Ever since I came to Panjao, it seems like I am starting a new chapter in my life. I’m experiencing things which I have not before. I guess it’s all about character building, which has all of a sudden become the decree of my life.
After less than one week in Panjao, I was sent to Lal to recruit new national staffs. Aaahhh….my favourite task! Raffaele, as the PFC, had to stay in Panjao to monitor the registration process. We were the only 2 permanent international electoral staffs in Panjao.
I was not happy when I was told that I had to go on my own with a few other national staffs. It wasn’t because I was scared or anything but it can get very lonely and miserable on my own. But at the same time, I do enjoy road missions and I guess, it was a new challenge for me as well.
This time, I was given a Thuraya and told that I would be staying with Oxfam in Lal. We do not have an office in Lal and Raffaele had only gone to Lal once to establish contact with the local community. Registration is to start on 22 May 2004 in Lal.
Again, I was sent with 2 new drivers; one was Farid (the one who came with me from Bamyan) and Khial Gol. Arif had proceeded to Uruzghan with A. I was glad to get rid of him. The journey from Panjao to Lal is supposed to be less than 5 hours on a Runner but because we took the Rangers, it took us nearly 7 hours. I arrived in Lal at about 8:30pm.
We went straight to Oxfam only to be given the cold shoulders. The guard refused to even open the gate and was talking to us through a thick wooden door. The guard kept saying that the manager had gone to Panjao and he could not let us in. I told him that we are from UNAMA Electoral and our staffs used to stay with Oxfam in Lal, etc.
I called Raffaele immediately on the Thuraya to inform him of our problem. It took us about 1 hour standing outside in the cold for the guard to come back and tell us that their manager in Panjao had instructed them not to allow anyone working for the elections to stay in their place. I was so shocked especially when the guard told us that the manager said that we were politically motivated.
Qurghani, Raffaele’s national counterpart, tried to explain to the guard about our neutrality and I felt so dejected that I just went to the car and asked the driver to drive off. I felt so disappointed and upset at the people because I had travelled for hours just to get there to help them and they treated me like a leper.
It was the first time in Afghanistan when I felt unwelcome and unwanted.
....to be continued in Part XVII.....