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KABUL DIARY Chaos everywhere

Kabul, August 28
No rules, no lights, no cops. That's by and large the rules for drivers on Kabul's roads...If you can call them roads, that is. There are affluent neighbourhoods but no roads leading to them. Just cart roads where horse drawn carts and cars jostle for space. Residents say all this has happened in the last two years when affluence and people returned to the capital. The flip side is that a journey that took a mere 10 minutes can take anywhere from 20-40 minutes.

 

Around the Presidential Palace and the American Embassy the security is tight, traffic is controlled and barricades are all in place. Not many can get around to these parts of Kabul. Rest of Kabul is confusion, chaos, smog and blaring horns. This city desperately needs traffic policing and a public transport system that works. India, Iran and Japan have donated buses but there is an urgent need for more but before that Kabul needs construction of roads and traffic crossings.

Stark similarities :Some houses in Kabul are replicas of houses in Islamabad. The rich and famous of Kabul (read of dubious financial backing) have imported architects and even labourers from Karachi and Islamabad in order to construct similar houses. The facades are garish and gross. Bits of glass stuck to artificial facades give impressions of modern sheesh mahals. Or else there are telescoped versions of the White House against the majestic Aasmay mountains. In Shirpur, the hutments were cleaned out about a year ago and ostentatious housing came up in its place. In Wazir Akbar Khan hotels, restaurants and homes have come up where rents range from $10,000 to 50,000.

Tight security: Security is overpowering in the Afghan capital. There are blast wall and barbed wires just about everywhere. While it is an understood that the Presidential Palace and the embassies would have heavy security, it is frightening to see razor wires and blast walls even in front of schools. The Ammania Oberrral School barely a km from the Presidential Palace looks like an army garrison. Huge concrete slabs about four feet in height and about 50 in number surround the school complex. Razor wires on boundary walls and heavily armed guards patrol the outside. Not a single student could be seen playing in the grounds. Locals say that it is an elitist school where the rich and powerful send their kids to study. The medium of instruction is Darri, and German. There are hardly any playgrounds or open spaces where children can play. Childhood here is spent in the shadow of guns and uniforms.

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I am the Editor News, at Asian News International (ANI), Indiaís leading Multimedia News Agency and the India Correspondent for Channel News Asia, a Singapore based broadcaster.
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