Kabul rioters take their revenge on Pakistan embassy
Thursday 07 September 1995
A little corner of Afghanistan that was forever England, with its rose garden and mock Tudor homes, faced destruction yesterday when a mob of 5,000 Afghans attacked the Pakistani embassy in Kabul.
Pakistan, whose previous embassy was sacked in similar circumstances 18 months ago, last year inherited the British compound, built at the turn of the century in a forest glade overlooking the battered Afghan capital. British diplomats quit in 1989, when the Communist regime of President Najibullah seemed likely to collapse.
Shouting "death to Benazir Bhutto" the mob stormed the gates and set the main building in the compound, the old British embassy, ablaze. They were protesting against Pakistan's alleged support for the Islamic Taliban militia, which took the city of Herat on Monday with scarcely a shot fired. Herat's commander, Ismail Khan, was one of President Burhanuddin Rabbani's few allies left in the bloody civil war.
The Defence Minister, Younis Qanouni, claimed that security men at the embassy gate had tried to stop the protesters, but lost control when a shot fired from the embassy killed a man. Reporters said several dead bodies were lying near the gate, but Islamabad denied that any shots were fired at the crowd. The Pakistani ambassador was reportedly dragged out of the embassy and badly beaten up.
Built when the British Raj still wielded influence over Afghan affairs, the Kabul legation was a favourite watering hole for travellers who had braved deserts, brigands and mountains while crossing from Persia to India. Despite extremes of heat and cold, a battalion of gardeners kept up a rose garden that was fondly called "Little Surrey". The main building, which had been "completely gutted", was renowned for its ballroom, library and wine cellar, reputedly the best between Istanbul and the Khyber Pass.
A few Gurkhas were left on guard after Britain withdrew its diplomats, but in the chaos after the Soviet-backed regime fell to Afghan Islamic rebels in 1992 and the rebels quarrelled among themselves, the decision was taken to hand the compound to Pakistan. Mr Qanouni said he was "unhappy" over the embassy's destruction, but saw no reason to apologise.
"This was a matter for the people, who are angry about foreign involvement in south-west Afghanistan," he said. President Rabbani wrote to the UN Secretary-General, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, complaining about alleged Pakistani complicity in the fall of Herat. Pakistan has denied giving aid to the Taliban militia, an organisation made up of Islamic clergymen and their students who are trying, in typical Afghan fashion - by force - to bring peace back to this shell-shocked country.
The defeat of the pro-government forces in Herat is a blow to Mr Rabbani. The Taliban now controls the south and western provinces, and Kabul claims it could only have scored so many victories with arms and help from Pakistani military intelligence. Iran, which has been sending home thousands of Afghan refugees, has stopped repatriation until the turmoil in Herat, near the Iranian border, subsides. More than 150,000 Afghans have been ordered to leave Iran by 1998.
- 1 Finland schools: Subjects scrapped and replaced with 'topics' as country reforms its education system
- 2 The West has it totally wrong on Lee Kuan Yew
- 3 #FreeTheNipple: Women in Iceland bare breasts in solidarity with trolled student
- 4 Scientists have discovered a simple way to cook rice that dramatically cuts the calories
- 5 Zayn Malik quits One Direction: Hundreds of workers request compassionate leave following band member's exit
Germanwings captain Patrick Sondenheimer tried to break into locked cockpit door 'with an axe' as plane was descending
Amanda Knox murder conviction: Italian court overturns verdict for US student and Raffaele Sollecito in the killing of Meredith Kercher
Saudi Arabia says it won't rule out building nuclear weapons
The battle for the Middle East's future begins in Yemen as Saudi Arabia jumps into the abyss
#FreeTheNipple: Women in Iceland bare breasts in solidarity with trolled student
Nigel Farage brands LGBT activists 'filth' and 'scum' and accuses them of scaring away his children after they invade his local pub
Ukip supporters are 55 or older, white and socially conservative, finds British Social Attitudes Report
JK Rowling responds to fan tweeting she 'can't see' Dumbledore being gay
Russia threatens Denmark with nuclear weapons if it tries to join Nato defence shield
Jeremy Clarkson sacked live: Alan Yentob 'wouldn't rule out' ex Top Gear host's BBC return
Germanwings plane crash live: Co-pilot Andreas Lubitz wanted to 'do something people would remember him for'
£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...
£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...
£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Does earning a 6 figu...
£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...