Page last updated at 12:19 GMT, Monday, 9 June 2008 13:19 UK

A tribute to Abdul Samad Rohani

Abdul Samad Rohani, the Pashto service reporter for the BBC in the Afghan province of Helmand, was shot dead at the weekend. His friend and colleague Bilal Sarwary pays this tribute.

Abdul Samad Rohani
Rohani became the voice of Helmand

"Fish is fresh when it is in the water," Rohani used to say.

It's an Afghan saying which means here that Rohani felt most alive when he was working in the field.

In the eight years that I have been with the BBC in Kabul, I have been constantly in touch with BBC reporters located in some of the most dangerous and remote areas of Afghanistan.

These brave reporters work tirelessly away from their families so that the world may come to understand the desperate situation faced by the people of Afghanistan.

Rohani began working for the BBC in 2006. As well as reporting in the Pashto language, he provided crucial support and information to the BBC's English language staff.

Helmand province is one of the centres of the Taleban insurgency. Because of the large number of British troops there it is a particularly important news area for the BBC's audiences in the UK.

Household name

Rohani knew Helmand better than anyone I have ever met.

He was born in Helmand and, as well as being a journalist, was a poet of some local renown.

Hardly a day passes without an incident in Helmand and sometimes he would be on the phone to me all day. I will always remember his bravery.


His compassion drove him to travel into the Taleban-controlled areas to report about the lives of people there.

Sometimes he stayed at my house in Kabul, entertaining me and my roommate with his romantic Pashto poems.

But our evenings were constantly interrupted by his phones as he took calls from tribal chiefs, government officials or a local trader complaining about corruption.

He had a way with words and became the voice of the people of Helmand.

There would also be entire days when his cell phones were off when he would be travelling in a wolaswali (the Pashto word for district) where there is no network coverage.

First to call

At present I'm spending a lot of the year studying in the US.

Rohani would phone me regularly there - always calling in the early hours of morning US time when I was asleep. Whenever I pointed it out to him, his response would be simple: "It's day in Afghanistan." And then he would chuckle.

I always liked talking to Rohani and over the years our working relationship altered into something deeper - a friendship.

Whenever I returned home to Kabul, he would be one of the first people to call.

"Welcome to our Afghanistan and I am sending my regards from this village in Helmand province," he would say.

On Saturday I grew alarmed when I did not hear from him.

I enquired after him and was devastated to learn that Rohani was missing and his phones were switched off.

Lashkar Gah in Helmand province
Helmand is one of the most volatile areas in Afghanistan

I knew something was wrong, but I was hoping that Rohani was again on a trip to some remote village or district, reporting the story of his people whom he loved so dearly.

Then the bad news came in.

An unknown caller contacted another BBC colleague in Helmand, asking for Rohani's body to be picked up.

As soon I heard the news, I felt the weight of a thousand broken hearts and I felt as if the entire world had come crashing down.

My memories of Rohani will always remain with me.

As an Afghan I will always be proud of being his friend and colleague.

He dedicated his life and time towards telling the truth and helping Afghanistan.

I don't know who it was who killed Rohani, but I know one thing for sure - there will be more of us telling the truth and truth will always protect itself.

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