GOVERNMENT SERVICE

I was escorted by the Director General of Publications to the Anees establishment and introduced appropriately as the new Editor-in-Chief of the paper. The staff, already aware of my appointment, greeted me warmly. They led me to my office, congratulated me as the new Editor-in-Chief of Anees.

Someone asked if I had a telephone at home. I said: “No”, also adding that we did not even have electricity, other than an extension line from a neighbor’s meter to our home for a few bulbs. There was, at the time, an extreme shortage of power. Thereupon, someone went on the phone and asked a phone service to be established immediately in my name as the new Anees Editor-in-Chief. By the end of the day, both the telephone and electricity were extended to my father’s home where I was staying. This gave me a new insight into the workings and significance of officialdom.

It was a duty of the “Chief”, every day, to write an editorial on a topic of the day. In my case, it was my own takeover at the paper. I think I introduced myself and talked some about the responsibilities of a newspaper to its readers and promised to do my best in my service to the readers. Deep down, however, I did not know to what extent I would be able, or allowed, to run an organ of the public domain. I knew Anees was really a government daily. It printed all the news that it got from the government news agency. It also published articles sent in by members of the public, either original or translations from the foreign press. My past experience had taught me what to avoid or amend in those articles. The news, however, got printed almost verbatim in Dari language. The same regularly got published in Pukhto every morning in the newspaper Eslaah. What worried me was that the news, sometimes came out quite vague, so much so that the readers really did not get anything substantial out of it. For example, the Council of Ministers met every Monday at the Prime Ministry in an all-day session. What the news agency sent out routinely was something like this:

The Prime Minister (name and all official and honorary titles included) presided over a Council of Ministers meeting held at the Prime ministry today. Some important matters were discussed and some decisions were made.

The two-line, two-column, heading of this story took up more space than the text. The two-line story that followed did not add much to the heading. The editor had no authority to ask for any elucidation or clarification, at least for that day and that story. The next day he could reach a Ministry for elaboration, provided the Minister permitted additional information to be given. When I contacted the President of the Press Department on the subject, his reply was not to be hasty about changing things right away, as “we would gradually bring such improvements about.”

The news story about the new Anees Editor-in-Chief appeared the next day saying that yesterday’s Anees had appeared under the name of a new Chief and it was to be expected that the new Editor would bring some improvements in the paper’s contents. Nothing was said about my name and background or the fact that the Government Department of Press and Information had appointed me to the position. This, to give impression that the paper was independent in its coverage of news and other contents.

Anees had a couple of reporters who covered bazaar events, or an occasional government employee interview for the elucidation of an earlier news agency report, and/or photos. These then got published at the discretion of the “Chief.”

There were no city editor, sports editor, society editor, editorial page editor and so on. The paper had a chief editor, an assistant and a few other officials who constituted the editorial board with no fixed assignments. They wrote headlines, subtitled photos, wrote copy and proofread galleys that came from the government print house next door. The main burden of going through incoming texts, whether originals or translations, that eventually got published, rested upon the chief editor who also read and revised the contents of the galleys for any oversight by someone, somewhere.

An example would be that a King must never be mentioned merely as the King, but always as His Majesty the King of…. I remember that within the first year of my appointment to the Anees, a colleague, the recently returned Dr. of Journalism from Germany, who was appointed assistant editor of the morning paper, Eslaah, got sacked for making just that mistake.

The accounts department was responsible for subscriptions, advertisements, and other fiscal affairs of the paper. We hardly had any advertisements. A few that came in, had to do with deaths, property sales, family name announcements, government bids for equipment, supplies, construction requirements and the like, and a rare commercial ad by some city store. We had nothing like classified ads, full or half page commercial ads and the like. I believe the main reason for this was that the entire paper consisted of four pages and it was not considered appropriate for the paper to include special columns for classified ads, or try to increase, the ad contents. Also, as all newspapers in Afghanistan were owned and budgeted by the government, there was no incentive to create revenue through advertisement. Also, adding more pages to the papers meant buying more newsprint and more printing presses from abroad, resulting in further government expense.

