous and brutal murders and assassinations. Currently there are around 30 murder cases against him filed with judicial and human rights agencies both in Daikundi province and in Kabul. The respectable IECC can request a copy of the cases from the department, should it deem necessary.
3. Drug business: Arif Dawari is the main person behind cultivation and trafficking of narcotics in Daikundi province. From 2001 to 2004 alone, he extorted three to four thousands ser (approximately 20,000 to 30,000 Kgs) of opium taxation from the people of Sharistan and Meramore. He used to force people to cultivate poppy and then levied tax more than the volume of their product.
4. Private jail: Scores of innocent people and his political rivals were kept and inhumanely tortured in Dawari’s private jails. Many died as a result of his cruel torture techniques. He is still running a private jail in a remote area between Sharistan and Gezan district.
5. Illegal armed group: Dawari does not only possess the largest arms depots in Daikundi but also runs the most organized and frightful illegal armed group . A number of his sub-commanders who are currently involved in intimidation of people are Gul Muhammad Azizi, Sayed Nazir, Reza Hekmatyar (Dawari’s nephew and a provincial council candidate), Ghulam Ali Mojahid, Habib Ghaf, Ahmadi (known as Ahmadi kar), Padshah Ghochan and Hussaini (known as balaaye kotut).
6. Kidnapping and torture: tens of people have so far been kidnapped and brutally tortured by Dawari and his men. Several cases and complaints have been filed and registered with relevant authorities since 2002.
7. Relationship with Taliban: before the collapse of Taliban, Dawari was a commander and agent of the group in the area. He continued to maintain his links with the group after their fall. Their interactions have included narco-traficking and transiting and arms smuggling. Dawari has personally met with Taliban commanders several times in 2007 and 2008. He also had met two famous and senior Taliban commanders, namely Mullah Dadullah and Mullah Fayzullah in November 2006. The meeting was facilitated and arranged by a person named Sayed Sufi Gardezi. Dawari has also repeatedly met Taliban commander Mullah Salaam over the last two years.
8. Money Laundering: the fortune that he has made through illegal means have largely been transferred through hawala system and invested in the U.A.E and Iran.
Anwar Muballigh is also implicated in the same crimes and violations and continues to do so. He has committed a number of horrific crimes such as murders, illegal taxation on lands, illegal taxation per head, kidnappings, forced recruitment of soldiers, running of illegal armed group, extortion and intimidation of people through his armed men, robbery, forced marriage and illegal detentions.
We are confident that United Nations, including Human Rights Unit of UNAMA, Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) and other human rights organizations have enough data and information regarding violations committed by Dawari and Muballigh. Their participation in the political process will further disappoint people. It will give similar criminals and abusers further courage and assurance of impunity.
Arif Dawari and Anwar Muballigh are ringleaders of two human rights violator’s gangs in Daikundi. They want to misuse civil institutions and public offices as a safe ground for their criminal activities. Disqualifying these two criminals and their gang members are the minimum demand of their victims for the interest of peace and justice.
Dawari has also nominated his sister (Rashida Shahidi) and his nephew (Reza Hekmatyar) who has also served as one of his sub-commanders. Dawari intends to use them and their post as a shield for expansion and furtherance of his illegal activities. Reza Hekmatyar is an accomplice in all Dawari’s crimes. Rashida Shahidi is intended to be put in the provincial council position to serve as a cover for his inhumane and criminal actions, as he has skillfully done with his wife Sherin Mohseni as a member of Wolesi Jirga.
Regrettably, UNAMA allowed Dawari in the last Parliamentary Elections to get his wife (whom Dawari had forcefully married) to the Parliament through intimidation and vote-buying. The woman was later widely misused by Dawari as a political cover for his criminal and inhumane activities. Using his wife, Dawari even managed to secure himself an official government position as head of National Security Directorate in Sharistan district in January 2009. However, he was removed from the position in less than one month due to the objection and protest of people. Using his wife, he has however continued to interfere in the affair of the province and is even flying on MoD helicopters to and from Daikundi! By this action, he is further intimidating his victims by demonstrating the government as a protector of his criminal activities.
We demand the disqualification of Dawari, Muballigh, Reza Hekmatyar and Rashida Shahidi and removal of their names from the list of provincial council candidates. Re-empowerment of these criminal gangs will dash all hopes of victims for peace and democracy. We have lost many beloved ones and we have experienced various atrocities. We do not want to dwell on the bitter past; rather we look for the future. Re-empowerment of these individual will destroy our future also and will turn it into a sad and dark destiny. Our past has been destroyed, please do not let them destroy our future too. Please listen to our voice! We all cry:

Thursday, April 16, 2009

difference between an ‘Afghan’ and a ‘Pessimist Afghan’

