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Archive for October, 2004

Monday, October 25, 2004

PTI, Kabul, Oct 24: The Afghan Sikhs, slowly trickling back to their
homeland after the ouster of the fundamentalist Taliban regime, have
appealed to the Indian government to allow them travel between the two
countries overland via Pakistan.

Mr Ravinder Singh, a member of the Afghan Gurdwara Prabhandak
Committee, complained to visiting Indian newsmen here recently that most of the
Sikh families could not afford direct air travel to India.

“We appeal to the Indian government to allow us entry overland via
Pakistan,” he said.

The Indian government had imposed a ban on overland entry of Afghan
Sikhs following warning from intelligence agencies that Pakistani agencies
were trying to infiltrate Sikh extremists in the garb of Afghan Sikhs.

Restrictions had also been enforced as after the fall of the Taliban
regime in 2001, Afghan security agencies had come across tell-tale evidence of
some Sikh youths undergoing arms training in ISI-run camps near Kabul and in
northern Afghanistan.

While, not ruling out reports of ‘few misguided youths’ undergoing
training in such camps, the Afghan Sikh leaders said these were Sikh expatriates
living in Europe and Australia and not the Afghan Sikhs.

Mr Ravinder Singh said Sikhs and Hindus, who once constituted a
population of over 500,000 in Afghanistan, now account for only a hundred families
that had come back after the ouster of the Taliban regime, still faced
hardships in getting back their homes, shops and other assets.

Most of the Sikh and Hindu families, who have been living in
Afghanistan for over a 1,000 years, have settled, besides capital Kabul, in the Pushtu
heartland of southern Afghanistan with a fair sprinkling in Jalalabad,
Khost, Kandahar, Ghazni and few in Mazar-i-Sharif and Kunduz in
northern areas.

Afghan Sikhs and Hindus were predominant in Afghanistan’s unique ‘money
market’ working as commission money changers, while others had shops
and trading establishments.

However, after the fall of Najibullah regime, the Sikhs and Hindus fell
prey to bloody inter-Mujaheddin warfare.

“For the past few years we have been trickling back and trying to
reclaim our properties. We are facing lot of hardships,” the Sikh leaders said.

“But we are upbeat. The recent events taking place in the country are
very positive,” said Mr Avtar Singh, another prominent Sikh leader.

Sikh leaders in the provincial capital of Ghazni said they had turned
out enmass to vote in the recent first ever Afghan elections. An election
meeting addressed by interim leader, Mr Hamid Karzai had witnessed a
turnout of almost over 40,000 people, he said.

“It would have been unthinkable in the country just a few years back.
There are also other changes, the girls are going back to schools and
reconstruction work is at its peak,” Mr Singh said as he painted a
positive picture of the return of other Sikh and Hindu families back to
Afghanistan.

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Passport racket unearthed

Wednesday, Oct 20, 2004
The Hindu

NEW DELHI OCT. 19. A racket in allowing Afghan refugees to have Indian
passports on the basis of forged documents has been unearthed by the
Central Bureau of Investigation. Officials of the Delhi regional
passport office and the Delhi police are suspected to be involved in
the racket. One person has also been arrested in this connection.

According to the CBI, the arrested person, Suraj Ratra, a Faridabad
resident, was an Afghan refugee who had managed to get the Indian
passport through the racket. Sources said while antecedents of the
accused were being verified, it was possible that he had gone to
Afghanistan earlier when the situation was better but had to leave the
country after it worsened.

Earlier, the CBI had launched a drive in the last week of September to
check corruption in the passport department. It was during this drive
Suraj Ratra’s case came to light. Following investigations, the CBI
registered another criminal case which was related to the first one.
Several incriminating documents were also recovered in the searches
carried out in Faridabad and Delhi during the drive.

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SUJAN DUTTA – the telegraph, calcutta india

Ghazni, Oct. 17 2004:

Two Toyota pick-up vans with wheels kicking up dust
swing in through the gates and even before the drivers have stopped,
Asadullah Khalid’s rifle-wielding Pashtun personal security guards have jumped
out and are walking towards the mansion.

The mansion is in the middle of this historic but decrepit town by the
Kabul-Kandahar road. Khalid turns around in the verandah, looks at his
men and gives a slight nod. Get out of sight for now, he has just told
them.

Fourteen centuries after the marauding armies of Mahmud, Sultan of
Ghazni, crossed the Hindukush to mount successive raids on Indian kingdoms, the
man who runs this province today is a winsome ruler who makes friends and
influences people with ease.

