Sunday, January 11, 2009



Lack of a cohesive government economic policy seen as main factor in poverty increase

The number of child beggars has increased in Mazar-i-Sharif, the provincial capital of Balkh province.

The shrine of Hazrat Ali—fourth caliph of Islam—known as (Rowza Sharif) parks have become key gathering location for beggars.

These children say, economic problems and lack of a bread winner in the family have forced them to turn to the streets and to beg.

Social experts say that lack of an exact economic policy by the government is the main reason for the increasing poverty and also increase in the number of beggars.

Abdulrab Jahid, a social expert, said: "The government does not have a proper plan in all fields, and the beggars' problem is one of these."

The head of the police department in Balkh, Sardar Muhammad Sultani, said the police have started investigations to identify the leaders of these child begging groups, seeks to round them up and eject them from the city.

The Afghan government recently agreed to round up street beggars and relocate them, though to where remains unclear, as do the measures the government will take to provide humane care for displaced beggars.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

World Politics Review

Don Duncan | 08 Sep 2008
World Politics Review
The changes that have come to Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan's fourth biggest city, are so great that in some cases returning refugees who left during the war struggle to find not only their bearings, but the streets and houses where they once lived. Modern glass and concrete buildings have sprung up next to the traditional earthen houses. Many of the roads have been paved, punctuated by elaborate roundabouts that have been built in public-private partnership: local businesses fund the construction and for their efforts are allowed to erect plaques, signs and structures in the center to advertise their businesses. The city is in flux. Signs of Western influence abound -- new schools, wells, roads all bear plaques attesting to French, Japanese, and Swedish sponsorship. Billboards along the new roads betray a newfound consumerism: Young, confident professional-looking men and women smile out at passersby while conversing on sleek new mobile phones. Yet against the new, signs of the old Afghanistan abound.
And as with Qala-i-Jangi, the faintest details tell the story of the by-gone Taliban era. Windows on the fronts of most houses are narrow horizontal strips located high above the ground. Shoib, my guide, tells me this was not always so. Afghans used to have windows that let in light from the street, but the Taliban deemed visibility of the domestic realm from the outside indecent, ordering that front windows be bricked up. The cracks along the walls of the Sultan Razia High School for Girls hark back to the school's previous use as a Taliban base in the city. These cracks are the remnants of the bombing of the school by the U.S. Air Force in its assault on the Taliban strongholds of Mazar-i-Sharif in late 2001. The fresh swaths of plaster next to the cracks herald the return of the building to its intended purpose: a center of female literacy and empowerment in Mazar. The school educates 5,000 of Mazar's young women, all of whom were denied education under the Taliban regime. But every positive sign here has a negative analogue elsewhere in the country's less stable regions. The Taliban has made girls' schools like Sultan Razia one of its frequent bombing targets in an effort to undo what is sees as the "creeping rot" of Western influence in Afghanistan. But not here in Mazar-i-Sharif. At mid-afternoon a shrill bell is rung by a wizened, hunched woman and a sea of girls pours down the stairs, dressed in black tunics and white head scarves, flooding the courtyard outside, where they gradually don their pleated burqas and advance towards the main gate to rejoin the bustle of Mazar. Artillery and manpower are still the key weapons against the Taliban insurgency to the south. In the rest of the country, concrete does the job. Building roads through once anarchic regions is a means of consolidating the hard-won stability the invasion has brought. International development groups have spent more than $2 billion on Afghanistan's roads since 2001. The infrastructure improvements not only increase development in previously hard-to-reach areas but also rob the guerrillas in Afghanistan's asymmetrical war of their key asset: the territorial upper hand. Development here may move to the beat of a Western drum, but change comes slower among the people. Legacies of the Taliban era, like the reduced windows, are all around. And they are not just structural. Among the people, there is a fear of retribution, a reluctance to criticize authority; acts of such defiance would have landed you in jail -- or worse -- a decade ago. The message to the West is that Afghanistan is free, yet there are red lines everywhere: the government leadership, the locally eradicated poppy harvest, the hashish cultivation that has replaced it. People are afraid to speak about such sensitive issues, Shoib tells me. Remaking the city has been a question of security, will and investment. The fear deeply instilled among the people by the Taliban years takes much longer to fade away. Don Duncan is a journalist currently based in Hong Kong. He traveled to Afghanistan with the support of the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