Meant to write lately but whatever I tell lately is about how things are not fun. sooo done telling pessimist stories; so I thought maybe I should tell you this. Here is a joke.
Can you tell the difference between an ‘Afghan’ and a ‘Pessimist Afghan’?
The later would respond to a joke by ‘damn it, so unfair. Can you believe that?’ The later would say; ‘that is funny. Tell me another one’.
I met a man earlier who is about to marry a relative of mine. The so called bride is usually nervous and wants to make a good impression on relatives of his future wife. Nervous I hate; mmm, Hate is rather strong but more like don’t keep on speed-dial. It put me at unease; I just can’t stand the view of somebody who is ruining his moment and not enjoying the company. i went to an easy mood and attempted to be not only funny but acrobatic funny. Something I had learned from a good friend; ‘people would like and feel at ease if you act as a clown’ she said. i suppose she is particularly right about nervous wankers and pessimists. Whatever I said he was damning it.
I said ‘man, sure is many dogs in this neighbourhood’.
Looking at the floor or out the window he responded ‘damn right. They are certainly a nuisance’.
That didn’t go well. I recognised if we talk about something he felt positive about then he would be less nervous. Searching among the limited topics you could talk about with a stranger.
‘the weather is certainly rainy these days’ I said.
‘can you believe that. Things are just not right’. He said.
I was getting desperate. I thought of jokes. So I told him one.
‘A man had two goldfish, he named one of them "One" and the other "Two". he did this because… if one died, he'd still have two’.
His mouth started to spread toward his ears but he held his grin ‘damn it, so unfair. Can you believe that’.
Later the relative asked me what I thought of him. I said:
‘he is a perpetual pessimist who will only tire you out.’
She asked ‘what do you mean?’
I said ‘well, he is a pessimist. He doesn’t see the bright side of things. Life is gloomy and doomy for him.’
She looked rather confused and shoke her head ‘but who doesn’t’. she is right because she is surrounded by pessimists.
‘Most of the people on the planet’. I said.
She didn’t seem sure. ‘Like who?’.
In an attempt to show my confidence ‘all the good writers’.
She exclaimed ‘really’.
I took her to my books and I showed her my favourites. She picked, the brothers Karamazov, dostoyevsky’s master piece. ‘But it’s brutal murder and violent love. Its gloomy; it portrays a potential of criminality in all of us.’ She said.
‘ok, maybe not this one’. I said. then I give her ‘The sound and the Fury’ by William Faulkner.
‘a story of self destruction seeded in love . how crap is that? …’ she said.
I soon give up. ‘This is not what I thought it should be. But there is a lot of good stuff within’ I said.
A bit disappointed ‘really’ she said.
‘How about a joke?’ I said.
‘go on’ she said. …….. ‘that is funny. Tell me another one’ she said.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Afghan reconstruction or Darwinian experiment

The spirit of Charles Darwin has been an inspiration for me; I hold maximum respect for his scientific achievements and social courage. How many people are going to come out today in any society and who could say something so radical as Darwin did; many, that is right. Many people would do that; because we as the human species, in Darwin words, have become so negative and pessimistic that we would challenge anything and everything. But here is the thing, who would stick to their word and fight for what they stand for. Very few people and they will back down when pressured.
Darwin was about experimenting and evolving and I think we need to learn from him at this critical point in Afghan history. I was just reading an audit on the over US$ 8 billion USAID has spent in Afghanistan and there is so much; this came to my attention after I tried to figure out what the fuss was about. Some were so angry as though the whole amount had come from their pocket. Even if they are taxpayers they put the trust in to a system and shouldn’t lose faith so quickly. For the sake of keeping ourselves and the society sane and in maintaining the Darwinian spirit of experimentalism. Afghanistan is an experiment. Six audits of the U.S. Agency for International Development's multibillion-dollar Afghanistan reconstruction effort found only one program working largely as it was supposed to. Nobody knew if it was going to work, it is mere chance. Afghanistan is uncertain and mysterious as human nature was during Darwin period; the only way to find out is through experiment. A US$ 219 contract to improve government institutions produced a lack of evidence of results after the agency and the contractor spend an inordinate amount of time attempting to define the program’s activities and priorities.
Another $102 million contract to promote agriculture led to defective buildings, the spraying of pesticides without studying their impact and the failure to implement a major commercial farm program. Isn’t that experiment?
i asked three different people what they thought about the outcomes of USAID audits; an Afghan, an American and a USAID employee. It might sound like a job but it is not. The Afghan said ‘USAID is just a front for the CIA and has been for 30 years in Afghanistan. So all that money went nowhere except in to the hands of people that don't have to account for it like Dick Cheney. The warlords, Taliban and other criminal allies of Americans.’
The American who lives in America said ‘Contractors get millions trying to convert a bunch of 12th century, poppy growing, mysoginists who don't want to have anything to do with Western culture except the money derived from its taste for Heroin addiction.’
And the aid worker was not certain and hesitantly said ‘money spent in Afghanistan since 2002 has produced "remarkably powerful impacts," in health, education, agriculture and other sectors.’
I am not worried at all about the money but rather the attitude it produces among peoples, ghettoising minds and communities.
I think people need to calm down and get on with their lives. So we can take all the suspicion, stubbornness and anger away from Afghan issues; which is the key for the evolution of Afghanistan in to a stable place.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

bringing taliban onboard

Obama declared in an interview that the United States was not winning the war in Afghanistan and opened the door to a reconciliation process in which the American military would reach out to moderate elements of the Taliban, much as it did with Sunni militias in Iraq. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/08/us/politics/08obama.html?scp=5&sq=taliban&st=cse

The Afghan government has not gained the confidence of the Afghan people. corruption, lack of administrative capacity and bad leadership has resulted in fading away whatever trust existed in the first place. the government and US is losing because they don't have the public on their side, not because there is a strong pro taliban Pakistan infiltrating into Afghanistan, or local taliban are gaining momentum in the south. for policy makers it is very important to know that afghans don't like taliban and don't want to see them return, the majority. Afghans don't want Taliban. what about under current circumstances; do Afghans want the Taliban to return because the government is failing and it is the only way to stop bloodshed. i don't know the answer to that but if Obama says 'YES' then there are two points to ponder about. first, it is admitting that Taliban can do a better job than americans and Afghan government. second, a shameful set back to democracy. Iraq is what it is but Afghanistan is winnable and it shouldn't be lost. this war is no longer fought to make the western world safe from terrorism, it is a war for realising democratic values. democracy set back in afghanistan would hinder any future intervention in any sort of tyranny because the west will lose moral grounds.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Plight of an Afghan Christian

