Tue, Mar 21, 2017 - Page 6 News List

In Kabul, politicians do the shooting

NY Times News Service, KABUL

Heavy gunfire echoed down Darulaman Road, in the vicinity of the Afghan parliament and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s private home, for more than an hour very early on Friday morning last week.

Police units mobilized and rushed to the area. Shekaba Hashimi, who was up late helping her children study for their university exams, was convinced it was the Taliban.

“I thought, ‘Oh, God, there is another attack in this area,’” she said.

Half of the city seemed to have the same fear, as sleepy Kabulis piled onto social media to share notes on the gunfire as it moved through town.

Hours later, the Kabul police sheepishly admitted that it was only another government big shot on another drunken rampage. In this case, the culprit was said to be Lalai Hamidzai, a member of parliament who once led its committee on the advancement of the rule of law.

Kabul’s police chief, Major Genera Hassan Shah Frogh, said that Hamidzai had been drunk and had chased through town after someone he was angry at, and ended up firing into a hotel where his quarry had taken refuge.

Then, in a cover-up effort, he fired into the air at his own house a few kilometers away to make it look as if he were the one who had been attacked, Frogh said.

Hamidzai parried that charge of drunkenness by saying in a Facebook post that a senior policeman at the scene had been drunk, and that the policeman was an armed robber to boot.

Soon videos were broadcast of CCTV footage showing Hamidzai staggering around and shooting at the gate of the hotel as his entourage fired automatic weapons into the air and over the walls. Hamidzai insisted that the videos were faked, but the police said they were genuine.

Arrests in such cases are rare, and the authorities are loath to challenge their armed bodyguards, who act as mini-militias.

No one has been arrested in the episode involving Hamidzai, although a police spokesman, Abdul Basir Mujahid, said an investigation was underway.

On Saturday, the children of another lawmaker, Zaheer Sadat, a doctor from the Panjshir Valley with a history of brawling, got into a fight with the neighbor’s children.

The adults in both houses opened fire on one another with automatic weapons, said General Salem Almas, the head of the Kabul Police criminal investigation division.

Five people were wounded, he said.

Sadat was not present at Saturday’s shooting, the police said.

However, in November 2015, when his convoy was stopped by the police, his bodyguards badly beat three of the officers, the police said.

Sadat said that the officers had tried to attack him; the police said he was just angry at being stopped.

“No one is above the law,” said Mirdad Nejrabi, the head of parliament’s Internal Defense Committee. “Being a member of parliament does not mean one has immunity to do whatever he or she can to disrupt law and order.”

In January, the head of the Kabul Garrison, Lieutenant General Gul Nabi Ahmadzai, and his men were reported to have indulged in widespread celebratory firing after his son got engaged. The shooting was so intense that many in the city thought a terrorist attack was underway.

Ahmadzai could not be reached for comment, but an aide who answered the phone in his office said, “Who doesn’t fire in the air in Afghanistan? Everyone does.”

As the frequency of such episodes rises, fed-up police officers are pushing back by going public and dispute the politicians’ claims.

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