MAZAR-I-SHARIF, Afghanistan -- The kinds of tourists you meet in Afghanistan are not quite the same as those you'd be likely to meet on the Costa del Sol. First of all, there are fewer of them, far fewer -- perhaps only a few hundred a year. But if it can be said that Costa del Sol tourists share at least one trait in common (a love of the sun), today's visitors to Afghanistan share something else: curiosity, perhaps with a dash of recklessness. While post-invasion Afghanistan has never descended into the kinds of violence and anarchy seen in Iraq, it is by no means a safe place to visit. In recent months, the country has seen a tangible resurgence of the Taliban, which has been striking out from its strongholds along the border with Pakistan, bringing casualty numbers to their highest levels since the 2001 invasion. Yet a visit to the country makes it clear that today, there are two Afghanistans: one at war, particularly in the southern provinces of Helmand and Kandahar, and another at peace, with levels of stability that vary from the jittery and paranoid Kabul to the carefree city of Mazar-i-Sharif in the north, where I spent most of my time during a reporting trip in May. I stayed at the Barat hotel (one of two in the city, I was told), where I had an entire floor to myself, as did each of the six other guests. The hotel overlooks Mazar's signature Blue Mosque, a sprawling complex of pools, green areas and zones of prayer that becomes a bustling confluence of Mazar life every evening. The sunsets are sublime, with the dying rays catching the thousands of white doves, the splash of children playing in the fountains, the flowing movement of burqas and the wisps of smoke from men gathered to chat. The tourists I met told me they'd come to see what Afghanistan was like behind the headlines they had read in the West. But others had come with a mission. One woman I met from Switzerland had come to understand the plight of Afghanistan's disabled. She herself was in a wheelchair and had made the journey to see how a country with an estimated 10 percent of its population disabled by war and disease is dealing with the problem. The answer she found: not very well. I had come for two reasons: to see how Afghanistan at peace had been changed through development, and to see the parts that hadn't changed, relics of oppression both physical and psychic that have yet to become truly a thing of the past. Because to visit the Afghanistan at peace is to have the security and freedom to witness the remnants of Taliban oppression first hand, before they are brushed away forever. Qala-i-Jangi, a 19th century fortress located 20 kilometers outside Mazar-i-Sharif, is one of these untouched artifacts, an unadulterated testament to the victory of Western forces over the Taliban in the north of the country. It was at Qala-i-Jangi (or "House of War" in Persian) that the Taliban offered its final, dying throes of resistance during the initial offensive by the Northern Alliance, backed by U.S.-led coalition forces. Some 300 Taliban fighters being held by the Northern Alliance in the fortress rose up and fought for seven days before being subdued under extremely heavy artillery fire. The bullet holes along the walls of the fortress remain unplastered. The rusty remnants of tanks and heavy artillery lie strewn around. Graffiti scratched into black scorched walls say things like "Long Live the Taliban" in Persian and, in Urdu, "In Memory of Mullah Mohammad Jan Akhond," a Pakistani Taliban fighter who died in the conflict. I am told this by my tour guide Shoib, who knows because he was there as a translator for the U.S. army. As the parts of Afghanistan that have been secured since 2001 take advantage of their newfound stability to rebuild, people like Shoib, who have worked as translators for the army and press since 2001, are now also serving as guides for Afghanistan's miniscule, yet slowly growing tourism industry. For anyone visiting Afghanistan, these guides comes with an incredible added value: direct, first-hand experience of some of the most crucial moments in the country's recent history. Mazar-i-Sharif and the surrounding region is one of the most stable places in Afghanistan, and this stability enables visitors to ignore, for the most part, the reality that much of the country is at war. In Mazar, where troops are nowhere to be seen, it is easy to forget that this security is propped up by the presence of 71,000 foreign troops in the country and dependent on the continued willingness of the United States and NATO to remain there. Walking around on one's own, mingling and shopping are not a problem. Shops offer crafted wood, woolen hats, colorful hand-woven Uzbeck tapestries, and an array of hand-made carpets, some of which depict moments of historical significance for Afghanistan: the end of the Soviet occupation in 1989, the World Trade Center attacks on 9/11 and the arrival of the U.S.-led coalition forces in 2001.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Police Training Course For Women

Balkh authority opens first training course for female police in Mazar-I-Sharif city on July31.

The first training course that took place at Woman's Affairs office of Balkh province, educates women in different position of law enforcement in four to five months.

Sardar Mohammad Sultan, the Chief of Provincial Police said the police duty should not implicate any activities that are against law. He added that good manners and sense of duty would bring confidence among civilians and national guards.

The female Polices who registered in this course receive 7500Afghani (150$) per month that 70% of the salary will be paid by the government and the other 30% by a foreign organization.