Many people in Afghanistan have turned to the faith of Jesus Christ in recent years. A few of them have done so openly, though most have kept their conversion secret. The new converts have either been influenced by travelling and settling in Christian countries of the west or by the audacity of Christian missionaries who have travelled to Afghanistan.
The converts number in thousands and congregate in secret churches in Afghanistan or in the blossoming Afghan church which has been set up in England. They all decided to turn away from the faith of their ancestors – some in search of food; others in search of a better world and yet others in pursuit of a better faith. Accepting never-ending fear of rejection and animosity as a consequence of conversion, they have been born again in the Christian faith.


shamsi made a choice which has put him in danger if he return to afghanistan. thousands other had fled from fighting in southern and eastern afghanistan, something they didn't choose to have nor they had any control over. hundreds if not thousands of afghans are inside afghanistan trying to fight and improve corrupt state and impaired cultural values. they are being persecuted for their political beleives on daily basis. the choice they make are for greater good than the choice shamsi had made yet many have been refused asylum in the UK. it is hard to distinguish between genuin refugees and economic immigrant at this age. UK can't accomodate everyone fleeing their country under different names. UNDP human development index shows that some over 85% of young afghans want to immigrate to the west because they see a better life for themselves there. but they need to stay and fix thier own country.as for shamsi he opted out of his ancestor religion because he found a better one. if he really likes the new one then he better move on and enjoy christianity.there is enough problem in afghanistan, and UK too, created by religion we don't need another one added by Shamsi. religion has no answer to the problem of humanity. there is a similarity between shamsi and a suicide bomber and a difference too. they both get themselves killed, that is if shamsi was in afghanistan. there is one difference too. a suicide bomber deceives himself into 72 virgins and heaven; Shamsi deceives others with his asylum claims.
as for Mr. Reza who is allegedly a journalist. please improve your journalistic skills.'Many people in Afghanistan have turned to the faith of Jesus Christ in recent years. A few of them have done so openly, though most have kept their conversion secret.'
how do you know that. there is a lot of information packed in the first sentence without any proof. what is your source. perhaps you should consider adding i think....to the begining of each sentence but that again is bad journalism.
'The new converts .... or by the audacity of Christian missionaries who have travelled to Afghanistan.'a less loaded sentence would be ' or by what they see as audacity of chritian missionaries who have travelled to Afghanistan'. but there is a problem wtih that sentence too. it is not true. what audacity are you talking about. i was investigating the missionaries and i was recommended to several misssionary organisation but all refused that they have any christian motives.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Despotism over Liberty, even the choice of successful Afghans

I am bugged by the thought of why is it that ‘modern Afghans’ are not backing the government and international community whose values of government system has made it possible for them to tremendously improve their life in comparison to Their situation under the Taliban.

I have come to realise that bright Afghans who do not have a social mind set orbiting solely around religion, with an interest of individual nature and hobbies are against democratic values. They do not possess any prerequisites for radicalisation such as social isolation, political grievances affecting their daily life, marginalisation, oppression and the rest of it. They are quite happy and not religious. They have an open mind about alcohol and sex as part of routine lifestyle, they know places in Kabul where they can purchase and drink. This group of Afghans I call the modern Afghan. This group theoretically should make up the core of Karzai government supporters. This is exactly the key allies that the international community and Nato should have on their side. If they are not on their side, then who is? I am wondering, why they are not, while stuck in this traffic jam. This group has much in common with the ordinary man of the west: a shared lifestyle, putting family first, secular views of daily life, sought education and career dedicated. But they differ in what is known as morality and political views.  Ordinary man of the west, I consider those who are not partisan political such as members of religious, ultra right or left wing groups. The man who is family dedicated and seeks happiness for the loved ones. The ordinary man of the west, by and large, condemns violence against the innocents while the modern Afghan man condones terror and civilian targeting as a way of addressing the grievances of the group which, he considers, had been marginalised and betrayed. The ordinary man of the west sees terror as a serious threat to their safety, while the modern Afghan sees it as a part of life in what he can’t have a say.

Modern Afghan’s silence against ‘the evils’ has got to do with his inability to bond with the values of democracy, the current socio-political trend promoted by international community and Afghan government. The modern Afghan man is the closest Afghan replica, similar to the moralisation of democratic values by the ordinary western man. On the other hand and generally speaking, the modern Afghan man has political views and morality codes which do not go with his lifestyle. The modern Afghan condemned the Danish Cartoons and rallied to take action against Denmark. They launched a campaign which boycotted Danish products. The modern Afghan is anti-Semitic in what they see jews as human elements of Israeli state. Unaware of the fact that not all Israelis are Jews and there are Jews outside Israel too. An international colleague with last names as Sigal, Izaaks,  Hickman or Sichel;  are seen as another foreigner. The modern Afghan has not been disgusted by the action of Taliban rather they have become more sympathetic. Almost half of the modern Afghans I know have been involved in numerous incidents where they were close to be hurt. The target was some foreigners or government installation but the pedestrians took the toll; people going about their lives on the street. Witnessing this didn’t change their mind about Taliban tactics. The modern Afghan do not necessarily support Taliban but it is that they have a fluctuating ground in relation to what is happening around them on daily basis. They see that the dead pedestrians could be them and that Taliban puts their life in grieve danger but it is something behind their action.

