This is a tribute to my dear friend, Farhad Ahad. After successfully leading Afghan Solidarity, Farhad jan went to Afghanistan in 2002 to be part of the reconstruction. He was one of the first group of Afghan-American engineers who returned to Kabul to survey the region. He later joined the Afghan government and was part of the committee to build an oil pipeline from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan. I have included an interview on his work a few weeks before he was killed off the coast of Karachi. He will always be missed. Perhaps the most painful part of this is the mysterious circumstances of the crash that was never investigated properly by either the Afghan or American government (Farhad jan was an Afghan-American). Here is a blurb on the circumstances of the crash by another Afghan-American, Homaira Nassery.
Farhad Ahad, one of the most vibrant of young Afghan-Americans, with an MBA from the University of North Carolina, and founder of AfghanSolidarity.com left the United States to work for free as economic advisor to the Minister of Foreign Affairs. He was one of three Afghans to perish on February 24,2003, in a mysterious plane crass off the coast of Karachi, Pakistan. The team was to have observed Chinese mining operations in Pakistan to capture ‘lessons learned’ and implement them in Afghanistan. In addition, they were the central advisors in the $US3.2 billion gas pipeline deal involving Pakistan and Turkmenistan.
“Reverse of the Braindrain: Afghan-American Diaspora in Post-conflict Peacebuilding and Reconstruction”
I found this lovely tribute to Farhad jan online posted by Brad.
Farhad Ahad: Rebuilding His Homeland
By Nancy Oates
Editor’s note: As our spring alumni magazine was going to press, we learned of the tragic death of Farhad Ahad in a Feb. 24 plane crash in the Arabian Sea off the coast of Pakistan. Farhad was among a delegation of Afghanistan officials, including the country’s mines and industries minister, who died in the accident. We hope that this article, written before his death, will serve as a tribute to the passion and commitment he had for rebuilding his country. Farhad will be greatly missed by his classmates and all members of the UNC Kenan-Flagler community.
Even if Enron had not fallen so spectacularly, the pull of his native Afghanistan probably would have taken Farhad Ahad (MBA ’99) back to the country he fled with his family as a teen-ager. The opportunity to rebuild his homeland was simply too great to resist.
“Afghanistan was never too far from my heart,” said Ahad, who today is serving as the chief of economic affairs in Afghanistan’s foreign ministry. Though he’d lived in the United States about 15 years, he kept close ties with the community of Afghan expatriates and closely followed news reports from his homeland in recent years that were full of turf wars and violent resistance against the Taliban.
“I’d tell myself I should forget about Afghanistan’s hardships and enjoy my life in the United States,” he said. “But your heart will always cry. You’d always tell yourself, ‘That could have been me.’ ”
In June 2001, Ahad founded Afghan Solidarity, an organization dedicated to helping Afghanistan thrive and repatriating its refugees. In March 2002, a month after he met Afghanistan’s President Hamed Karzai at a mosque in Washington, D.C., Ahad flew to Kabul as part of a delegation of the Society of Afghan Engineers. There he met Afghanistan’s minister of foreign affairs, who offered him a job in the newly restructured government.
Ahad didn’t accept right away.
“Kabul was a mess,” he said. “Nothing was heated; there was a 9 p.m. curfew; it was chaotic.”
And he’d been through enough chaos at Enron.
On Dec. 3, 2001, the morning after what was then the largest bankruptcy filing in U.S. history, senior managers at Enron’s Houston headquarters gathered all of the employees together.
“They told us, ‘You may all go home now,’ ” Ahad said.
Within a week, Ahad had landed a managerial position at Progress Energy in Raleigh. But going through changes at Enron had provided the impetus to reflect upon larger issues. The day he rescheduled a meeting to accommodate an online discussion on Afghan Solidarity’s chat board was the day he realized where his true priorities lay. He talked to his boss about the responsibility he felt to serve his homeland. He then told the foreign affairs minister he would come to Kabul for one year.
“Progress sent me off with the best imaginable blessings,” he said.
Six months into that commitment, the full weight of the challenge has hit. As chief of economic affairs in the foreign ministry, his top priority is to develop investment opportunities to draw business from other countries into Afghanistan. His days are spent on everything from prioritizing aid from the United Nations to negotiating an agreement on building a $3.5 billion gas pipeline through Afghanistan from Turkmenistan to Pakistan and India. At other times, Ahad travels – sometimes with President Karzai – to countries interested in mining Afghanistan’s coal, iron and copper.
Although his background in engineering and business did not prepare him for a career in diplomacy, he is making up for that now. He must motivate the 16 career diplomats in his department to take more initiative – something that living under communism for so many years has drained out of them. At age 32, he is a young leader in a country that values its elders.
Ahad is considering his next step. Afghanistan’s ministry of finance is recruiting him, as is the ministry of mines and industry. He may return to the private sector to work for an energy concern that will invest in Afghanistan. Though the past year has been difficult, he has no regrets about his commitment to rebuilding his homeland.
“This is an experience I want to be a part of,” he said.