Kandahar mayor killed by suicide bomber, latest in wave of assassinations
Kandahar's Mayor Ghulam Haider Hamidi is the latest victim in a wave of assassinations of high-profile Afghan government officials that has many Afghans worried about a leadership void.
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An accountant for most of his life, Hamidi had far more in common with Western politicians than he did with many of the warlords and powerbrokers in control of large parts of Afghanistan.Skip to next paragraph
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“When people would complain about the mayor, we would invite him to talk directly with the people in the provincial council office. Every time he was able to convince the people and us that he was right through legal reasons and acceptable methods,” says Haji Fida Mohammad, a member of the Kandahar Provincial Council.
Still, Hamidi had a reputation as someone who was not afraid to use force.
“I am strong enough to fight with corrupt Kandahari people,” Hamidi told the Monitor.
The shoe incident
Local pharmacist Zoudin Barak remembers watching the son of a high-level government official drive his car the wrong way down a one-way street and park it so his car completely blocked the road. Even when a police officer came to ask the driver to move, he refused. Such disputes have often ended with drivers pulling guns on the police with impunity.
When the mayor happened upon this scene without his official entourage, Mr. Barak says he seemed undeterred and asked the man to move his car. When he refused again, the mayor took off his shoe and used it to bash off the man’s side view mirror. The man then moved his car.
“In our country, when you ask people politely they won’t listen or take it seriously. They won’t do anything until you force them to,” says Barak. “When they are the sons of warlords and high-level government officials, no one can stop them from breaking the rules. The police and courts can’t take any action, so in this case I thought the mayor was very good.”
Across Kandahar, residents have similar stories of the mayor intervening to stop people from breaking the law, even when it meant risking his own safety.
Afraid of the 'land mafia'
Some worry that the next Kandahar mayor won’t stand up to powerbrokers and warlords like Hamidi did.
“It will be impossible to demolish the houses of people living illegally on government land now because government officials will be afraid this land mafia will kill them like the mayor,” says Qale Khan, a tribal elder in Kandahar.
Despite Hamidi’s reputation as an honest politician, he played a controversial role with the city’s high-end Aino Mina housing development. He made other decisions that led some residents to speculate he may not be as clean as widely believed.
Still, most Kandaharis are quick to say he worked harder than any previous mayor to develop the city.
“If we had a few people like him all our problems would be solved. I didn’t feel sorry for any of the other officials who got killed, but I felt sorry for him,” says Barak.