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Feature: Old palaces in need of reconstruction

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Zarghona Salehi

KABUL, July 20 (Pajhwok Afghan News): Once reckoned among the glorious construction of this capital city, three prominent pre-war era palaces and buildings are in dilapidated condition and presenting a worn out look to locals as well as foreign visitors.

The crumbled and bullet-riddled walls of the once glorious edifices telling the stories of three decades of war and civil strife which thrust a never-ending insurgency upon the coming generations of Afghans.

Despite enormous funds committed by the international community for reconstruction process, none of the government functionaries has ever showed interest to renovate the buildings which are corroding with the passage of time.

While residents accuse government officials of daydreaming as for as the renovation and reconstruction of those structures is concerned, officials complain non-availability of budget was the main impediment in their way.

Constructed on European style, Darul Aman Palace or place of peace is one of those old buildings. Located some eight kilometres from the centre of the city, the historical structure needs attention of the incumbent government.

According to Abdul Sabir Junbish, member of the Afghanistan Academy of Sciences, Darul Aman Palace was constructed during the 1920s as part of the reformist king Amanullah Khan’s modernisation drive.

It is an imposing building on a hilltop overlooking a flat, dusty valley in the western part of the Afghan capital.

The edifice was gutted in 1969. It was restructured to house the Kabul Museum and later the Defense Ministry during the 1970s and 1980s.

During the Communist coup of 1978, the Palace, which was housing the Defence Ministry, was set on fire. The destruction of Darul Aman marked the end of the Saur Revolution, which lasted two days. But it was destroyed again as rival mujahideen factions fought for control of Kabul during the early 1990s. Heavy shelling after the end of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan by the mujahideen converted the splendid building into a skeleton.

Tajibaik is another such building which needs renovation and reconstruction to restore its old grandeur. Located in the southwestern side of Darul Aman, the palace was erected in 1924 which is also in poor condition. The third such palace is the Chilsitoon which dates back to the 1930s.

Habibullah Rafi, a noted historian and advisor to the Afghanistan Academy of Sciences, said Chilsitoon was being used as a guest house for kings while Darul Aman was the official residence of the Royal family. He said the Tajibaik Palace was housing a military department some 80 years back.

Basking under a tall green tree at the remnants of the Chilsitoon Palace, 93-year-old Haji Tamim recalled high-profile guests and foreign dignitaries used to be greeted and welcomed at this crumbled building.

“I don’t know why the government does not pay attention to this historical heritage,” questioned the aged man who is living in a mud house close to the old structure.

Those buildings were the pride and cultural heritage of Afghans, said Abdul Wahab, 60, who also loathed the government for not reconstructing it despite huge expenditures on other projects.

According to the Ministry of Finance, nearly $17 billion has been spent on reconstruction projects over the previous five years in the country, but the government has a priority list and there are more projects to be accomplished first before kicking off work on reconstruction of the palaces.

Muhammad Dawood Nazim, press information officer at the ministry, said the government’s priority list included construction and reconstruction of schools, hospitals, roads and other infrastructure to facilitate the people. He said a boundary wall was being constructed around Chilstoon Palace at the cost of $200,000 provided by the government of Japan.

General Zahir Azimi, spokesman for the Defence Ministry, termed reconstruction of Darul Aman and Tajibaik palaces as important and said it would be reconstructed in the days ahead.


Written by afghandevnews

July 20, 2007 at 2:51 am

Posted in Culture and Arts

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