Kabul, Afghanistan | July 30, 2003


So it’s been a while since the last data input.  Too much has happened, though fortunately most of it good.    The last time I was inspired to produce a diary was last Friday when I was at Pir Sab Gilani’s house for lunch, and since then, layers of new stuff has been piled on.  The Gilanis are a kind of Aga Khan-ish spiritual family with a sort of cult following but are also related to the former royal family.  I found the 40- something Pir Sab, probably no taller than 5’, to be absolutely charming, albeit way too much of a politician.  Apparently, he had been coined the “Gucci guerilla” by some journalist during the war years.  He later had to explain to that same journalist that if he’s going to make such claims, he had better get the label right -- in his case, Hermes was his preferred label.  And he only tied that little story in because I brought up Hermes in the preceding moment to him.  Now, not every shalwar kamiz wearing 5’ tall mutton-fed Afghan male has a follow-on story like that in his pocket.   He also told me I was “missing the best part¨ as I put aside the onions on a plate of salad.  

I had been taken to Pir Sab¦s house by two Afghan Americans who work for UNAMA (a UN agency specifically designed for the mission to Afghanistan). Halfway through the visit, a white bearded, ancient, creaking thing called the Chief Justice of Afghanistan shows up and makes the rounds of the room shaking everyone’s hand.  He shook mine, but looked up a bit surprised, as if he had somehow not realized that I was a woman.   As a notorious conservative, it was surprising to all that he had shaken my hand. After a monologue to an attentive and hushed table of Gilani and his entourage, and a speedy shoveling of food (most of which ended up on his chest), the Chief Justice took leave, this time also shaking my hand.  The two UNAMA boys found this a fascinating topic of conversation for hours afterwards.  Apparently, some staid code of conduct had been violated by the act.  The Chief Justice simply explained that he occasionally “makes exceptions”.

I sat there listening and trying to follow the Dari.  Pir Gilani defended his ties to Pakistan, described his master plan for a warlord coalition to keep Karzai in office, and told the sketchy tale of the disappearance of his briefcase in a London hotel just a month ago and his suspicions of the Scotland Yard’s involvement.   On the gossip front, the word is that Karzai is effeminate and uncharismatic, two deadly sins in the Afghan code of leadership.   One of the UNAMA guys said in the most astonished way that Karzai had only married a couple of years ago and was not at all known for womanizing. Pir Sab Gilani said that low testosterone or not, he was definitely the lesser of evils and good for Afghanistan in the short term.