Total 700 female police have been trained additionally working in the government in entire country since removal of the Taliban.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


A Tribute To Our Beloved Ustad Zabiullah Khan

Thursday, June 5, 2008


Balkh Under Lack Of Drinking Water

Afghanistan National Alliance
Reporter: Mohammad Fahim Khairy

Thousands of families have been forced to leave their homes due to food and drinking water scarcity in Balkh, northern province of Afghanistan. Families ended up in a desert of Sholgara district where started to live in camping in the two side of a tiny river.

Balkh an agricultural province did not received enough rain and snow this year. Local farmers lost their fields and left them without any food in whole summer. Water and food shortages have forced some families to eat grass.

In various areas water-fed crops have died due to lack of rain and in some others an unprecedented infestation of locusts has destroyed cultivated fields in recent weeks.

Balkh farmers are the rich cultivators of vegetables, fruit, and wheat, but food commodities and lack of water have been forcefully displaced farmer families to different parts of the province in order to survive the dry summer.

Many parts of Afghanistan did not receive as much as necessary rain and snow this year, increasing anxiety the country may face deficiency again, amid global soaring food prices that have already hit the mountainous and war-torn country.

The villagers, who walked all the way down from Alborz district to seek a place where they could provide water for their children, are asking Afghan government to help them as soon as possible. ‘‘We could not find drinking water in our villages, my children are dying, they are thirsty’’ said a mother of four children living in an old tiny camp.

Balkh Provincial Council started to count the number of families in order to find them help from International Communities and national businessmen. ‘’ If we do not receive any food and drinking water in next 24 hours, the situation will get deadly’’ said The Council representatives.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

April, 19/08

Farmers Displaced in Balkh Province

Dry spring, which shattered arable lands and increased the food prices, forced hundreds of farmers who only support their life and families through agriculture, to leave their homes to different villages in Alborz and Sholgara districts of Balkh province in order to survive.

In a landlocked country where only 12 percent of the land is arable, irrigating land is limited to three options: canals fed by river and rain, a natural spring, or the ancient underground aquifer known as karez. For the farmer fortunate enough to cultivate a sliver of the available 78,240 hectares of Afghanistan land, only an estimated 20 to 40 percent of canal-irrigated land was available for harvest in 2002 due to insufficient seed and water for irrigation

This spring, farmers and their families left their farms and pastureland because of the dry weather; they had no means to feed their children. The dehydrated spring and lack of rain destroyed numerous farms and pastureland in Afghanistan; especially in the northern cities this year.

Mr. Neyamatullah Mashab, The governor of Sholgara district, had promised the farmers that he is going to inform the provincial council regarding the situation. In addition, Mr. Governor had told the local media that 90% of the farms are destroyed in the dry spring, which is going to increase the price of vegetables and fruit this year. The villagers requested United Nations’ help to support their families.

Afghanistan had a deadly winder that took the lives of thousands of people but, as soon as the season changed, farmers never countenance any rainy weather to grow produce or livestock on their farms.

Balkh province is the pinnacle metropolitan that furnishes every year the best quality of watermelons, melons, many other fruit and vegetables within and outer surface of the country.

Saturday, March 15, 2008


I Have Never Been a Puppet and Will Never be in the Future

March 12, 2008

The Following article, which is translated from Persian into English, is an interview with Gen Atta Mohammad Noor, the Governor of Balkh by a reporter from Payam Mujahid Magazine

Reporter: I am grateful for your willingness to be our guest on this weekly forum. Please introduce yourself for our fellow readers.

Gen Atta: My name is Atta Mohammad. My family name is Noor. I am the son of Haji Noor Mohammad one of the businessman of Balkh city. I graduated from Bakhtar Educational Center. I joined the holy fighters force against the Russian invasion when I was 19 years old. I have studied military courses; then I started teaching military technique for the freedom fighters. After the fall of Communist Regime in 1992, I was hired as the Political and Military Chief of northern Afghanistan. After a year I became the Commander of Force-7 of the Defense Ministry. We had six forces and the creation of seventh force was my requisition from the government of time. On the war against terrorism, I was a member of the High Commission of the Islamic Government of Afghanistan. It was the time when I was the Military Chief of Northern too, that was located in district of Dare-Suf in the north part of the country.

Reporter: What was the original position that you served during the war against Red Army and why do the people call you Ustad (Teacher)?

