Officials at a meeting of elders in Kabul changed a committee’s number after delegates rejected 39 because of an Afghan belief that the number is associated with pimps.
Delegates at the gathering, or loya jirga, convened by Afghan President Hamid Karzai, divided into 40 groups to consider Afghan-US relations. Elders refused to take part in group 39 until its number was changed to 41…
Correspondents say some believe the taboo started because a pimp had 39 on his vehicle number plate. But others say it dates from an old way of calculating numbers called “Abjad”.
Many delegates at the loya jirga voiced their fervent opposition to being part of committee 39, one attendee told the BBC’s Bilal Sarwary in Kabul.
”One delegate said: ‘I don’t want to return to my area and be called a pimp. I don’t care if it is true or not, but people out there believe in it. Look no one wants to have a vehicle with number plate 39. And yet, you want me to be in 39?”’ the member said…
Officials at the loya jirga said they never expected this to be a sticking point at the gathering, which is considering reconciliation with the Taliban as well as future Afghan-US relations.
”We needed 40 committees and we created 40. But a special solution was found for a ‘special problem’,” the official said.
I’m sort of sensitive to folks in Western nations claiming the right to patronize culture in developing nations, the 3rd World. But, superstition is a sticking point as are cultural hangups – no matter which nation is responsible for the foolishness. The concept has been dealt with by the best scientific minds of our time – from Doug Adams to Monty Python.