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American security for Manmohan
Smita Prakash

Kabul, August 28
Very heavy American security was placed around Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh soon after he arrived in Kabul on a two-day official visit, the first by an Indian head of Government to the Afghan capital in 29 years. Indira Gandhi was the last Indian Prime Minister to visit Kabul in 1976.

The Prime Minister and his entourage were accorded a warm ceremonial reception at the airport and were received by Afghanistan's Interior Minister Taj Mohammad Wardak.

He was greeted with a 21-gun salute. The airport and the city of Kabul bore the look of a war zone, as it was heavily sanitised with the security manned by the 146th Airborne Division of the US Air Force and canine squads. The security personnel could be seen maintaining a strict vigil with their Uzi revolvers.

The Indian Tricolour was fluttering at the Ahmad Shah Masood Crossing in the heart of the city. As the convoy passed through, one could see the bombed part of the Presidential Palace in Kabul, which has been kept largely intact. Only the part of the building where President Karzai and his wife (a medical doctor) stay has been restored.

During his visit, Dr Singh is expected to hold wide-ranging talks with Mr Karzai on matters relating to New Delhi’s continued assistance to Kabul, as well as reviewing the situation in the region. He will also have a meeting with Afghan Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah and other dignitaries.

The Prime Minister’s itinerary includes attending the laying of the foundation stone of the Afghan Parliament by King Zahir Shah, which is being constructed with India’s assistance.

Dr Singh and Mr Karzai are also expected to jointly hand over the Habibia School, renovated under India’s assistance programme, to Afghan authorities at a ceremony. Habibia School is one of Kabul’s premier educational institutions and both King Zahir Shah and President Karzai are its alumni.

Dr Singh will also lay the foundation stone of the Indian Chancery complex in Kabul and interact with the non-resident Indian community there.

Earlier, before his arrival in the Afghan capital, the Prime Minister had issued a departure statement in New Delhi in which he reiterated India’s support and commitment for Afghanistan’s economic reconstruction and rehabilitation.

He also said that he would use his two-day landmark visit to Kabul to “further strengthen our bilateral interaction and traditional bonds of friendship.” — ANI



Suicide bomber held on eve of PM's arrival

Kabul(Afghanistan), August 28
Just 24 hours before Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was to land in Kabul, the Afghan authorities apprehended a suicidal bomber in a place called Zabul in Shahisawa District, not too far away from Kabul.

According to Afghan sources, the suicide bomber whose name is Abdul Halim is from Karachi District in Pakistan. He had arrived in Zabul 20 days ago and his task was to create mayhem during Dr Manmohan Singh's visit to Afghanistan.

Interrogation of Abdul Halim by the Afghan authorities revealed that he had been indoctrinated by Maulana Fazlur Rahman of the Jamiat Ullema Islam (JUI), who had told him that it was the duty of every Muslim to wage a holy war (Jihad) in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kashmir.

After his indoctrination, Abdul Halim crossed over into Afghanistan and located himself at Zabul. He then started a process of getting his bomb together, and when that was done, he started to proceed to Kabul, just 24 hours ago. However, local sources tipped off the Afghan security and Abdul Halim was caught before he could set foot inside Kabul. —ANI



Manmohan Singh visits Babar’s tomb

Kabul, August 28
Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh on Sunday visited the Bagh-e-Babar complex in Kabul which houses the tomb and mosque of the 16th century Mughal ruler, Babar.

Accompanied by his entourage of officials, the Prime Minister paid homage to a larger-than -life monarch who ruled over a considerable part of northern India from 1526 to 1530.

Babar was born in Ferghana in present-day Uzbekistan in 1483. After spending many years in Kabul,he invaded India in 1525-26 and defeated the local ruler Ibrahim Lodhi at the First Battle of Panipat, which is not far from Delhi. He sent his son Humayun Mirza on to Agra to capture the Lodhi capital. Babar, travelling from Panipat to Agra, installed himself in the Lodhi citadel of Agra and declared himself Emperor of Hindustan.

So began 332 years of Moghul imperial rule in India.

In an effort to install some semblance of his favourite city of Kabul, Babar had extensive gardens laid out on the left bank of the Yamuna river. These were named Chahar Bagh, Achank Bagh and Zahara Bagh, bagh being the Persian word for garden.

The classical chahar four-square Persian format for the garden became the prototype of the Moghul garden. In a nostalgic move, Babar founded a new ward named Kabul.

Babar missed the cool climes of Kabul. Yet power and glory over-ruled any nostalgic longings. One of Babar’s favourite couplets was: “Give me fame, and if I die I am contented, If fame be mine, let Death claim my body”.

Babar died in Agra in 1530. His remains were returned to his beloved Kabul in 1543. His tomb and the mosque in the complex Bagh-e-Babar can be seen in Kabul. Eyewitnesses even today speak of the simplicity and the state of disrepair of both of these constructions. — ANI



Chaos everywhere
Smita Prakash

Kabul, August 28
No rules, no lights, no cops. That's by and large the rules for drivers on Kabul's roads...If you can call them roads, that is. There are affluent neighbourhoods but no roads leading to them. Just cart roads where horse drawn carts and cars jostle for space. Residents say all this has happened in the last two years when affluence and people returned to the capital. The flip side is that a journey that took a mere 10 minutes can take anywhere from 20-40 minutes.

Around the Presidential Palace and the American Embassy the security is tight, traffic is controlled and barricades are all in place. Not many can get around to these parts of Kabul. Rest of Kabul is confusion, chaos, smog and blaring horns. This city desperately needs traffic policing and a public transport system that works. India, Iran and Japan have donated buses but there is an urgent need for more but before that Kabul needs construction of roads and traffic crossings.

Stark similarities :Some houses in Kabul are replicas of houses in Islamabad. The rich and famous of Kabul (read of dubious financial backing) have imported architects and even labourers from Karachi and Islamabad in order to construct similar houses. The facades are garish and gross. Bits of glass stuck to artificial facades give impressions of modern sheesh mahals. Or else there are telescoped versions of the White House against the majestic Aasmay mountains. In Shirpur, the hutments were cleaned out about a year ago and ostentatious housing came up in its place. In Wazir Akbar Khan hotels, restaurants and homes have come up where rents range from $10,000 to 50,000.

Tight security: Security is overpowering in the Afghan capital. There are blast wall and barbed wires just about everywhere. While it is an understood that the Presidential Palace and the embassies would have heavy security, it is frightening to see razor wires and blast walls even in front of schools. The Ammania Oberrral School barely a km from the Presidential Palace looks like an army garrison. Huge concrete slabs about four feet in height and about 50 in number surround the school complex. Razor wires on boundary walls and heavily armed guards patrol the outside. Not a single student could be seen playing in the grounds. Locals say that it is an elitist school where the rich and powerful send their kids to study. The medium of instruction is Darri, and German. There are hardly any playgrounds or open spaces where children can play. Childhood here is spent in the shadow of guns and uniforms.


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