So far as I was concerned, in spite of limitations from above, I still could do, and did some little things. One of these was introducing classified ads, at fixed rates acceptable to all. I knew that choosing and announcing “family names” was still a fad in Kabul and would bring a lot of ads to appear in fixed columns every day. The same could be said of public announcements of weddings, funerals, lost and found items and the like, which might soon increase the columns of such ads at the risk of a lesser number of articles, either contributed or sold to the paper. I initiated it and it soon picked up advertisers. We decided to limit it to between two and three columns. Another item that I introduced was a choice of an editorial page design, meant to draw attention to other than the first and fourth pages. My hope was to, some day, be able to publish Anees in eight pages. But this attempt did not draw public attention and we went back to the first page two-column editorials to which I brought an innovation: shorter commentaries by well-known writers rather than always a single long editorial by the Chief Editor. This change came toward my fourth year of work and was well received.

Yet another attempt was to help arouse public attention to the needs of the poor class. This was in my third or fourth month of editorship. I wrote several editorials about the subject and asked my readers for the creation of a Society For Public Services whose members would have the goal of helping poorer citizens in their daily lives. For example, if a poor family’s home developed a leak, then some members of the Society would go to his/her home, check the problem and gather the needed supplies and repair that family’s roof. The idea was to help the needy families and assist them in their effort to remove the problems; not takeover the matter in its entirely, and thereby create bigger and more serious issues for the authorities. I thought I had found a good outlet for the youth to help neighborhoods with their free labor and minimum financial burden on the poor citizenry. I was quite pleased with the feedback I got from the readers.

Suddenly one Monday this aspiration was dashed with a call from the President of the Press Department to immediately put a total stop to the “Society” idea. By nightfall, I was informed further that the Prime Minister was very angry. He envisaged that many headaches would arise from such groups for the government and that the Cabinet also went along with him. This took me by surprise. I was not aware that the government would find the idea as something sinister and aimed at endangering Afghan society in any way. The Prime Minister had asked my boss about my identity and background as he did not remember that I had even once gone to see him since my appointment. I was forthwith instructed to go pay my respects to the Prime Minister, and if he asked me questions about ‘my projected Society’, to present my honest opinion and views on the subject. That night I talked to my father about it and he said it was normal protocol and that I should not only go see the Prime Minister, but also pay a visit to His Majesty the King. He knew personally that almost all graduates from institutions of higher education abroad, saw him upon returning home from their studies.

I did make a courtesy call on Prime Minister Shah Mahmood Khan shortly afterwards; found him a kind, warm and fatherly figure who addressed me as his “son”, and expressed pleasure in seeing me. He did not give me a lecture on his family’s sacrifices during the Bachai Saqaw uprising or why we should support the Royal Family for the wonderful way they pursued the cause of peace and security for our nation as his brother had done in the Afghan Embassy in London. He did not broach the subject of the Society and I felt he had already known he had put a stop to the subject through my boss and there was no need for further pressing the point.

I went to him one other time. Then I wanted him to order the Mortgage and Construction Bank to give me a loan without the requirement of first completing 15% construction work on my home. My salary of a 7th level government employee could never enable me to do so. Even the lot was sold to me on a seven-year installment plan by the then Mayor of Kabul during a Street Naming Commission meeting, of which I was a member. The Prime Minister was genuinely surprised that I was actually occupying a level 3 position at a level seven salary. (Several years later, a law was passed so employees with university education could draw the full salary of the positions they held in spite of their real employment levels being lower.) The Prime Minister ordered that I be given the loan as I had requested. It was gratifying, and I thanked him heartily.

I got the loan, but construction could not begin as winter was upon us. When I did begin to go ahead with the construction, the new Mayor told me that my lot was under consideration as the site of the new Soviet Union Embassy and I must wait to see if they choose the site. If they do, then I will be given another lot somewhere in town. I insisted I could not wait and would like a lot near the University of Kabul, an area which was also ready for sale to the public. Thereupon, the City repossessed my land and sold me another lot, on installment again, where I began and completed the first story of a two-story building by winter time. I then moved to my first-ever home and the rest of the family also moved in with me.

