KANDAHAR CITY (PAN): Iranian efforts to replace the historical Kharqah Sharif gate have been frustrated, Information and Culture Department officials in southern Kandahar province said on Thursday.
Installed during King Amir Habibullah Khan’s rule, the bronze gate is widely regarded as a masterpiece of Afghan jewellers from that era, according to officials, who claimed thwarting bids to supplant it an Iranian-made door.
Director of Information Dawa Khan Minapal told Pajhwok Afghan News the Iranian ambassador to Afghanistan had visited Kharqah Sharif during a visit to Kandahar three years ago.
He recalled caretakers of the shrine had told the diplomat that the gate had become old and needed to be replaced. Based on a sketch of the site, the Iranian government later delivered a new gate to the custodians.
But the authorities opposed installation of the Iranian gate that would undermine the shrine’s historical importance, the director argued.
Another official of the department, Aziz Ahmad, said the old gate could not be replaced under the law protecting ancient historical objects. He has been discussing the issue with Iranian officials over the past two years and a half.
“The Iranian government says it has spent $50,000 on the new gate. Afghan authorities should either pay Iran the amount or allow installation of the door,” he added.
Ahmad continued: “There is a misunderstanding. The information minister recently told me the Kandahar governor has asked the Iranians for replacing the gate. I replied it will amount to foreign meddling under the relevant law.”
However, the shrine caretakers, in coordination with Iranian consulate officials, have been insisting on changing the gate — a move that will damage the significance of the site. “The custodians have even issued threats to me,” the official revealed.
On the other hand, Kharqah Sharif caretaker Haji Mohammad Naseem Akhundzada said the ageing gate had lost its patina and hence the need for its replacement.
He acknowledged the gate had enormous value as “it was made during Habibullah Khan’s rule. Sometime back Kandahar jewellers tried to renovate it. They restored its shine, but the rust resurfaced after a week.”
Kandahar police chief, Gen. Abdul Raziq, had donated one million afghanis for the renovations work. “A year after the ambassador’s visit, the Iranians brought us a new gate. When it was being installed, Aziz came to the shrine and stopped its replacement. Later, the governor also insisted on the old gate staying in place.”
The caretaker intends to meet higher-ups in Kabul to seek permission for installing the Iranian gate. But residents and culturists oppose the replacement as brazen foreign interference that cannot be justified in any way.
Kandahar University teacher Prof. Sher Shah Rashad called the century-old gate a rare masterpiece of Afghan artisans, whose preservation is the duty of the government and residents of Kandahar.
He explained the foundation stone of the shrine was laid during Timur Shah Sadozai’s rule in 1807 and the project was completed four years later in 1811. Notable changes were brought to the structure during the time of Sardar Mohammad Osman.
The gate was erected by Sufi Abdul Hamid Barakzai as a result of efforts by Sardar Nasrullah Khan, a brother of King Habibullah Khan.