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Indian doctor braves war-torn Afghanistan to serve the needy

"People here are very simple, their needs are very limited. Actually even basic treatment is not available."

Khandahar | Updated: February 23, 2014 2:33 pm
This Dec. 8, 2013 file-pool photo shows a solider standing guard near a military aircraft in Kandahar, Afghanistan. This Dec. 8, 2013 file photo shows a solider standing guard near a military aircraft in Kandahar, Afghanistan.

Set to complete a decade in this run-down former power hub of the Taliban, Dr Shah Nawaz, the ‘lone Indian’ here, is happy to serve the war-weary Afghan people in their medical needs.

Nawaz, 45, working at a private hospital, says he is happy to serve the people in Kandahar, the southern province of Afghanistan, also the birthplace of the Taliban movement.

Recalling his journey to Afghanistan, Nawaz said an Afghan businessman who was into dry fruit business had contacts with his family in India, and he often told him about the plight of people in Kandahar and their medical needs.

“I then gave him a proposal to build a hospital. He (the businessman) was ready to invest and I expressed readiness to come to Afghanistan and serve the people,” Nawaz told PTI.

“People here are very simple, their needs are very limited. Actually, even basic treatment is not available,” said Nawaz, who hails from Maharashtra.

“I am here since August 2005. My family is not here. They are in Malaysia. I visit them twice or thrice in a year, and they come once in a year to India,” he said.

Officials said Nawaz was the only Indian working in the city apart from a handful of staff at the Indian Consulate in Kandahar city, which was the headquarters of the erstwhile Taliban regime during 1996-2001.

About life in Kandahar, Nawaz said though he was the only Indian working in the city, a number of his compatriots were employed in a huge US military base here.

Sources said the Indians working at the US base come through Dubai and are not registered with the Consulate.

India last week helped Afghanistan establish its first agriculture university here as part of a major capacity-building project to help the war-torn country to increase farm output and attain economic independence.

The Afghan National Agricultural Sciences and Technology University (ANASTU) coming up in the sprawling Tarnak farm, in the former Taliban stronghold of Kandahar, was an important activity of the India-Afghanistan strategic partnership.

Interestingly, the Tarnak farm was slain Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden’s main Afghan residence during much of the late 1990s. From there he oversaw Al-Qaeda’s plot to fly hijacked airliners into the World Trade Centre in New York and Pentagon in Washington that killed nearly 3,000 people.

About city life, Nawaz said there was no night life.

“Here, there is no night life and day starts very early in morning, and he misses Indian food.

“Yes I love Indian food very much and when I visit Delhi, I first rush to a good hotel,” he said.

“Any way, I have (local) cook, who can now make Indian-style food after a long training, he said.

Fortunately, all the satellite channels are available in Kandahar and even most of Hindi films are dubbed in Pashto.

Amitabh Bachchan, Salman Khan, Sunny Deol are very popular here. But I think, all these are limited to city only, outside city there is no electricity, no TV or other forms of entertainment. The only mode of entertainment for most people is the radio,” he said.

“Yes, I always interact with local people most of whom are from outside the city. They are very simple, gentle but confused. One thing peculiar about them is that they don’t trust anybody,” he said.

“As long as you are not a party (to any side) I don’t think there is any problem. Rest is your luck,” Nawaz said when asked about the security situation in the city.

Afghanistan and Kandahar, in particular, has the potential of becoming an economic hub for the entire region. Kandahar city was once the hub of international cargo movements in mid 1950s and 1960s, local officials say.

Afghanistan is a resource-rich country. It has a unique geography that allows it to connect the markets of the Middle East, Central Asia, South Asia and China. It has one of the most hard working and enterprising people, they said.

Kandahar is one of the oldest cities of the world. It was the seat of power of Ahmad Shah Durrani the founder of modern Afghanistan.

During his recent visit here, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid emphasised that many in India believe that Kandahar is nothing but the ancient city of ‘Gandhara’, which figures prominently in the epic Mahabharata.

Indian historians have always spoken of Kandahar as the Western Gateway to the Great Mughal Empire in India.

Noor-jehan, the legendary wife of the Mughal Emperor Jahangir, was born in Kandahar.

Kandahar is also one of the holiest sites in the Islamic world, housing the cloak of the Prophet at Dargah Kerqa Sharif.

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