My audience with His Majesty the King was next. It took over two hours. King Zahir Shah was soft-spoken, well-informed and had a very impressive personality. He talked at length about his visions and hopes for Afghanistan, the expansion of education, the improvement of the national economy, further development of the infrastructure and attempts toward exploiting the country’s natural resources. He stressed the fact that nations were no longer able to live independent of one another as there were many factors that held them together. Therefore, it was necessary to realize this interdependence and, keeping in mind the good of our own society, take advantage of the situation at hand as the opportunities arose. He mentioned that we were not really in the twentieth century in spite of the fact that it had already passed the halfway mark. Our peoples’ literacy standard was not yet much beyond ten percent. A great deal of hard work was ahead of us and the entire nation was to rise to the occasion and much more help was to be secured from international bodies to hasten our process of catching up with the rest of the world.

There was not much that I could add to what he had already mentioned. I expressed my readiness to do what little I could do in my own field to help achieve our aspirations for Afghanistan.

I think it was still the first year of my editorship at the Anees when I permitted an article get published that stressed the role which women could play in various fields alongside men for the betterment of the country. The next thing I noticed was a dozen or so mulas at my office the very next day claiming that the article contradicted a saying of Mohammad (sal’am), the Prophet of Islam. They also demanded that I point out the author to them so he/she should be taken to court and duly punished for such a grave sin. I told them that I would make inquiries and get back with them on the subject. They left having assured me that they would not stay idle on this matter and would certainly be back. I honestly had not envisioned such an outcome from that article which was published under the name of a woman. There was no mention of Mohammad (s) or his Sayings. All that the writer wanted was that women be allowed to join the other half of the Afghan population in our joint endeavor toward progress. I had already seen hundreds of women working in the fields, side by side with their men. I had also seen the women of the nomadic tribes, toiling away without the slightest feeling of inadequacy or inferiority to their men, in many phases of nomadic life. So what harm could there be if women in the cities entered the society as teachers, doctors and workers in offices, even in the industry when we had the facilities and the environment for them to work?

I immediately contacted the President of the Press Department and apprised him of the situation with the mulas. I also disclosed the identity of the writer of the article to him. He suggested that I refer them to the President when they come next to my office. Sure enough, they appeared at my office the next morning. I told them that Mr. Khalilullah Khalili, President of Royal Afghan Government Department of Press and Information, was waiting to see them in his office that very morning and suggested that they go there for any follow up of the case. They went away grumbling and I never saw them again. But in a couple of days I received a formal directive from the President to, henceforth, forward all articles that came in, to the Directorate General of Information at the Center and only publish those that were returned to Anees with the Department’s official confirmation. I immediately sent in my formal resignation as Editor-in-Chief and arranged to have it hand-delivered the same day to the President. I was summoned immediately to his office and asked to take back my resignation, as what had happened was a clear proof that I could not cope with the situation and the Head Office was not about to act as Anees’ clearing house for disputes over published articles. Upon my insistence that the subject was a religious one and the President himself had suggested he would handle it, and I admitted my limited knowledge in that field, but to have to submit my authority as the directive had expressed, was totally unacceptable. An editor had every right and duty to act responsibly with any matter that he allowed to be published and without that right and freedom, I was not going to run any paper any more.

The President, bless his soul, then mellowed down considerably, assured me that none of my freedoms were being taken away, and that his letter to me was only to serve as a sort of assurance to the religious society that the Press Department had taken the matter in hand so no repetition would occur. In practice, then, I was to continue my work as if no letter exchange had taken place between the Head of the department and myself. I did send some religious articles to the Directorate of Religious Guidance of the Press Department for their opinion for a while but otherwise did not allow the paper to be run by an outside source. What I could not find a solution for, I left for the future. A time for such clearances came, and I was instrumental in bringing them about in the form of a new Law of the Press for Afghanistan, but it was way past my holding the reins of authority in the Anees Daily.