One of his predecessors is among the most reviled of invaders in Hindu
historiography and his name is still invoked by the Hindutva brigade to
stoke passions: in the 12th Century, about 200 years after Mahmud of
Ghazni, Mohammed Ghauri had taken a defeated Prithviraj Chauhan captive.

Centuries down, Asadullah Khalid, esquire, is Ghauri’s successor as
governor of Ghazni in America’s Afghanistan.

Ghazni province in Afghanistan’s Pushtu heartland is where the Taliban
ruled with such firmness that three years after the fall of Kabul, American
and international forces have had to do a course correction.

They now distinguish between “good Taliban” and “bad Taliban” and rely
on a mix of development activity and an emerging leadership represented by
such figures as Khalid.

He is a dapper, handsome man of 37, who carries his six-foot frame
languidly, the grace of an easy gait enhanced by the pinstriped black
silk  suit.

This morning he has dispensed with the tie and has settled for a maroon
polo-neck undershirt. His hands are always inside the hip pockets. The
face is smiling and the eyes are interested.

He has lunch served at the long table in the guest wing of the mansion.
There is freshly baked but ubiquitous Afghan nan, Kabuli biryani made
with saffron and dressed with almonds and raisins, succulent kebabs, a leg
of lamb in a light spicy gravy, and phirni for dessert. Khalid is talking
of a recent trip to the United States.

Early one morning, he says, he was woken up in an airport to take a
connecting flight to Washington. He got up groggily, breezed through
security, boarded his flight and fell asleep again. Two hours later,
when he awoke, he was told he was in South Carolina, he had taken the wrong
plane.

Seated next to Khalid at lunch is a lady from the US embassy in Kabul
and she is from South Carolina. She laughs at the story. Khalid connects
easily and wins an invitation for a longer stay in her hometown.

Khalid’s Ghazni in the Pushtu heartland is a battlefield of history
where war upon war has reduced the town of mud-walled houses to a ruin. The
signs of revival in the two years since he took over as governor are feeble
but unmistakable.

The public health directorate’s Civil Hospital — the only one in Ghazni
province — is running again with aid and assistance from the US Army’s
Provincial Reconstruction Team that is camped in the dusty desert just
outside of town. Its commander, Colonel Timoney, and Khalid meet like
they have been partners for long.

“The Americans need to stay here. I hope they will not go away in a
hurry. We need America’s help here now. And one day if they go, they should
not forget Afghanistan. The elections were great,” says Khalid. “We
registered 75,000 voters in the province.”

But neither the presence of multiple security forces nor the visible
reconstruction activity — the Kabul-Kandahar road is being relaid — is
enough yet to guarantee a modicum of security. Newly-raised Afghan
National Army units control checkpoints. The 14th Brigade of the Afghan Militia
Forces is camped in Mahmud of Ghazni’s old fort. Nato’s International
Security Assistance Force (ISAF) armoured personnel carriers zip up and
down the highway by which stands the Sultan of Ghazni’s austere tomb. And US
army contingents try to hunt down the hardcore Taliban. Americans and
foreigners need personal security escort even on short visits through the town.

What is happening, too, is a not-so-subtle change in the outlook of the
political authorities. Khalid, a political science student, dropped out
midway through his studies to join the Northern Alliance forces under
the late Ahmed Shah Masood and rose to become a brigade commander. He
explains now that the hunt for the Taliban is ceasing to be indiscriminate.

“There is good Taliban and there is bad Taliban. Not all people in the
Taliban are the same. I would say there are three types — the first
kind is those who work with us, like Mullah Salam Rocketi, who was a Taliban
corps commander, then there is a kind who are not the Taliban but went along
with them and third kind has very close relations with Pakistan’s
Inter-Services Intelligence and the Pakistani extreme religious outfits who are around
but not so active in Ghazni.”

But Khalid is quick at being politically correct. He says the Pakistan
government is working to weed out the terrorist elements.

Just today, Khalid has visited an old gurdwara and met Ghazni’s few
remaining Sikh families in the company of a deputy who is from another
end of the political spectrum. In June this year, he worked with the Indian
embassy to get two Indian professionals kidnapped by the Taliban freed.

Khalid represents a generation that is looking to take over the reins
of administration in Afghanistan. After the election results are out — and
Hamid Karzai is slated to win from here — Ghazni’s dapper new sultan
will revel in a newfound authority that comes out of political legitimacy.

