|Kabul: 5:24 AM      |
Welcome to Kabul:Reconstructions. You can follow the information below, which has been gathered from a
number of sources by a number of participants (click on the names at left for bios), to reconstruct your
own picture of events in Kabul since this site was launched on March 8th, 2003 and, in a sense, since the
reconstruction of Afghanistan began somewhere in the winter of 2001-02.
Some of this information has been provided in response to specific questions submitted by visitors like you. Please note that this section of the project is now maintained as an archive and has not been updated since 2005. Click here to ASK A QUESTION.
Arian Mouj Sharifi
More on land grab scandal (RFE/RL and WP)
Afghanistan: Land-Grab Scandal In Kabul Rocks The Government 16 September 2003 (RFE/RL) By Ron Synovitz A United Nations housing expert is calling for the removal of Afghan Defense Minister Mohammad Qasim Fahim and other senior Afghan officials implicated in a scandal over the seizure of real estate in Kabul. But some of the accused officials say they have not done anything illegal. Prague, 16 September 2003 (RFE/RL) -- The recent bulldozing of houses in a Kabul neighborhood to build private homes for senior Afghan officials is growing into an embarrassing scandal for the UN-backed Afghan Transitional Authority. About 20 families in the Sherpur District of the Afghan capital -- an exclusive neighborhood close to the city center -- have been forced to leave the mud-brick houses they had built in the area over the last two decades. A critical report by a nongovernmental organization, the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, has named 29 senior officials and other powerful Afghan personalities who received plots of land in Sherpur for nominal fees. Included on the list are six cabinet ministers, the mayor of Kabul, the governor of the Afghan National Bank, and two former militia commanders. Among the most prominent names on the list are Defense Minister Mohammad Qasim Fahim and Education Minister Yunis Qanooni. Both are leaders within Jamiat-i-Islami, the political wing of a former Northern Alliance faction. Jamiat-i-Islami seized de facto control of Kabul after the Taliban regime fled the city but before the International Security Assistance Force was deployed there. The legitimacy of the NGO report has been strengthened by a separate report by Miloon Kothari, a United Nations special rapporteur on housing and land rights, who recently spent several weeks in Kabul. The report by Kothari accuses Fahim -- and other senior cabinet members -- of active collusion in official land seizures. Kothari says those involved should be removed: "Fahim, the minister of defense, is directly involved in this kind of occupation and dispossession. And ministers that are directly involved have to be removed." Fahim has not commented publicly on the accusations or the calls for his removal. Spurred by the media attention the two critical reports have received, Afghan Transitional Authority Chairman Hamid Karzai's spokesman, Jawad Luddin, yesterday announced that an official investigation is being launched. "The presidential office has appointed a commission to investigate the housing problem in Sherpur where houses of people were destroyed," he said. Privately, Karzai is reported to be infuriated about the scandal. Afghan Reconstruction Minister Mohammad Amin Farhang, who is not among the cabinet ministers listed as taking land in Sherpur, told RFE/RL that Karzai only became aware of the issue last week. "There was a discussion on this issue last week in the cabinet," he said. "The president asked all individuals who had taken land in Sherpur. [Karzai] didn't know about the Sherpur issue until that meeting. As far as I can remember, no more than five [senior cabinet ministers] were among those who had not taken land." Karzai's aides have made statements promising that the government's investigation will not gloss over the criticisms made by the NGO and the United Nations. But Farhang suggests strong measures be taken to save the credibility of the post-Taliban Afghan central government: "The government should take back all this land that was distributed to those [officials] and redistribute it to those who are entitled to it, regardless of whether they are ordinary citizens or government officials in the cabinet. This [taking of land] is against the law, and I reject it." Two of the officials named in the report by the human rights group say they have done nothing illegal. Education Minister Qanooni, who headed the Interior Ministry until last year's Loya Jirga, suggested that the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission is being misused by individuals who are spreading what he called "propaganda" aimed at undermining political figures in the country. "There is a difference between those who are given land by the current rulers under current laws and those who take land by force in Sherpur," Qanooni said. "I was also given land there." Qanooni said the land had been legally transferred to him on Karzai's orders. But Kabul's deputy mayor, Habibullah Asghary, who also is among those who received land in Sherpur for a nominal fee, told RFE/RL in May of this year that it was the Defense Ministry that decided which officials and former militia commanders would receive land in Sherpur. "The land in Sherpur belongs to the Afghan Defense Ministry," Asghary said. "According to the ownership law in Afghanistan, every government institution has the right to do with its land whatever it wants. The Defense Ministry distributed the land to its commanders and high-ranking officials who defended our country and freedom." Lakhdar Brahimi, the UN special envoy to Afghanistan, has told journalists he has "absolutely no disagreement" with the substance of the report made by Kothari, the UN special rapporteur. Brahimi told "The Washington Post" newspaper that the destruction of the houses in Sherpur is "totally unacceptable." Some of the Afghans whose houses were recently bulldozed in Sherpur told "The Washington Post" that they were beaten by Afghan police when they refused to leave. Afghans Protest Homes' Destruction; Two Reports Say Neighborhood Razed to Provide Land for Officials' Houses By Pamela Constable Washington Post September 16, 2003 KABUL, Afghanistan, Sept. 15 -- Sayed Ahmad's mud-brick house looks like it was struck by an earthquake. The main wall has toppled into his yard, where the family cow is tethered to an apple tree. Half