Gen Atta: After I graduated from school, I joined the freedom fighters. Shortly afterward I was hired as a commander of Mobile Force and later I became the In-charge of many different areas. I should mention that people call me Ustad (teacher) is because I was teaching Military Techniques to the fighters and everyone still calls me that. Then in 1980, I was elected as the Assistance of Ustad Zabiullah Khan, the leader of northern forces, in that time by an official convention.

Reporter: When the Taliban and Al Qaeda attacked northern cities, where were you?

Gen Atta: When the Taliban and Al Qaeda invaded northern cities I pulled force out into the mountains and we fought two months against them. Then I went to meet Ahmad Shah Massoud, the Defense Minister of the time, bypassing the Iranian borders. After taking Massoud’s commands I returned back to the northern mountains. I never went outside of Afghanistan during the whole fighting time until today.

Reporter: When you met with Ahmad Shah Massoud, the Defense Minister of government on the war against terrorism, what did Mr. Massoud advise you to do besides being the Northern Chief?

Gen Atta: The importance of Cmdr. Massoud’s ideas was to start the war against terrorism from four zones of Afghanistan; not only from the north side of the country and we must try harder to make terrorism deteriorate. When I returned back to the district of Dare-Suf where our main center was, I had only 12 fighters with me. With the 12 fighters we had re-captured many places in a short time. Soon the civilians joined me and supported me to pull out the Taliban and Al Qaeda army from the whole province and what Mr. Massoud advised me to do, when we tried it, besides the Taliban-Qaeda faced a big weakness, we delivered great militarily damage to them.

Reporter: So far, from the removal of the Taliban and the new regime, how much are you in agreement with the new government’s output and their effectiveness?

Gen Atta: I must despondently say that the agreement of International Communities and the countries, which were supposed to help Afghanistan rebuild, didn’t happened as much as is necessary. But if learn from the past from before the establishment of the government, there was hardship and massacres that every citizen of the country was not able to believe that he or she may have to be alive by the next day. But a big change came into Afghanistan after the removal of the Taliban. Our government system is getting improved. The security is also getting tighter. Moreover, many different companies have been established and started working for the civilians.

Reporter: The Mujahiden leaders (Northern Alliance) are being dismissed from their governmental positions, on the other hand your connection with the government is getting strong. What is the reason for this?

Gen Atta: These belong to the personality of the person. And it’s also dependent on the society and peoples’ willingness. In my opinion, nobody will lose anything if they do not play the politic incorrectly. Nobody kept me in this position so far and I haven’t begged any high profile politician to keep me as a governor. I am serving in this position because my people wanted me to be here, and they want my activities and the works that I am doing. Most of the people think that the current government has lost its connection flanked by the nations. My position in the current government is due to the people’s support, people trust me. And I recognize this government as an elected one, which was established by nation votes. But I surely support this government even if its ministries system is not well, the people who are around the President are not accepted as rationally wise, anyhow with the all problems and unwillingness, I call this government highly better then our earlier period system, for the reason that people have security, freedom of speech, women and girls are attending universities and schools without any kind of difficulty and it’s a peaceful situation.

For example, if we rejected this government then who did something good for the country in the past? As we witnessed, that the others failed establishing a legislative system. Instead of being antagonistic against the government, we should fix the problems and seek solution for no matter which that are wrongs.

Reporter: What is your opinion about the establishment of the new opposition (United Front) and their policy?

Gen Atta: When the democracy created, everyone has the right to establish political party or opposition. According to this new opposition, I must say that beside of not being a member of it and I don’t confirm it too. I don’t like their activities because they are not the solutions of Afghanistan in progress problems.

Reporter: the residents of Balkh province have strong-willed for the security but they are complaining about the rebuilding process. How do you see this dilemma?

Gen Atta: Regarding to the rebuilding and development, the International Communities as they promised didn’t accomplished enough, although there are many things that have been done. People have right to complain. People complain because there were too much promises and little accomplishment. But opposite of that, Balkh province, according to other part of Afghanistan, is much improved. If some people complain, there are many others who are passionate.

Reporter: Opium and poppies are completely destroyed in Balkh province, what was the best motivation for that?

Gen Atta: There are many reasons for the demolishing of opium and poppies. First, having useful and balanced plans, second, a great management and leading, third, the active and well-trained teams, fourth, by means and co-working of the Islamic Provincial Council and Islamic clergies, and not accepted any kind of farmers reason for grown opium. We did our best to clean up the province from any type of poppies grown. The International Communities didn’t help us enough and Afghanistan's Anti-Drug Ministry had no any professional plans and didn’t support us at all to destroy the poppies. But fortunately with the blessing of God and the civilians we did destroy it completely.