Among the modern Afghan is Elias. A successful entrepreneur owning some several radio stations and other businesses. The radio station he owns is nothing less than a historical phenomena. The international intervention and the creation of a democratic space has made it possible for citizens to own media outlets; radio has always been a state monopoly. The radio stations are sustained by the market forces and development fundings available from international sources. Yet, Elias lacks any commitment to the current regime or the values of the system which has made it possible to own and profit from the radio stations. Elias has lived under the Taliban and he knows they wouldn’t even let him express his views about the dress he wears or his beard and hair let alone critic the social order.

Do you think Taliban would let you conduct your life, business and employment the way you do?

‘Current social is created under the influence of westerners. It is not the only and it is not the ideal. Things in Afghanistan changes fast, you won’t have a chance to reflect on what is happening and where I fit. To survive you need to punch forward. If there was no international aid, consequently my business, then I would be free to grow drug. Why do they whinge when I make money the way I do.’ said Elias.

Elias like many modern Afghans I know argue that democratic principles are riddled with double standards and contradiction. Modern Afghan grievances are based on what they see as democracies ineligibility to the moral authority. They say: what about Guantinimo, what about treatment of minorities in the ‘free world’, what about corruption in western politics. Muslims lack a sense of self criticism to enable them compare Islamic morality with democracy. Islamic morality is blazingly clear but its impairment is not questionable even by the modern Afghan. There is an urge for clarity. We should respond to the criticism of free world morality. I think there are three things here: the treatment of own citizens and the free world is doing very good. Secondly, respect to international law. Again the free world is doing good except the US under Bush administration and finally what the free world does to realise its own morality in places like Afghanistan and it is horrific. The free world is not only helping but has financed genocide. if we are talking politics that was then and now is now. The slightest believe in Islam does not distinct between personal and politics, making western support for previous wars a personal matter. We have been through enough crises to understand that decisions are not based on principles but political realities and human’s realistic ability as oppose to our wishful thinking. Elias seems to have been for most of his life at the betrayed end of hypocrisy culmination and he has experienced a larger share than ordinary man. Contradiction in the principles of democracy has made Elias highly suspicious of the values and principles of democracy. For instance, freedom of expression as a value and objectivity as a core principle of it, is viewed as a mirage. Elias is correct in saying that no outlet is objective and they have their own angle into the issues; but he doesn’t recognise how distorted their interpretation of the truth is. BBC has an angle but the angle Aljazeera or Taliban media or Iran state media has, lies some 180 degrees away from the truth. In the mid90s when Taliban were battling the northern alliance in the north of Kabul after capturing Kabul. Iranian Sada Wa Sima radio was reporting that Taliban has launched a massive attack on Kabul. This is why BBC has a reputation in Afghanistan for providing objective news and information. Truth doesn’t always matter; we as humans are fallible and for a believer in human fallibility truth doesn’t exist. The larger and the further the object of truth is from us, we’ll have more autonomy in selecting what truth is which basically means the angle we view it.  if battle is raging at the gates of Kabul; a Kabuli wants to know the progress; it is a truth. I could be heard and felt. But some Taliban pocket of resistance in Kandahar some 500KM away can’t be felt but realised through anecdotes. That is why Aljazeera make perfect sense for millions of Afghans and other Muslims as well as non muslims as long as ones world view is compatible with it. once a modern Afghan starts to take Aljazeera as an outlook to the truth it means changes to certain aspect of his world has happened.   

The notional objectiveness does not exist but do you see some are more objective than others?

‘There are international treaties and conventions. The western world has always violated these documents when it comes across their interest. The west has created an unfair world where everybody fights for survival, the weak has no choice of winning but to create a different perspective. If you are on the weak side it is as more objective than the western aspect.’  Said Elias.

Elias believes that Hamas and Taliban actions or other militant groups are justified because they are denied justice and have been shoved to margins of opportunity. They have no choice but to resort to cruelty. This is while Elias’s business partner Zameer has arrived at the conclusion that reconstruction projects are a waste of money instead the international community should have supported businesses. This view is generally shared by other business pioneers too. The basic of economics is: fixed exchange rates which will keep the goods circulate in the free market by keeping the price down is good for the national growth. Such a business oriented approach to development is assuming that Afghans would shoulder a bigger portion of responsibility instead of foreigners building stuff for them.  Elias believes that those under tremendous stress can’t be judged by the same token as those living the good life often at their expense. I asked him if people are not to bear  responsibility for their action disregarding their situation then why does he run a radio station, the basic notion of which is empowering people and providing a voice for the marginalised so grievances could be addressed and alternatives to the vicious circle of poverty could be found? 

‘America has an obligation to Afghanistan. they can’t go around and destroy countries and leave them on their own. They can but they will taste the consequences as they did on 9/11. The west bombs, kills and destroys but when we demand justice we are told that is against human rights and when we take matters in our hands, we are called terrorists.’ Answered Elias.                         

