Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Security Headache for Kabulis

By Wahidullah Amani and Mustafa Basharat in Kabul (ARR No. 86, 16-Dec-03)
By IWPR

Dozens of small businesses set up in old containers have been destroyed, students have had classes cancelled and streets have been cordoned off for several blocks around the venue.


Raz Mohammad, who had a barber shop about one kilometre from the Polytechnic, spoke to IWPR while sitting on a pile of wood, all that now remain of his business.


"I had a shop here for 11 years, I got permission from the municipality of Kabul but they came and destroyed my shop without any notice," he said sadly.


Nearby, Saifullah, a baker, also saw part of his store destroyed and said that while he did a roaring trade at the Emergency Loya Jirga this time the road has been cordoned off.


"If the Loya Jirga takes two or three days that is OK but otherwise we will face a great loss because no one will be able to come to get bread," he said.


Shuffling along the road was 60-year-old Babul Gul, crippled with rheumatism but having to make the four kilometre trip to the local hamam (baths) by foot as the roads around her home are closed off for taxis.


Asked if she knew what all the fuss was for, Gul’s daughter Yasamin replied from under her burqa that they did not understand much about it.


Head of building control at the Kabul municipality Engineer Sayed Alim Ahmadi defended taking such strict action, saying that it was essential. "We removed the shops from the sides of the roads to ensure security,” he said.


Five hundred delegates are working in a large tent erected at the Polytechnic. They’re being housed in six campus buildings, which are serving as dormitories until such time as a constitution is agreed.


This means that for the foreseeable future Abdul Rashid Eqbal, a lecturer at the Polytechnic, will face a major task simply getting into his home, a staff apartment on campus.


"The problems include curfews and restrictions on our lives, being checked when we go in and out, the apartment blocks being cordoned off, our parking spaces have been taken off us," he told IWPR.


But while he may rue the security measures, Eqbal says his overarching fear at home amid the military personnel and tanks is that should there be violence his family will be right in the line of fire.


For construction student Aminullah, however, it is just another frustrating delay in his studies.


"For a second time we cannot complete our lessons and we are off for holidays," he said, the campus having been closed to students about a month ago as preparations began.


There are of course those who are doing well out of the proceedings.


Abdul Karim, who has been a taxi driver for around 30 years, has been delighted to see fares shoot up as thousands of support staff, security personnel and journalists pour into town.


"We are really happy that the prices have risen," Karim told IWPR.


But the influx of people for the historic gathering also has a downside.


"Roadblocks," said Karim. " We get stuck at one intersection for more than 30 minutes."


Wahidullah Amani and Mustafa Basharat are participating in IWPR’s Loya Jirga reporting project. Humaira Habib of Radio Sahar and Mahfooz Sayeedi of Radio Taraj Mir provided additional reporting for this story.