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Modi, Ghani open India-funded parliament building

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KABUL: President Ashraf Ghani and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the newly-constructed building for Afghan parliament — a democratic gift from New Delhi — in Kabul on Friday.

During his address to the parliament, Modi voiced his happiness over the name of the building — Atal Block. “We could not have chosen a more special day than the birthday of one of the tallest leaders — former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee.”

A partnership between the two countries helped rural communities get schools, minor irrigation schemes, health centres, children’s welfareand opportunities for women, the visiting dignitary said.

He added together the countrieshad built roads that had brought regions closer; power transmission lines and power stations that light up Afghan homes.

“We must support Afghanistan without timelines because new clouds of extremism are rising, even as the old ones continue to darken our skies, and, because Afghans are not only fighting for their future, but are standing up for all of us and a safer world,” Modi remarked.

In addition to 1,000 scholarships each year for Afghan students, Modi also announces 500 more student grants for the children of martyred security personnel.

“Your suffering is our pain. Your dreams are our duty. Your strength is our belief. Your courage is our inspiration. Above all, our friendship is our honour.

“And, as Hindi cinema’s most famous Pathan character, Sher Khan, in Zanjeer sang, Yaarihai imam mera, yaarmerizindagir: Friendship is my faith, my friend is my life,” he said of the friendship between the two nations.

Afghanistan, withits abiding faith in the tradition of jirga, had chosen democracy despite formidable challenges that would have defeated weaker people, the premier observed.

The foundation stone of the building had been laid on Aug. 29, 2005 by King Mohammad Zahir Shah, former president Hamid Karzai and then Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh.

The design and preliminary work on the building was completed in 2009. Practical work started in March 2009 and was nearly completed by the end of 2011, but due to some issues in transferring construction material, the project had been halted for some years.

The building has been constructed on more than 100 acres of land in the Dar-ul-Aman Palace of Kabul at a total cost of over $200 million provided by the Indian government.

The building has two session halls for the Wolesi Jirga and Meshrano Jirga, with capacity of 294 and 190 seats respectively. It it also has a lobby, offices for parliamentarians, conference rooms, a library, dining halls, press rooms and other facilities.

The building was inaugurated in the presence of Wolesi Jirga Speaker Abdul Rauf Ibrahimi and Meshrano Jirga Chairman Abdul Hadi Muslimyar at around 10am. (PAN)