Home | Back to Wavescan Index

"Wavescan" is a weekly program for long distance radio hobbyists produced by Dr. Adrian M. Peterson, Coordinator of International Relations for Adventist World Radio. AWR carries the program over many of its stations (including shortwave). Adrian Peterson is a highly regarded DXer and radio historian, and often includes features on radio history in his program. We are reproducing those features below, with Dr. Peterson's permission and assistance.

Wavescan 355, October 14, 2001

Radio Backgrounds in Afghanistan - Part 2

The rugged Khyber Pass is straddled by the international border between Pakistan and Afghanistan. In some places the pass is quite wide, and in other places it is quite narrow and just sufficiently wide for the highway to pass through.

This famous pass has featured frequently in history, and to this day you can still see a part of the old stone-paved highway that was constructed in the days of Alexander the Great when he made his ancient conquest as far east as the Punjab in India. At the entrance to the Khyber Pass is a huge notice in Urdu and English, drawing attention to the fact that it is considered dangerous to drive through the Khyber Pass in the afternoon and at night.

Back some 40 years ago, there were two daily flights by small passenger plane from the main Kabul airport into the Bamiyan Valley. The Afghan pilot took a great delight in inviting passengers to come and sit in the co-pilot's seat and "help" him to fly the plane. For the return journey in the afternoon, it was necessary to sit and wait in the fully loaded plane until the temperature dropped to a safe level in order to give the plane sufficient lift to take off.

A few months ago, the Taliban ordered the destruction of the two massive statues of Buddha carved into the cliff face on the edge of the Bamiyan Valley. These statues were considered to be the largest in the world, and they were pictured on QSL cards issued by Radio Afghanistan some 30 years ago.

There is a well-paved highway running north from Kabul up through the very long Salang Tunnel. The area is so high and the air is so rarified that motor cars will not run properly. On one occasion, insurgents sealed both ends of the tunnel, effectively suffocating and killing several thousand people in their motor vehicles. 

This highway runs up to the border with Uzbekistan, and in those days the Russian guards were quite friendly and they would invite visitors to walk across the wooden bridge to visit with them. In these northern provinces of Afghanistan it was impossible to hear Radio Afghanistan Kabul on mediumwave because of the high mountain range in between. The local people listened instead on mediumwave to the relay service from Radio Moscow in their own languages.

There have been several attempts on the part of the Afghan government to install a network of local mediumwave stations thoughout their country. Back in the year 1925, two Russian made transmitters were imported into Afghanistan; one was installed in the palace of the king and the other was intended for installation in the regional city Kandahar, south of Kabul and close to the Pakistan border. However, because of unrest in the area, this station was never constructed.

Back in the 1970's, tenders were called for the installation of a network of mediumwave stations in the major cities throughout Afghanistan, but again, these were never constructed. Another project was to import several mobile radio stations and establish them in regional cities, but again, this project was never fully implemented

Because of the difficulties encountered in establishing a network of local mediumwave stations thoughout Afghanistan, instead a regional service in local languages was on the air for several years using two transmitters in the tropical shortwave bands. At one stage, these two transmitters carried a health program from Adventist World Radio translated into the two official languages, Dari and Pushto.

However, Bengt Ericson in Sweden observes that there are now four mediumwave stations on the air in Afghanistan. These stations can be heard on 657, 864, 1107 and 1584 kHz, and they are located in Kabul, Kandahar and Mizar-i-Sharif.