A most welcome change did come about when the then Prime Minister left office for, what the papers called ‘health reasons’ and Sardar Mohammad Dawood, his nephew, came to power. I remember so very vividly that I was returning from the Parliament House on my Government-given bicycle and had just turned right into the Foreign Ministry Drive going to my office, when a convertible, following me, passed me and stopped a few meters ahead of me. I immediately recognized Sardar Mohammad Dawood as the sole occupant of the car, got down from the bike and saluted him knowing he had stopped to tell me something. He returned my salaam addressing me as “brother”. He said he saw me in the Parliament that morning and asked that in any article about his speech to the Parliament, as well as in all forthcoming stories about him, the press should mention him only as Shaghalai (Mr.) Sardar Mohammad Dawood, thereby eliminating any mention of his Titles. I immediately assured him that his order would be obeyed to the letter. He said goodbye and drove on to turn around and out of the Gardens, and I merrily rode on to my office. I cannot say how relieved I felt that I shall no longer have to ascribe two lines of a two-column story just to mention the name and titles of the Prime Minister and then another line or two on the subject matter of the news! But I knew that I had nothing to do with it. It had taken the person of a new Prime Minister to bring such a change about.

By the time I arrived the next morning, the Interior Minister, who was the principal of my high school not many years ago, was on the phone and was warning me for the grave disrespect that I had shown to the new Prime Minister. He wanted that I immediately stop the distribution of yesterday’s paper and correct the mention of Prime Minister’s name and give all his titles or else face any and all consequences. I assured him that what I had done was all right and there was no need to change anything in the paper or stop its distribution. That made him very angry and I have no doubt that on that day I made a personal antagonist in the person of the Interior Minister.

I soon set up the first photography lab on the premise and procured the necessary equipment for it with the help of Asia Foundation. We were thus able to take shots of events ourselves and print them along with the news which we ourselves acquired from the various sources. It made Anees more appealing as we no longer limited ourselves only to the Bakhtar News Agency material. We increased our reporter staff who daily went on separate beats to various government departments in search of news and we had other reporters who just went about town and gathered human interest stories and photos.

Our circulation went up from under two thousand to nearly five thousand in three years and that meant a great leap in our readership which did not escape notice.

A year later I was elected as one member of a group of seven Afghan officials who were invited on a first-ever cultural visit to India. It turned out to be a five-week trip. We were given a grand tour of India, most of it on the special train that the Indian Prime Minister used when he chose to travel by train. We were received at the border between Pakistan and India and finally returned via the same border. In New Delhi, we had a private visit with Prime Minister Jawahir Lal Nehru in his official residence, were hosted by the Mayor at an open lawn dinner, stayed at Hyderabad House, an official government guest house, toured various tourist sites among which was the Red Fort. There we saw a “sound and light” show about India of the past. At one place the commentator, speaking of the Afghan conquests of India by Ahmad Shah Baba, the King of Afghanistan in the 1750’s, spoke of him and other Afghan conquerors as looters, who came down to India mainly after wealth and riches. The wealth of culture and Islam that the Afghans brought down to India was totally overlooked. Right there in Delhi the Qutub Minar, depicting a monument built by Sultan Qutbuddin Aibak, is still a living proof of what the ‘invaders’ from Afghanistan left for posterity.

Later, on the first leg of our journey after Delhi, we reached Lucknow and went to the historic Aligarh University where Farsi, Arabic and Islamic Studies were being taught for scores of years. We found that the Indian Government had just recently stopped education in Persian language. Not only that, but they had also vastly reduced the number of Muslim teachers and replaced them by Hindus. Some of these Muslim teachers complained to us of ill-treatment by the authorities. I sent home an article to Anees voicing the complaints of these teachers. It was immediately passed on to New Delhi by the Indian Embassy in Kabul and I was approached for the identity of the teachers. I was not going to create any additional hardship for Muslim teachers at the hands of the authorities and refused to give any name. Thereupon, the Indian Government sent a retaliatory note via its Embassy asking Anees to publish it. It said, briefly, that no Muslim teachers had been replaced by Hindus and that the complaint was merely false. Upon my return home, I was asked by our Foreign Ministry to publish the official reply of the Indian Government as it was only fair. I did. But could those teachers voice their complaints and expect better treatment from the Hindu authorities so soon after Partition (1947)? Again, perhaps one or two teachers might have some special reason to exaggerate the matter of ill-treatment, but on this occasion, a whole group of them had come to us, Muslims from a near neighboring country, with the hope that, maybe, we could let their grievances be heard through the media. I never heard anything more on this subject and could not find out whether the Muslim teachers of Aligarh received a fair deal as a result of that disclosure or were punished collectively.

