Sunday, March 20, 2011

Dispatches from Afghanistan and Pakistan 2011 #5

by Michael Skinner

Sunday, 13 March – Islamabad

I have a day off from scheduled meetings today, so Arshad takes me sightseeing.

We first visit the Faisal mosque, which is nestled in a beautiful location at the base of the Margalla Hills on the Northwest boundary of Islamabad. The immense mosque, was built as the principle mosque of Islamabad. Its four minarets pay homage to a rich Islamic architectural heritage, but the rest if the mosque exhibits the aesthetic of 1960s-1970s institutional modernism all too familiar to Europeans and North Americans. Other than its impressive dome, it is an angular building built with far too much concrete.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Dispatches from Afghanistan and Pakistan 2011 #4

by Michael Skinner

Thursday, 10 March

I departed Kabul today and arrived uneventfully in Islamabad Pakistan. Now that I am out of Afghanistan, I can safely give my thanks and acknowledge my great debt to Eng. Sayed Jawed of HAFO for his generous hospitality and to all the HAFO staff who were so helpful during my stay in Kabul. I am looking forward to working with Sayed and the HAFO staff, the staff at AREU, and other Afghan organizations to make the dialogue on Afghanistan a success this summer.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Dispatches from Afghanistan and Pakistan 2011 #3

by Michael Skinner

Monday, 7 March

U.S. Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates has made a surprise appearance in Afghanistan. It is unclear whether he is in Kabul or at Bagram air base outside the city. Regardless, traffic has come to a standstill as heavily armed American embassy staff convoys and Afghan police and military forces try to outmanoeuvre the anti-occupation protestors who are filling the streets. I have been stuck in the traffic so I do not hear news of Gates' visit and the protests until they are over; otherwise, I would have tried to get some photographs. I did see news photos and video from the protests Sunday during which riot police wearing the all too familiar Darth Vader battle gear and swinging their truncheons beat back crowds of anti-occupation protestors.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Dispatches from Afghanistan and Pakistan 2011 #2

by Michael Skinner

Sunday, 6 March

I have a full day of meetings lined up today. The first is with a sociology professor at one of the many private universities (some of dubious quality) that are popping up here. Surprisingly, a member of the Afghan parliament also drops by (unfortunately, I don’t know how to spell either of their names; I’m waiting for an email with the proper spellings). The professor argues, along the lines of Samuel Huntington’s “too much democracy” argument, that the problem with Afghanistan is too many political parties. We have a pleasant chat over lunch, but I leave unconvinced of the logic of his argument that implementing authoritarian measures will strengthen democracy in Afghanistan, or that the American two-party system is superior to any other means of democratic governance and should be applied here to wipe out dissenting perspectives.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Dispatches from Afghanistan and Pakistan 2011 #1

by Michael Skinner

Sunday, 27 February 2011

I’m on my way to New Delhi, Kabul, and Islamabad. This journey started with an invitation from the Indian Major General Dipankar Banerjee, of the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies in New Delhi, to speak at a conference organised to assess Canadian and Indian policy on Afghanistan. Since I was so close, I took the opportunity to visit friends in Afghanistan and Pakistan to assess the current situations there. On the way home I’ll stop in the UK for a few days for speaking engagements at the University of London, Bradford University, and at the University of Leeds where my daughter Kira is currently studying. It will be great to see her for the first time since she left home in January.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Dispatch 7

[I hope no one who has been reading these dispatches was alarmed when they suddenly ended. I was delayed sending this final dispatch, because of power outages and internet failures during my last few days in Afghanistan and also because I wanted to do some fact checking on this rather lengthy last dispatch, which also required some internet exchanges with my research partner Hamayon who is still in Afghanistan. Also, one of the conditions my partner Debbie set on agreeing to my trip to Afghanistan was that we meet in Paris for a vacation during my return through Europe. The second condition was that I not do any work during our vacation, so I took her advice and left my computer in its bag for the past week. So, here finally is the last dispatch now that I have safely returned to Toronto.]

Dispatch #7 Kabul Saturday 7 July 2007

I did not tell anyone that we planned to be in Kandahar this week, more because I was afraid of alarming my family than for security reasons, although security was a concern also. However, our plans have fallen through. Nonetheless, we made some good contacts in Kandahar for the future. Instead, we will travel to Ghazni later this week.

Dispatch 6

Bamiyan, Monday 2 July 2007

Hamayon made a full recovery yesterday and we were up at 3 AM this morning to catch a ride to Bamiyan.

Besides being curious to see the famous sights of Bamiyan, we are also going there with a purpose. Bamiyan is the spiritual centre of Hazarajat and Hazara culture. The Hazara, of any Afghan ethnic group, may have suffered the most under the Taliban as did the giant Buddha statues of Bamiyan the Taliban destroyed in 2001. If there is any group of people in Afghanistan who should be thankful for the defeat of the Taliban and appreciate the current occupation, it is the Hazara people. So we will be asking people in Bamiyan if this is the case.

Anyone who has travelled in the Global South is familiar with the chaotic market that occurs at a minibus staging-point where potential passengers haggle with drivers over fares. Our haggling done we settled into a minivan with several other passengers bound for Bamiyan – two Afghan men travelling alone and a family of a man, a woman and a toddler-age child.