Culture haunts Afghans, not poverty or lack of education

There is a lack of personal coherence among most Afghans. They can not establish principles as much as they like to. Ideas and loyalties are filtered by tribe and religion. The principle of demonstrating against the Israeli attack on Ghaza and supporting Palestinians is not because Afghans, which also goes for all Muslims, are anti war or condemn military invasion. They admire Hamas’s militancy and has glorified Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait. Afghans are deeply tribal and religious; only those sharing a tribal and religious association deserve absolute support while outsiders are enemies by default. Bzia an Afghan of Tajik origin condemns Stalin’s arbitrary borders sketching in central Asia, resulting in dispersal of Persian speakers between several countries, losing their ancient cities and cultural heritage. At the same time Bzia endorses Bush cowboy style smugness because he saved Tajiks from Pashtoon Taliban. Bzia does not even understand, let alone believe in national self determination or antimilitary occupation principles. His concerns appear to be based on western principles but it is not. It is tribal, he is upset about Tajik minority treatment in various central Asian countries and he finds it easy to blame something in the history; another Afghan peculiarity when addressing present day realities. The Afghan elite and intellectuals can not overtly establish a rational position in favour of their ethnically driven morality; though they very much like Hitler Nazism. Ethnically and religious driven fictions have committed atrocities that could never again be justified. However, Afghanistan continues to remain at the hands of ethicism and tribalism but obscured with western principles. Borrowed western principles are perverted to the possible limits to fit their purposes. The western principles such in politics and economics have been claimed as a value system but the practice is hypocritical.

Adult Afghans can not act as they resolve. I have come to know many enthusiastic Afghans who wish achievements through education and work but they can not do it. They lack the willpower to grab the moment for their intentions. General lack of determination at all levels of society has realised the need of an alternative force, dogma. Dogma is the underpinning every action. The power of dogma has compelled the population do things which don’t make sense. Behave and converse in certain ways all the time. Human nature does not approve dogma giving room for hypocrisy. Dogmatism obstructs religious morality to be internalised. Not everything could be determined by dogma unless we are talking about Taliban; any other Afghan is a hypocrite.

The reason children are not as good as their counterparts in the rest of the world in their studies is not because they don’t want to study but they lack the will and discipline to study. When children are made to study by adults and parents, they try to do. I have observed in the last month working with a group. Three weeks ago I asked each separately why they don’t study while they want and they are told to; the answer is ‘I will study tomorrow. Today is my last day off’. This is the answer everyday for the last month. It is the next day, it is the next step but it never happens. When I provide feedback to the children I work ‘look you haven’t been studying, I could help you study’. The child would agree with me and we decide today is studying day. I depend on his initiative to do the actual studying. I provide a quite room for him to go and sit quietly. But he can’t be bothered to study. Children are neglectful. When people are brought up under oppression they tend to be neglectful. They lack the will for action; they are usually driven by violence and use of force. They have lost their free will to take action. I have tried to renegotiate a situation and accommodate every demand; I had or the job was still neglected. It is hard to bother people to care. It is hard and stressful. People would swear to you to do a job or commitment and you’ll agree on the details but it will not happen. Values like trust is not part of daily life but in the romanticised surrealism of pop culture living parallel to realities. As much as an Afghan wants to be trusted, he will fail when an action requires the willpower. Sometimes an Afghan can be trusted, but that is when trust requires something within his routine realm of ability. Trust is not a principle. Principles like fairness and belief are sought to be seen as preserved because the society is dogmatic which requires this to base everything on principles. But at the end of the day, things are not determined by principle but at person’s ability to do or not to do. Words such as fairness and morality don’t exist in the full sense of the meaning. Fairness would require making changes to the current lifestyle and frankly the lifestyle in the choking dogmatism of Afghan culture can’t be bothered with change. For instance going back to working with children. I decided with the children that best time of the day to study is morning. Their mind is clear and ready to observe; once they go out and about and start playing it is not easy to return them to their studies. It didn’t quite work out for children, morning turn out to be slow, busy and sleepy. I made a schedule of chores for them instead. Chores are not usual for children to do. The women of the house do all the work, no need for children to bother. Women are also quite intimate with children, as men are not spending much time with them, women to be nice to children does work on their behalf. I told children I’ll pay them in exchange for the work they do. I thought it is a fair barter. They do work as I assign them in exchange they get paid. I thought this could be a way to teach children to be responsible for a job and in charge of their spending. Children were quite excited, and could hardly wait to get their first week payment. Children are not given allowances in Afghan families. They are bullied by their father or older brother to do work for them – not by women as often. Children need money and they usually earn it by stealing. When I talked with children who had stolen home supplies either from their or others houses were in dire need of money. Children then lie to their mothers if they find out about their extra cash. Fathers do not have much communication with their children and will never find out about their extra cash or new gadget they have purchased. Mother’s lack the will to talk with fathers; she is usually blamed and punished for shortcomings. Conversations between spouses are concerned with the gloomy and doomy side of things; the husband comes harsh on the wife by blaming her. Wives are scared to bring up anything about family life with their husbands. Communication has strengthened mother son relationship much more than mother – father relation. Because mothers can not give love to husbands they are usually close to their sons to the extent that they admire their sons. Probably a reason why boys grow into self-centred men in Afghanistan. The boys have to steal because they don’t have other choice. Then the option is between lying and being beaten up by the father. Lying really starts to work for children which later turn into a habit ravaging our society on daily basis.