Reporter: It has been saying that you are doing some personal business by your own besides of being the governor, could you please explain this and inform us?

Gen Atta: Yes I do and being a businessman is my family heritage and because my official salary is not enough for me and I am not able help or support my family and my life. I never ask bribes and will never so I support my family in a good manner.

Reporter: You have received a conceited medal from the President Karzai, was it just an appearance or because of your official activities, since you are the only person from Mujahid (Northern Alliance) that the government has been admiring you?

Gen Atta: For me, any type of improvement or credits is about my activities and behaviors, which I have been doing for my people. When I received any recommendation or medals I am pleased for my people and I feel proud.

Reporter: When your friends the Mujahiden (Northern Alliance Leaders) get dismissed from the government what do you feel?

Gen Atta: I feel very gloomy, and I said this many times that the thought of dismissing the Northern Alliance is a useless idea. These anti Mujahiden ideologies have to stop. Because the Mujahidens belong to the people of Afghanistan. Even when I met with American politician at the White House I have mentioned this.

Reporter: What is your current curriculum?

Gen Atta: The celebration of Islamic New Year is coming and we are getting ready to provide security because three millions people are attending the New Year Eve in Balkh city from all around the country. We need to clean the city up and provide a tight security. On the other hand we are trying to set our five years plan for the development and for the starting these plans we need to get ready before the New Year begins.

Reporter: United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization named the year of 2007 after Mawlana Jalaluddin Balkhi (Rumi) what have you done regarding this?

Gen Atta: It’s very remarkable to see one of the Islamic philosopher who was born in Balkh province named the year for him. According to Jalaluddin Balkhi (Rumi)’s humanitarian work we haven’t done enough for him, which he deserves. But we organized many seminaries and meetings in order to introduce Mawlana (Rumi)’s individuality for the people. We built Mawlana’s house in Balkh city Mazar-I-Sharif last year. The first Assistant of President Karzai attended the ceremony. Two nights a week we have meetings in the Malawna’s house, they discuss his philosophic works and poetry. Moreover we have a small library inside the house and its open for public. In my trip to Turkey I attended the ceremony of Mawlana’s birthday and I met with Turkish official including Turkish President. I spoke to them about helping me to built Mawlana’s guesthouse in Balkh where he was born. Turkish official promised me three million dollars for building the guesthouse. The construction plan is ready. We are just waiting for the Ministry of Affairs to prove it. We also named a Park after Mawlana and we chose the area too. We might shortly start building the park.

Reporter: What is your future plans and which candidate are you going to vote for in the Presidential Election?

Gen Atta: Anyone who gets the majority votes and who have the people’s support. Anything my people decide or vote that is my choice. I never will be a puppet and won’t be.

Reporter: You had a media conference when Gen Abdul Rashed Dostum was blamed for torturing one of his allies. You had mentioned in the conference that you do not allow anyone to make the northern’s security risky. Was this because of supporting Mr. Akbar Bai who blamed Gen Dostum for torturing him?

Gen Atta: I do not want to take side with any of them. And I don’t judge about Gen Dostum or Akbar Bai, his allies and it’s the law that can decide about them. My conference was not about their personal fight. It was about the people who are talking on behalf of whole northern cities and threading the central government from this pose. I spoke for those who warned the government if they do not stop bothering them then seven or eight provinces in the northern Afghanistan would turn against the government. We have people living in here and we are responsible to provide security etc and protect them. I could not keep clients when people represented their political parties talking on behalf of the whole north. Balkh city is the main center of northern Afghanistan. Besides the civilians we have our officials who decide.

Reporter: Mr. Governor can you tell us about your personal life please?

Gen Atta: Yes I am married and I have a wife and six sons and one daughter. I have three brothers one is older and two of them are younger then me. I feel myself lucky about my personal life.

Reporter: As we see you are busy all the times, if you have free time what would you do?

Gen Atta: I am busy most of the time but whenever I am free, I watch TV, read and work on my official papers.

Reporter: Do you like sports?

Gen Atta: Yes I do sports every morning and I really love sports.

Reporter: Dear Ustad (Teacher) for the last question I want to know that what is your message to the politicians?

Gen Atta: I appreciate you coming to Balkh city and having me speak for the Payam Mujahid Magazines. I still remember that Payam Mujahid was one of the most active media that worked for the people during the three decade of war. My message to the people of Afghanistan is to use the time and the opportunities to support the peace and national unity not to create problems for the government. Do not duplicate whatever happened in the past. Furthermore we should think about rebuilding the country and our national partnerships. Thanks.