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Friday, 26 July, 2002, 12:39 GMT 13:39 UK
Afghans fear regional power vacuum
Afghans in Ghazni are calling for peace-keeping troops to be deployed in the region
Afghans in Ghazni are calling for peacekeeping troops
The BBC's Damian Grammaticas

For more than 1000 years the city of Ghazni has guarded a vital crossroads.

It straddles the divide between north and south in Afghanistan, between Central Asia and the Empires of India.

All Afghanistan's ethnic groups mix in Ghazni. Drawn to this busy, bustling commercial centre are Tajiks and Uzbeks from the north, Pashtuns from the south and Hazaras from the central highlands.

Map of the region
Ghazni is famed in Afghanistan as a city of poets and traders. It has been fought over since before the time of Genghis Khan. Today the struggles continue.

"Security exists only in Kabul. In other provinces there is no security," says Mohmand Khan, a trader in the local market.

"Here we have old animosities, the factions are playing the same old games against each other.

"What we want from the international community, from the world is not to leave us Afghans alone," adds Pashtoon Yar, another trader.


There are elements who do not want the representative of the people to be in the government

Mayor of Ghazni, Abdul Rahim

"They should show the courage to help us and not to abandon us."

But the international community is showing no interest in the problems of a place like Ghazni.

Since the fall of the Taleban, Ghazni has had no government. Police patrol the streets in their pick-up trucks.

But there was no police chief here until just a couple of weeks ago. Nobody could agree who should do the job.

The police come from one faction, and the army and the local security force are in the hands of other groups.

The new commander General Khalil Khan takes us to the Jehan Maleka High School.

The girls' school in Ghazni has been bombed
The girls' school has been bombed

The headmistress is worried, she has just started teaching girls again. But there are people who do not like these changes.

A small bomb was placed in the schoolyard, and girls have had acid thrown at them. She tells the new commander she wants international troops to protect her school.

In the city jail are some of the men accused of the attacks. The jail is run by Ghazni's head of security, Raz Mohammad Lonai.

He spent three years in the same dark, damp cells under the Taleban.

Video stores in Ghazni have also been firebombed. The suspicion is these are elements still sympathetic to the Taleban.

Several Afghans are in prison over the fire-bombing in the city
Several are in prison accused of fire-bombing
"The men are in touch with the Taleban," Mr. Lonai says. "They have started to organise again in Pakistan, and near the border.

They are trying to terrorise people and to kill foreigners. To create fear inside the city they are rocketing and bombing."

And Ghazni has more problems too. In the governors office sits the council of elders who should be running the city, old men with lined faces who stroke their beards thoughtfully.

But the elected mayor, Abdul Rahim, is too afraid to take office. If he does, open fighting might break out between the factions.

Ghazni's newly elected mayor, Abdul Rahim, is too afraid to take office
Ghazni's mayor is too afraid to take office
"This is an issue not just for the city of Ghazni. It is an issue on the central government level," he says.

"There are elements who do not want the representative of the people to be in the government, and they create this tension to take advantage of the situation.

Ask almost anyone in Ghazni and they will tell you what they really want. They want foreign peacekeepers or American soldiers to bring some order to their city.

But that is not going to happen. The Americans have a few special forces men stationed in the governor's guest house.

There are some British personnel there too. But they are not going to get involved in Ghazni's problems.

Peacekeepers have made an enormous difference in Kabul. They could have the same effect in Ghazni.

But there is no sign that they are likely to come here anytime soon. And the people of Ghazni are feeling abandoned by the outside world.


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