Thursday, 6 November 2008

A Personal Profile

Post number 22:

Born in Kabul and raised in various provinces of Afghanistan until the age of 26, I graduated with a degree in civil engineering from Kabul University (School of Engineering was affiliated to University of Wyoming at Laramie) in 1968.

I then won a Fulbright scholarship and studied English and American Orientation at the University of Arizona in Tucson, and structural engineering in University of Wyoming in 1968/69. After a while, after travelling through Germany, Austria, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Turkey, Iran by road in an Opel Rekord settled back in Afghanistan and married an English girl. I then travelled to London and studied environmental/public health engineering at Imperial College, University of London with a scholarship from WHO/government of Afghanistan.

The coup de tat of 1973 deposed King Zahir Shah, and I became a refugee. My family of 3 by now and I saw no choice but to settle in England with protection by the British police against threats by the Afghan embassy to kidnap and ‘repatriate’ us to Kabul to resume my post as a WHO fellow and the director of rural water supplies at the Ministry of Health.

I joined consulting engineers SWH & P in Notting Hill Gate and helped design Sharjah water supply, Dubai sewerage scheme and swimming pools for the Ruler of Dhofar and a colonel in Sharjah. We then became adventurous and decided to go to Zambia and explore Southern Africa. I joined the government of his Excellency Kenneth David Kaunda and rose to the rank of Senior Executive Engineer with the Ministry of Works. I then joined Norwegian consultants Oestalndskonsult and Interconsult and worked on water supply projects for the governments of Zambia and Norway.

I rose to sufficiently dizzy heights that met the first Zimbabwe/Rhodesia government and helped set up our Harare office in 1980, shortly after independence. I once refused to rent a house from His Excellency Rupia Banda, the current Zambian president - elect because his house was substandard to our high standards. Even, his excellent salesmanship didn’t sway me to rent his house. Instead, I rented one of Dr Kaunda’s official residences on plot number 9 Roan Road (house for the chairman of ZIMCO properties of which His Excellency was the chairman), near State House in Kabulonga, Lusaka.

The house (a run down but huge bungalow where the boys roller skated from their bedrooms to the kitchen to fetch sandwiches) was on an acre of land, had a small pond where I fished for Sunday lunches. I hosted an ANC (fellow refugees like self) wedding (Victor and Temsy Macha of ANC press and health respectively) and may have met Thabo Mbeke as the guest of honour.

The Soviet Christmas day invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 made me a permanent refugee and I took issue with the Soviet embassy and encouraged the Zambians to boycott the Moscow Olympics of 1980. I was published on the front page of Times of Zambia (opinions column) and what saved me from getting deported from Zambia was my close friendship with The Reverend John Papworth, religious and economic advisor to Dr Kaunda who had drafted my publication for the Times of Zambia.

The American government approved of my one man campaign against the Soviets and gave my family and I American citizenship in 1980 that we have never taken advantage of till this day. Instead, the Zambian government agreed not to deport me when the Americans exchanged me (one of their own now) for 400 ANC political hot potatoes. America housed the latter group in various states to save from the apartheid police’s ambushes to Lusaka and killed them at nights while hiding in old graves and similar places. The Zambians allowed me to continue my work for their government and that of Norway. The Zambians extended my work permit only for the then current job.

My involvement on the Kalahari projects came to an end in December 1985, and we chose to settle in England as refugees instead of living in the US as citizens. My then English/Afghan wife and owning a house in Putney tilted the balance. The boys, 14 and 10 then were too young to have a say and express views.

Lower salaries in England (expensive mortgage) stopped my engineering career and I became a dry cleaner to clean clothes instead of water and waste. I saw parallels in the 2 fields, and these opened my eyes to the fact that dry cleaning doesn’t work or clean anything. That was 22 years ago, not long enough for me to convince the world, and her establishments. Cleaning (the politics of hygiene) is a powerful political tool and I took full advantage of its power to promote my business ideas.

This has been the wrong approach and on 17 July this year, I vowed to become 100% apolitical and follow business aims only. I am pleased to say this is working. All doors are opening now and it’s a matter of time only before investors will invest and I will attract all forms of partnerships to gain commercial realities.

Its been my life policy that I should become a citizen of the my country of domicile once I exceed staying there for more than 6 months (Hubbul watan e minal eemaan, or the love of your land is a part of your faith). That is why I volunteered to fight for America in Vietnam in 1968. My American parents, the late Briggs of Tucson and my white American girl friend at the time discouraged me from the idea.

In Zambia, I ‘defended’ the Zambians and Afghans against Soviet adventurism. In Egham, and Wandsworth, I defended Britain’s Intellectual Property rights over American arm twisting to launch CCCC from America. Britain has been home in preference to my other homes of Afghanistan, USA, and Zambia.

Despite heavy material, and emotional losses and a failed marriage, I have happily integrated in Britain and live alone away from the Afghan community and among the indigenous where there are almost no immigrants amongst us. My neighbours totally ignore me as if I didn’t exist. This suits me to the bone because I have no time for any of them. I thank them for leaving me alone to do my blog and stuff. I have truly become British despite not having a passport to prove it. I don’t need one yet. When I do, I will get one to expose me as a trouble maker (Ambrose Bierce in his ‘The Devils Dictionary) when I travel on CCCC business soon.

I have 2 adopted brothers who asked me to adopt them. Jag is a Sikh in Rugby, and I have 3 intelligent niece and nephews, and a wonderful sister in-law. Colin my English brother is so English that he treats his adopted Cumbria’s indigenous as foreigners! He lives there but has his bank account in London to prevent the local bank manager talking about him in the Cambrian community! That’s how English I am for Colin to accept me as one without actually saying so, I suppose, and if you follow the logic. With that, my English neighbours are all foreigners as far as Colin and I are concerned; with us 2 as the genuine articles, defending Britain’s interests, and I worth investing in and partnering with.

What are waiting for, Obama's treasury team to ansure investors? OK. Fair enough, then. By the way, didn't he do well, an apolitical observation, of course?

Mohammad

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