During the course of our visit in India, a member of our delegation, who, no doubt, was specially chosen by the Prime Minister, used to write to him often. We were not sure what he wrote about but some of us made a point to speak carefully when he was around. Not that we were a group of people with different political viewpoints as, at the time, the old Constitution did not allow political parties and we all were government employees and the head of our delegation was a Deputy Minister of Education, Dr. Ali Ahmad Popal. But we used to have light-hearted discussions on various subjects and sometimes, we dealt with subjects dealing with the future of our country. On occasion, the presence, among us, of this member put a damper on such discussions. We saw things we were not used to, we were exposed to ways of life that surprised us and we wondered whether the greatest democracy of the world could survive such diversity as we witnessed in India. Most important of all was the matter of co-existence between Muslims and Hindus at a time when the great loss of humanity (some seven million souls) was still fresh in peoples’ minds everywhere. We had visits with some ex-Rajas and former Nawabs who had recently lost their kingdoms, but who still enjoyed certain privileges. We saw libraries, educational establishments, museums, archeological sites, musical and theatrical productions and visited with some film industry personalities in their work environment.

Next year, 1955, I was summoned to the office of the Deputy Prime Minister, Sardar Mohammad Naim the brother of the Prime Minister, and was informed that I was to go to Moscow with one other companion from the Ministry of Education, as guests of the Russian newspaper Izvestia. The visit was to coincide with the USSR celebration of the October Revolution. We left Kabul on the fifth of November, but were stranded for three days in Termez, a little border town on the Russian bank of the Amoo (Oxus) river due to bad weather. By the time we finally left Termez for Tashkent and Moscow, the Kremlin Fete had come and gone. We toured the European half of that huge country, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Azerbaijan and Georgia. In Georgia, while I was photographing a beautiful coastal section of the Black Sea, there suddenly appeared two Russian border guards, out of nowhere, and simply took my camera from me saying something in Russian which I did not understand. Our guide then intervened and, producing some document, retrieved my camera. The guards, gave us a stiff military salute and disappeared from the scene.

Upon our return home three weeks later, I went to see the Deputy Prime Minister and asked him how detailed a report of our visit would he recommend for our readers. He responded by questioning what kind of treatment we had received during the visit. “Cordial,” I responded “and very official, and there were instances when we thought we were being shown ‘models’ of ordinary Russian life which seemed a little far-fetched.” The Deputy Prime Minister said to offer our readers a candid picture of what we saw and be careful not to ‘antagonize’ our hosts.

Our report took seventeen days at over two full columns per issue. Within a month, I was approached by the Russian press attachee’ to permit the publication of the report somewhere in Iran in the form of a pamphlet. My hesitation to give an affirmative reply over a period of several months, finally gave the Embassy a clear idea that their suggestion did not really appeal to me. The subject was then dropped altogether.

Reflecting upon my work in Anees, I have a rather pleasant memory: We put out a special winter edition one year in which we voiced our opinions and those of some of our readers about the harsh conditions affecting the poor in the capital of Afghanistan and expressed hope that some aid be rendered to them by the city authorities and the public. On that occasion we received some positive comments from our readers but nothing noteworthy happened. The following year we repeated our attempt amid fears that perhaps the authorities may read negatively in our repeat effort. Was I ever alarmed, when arriving at the office, the next morning, I received a call from Sardar Mohammad Naim asking me to see him in his office promptly. I went, totally expecting an adverse reaction to our feature of the day before. Come what may, I was prepared to give him my honest opinion of the horrible conditions that the poor tolerated during our Kabul winters and cite instances –not reflected in our news columns — of freezing to death due to extreme cold and lack of properly protected shelter. As I was ushered in, I saw yesterday’s Anees on his desk. The first thing the Deputy Prime Minister said after the normal greetings, was to sit down at the coffee table and jot down a short letter from him to the editor of Anees (myself) expressing his appreciation for the special ‘winter edition’ and accepting his offer of a personal check for ten thousand Afghanis as his contribution to the deserving poor. I then heartily thanked him for his generous donation and assured him that it will greatly help our fundraising for the poor and the needy that winter.

We featured the letter that same afternoon and placed the check in a special account with the Da Afghanistan Bank and invited the citizens’ assistance in this humanitarian cause. Within a month we received over 500,000 Afghanis in that account and we presented the whole sum to the Afghan Red Crescent Society for distribution in cash and kind that winter.

