The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Terror lurks, so do signs of recovery

Kabul, Sept. 6: “Defunct colonialism, communism and terrorism were buried in the dustbin of Afghan history” — proclaims a cloth banner at the main roundabout of the newly named Great Masood Road of the Afghan capital.

The slogan may be almost right about colonialism and Communism but about terrorism, it only symbolises a certain hopefulness.

That this is indeed the case, has been demonstrated by the daring attempt to assassinate President Hamid Karzai in Kandahar yesterday and the car-bomb blast in Kabul which killed more than two dozen people on the same day.

But then in a country where almost anything can happen any time, going about one’s life normally is all about wishful thinking.

It is no surprise, therefore, that newly married couples in cars decorated with bunches of white and pink plastic flowers and ribbons still go to Pir Blan for blessings.

The vegetable vendors on the banks of what looks like the town drain, but was once the Kabul river, still try and sell piles of green chillies, aubergines, okra, green onions, yellow beans and radishes. And the guest-house owner with the sign “Foreign Passengers Well Come” hopes that some day soon tourists will start visiting his establishment.

For the numerous individuals who are trying to go about their businesses putting their lives together, hope clearly still springs eternal.

The first thing that strikes one as the Ariana Afghan Airlines Boeing 727 comes into land at Kabul airport is the aircraft debris strewn around the only functional runway.

A fuselage here, a tailpiece there and the cockpit of a truboprop with its propellers pointing heavanwards in prayer — the same pattern of rubble is repeated on both sides of the runway many times over.

Which ill-tempered monstrous brat broke up his toys like this, one wonders'

But these are no toys and those who destroyed them were no children.

These are the ravages of twenty-three years of civil war which began with the invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviets in 1979.

However, the airport is not the only place where one sees the evidence of the damage done.

It is evident in the broken facade of the once thriving Kabul Hotel; in the homes without walls on the outskirts of Kabul where people live modestly behind carefully strung up bed-sheets; in the awkward gait of the war veteran who having lost his legs drags his artificial limbs with the help of crutches; and in the eyes of the mad beggar who runs across the street like a drunk waving a few worthless Afghanis (the local currency) hoping for alms.

In many ways Kabul was never this bad even ten years ago when the Najibullah government fell. Thirteen years of Soviet rule had not done so much damage.

But then at that time the Afghans had not perfected the art of fratricide and a monstrosity called the Taliban had not wreaked havoc on their country.

Yet there is evidence today in the streets to suggest that Afghanistan is on the road to recovery. There are fewer arms in the streets. One can no longer see hoards of menacing men with rocket launchers and AK-47s.

Women can walk alone and go about their business without covering themselves from head to toe.

The University at Kabul is flourishing and has had a record number of new admissions this year.

An Italian and an Indian restaurant are doing brisk business late into the night. New shops and businesses are opening up. The consumer goods shops are bursting at the seams. There are new Toyota Corolla taxis in the streets — in fact far too many of them.

There are traffic jams all over the place even as uniformed traffic policemen attempt to direct traffic.

In all the confusion, however, there is a perceptible yearning for order.

But after 23 years of war, one perhaps cannot expect order and stability to be restored in eight months.

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