Someone should do a television series on limousine and taxi drivers. After my exhilarating discussion with the Lebanese-Canadian limousine driver in Toronto, I hardly expected to have another million dollar driver experience the same day. So, I did. This time, my driver in Vancouver told me that he was a law student who drives part-time. He is an Afghani-Canadian who came from Kandahar a few years ago as one of the first participants in Canada’s relocation program for Afghanis who provided help to the Canadian military during the war in Afghanistan. He comes from a wealthy family, is educated in Afghani law, and speaks five or six different languages. During the war in Afghanistan, he advised Canadian and American military lawyers negotiating the payment of claims to civilian Afghanis who suffered damage at the hands of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) troops. He also was a political liaison officer for Canadian Foreign and Cultural Affairs, first during the Afghani election and again following the assassination of the brother of President Karzai. He still uses his cultural and linguistic expertise to train Canadian military in their cultural orientation programs.
The fact that my son and daughter-in-law both served tours of duty in the Canadian army in Afghanistan with ISAF created an immediate bond between us. We both knew the players, the lingo, the terrain, the dates, and the issues. He described a couple of situations where he narrowly escaped death or injury; once in a convoy where an IED hit the vehicle behind his, another when a car he bought was hit by bombs (without him in it, at the time).
He discussed the politics of the region. More precisely, I asked questions and he gave what seemed to me reasoned and well-informed responses. He noted the corruption prevalent in Afghanistan, characterized in his time by fraudulent land grabs which made some millionaires and deprived others of their birthright. He complained about the warlords who have all the money but little education or expertise in how to use the money to increase their capital or for any social purpose. When I ventured the opinion that Pakistan was a big problem and appeared to be a failed state, he suggested that Pakistan has been remarkably successful at doing what it wants to do. “And what’s that?” I asked. His reply: “Playing the big powers off, one against the other, and building up its military intelligence (albeit at the expense of its civil authorities).” He said that he reads many commentators from many countries, but none agree about what the future holds, and he believes none of them. And who was he supporting in the Afghani presidential election? He preferred Ashraf Ghani, a former executive with the World Bank, whose experience in economics he thought would be a huge asset to the country.
When I asked him about his long-term aspirations, he indicated that he hopes to return to Afghanistan at some stage to help build a new order. Unlike other family members who have been successful in business, he wants to take part in government. His age? 31 years old. He has a wife and three young children. How can someone so young have had so much life experience? And what will he do in the decades that lie ahead? One can only hope that the Canadian connection will serve him, his family, and his native country well. I arrived at our apartment blown away by all that I had learned.