When I became the Chief Editor of Anees, one new name that I heard was that of Noor Mohammad Taraki. He was then the Director of the Bakhtar News Agency and in charge of gathering and distribution of foreign and domestic news to the newspapers and Radio Kabul. In my first few days at the Anees, he called me and talked to me about how to handle a news item and advised me about official policy. I do not exactly remember what the item was. I never saw him in person but not long after that, it was announced that he had been appointed as the Press attachee’ to the Afghan Embassy in Washington D. C. The next time I heard about him was that he had told someone in the New York Times of his opposition to monarchy in Afghanistan. That became the reason for his dismissal from the Embassy. Upon returning home, it was stated that the King bore no grudge against him and he was not punished. Neither was he given a job in the government. Later he opened a translation agency and worked for foreign customers mainly.

During my service at Anees we were also dealing with the Pukhtoonistan question and the matter of the US interest in SEATO (South East Asia Treaty Organization) and Baghdad (later to be renamed CENTO when Iraq left) Pacts. At the time the US favored a policy of containing the Soviet Union and blocking her penetration southward toward India and the Arabian Sea. The Baghdad Pact would effectively accomplish this task. Turkey, Iraq, Persia (Iran) and Pakistan were in. Afghanistan’s participation would close the gap in containing USSR’s regional advance. However, Afghanistan was a weak country and needed help from every quarter for her development and both Russia and the US were giving us economic help in our developmental plans at the time. We could not alienate anyone. We were further afraid that US military assistance would not reach us if, and when, we needed to defend ourselves against a sudden attack from the Soviet Union. Our neutrality was our best weapon in any confrontation between the Eastern and Western blocs.

But the US policy at the time was that a country was either with the US or against her. Neutrality had no meaning in the US foreign policy. This was bound to be the subject of incoming articles from our readers as well as getting mentioned in the Afghan press editorially. Anees was somewhat freer in the eyes of the Press Department as it was given the appearance of a non-governmental paper reflecting public opinion. The US Embassy felt that Afghanistan was too critical of the US and its Information Center even complained to me about it. Our position was that the US showed no interest in our complaints that they were militarily equipping Pakistan in spite of their full knowledge of the tension existing between us and Pakistan ever since the creation of Pakistan in 1947. Great Britain agreed to the division of India into Pakistan and India without allowing for the demands of some eight million Pukhtoons and Baloochis that they had gradually captured, over a period of about 150 years, from Afghanistan during their occupation of India and their Forward Policy which was aimed at taking over territories to the north of the subcontinent, up to and including, Afghanistan, in an attempt to block the southward advance of the Tsarist Russians toward India, “the jewel of the British Empire.”

(It is ironic that at the time of writing these notes — April 3, 1998 — I should be reading an editorial in the Frontier Post of Peshawar by a Sher Aman, through the Internet (afghan-web.com /aop) touching upon the same subject. The writer, in his criticism of the then Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif,said,:

“Renaming the NWFP is a demand not restricted to the ANP only. It underscores the resolution of Pakhtuns at large who through generations suffered but refused to submit. This name Pakhtunkhwa, in fact, is a mere compromise but that too failed to get the assent of the big brother. The name fails to meet the general aspirations of the Pakhtuns, the right name being Pakhtunistan…

“The Punjab sons and daughters deny the Pakhtuns their legitimate right to be called by their own name. They must know that had the Pakhtun elders believed in compromises, the non-muslim British were altogether willing to grant them a separate Pakhtun state, of course, a consolidated one encompassing the tribal areas and political agencies, Baluchistan Pakhtun territory and the two districts of Attock and Mianwali which until 1927 were a part and parcel of the NWFP…

“Pakistan’s opposition to the return of King Mohammad Zahir Shah, is a known fact. Pakistan failed to see that this gentleman at three consecutive occasions refused to act against Pakistan, which eventually cost him his kingdom. Now the two beneficiaries, Pakistan and USA, are sitting at ease playing the flute while Afghanistan is burning….”