Children who I assigned chores refused to do after less than a week. At their homes they were not able to do chores; it conflicted with so many other things. Children perceived chores as an unfair practice. ‘Why should I do work when my elder brothers and parents are not doing anything’ said a child. ‘I don’t want to put on my clothing and bring water from the well. I want to relax like everyone else.’ Said another child. I went to talk with the parents and elders and told them children felt they were not treated fairly. Parents accepted they will make changes, we agreed, so children could do their chores. After a week children reported no change in their parents. Adults had no where else to go so they could be comfortable in their privacy but they could also not adjust themselves so the younger family members could feel they are treated fairly. The cultural and economic life doesn’t allow principles such as privacy and fairness to flourish. Fairness requires the consistency of action and talk. In Afghan culture fairness has been redefined into something compatible with the authoritarian nature of the culture. Some people such as parent and clergy are fair if they talk fair, even if they act unfair. A common proverb is ‘don’t mind the action of the Mullah, follow his talks’. In talks everybody sounds fair but their action is unfair; fairness doesn’t work this way. Fairness is a behavioural code; not a conversational tool to be pedantic. Afghans are not as nice as they think they are; if Afghan bring a bit of realism and throw away a bit of ‘all is perfect’ cultural attitude then things would change for good.

Friday, January 16, 2009

The kingdom of dogs

There is a new dog wanting to join the pack in Rahamatabad area. She lost her pack in Kotal area after they were dispersed in a terrible incident. She doesn’t have a name but usually goes by the name ‘Brown’. Brown found herself in a human cemetery surrounded by a pack of horny dogs on a September day.

Brown was never fond of her birth given place, something rather unusual for dogs. It is said among the pack ‘when eventuality meets the destiny, an equation which brings death; according the pivotal mythology of dogs; the dog heads the trail, abandoning the pack’. Kotal neighbourhood is not friendly for what is known as street dogs. The neighbourhood has too many children encouraged, even more than Brown species, in aggression as a way of survival. Food is scarce in Kotal, no market or Bazaar is in the area. And the worst; it is located on the highway connecting Kabul to the north. Many dogs and sometimes their pursuing children have collided with the racing traffic.

Chamtalla an old pasture between Kotal and Rahmatabad has now turned into a waste disposal location for Kabul municipality. Brown realising September is the time when dogs breed and food in Kotal would even become scarcer set out one day in search of food. After snuffling and searching for a couple of miles in Chamtalla and when her nose was weary and her feet powerless to search any further her eyes found Kabul waste disposal grounds. Vast mountains of litter reaching behind dog’s sight, filled with loads of potential edible. Brown spent a few days digging and eating; she found places to sleep but she didn’t feel quite right. She missed the pack, the barking, the running and the togetherness. She sets off in search of her pack; after a day of walking she reached the opposite side of Chamtalla, Rahmatabad.

Brown meets a pack of dogs on the top of a hill turned into a cemetery; there are three small hills in the middle of Rahmatabad, one abandoned after the military use and the other two are now cemetery. The pack is digging a grave or two and taking out dead peoples’ bones from the grave. This is not quite the time for it to happen, it takes place after a few snows and during the snow more than 60cm. it is not early in calendar calculation; by this time other years there are many snows already. Dogs seem to be confused about the season. Dogs only digs graves for food when heavy snow fall and people tend to hole up at homes and there is not much left over available on the streets from the people and there is not much to be found in the litter. Dead human bones are the last resort of dogs at the face of starvation. Some people who are relatively well off tend to build a cage around their family grave. The cage protects the grave from the bone-eaters. Digging grave is an instinct developed as a survival strife in some dogs, man’s best friend. It is unusual for dogs to dig like rats, as deep as up to 2 – 3 meters.

