Kabul book fair papers over stain of popular haunt for drug addicts


KABUL, 21 Feb 2023:

Pul-e-Sokhta Bridge, infamous as a hub for drug addicts and dealers in the western part of the Afghan capital, has turned over a new leaf with the holding of a three-day Kabul book fair that kicked off during the weekend.

Crowds of men and women visited the book fair on Sunday, marking the inauguration of the reconstructed area of what had for over 20 years been a den of thousands of drug users and peddlers.

“This area was a picture of misery in the minds of Kabul citizens. Now reconstructed, the Kabul municipality, with the coordination of a publication and a private hospital, has conducted a book exhibition as an inauguration ceremony,” said Qari Wasiullah, deputy spokesperson of Kabul municipality.

The locals also expressed delight and optimism at the changing state of affairs in a previously gloomy neighbourhood.

“The shameful area is currently colourful, clean and decorated with lights, and now here is a book exhibition (…) I hope the miserable picture of the place we have in mind is replaced with happiness and joy,” said a resident of Kabul, who identified himself as Khaleel.

Pul-e-Sokhta – meaning “burned bridge” was widely referred to as “Addicts Town” in the capital as well as in the neighbouring provinces – with many national and international media outlets having made documentaries on this area.

Nasto Naderi, a popular journalist, who was also addicted to drugs, spent more than five years under the Pol-e-Sokhta Bridge.

After undergoing rehabilitation under a programme by the former government, he published a book describing the plight of addicts under the bridge, detailing their oblivious lives and deaths.

The Kabul municipality launched a campaign in coordination with the ministry of public health and the ministry of interior affairs of the Taliban government to clear this area.

Around three to four thousand drug addicts were moved from this area to rehabilitation centres for treatment.

“The area which was named ‘end of the life’ has turned into an area of lights and colours,” said Kabul Municipality spokesperson Niamtullah Barakzai.

According to the Kabul municipality, area will be renamed after a Cabinet meeting, in order to wash away the gloom and misery attached to its former name.