Video by my friend, Melissa Preen
Very sad to hear today that the Mayor of Kandahar, Ghulam Hamidi, was the latest high-profile assassination in the province. I had spent some time with Mr Hamidi during one of Kandahar’s rare rainy parts of the month. We were completely soaked walking around the main bazaar on one of his almost-daily walks around the streets.
He was a proper mayor: one who cared about rubbish collection and had a plan to clear the sprawling mass of slum dwellings and rickety shops off the streets and build wide bouvelards with public parks.
This made him unpopular. During the civil war and after, much of Kandahar’s government land was seized by local big shots, who then rented it to people to build their houses and shops on, collecting money that wasn’t theirs to levy. The mayor wanted to take that land back, angering both the people who illegal held the land and people who had built on it. These were their homes and properties, regardless of whether the landlords should have the land or not.
Land ownership is always a tricky subject in Afghanistan and there are those who say that it was the government that illegally claimed land and that Hamidi was just a Karzai crony. That’s a kettle of fish I wouldn’t even be able to start digging into.
Although the Taliban have claimed the killing - carried out by a man with explosives hidden in his turban, attending a meeting about the planned demolition of illegal buildings - I believe the bomber couldn’t have got that close without, at the least the indifference of the community. Matters were further complicated by a bulldozer carrying out the demolition apparently killing a child, who was playing in the site. The Taliban took advantage of the highest point of indignation and anger to strike.
I will remember an elderly, proper gentleman with a little stutter, dressed impeccably in a tweed suit with pulled up white socks, getting completely soaked while enthusiastically explaining to me how he’d never back down in the face of these land ‘bullies’, as he called them. As we strolled around he would tick off shopkeepers who encroached their stalls too far on the pavement and stop children to tell them, “look at that street. Soon it will be clear and wide leading to a park where you can play”.
I think he knew his enemies would get him one day, but he didn’t care.
Edit: This Wash Po article elucidates much more than I can.