When the pack sees Brown, they start barking and running toward Brown; leaving other female dogs alone. She doesn’t seem to be scared but she starts running around the cemetery chased by the pack. She has to play the mating game which requires her not to give up until there is one last dog left. The dogs start to sniff her back. Brown starts to be scared, some of the dogs are more aggressive than usual. Then the fight over Brown starts; to choose the one dog which should be left at the end to make the puppies. The dogs now want to take the fight to the mountains nearby. As the fight gets very loud and crowded; neighbourhood children wants to join, not because they are interested in mating with the dog but loves any fight to be part of. Among the pack there are dogs of varied strength. Some dogs tend not to participate in this great but also brutal fun festival. A number of the male dogs had been a pet or rather animal toy for the neighbourhood boys. There are still ropes around their nicks which always comes handy when a new child wants to catch them. Some of the dogs have been injured; they can’t participate in the mating. They usually are limping behind the pack. Another type of dogs is called the needle-dog. The needle dogs had swallowed a needle when feeding on the litter. It is either a sewing needle but more often an injection needle from a pharmacy or hospital waste disposal. In Rahmatabad there is a pharmaceutical factory producing among other things synergies too. The factory has a huge waste dumping ground right behind their compound on the surface level in the open space. Dogs when hungry do go and eat industrial waste and sometimes swallow a needle. The needle dogs can’t keep it quite; they run around in circles but when the needle in their stomach doesn’t hurt they chill for a minute or two as though they are sculptures. The needle dogs punch the way to be part of the social dog life but the needle stabs rein them other way. The mating contest and Brown was taken to the mountains. Mamor which is not his real name but simply mean the officer. He got the name because he was working for the government for several years and everyone who works for the government is an officer for villagers. Mamor is watching the mating contest and realises that Brown is new in Rahmatabad. A couple of days later Brown returns to Rahmatabad to get some food when Mamor saw her at a glance while heading to the local school where he teaches. In the afternoon when Mamor returned home Brown was on the street sniffing about doors; dragged into this street by the strong smell of frying meat. Mamor give Brown some food in return to which Brown pointed her nose to the sky in what Mamor believes to be a prayer. Brown disappeared for a few months but was back at Mamors door before giving birth, pregnant and hungry. Mamor homed Brown in a large compound next to his house, empty with tall walls but a good place for Brown to give birth for her puppies. Brown was loud at first. She couldn’t stop barking; neighbourhood dogs joined the barking chat too. Mamor was not sure at first in the face of the noise. The neighbours have dogs for protection. They grow them cruel; cutting ears and tails of an aggressive breed, always leashed on chains. Dogs are used as a weapon to keep stranger or burglars out; only being released at night. I used to have such a dog, named Jangjaw – the warrior – but it went nasty; not even allowing the children to play in the garden. We had to set him free in a desert. Neighbours alarm-dogs quietened soon after they got used to Brown. Mamor one day found another dog in the compound. More and more dogs were coming to the street. Dogs in the drizzling days and chilly nights of the winter tend to look for lavatory holes or any other wall crack to enter into houses. Mamor blocked the hole from where the dog had entered the compound. Mamor knew Brown was pregnant and wanted to keep her safe and away from dogs. For Brown to go out playing with other dogs it was dangerous. There are friends and foes on the street. Among the foes are drivers. It is hard to find a driver in Kabul who hasn’t run over a few dogs. Some mornings when I walk to my favourite mountain spot to watch the sun rise I see a couple of dogs being squashed to the road. Drivers are the reckless enemy and often they don’t bother to break when a dog is on the road. Night-Watchers, as they are called for private guards protecting business areas and shops, are dogs’ friends. There are several times more night-watchers than police protecting private ownership and they are far nicer to everything and everyone including dogs. Night-watchers carry a big stick and make a huge fire on the street corners. Dogs are attracted to the warmth and light of the fire. The friendship of nightwatcher and dog is a mutual friendship. Dogs are kept warm by the fire in return they look after the shops in the nightwatcher territory. There are also other threats for a dog like Brown. There are three strains of dogs. The central dogs live in downtown Kabul and are quite domesticated and almost behave as pets. However, they don’t take kindly intruders. There are also mountain dogs and the third strain is wild dogs. Mountain dogs are very common in Rahamatabad; the area is immediately surrounded by rocky mountains. Mountain dogs, unlike centre dogs, have wild sources of food such as hunting and dead humans bones. Lone mountain dogs during the day do not pose a threat to anyone but when at packs they could be intimidating. One night after having some whisky with a couple of mates, I decided to take a hike just before midnight when we were chased by a large pack of something around 30 dogs, they were attacking and pulling my cloak. A lone person should be scared of the pack at night. Wild dogs, in contrast, do not come to the residential areas at all. They are dangerous and they attack villages several times every winter. They usually descend into residential areas when the snow falls. There are three or four heavy snows of well above 60cm every winter. When dog height snow falls, they come to the villages and often take some infants and children with them. Residence are inclined to stay home in heavy snows listen to the howling of the wild dogs gazing their streets. Centre dogs and domestic dogs are scared of the wild dogs.

Mamor is kind to animals. The morning after the first night of Brown in the compound he came and found Brown cold and hungry. Mamor brought Brown a blanket, and food from the street butcher, when Mamor was leaving Brown howl behind him and when he looked back Brown waggled her snout to the sky in what Mamor considered she prayed for him to God. This further attached Mamor to the bitch. Animals prayers are of great value in Islam. Mamor has a DVD on petting a dog produced in Britain, I believe, which is the only film he has and love to watch it and then tell stories of, what he dubs infidels, kindness to animals. Stories of Mamor’s fascination with dogs are famous. He urges the people of faith to compete in kindness toward animals.

Mamor has learned about the pharmaceutical waste dump. Many neighbourhood dogs go mad; getting shot by the soldiers of the nearby garrison. Mamor was afraid if set free Brown might become a mad dog with a doomed faith. There is a huge well just outside the garrison where mad dogs are damped after being shot by the soldiers, it is almost filled with crops of mad dogs, stinking from far away. A couple of people have been bitten in the neighbourhood by the mad dog that is why local residence have asked the local garrison to shoot them. Children from the neighbourhood have stories have about mad dog. ‘mad dogs are running fast. Do you know cheetah? They are almost as fast as cheetahs’ said seven years old Satar when his eyes were shining in excitement. a group of children took me to the well where mad dogs are ditched. ‘I hate mad dogs’ said Satar, throwing a rock down and starting to piss in the well.  'the mad dog vaccine costs $1000’ said Satar’s dad as giving Satar a whack at the back of the neck for being anywhere close to mad dogs. ‘How the hell do you think I can afford that’.

Mamor is feeding brown with his leftovers as well as bring bones from the butcher. A bucket is hanging from the wall on a rope from Mamor’s house into the compound. Mamor fills the bucket with water once a day for Brown to drink. Brown gives birth to six puppies on a Sunny Sunday. All the puppies are brown too. Mamor prepared a soft place made of hay with a roof to shelter them from snow and rain. The next day there was a surprise waiting for Mamor. Brown had given birth again, to another six puppies. They looked weaker and ill. The second six died the next day – rather the night- they were too weak and premature to survive the chilly night. The first six are several weeks old now. among them there is only one which is smaller than the rest and low on energy. Mamor has not yet set Brown free; he thinks the puppies need brown and he on his own can not take care of the puppies. Mamor recons the Puppies are too young to be on the street. This winter is tough. The municipality has also come hard after the dogs. Over six hundred centre dogs were killed by the municipality in Kabul. The surviving centre dogs have fled to the outskirts like Rahmatabad. There is a lot of chaos in the dogs’ kingdom. The city and wild strains of dogs have intruded in the dwelling of mountain dogs making it hard for Brown puppies to survive. Wild dogs are facing heavy snows and fewer preys; compelled to tumble down the cities.  Mamor believes that the puppies might fall a piece of rations for the large hungry packs. It was a few days ago that the garrison troopers had enough of wild dogs and set out on a shooting spree. After the shooting Mamor is even more reluctant to put puppies on the street, where they belong. Mamor is trying to find relatives and friends who would take the puppies; I am thinking of taking one too.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Stop Pitying Afghans

The image of Afghans is deteriorating in the ISAF outlook but here I am not to write about that rather vice versa which as well follows parallel trend. If the west wants a change in Afghanistan then they should make a change by taking the Pity out of the system.  