the roof has collapsed, and his wife is sweeping rubble into piles. But this destruction was not an act of God. It was the work of city bulldozers that were sent in last week to force Ahmad and 20 of his neighbors out of the rudimentary homes they had built two decades ago. Once cleared, the army-owned land was slated to be distributed to senior government officials and former militia commanders to build their own houses. "The police came in and beat me with their guns when I refused to leave," said Ahmad, 56, an army officer and father of six who earns $80 a month. "The machines pushed down the wall and a wardrobe fell on my little girl. Our holy Korans were buried under the earth. I have worked for the army for 26 years, but now the powerful people with guns have humiliated my family and destroyed our home." A growing scandal over the tiny community known as Sherpur, spurred by two sharply critical reports from a U.N. housing expert and the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, has deeply embarrassed the U.S.-backed government. According to the reports, seven cabinet ministers and Kabul's mayor received plots in Sherpur, which abuts the capital's most exclusive neighborhood, for nominal fees. The dispute has thrown a spotlight on the widely rumored but previously undocumented practices of high-level land grabbing, corrupt municipal real estate dealings and forcible occupation of properties in the capital, where half the population of 3.2 million does not have adequate housing. "What happened in Sherpur is a microcosm of what has been happening all over the city and the country," said Miloon Kothari, a U.N. special rapporteur on housing and land rights, who spent several weeks here. His final report accused several senior Afghan officials, including the powerful defense minister, of active collusion in official land grabs, and flatly recommended that they be fired. In his report, Kothari described a "culture of impunity" in which Afghan officials and other powerful individuals can seize homes and refuse to leave them or appropriate valuable public land for their own profit. "There is a crisis of housing and a freeze on land allocation, but that doesn't apply to the wealthy, the well-connected, the commanders or the drug lords," he said in an interview. Separately, the human rights commission released a report Sunday that described a widespread problem of forcible land occupation and profiteering by "warlords and strong governmental officials." In the Sherpur case, it listed 29 senior officials and other powerful individuals who had received plots for nominal fees, including six cabinet ministers, the mayor, the Central Bank governor and two former militia commanders. Aides to the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, said he was "infuriated" and "extremely upset" about the charges. At the weekly cabinet meeting today, aides said, he ordered a commission appointed to investigate the Sherpur case and upbraided his ministers on their responsibility to help the poor rather than enrich themselves. But two of the senior officials who received plots in Sherpur called a news conference today, during which they denied any wrongdoing. The officials denounced Kothari for interfering in Afghan affairs and challenged the work of the human rights commission, whose chairwoman sat in the audience. "I believe in human rights. I support human rights. This is political terrorism," said Anwar Ahady, the governor of the central bank, who was listed in one of the reports as receiving one plot of land. Like another official, Education Minister Yonus Qanooni, Ahady did not deny receiving the land, but said it had been legally transferred to him on Karzai's orders and that he had done nothing wrong. Qanooni said there was a difference between "taking land by force and being given land by the current rulers." He demanded an apology from the human rights commission and handed out copies of a letter from Lakhdar Brahimi, the U.N. special envoy to Afghanistan, reproving Kothari for some of his public comments. But Brahimi, in a hastily called meeting today with several journalists, said he had "absolutely no disagreement" with the substance of Kothari's findings. He condemned the destruction of the Sherpur houses as "totally unacceptable" and said he had complained to Afghan officials about the problem of official land grabs and illegal occupation of homes. The disclosures of high-level land deals came as the Afghan capital is suffering from a shelter crisis of catastrophic proportions. According to officials, the capital's population has nearly doubled in the past two years, largely because of returning refugees, and about half the population lives in "informal" homes without electricity or water, such as tents and abandoned ruins. City planners have designed blueprints of low-cost housing projects but have no funds to build them. The Kabul municipality has turned away thousands of returned refugees who say they have old deeds to public land plots. "The housing supply in Kabul does not meet even 10 percent of the demand," said Nasir Saberi, the deputy minister for housing and urban development. It remains unclear how the situation in Sherpur escalated to such a dramatic confrontation and who ordered the land to be distributed to the senior officials. Ahady, Qanooni and others have said the order came from Karzai, but the president's spokesman strongly denied that. The spokesman, Jawad Luddin, said Karzai had "spoken very clearly" to the cabinet, declaring that no official had the right to individually bestow, sell or occupy city land. The Sherpur houses were built on land belonging to the Defense Ministry that surrounds an old army base. Some officials said the residents were asked to leave several months ago but refused. Gen. Bashir Salangi, the city police commander whose troops bulldozed the houses, said he would not have given the order without authority from municipal officials. "Those people [in Sherpur] are liars," he said.
Posted By: mariam   September 18th 2003, 2003 3:52 PM
Kabul: Partial Reconstructions is an installation
and public dialogue project that explores the multiple meanings and resonances of
the idea of reconstruction -- as both process and metaphor -- in the context of present-day Kabul.
www.kabul-reconstructions.net is an online discussion forum, information resource, and medium for the communication of questions and answers about the reconstruction between people inside and outside the city of Kabul itself.