Probably the Americans were only interested in containing the Soviet Union at the cost of the welfare of all adjoining countries. The Afghans thought their plight did not bother them and if they were to remain neutral, they were somehow allied to the Russians and the US had every right to equip Pakistan and disrupt what the Afghans called the balance of power between Pakistan and Afghanistan. The situation was all the more disturbing to the Afghans that they could not even buy military equipment from the West. Vice President Nixon came to Afghanistan and was approached on the subject of Afghan concern, but the Afghans heard afterwards that he was non-committal about Afghanistan in his appearance before the US Congress. Later still, when the Afghan Prime Minister visited the US, his appeal for an equal status with Pakistan in the matter of military equipment fell on deaf ears. Afghanistan and Pakistan continued their war of words which gradually went beyond that to some ugly actions. A mob in Kabul, burnt the Pakistani flag at the Pakistan embassy. Pakistan burnt down the Afghan flag atop the Afghan Consulate General in Peshawar.

Mediation by the Saudis and Iranians reopened diplomatic ties after the Afghan Deputy Prime Minister raised the Pakistani flag over the Embassy in Kabul. I attended the ceremony in Peshawar when Dr. Khan Saheb, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan’s brother, raised the Afghan Flag at the Afghan Consulate General in Peshawar on behalf of Pakistan. I brought back my eye-witness report of the ceremony and whatever else I noticed in Peshawar to the Afghan Deputy Prime Minister. He read it with deep interest and then suggested that I present the report to the Prime Minister also. But I found him rather cold about what he read. I never did find out his reason.

Pakistan blockaded Afghan goods a couple of times and then reopened Afghan traditional use of the Karachi Port facilities after considerable delays and considerable pilferage of Afghan goods some of which never even reached destinations in Afghanistan.

My editorship of Anees pleased my father a lot. I found this out when I asked him about his opinion on the possibility of my taking up another job at the Helmand Valley Authority in Lashkargah, southwest Afghanistan. Mr. Abdullah Malikyar, the head of the HVA had gathered around a group of highly educated young men with a view to develop the Helmand and Arghandab river valleys in southwestern Afghanistan. (HVA was to prepare an area for the settlement of some of the Afghan nomadic population, especially as Pakistan had closed the regions south of the so-called border to thousands of nomads who traditionally spent their winters in the northern reaches of the sub-continent. Unfortunately, the project did not have the initial success as the first part of land reclaimed turned out to be too saline for agricultural purposes and it took a rather prolonged effort to harness some portions for agriculture.)

At about that time, I was being considered as the head of mass media work at the HVA. Dr. Abdul Qayoum, Deputy Head of HVA, whom I knew from before, was to acquire my services for the HVA. This he tried to do over a luncheon engagement at the Kabul Hotel. I was told I would receive a handsome salary, an office in the American sense of the word, the latest printing and communications equipment and the use of a car for trips back and forth in the region and when I visited Kabul. It was an attractive offer and I was tempted to take it, but told Dr. Qayoum that I would have to think about it some more. I discussed the offer with my father and his response was that he preferred to see my name as the Chief Editor of Anees every day on the paper over any amount of money I may get as salary or any official car for my transportation. I chose to please Father. The Government authorized the purchase of a Russian car for less than a hundred thousand Afghanis for the Editor’s use in my third year at the newspaper, and I stayed on for yet another year at that post.

I got promoted to the position of Director General of Publications in the Press and Information Department of the Government and not many months later, was made the Information Officer (press attachee) of the Royal Afghan Embassy in London. In my new post, I established a monthly news magazine, Afghanistan News in English, German and French editions for general dissemination through our Embassies all over the world. In London, my office was responsible to answer any queries that came in on matters relating to Afghanistan. I also published a pamphlet for Afghan Tourism about Afghanistan and annual progress reports on the Five-Year Plan under the title, Afghan Development. In that capacity also, I joined the entourage of Sardar Mohammad Dawood during his official visit to the United States in 1960. Unfortunately the visit was not a success and the Afghan Prime Minister returned empty-handed and determined to plunge into a military and economic relationship with the quick-to-please Soviet Union. We could hardly see it then, but it turned out to be the beginning of the end for Afghanistan as we knew it and as we were hoping for it to develop into a country striving to join the world society as an equal member some day.

CategoriesUncategorized