I had to squeeze further toward Hakimi to fit one or two more people in the room. It is a small room, with cushions carefully laid all around the room, about to witness stories of soviet war veterans. I am sitting in front of the door at the top of the room. No one else was prepared to take the place at the top reserving for each other as a sign of respect. Today is the engagement of a mate held in Microryan, a Soviet built apartment complex; perceived as one of the major constructions Afghanistan has ever undertaken. Ironically, the room is packed with people of Panjshir a tribe -now a province - which ferociously fought the soviets. During the ten years of soviet occupation; Red Army launched seven major offensives involving up to three regiments, mechanised, infantry and Airborne, backed by squadrons of gunships and jet bombers but they never pierced through the valley. Panjshiris are today a close ally of Americans in their fight against the Taliban, originating from the Pashton south.

Everyone except me and a couple of my mates are soviet war veterans of older age. It is snowing outside today and quite cold, my breath stands in front of me as white cloud, but that changed as the veterans warmed up the room with their passionate stories. Mullah Abdullah is 50 something years old and has spent a few years in soviet prison where he learned to speak Russian and got to know the soviets better. He was later appointed as an advisor to a prominent Massood commander for the knowledge of soviets he possessed. He spoke of tortures and atrocities in the prison but he also acknowledged the humanity of some officers; a general sense of respect for his old tough enemies. Panjshiris are famous for speaking a loud now that they were excited I could hear them echoing in the room. Listening to the stories I found a quality of respect for the soviet soldiers and officers. It is not unusual for soldiers to come to respect their fierce foes. Winston Churchill admired Sinn Fein Guerrillas and Boer commandos during his struggle with them in 1899-1900 and later but despised the pacifist Indian revolutionaries. Obviously, respect and appreciation of soviets could not be contributed to one factor. Afghans have a deep sense of Nostalgia. Their identities seem to be bolted in the past as the future remains too uncertain to be planned or even thought of. Whatever the underlying reasons for respecting soviets over western NATO would be; it for sure is a point for Nato to ponder about. ‘The other day Americans came to my village. While climbing my garden fence, a very short one, a soldier asked another chubby one to hold his hand. I went to tell him, soviets had a base on the top of the sheer cliff behind you and everyday they were climbing without holding hands. You better pray we all don’t turn against you or you’ll see hell on earth.’ Said Mullah Abdullah. A pleasant soldier who hands out a pack of biscuits, then takes a picture of it with a group of children to hang on his refrigerator only reinforces pitifullness. He, in the eyes of Mullah Abdullah, does not deserve respect.  

When I was telling a civilian member of NATO that Taliban has spent most of their life acquiring what they consider knowledge, was not believable for her. ‘Their views and treatment of women are atrocious. How could they have any knowledge?’ was her response. Taliban are seen as stupid oppressors in general at ISAF with extremely irrational views. It seems now that the biggest mistake ISAF mandated Nato has made is undermining Taliban. They were thought of as a barbarian gang incapable of any reorganisation. It was yesterday I read an article in a western newspaper about Mullah Omar, the leader of Taliban, and his close associates fleeing from cave to cave. Taliban might be irrational or inarticulate but that doesn’t make them stupid. If Taliban were stupid why can’t the Nato prevail; it doesn’t take much to play the stupid. Afghans, in general, are seen as backward and poor while Nato soldier in his fully isolated camp continue to live a life of home, some unaware which country they are serving in. The soldier is nice as his nature commands to be, to the people he pities. This attitude goes back all the way to Nato’s system, policy and any future strategy. The aid system they have devised is pitiful. Until the west abandons this mindset of inferioriting and pitying Afghans the insurgency seem to persist; taliban won’t be understood; an unknown enemy is hard to beat. Western soldiers patrolling urban streets or country orchards lack any sense of connection with ordinary Afghans; they don’t need to understand Afghans, as Estonians or any other eastern Europeans are not understood by British or Germans, they need to be respected and taken on equal terms.

I am finding it hard to connect with my old Kabul mates as they have gradually become pessimistic and anti-western. ‘why do they feed us with propaganda about human rights and equal values while they perceive Afghan women as chattels of pleasure for the criminal warlord’ said Rahmat after learning Americans had distributed Viagra sexual stimulus pill among some village elders as a bribe.  Rahmat’s frustration is rooted in the discrepancy he sees between NATO message and historical as well as current conduct of politics. The strategic need to intervene in Afghanistan has been deceitfully communicated to the policies implemented. The general perception of the intervening western armies is to assist Afghans as oppose to stabilise the government, root out the Taliban and terrorism … increasing Afghan pessimism and distrust has created contempt in the western circles. Contempt combined with pitying is not a good combination.  ‘We do you a favour by being here therefore you should stay obedient’ need to be kicked out of the current Afghan episode.