Mazar-e-Sharif city, the capital of Balkh Province, is one of the largest and historical cities of Afghanistan. The Shrine of Hazrat Ali, also known as the Blue Mosque, is one of the reputed burial places of Ali, cousin and son-in law of Hazrat Muhammad. The territory of Blue Mosque is traditionally used by public as a place for meeting friends, family picnics and as well as for conducting cultural and educational activities by university students such as daily or weekly gatherings. Located in the west side of the Blue Mosque, there has been an old historical mosque with the capacity to accommodate over 1,500 prayers. Recently due to the request of Afghanistan’s Ulama Council and the respected Eshans this ancient mosque has been destroyed with the intention to constructing a new larger mosque in the area of 5,000 square meters. It is expected that the new mosque will have the capacity to accommodate over 7,500 prayers in a single time. The total budget for construction of the new mosque is estimated to be over 3.5 million US dollars. The money will mainly be funded by Governor Atta, the current governor the Balkh Province, and some of the governor’s former Jihadi commander fellows. Some Afghan entrepreneurs, who are believed to be the governor’s business partners, have also financially contributed.
Considering the social and economic situation in the province, spending such a huge amount of money, 3.5 Million USD, to constructing a mosque is a significant fault. Firstly, destroying the previous ancient mosque which was considered a historic heritage in the province is an offensive act and has seriously undermined the cultural and historical values of the province. Secondly, dedicating such a high amount of money in something which is not considered a priority in the province has also created a big question mark in the critical minds of the educated segment of the Balkh society. It sounds even more pointless when one learns that the previous ‘small’ mosque was not full in most of the prayer times.
The author has talked to some youth activists in the province concerning the construction of the new mosque. Most of the educated youth argue that the budget dedicated to this mosque could have been spent on the other priorities in the province such as constructing a library, establishing a sport center for women, establishing cultural center for youth activists equipped with sophisticated communication equipment, or such as establishing a net Cafe for youth so that they could get in touch with the outside world. Moreover, the youth activists believe that this is a new effort launched by Governor Atta and his team to misuse the religious emotions of the ordinary people living in the province.
It is worth mentioning that the person who committed large part of the funding, Governor Atta, has been accused of forcibly grabbing land, government and public properties. Some sources strongly suggest that Balkh Governor and his counterparts who are mainly consist of former Jihadi commanders and were fellows during the so called holy war against the Soviet Union, are extensively involved in land grabbing and using their government authority to generate income in various forms. The issue has been raised few times in the provincial court, provincial council and other relevant government directorates; however, the complainers were swiftly muted every time either by force or by incentive. The forcibly grabbed lands were mostly sold to people right after they were converted to residential areas; in Afghanistan popular as ’Shahrak".
It is believed that Governor Atta has established a strong Mafia organization in the province to well manipulate his political and economic rivals. The members are mainly consisting of former Jihadi commanders who presently enjoy key government positions in the provincial and central level. The law is being interpreted in accordance to the interest of this Mafia organization and therefore nothing is illegitimate for them to conduct. Some sources also confirm that Atta’s underground Mafia organization has also been involved in targeted killings. The terror of Ashraf Ramazan, a businessman from Hazara ethic minority, and Nasrullah Hamdard, the head of governors security guard who is supposed to have revealed some secrets of Atta to some international officials, is believed to be conducted by Attah’s Mafia.
The key members of Atta’s looting machine, as sources suggest, are below:
- Alam Khan Azadi, Known as Alam-e-Sia, a notorious former Jihadi warlord and owner of Azadi residential city/Shahrak in the north-east of Mazar-e-Sharif. Alam Khan is currently a member of the Afghan Parliament in Kabul.
- Commander Abdul Khaliq, known as Rahis Khaliq, currently member of the Balkh provincial council.
- Ustad Abdul Wakil, member of the Balkh Provincial Council and owner of the Bakhter residential city/Shahrak.
- Commander Khan, Known as Khanak, former Jihadi commander and presently commander of the Afghan Border Police in the Mazar-e-Sharif International airport.
- Commander Hasan, known as Hassan Cha, former Jihadi commander.
- Commander Zalmai, known as Zalmai Baba yadgari.
- Anwar Bay of Dehdadi District
- and Abbas Ibrahim Zada, known as Abbas Dollar. One of the governor’s main business partners, and currently member of Afghan Parliament in Kabul. There are many others the papers can not list due to the space constraint.
Now that the Afghans are reaching the date to election, numerous initiatives have been launched by Atta’s Mafia machine, constructing mosque as one of them, to buy people’s trust and to once again misuse the honest religious beliefs of the people. The author, representing the new educated generation, strongly condemns any intention to deceiving people such as construction of the costly and unnecessary mosque in a situation where poverty dominates and people without shelter die each year in winter, with most of them dying around the blue shrine that currently construction of the new mosque is underway. Most importantly, this scenario also signs that Atta’s Mafia organization has taken the initiative to marginalize new educated youth by pumping the money and support to Mullahs, as most of them are extremely radical and against modernity.
For more information about the rampant corruption in north, particularly in Balkh Province, please refer to the links below:
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: ANONYMOUS
The author is a young civil society activist in Afghanistan who has recently been threatened by unknown armed men in Mazar-e-Sharif and Kabul that led him to flee Afghanistan.