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15-07-1383 (Afghanistan date)
06-oktober 2004

KABUL Krant

Harpal Singh en Adahmir Singh lieten hun familie achter in India en keerde zelf terug naar Afghanistan.Harpal Singh was tien jaar oud toen hij bij zijn vader ging werken. Toen hij terug ging naar Afghanistan om zijn vaders winkel weer te openen, kreeg hij te horen dat hij geld moest betalen. Harpal Singh was heel treurig toen hij dit te horen kreeg. Hij moest 500000 Afghani betalen om zijn winkel weer te kunnen openen. Anderhalf jaar later kwam er iemand met de valse papieren en zie dat de winkel van hem was, en dat hij het terug wilde. Harpal Singh is toen naar de rechter gestapt om hulp te vragen, maar er was niemand die hem hielp. Op een zekere dag is zijn winkel door de politie ontruimd, met als rede dat de winkel niet van hun is. Dit is niet het enige treurige verhaal die Hindoes mee hebben gemaakt in Afghanistan. Bij Rakash kumar is thuis ingebroken door gewapende mannen.

Afgelopen week is twee hindoe meisjes bekeerd tot de Islam, en sindsdien is er niets van hen gehoord.

Ganga Ram een Hindoe vertegenwoordiger zegt dat Hindoes in Afghanistan niet menselijk worden behandeld. Hindoes die na jaren als vluchteling terugkeren in Afghanistan, zien dat het land niet meer is wat het ooit was. Hun dromen zijn niet uitgekomen. Ganga Ram zegt, dat Hindoes in Afghanistan aangekeken worden alsof ze geen Afghanen zijn. Zijn mensen anders gaan denken over de Hindoes? Acht van de tien mensen die geïnterviewd werden wisten nog niet eens dat de Hindoes al eeuwen lang in Afghanistan geleefd hebben. Een van de geïnterviewde zegt: Hindoes zijn toch geen mensen ? zijn Hindoes door de regering goed behandeld ?
Sardar Awtar Singh, de vertegenwoordiger van de Sikhs in de Loya Jirga en ook de geestelijke leider van de daramsal in Karte Parwan zegt: dat de regering de Hindoes niet serieus neemt en hen beloftes niet nakomen. Zoals de Hindoes scholen, drie tempels en 360 bouwprojecten voor de arme die er zouden komen, maar de regering is zijn beloftes niet nagekomen. Wij hebben de woordvoerder van Hamid Karzai gesproken, maar hij wist er ook niets van. Awtar Singh zegt dat Hamid Karzai de Hindoes valse hoop geeft, en zijn beloftes niet nakomt.

Van de miljoenen die Afghanistan ontvangen heeft van de internationale hulp is er nog niet eens 1 dollar aan Hindoes besteed. Anarkali vertegenwoordiger van de Hindoe vrouwen in Loya Jirga, bevestigt wat Awtar Singh zegt, Anarkali zegt dat ze blij is dat de gemeente hun huizen terug heeft gegeven. De vraag is of de Hindoes nog zullen stemming op Hamid Karzai na wat er met hun gebeurd is? Awtar Singh zegt dat we moeten afwachten tot de verkiezingen. Maar mevrouw Anarkali zegt dat ze gaat stemmen op Hamid Karzai. Ondanks de slechte behandelingen van de Hindoes, kiest ze voor Hamid Karzai.

Anarkali en Awtar Singh hopen dat in de nieuwe regering ook Hindoes vertegenwoordigers komen. Aan vijf Hindoes is gevraagd of ze geloven dat de nieuwe regering hun beloftes na zullen komen, maar de reacties zijn negatief. Een van de geïnterviewde zegt: dat de Hindoes maar beter niet naar Afghanistan kunnen komen.

Mevrouw Anarkali and Mijnheer Awtar Singh en Mijnheer Ganga Ram zeggen dat ze Afghanen zijn en dat zullen vechten voor hen rechten. Harpal Singh en Adahmir Singh weten niet op wie ze gaan stemmen. Ze durven niet meer naar hun winkel te gaan, omdat ze bang zijn slecht behandeld te worden. Ganga Ram vraagt zich wanneer de Afghanen zullen leren wat ze moeten doen. Hij is bijvoorbeeld een keer door een voorbijganger beledigd gewoon door zijn uiterlijk.

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