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Perspectives

Afghans’ cries of anguish remain unheeded

Published November 10, 2022
Siblings who arrived from Afghanistan with their families are seen at their makeshift tents as they take refuge near a railway station in Chaman, Pakistan September 1, 2021. Reuters
Siblings who arrived from Afghanistan with their families are seen at their makeshift tents as they take refuge near a railway station in Chaman, Pakistan September 1, 2021. Reuters
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Twenty years after occupying Afghanistan, the US-led NATO forces were constrained to egress from the war-ravaged country in a more dilapidated condition than when they occupied it. On October 7, 2001, the US invaded Afghanistan to avenge the al-Qaeda-orchestrated September 11 terrorist attacks. The principal aim of the US invasion was to hunt down Osama bin Laden and punish the Taliban for providing safe haven to al-Qaeda leaders. NATO’s massive airpower decimated Afghanistan and enabled the occupation of Kabul. It took another decade for the US to hunt down Osama and another ten years before NATO packed its bags and departed in a speedy and disorganised exit from Afghanistan. Resultantly, the resurging Taliban regained control but the battle-weary nation continued to suffer.

Despite a year having passed by since the 'liberation' of Afghanistan as claimed by Taliban leader Mullah Baradar, not a single country has recognised the regime.

Fervent appeals for international support by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) stressing that abandoning the Afghan people now would be a historic mistake – a mistake that has been made before with tragic consequences – have fallen on deaf ears.

US and Europe persist with financial sanctions and continue the freeze of Afghan assets in their banks, while the Afghans continue to suffer. Around 23 million Afghani citizens have become the victims of extreme food insecurity. Additionally, while the risk of famine was once restricted to rural areas, 10 out of 11 of Afghanistan’s most densely populated urban areas face emergency levels of food insecurity.

The continuing deterioration of the economy threatens to heighten the risk of extremism, while paralysis of the banking sector could push more of the financial system into unregulated informal money exchanges which can facilitate terrorism, trafficking and drug smuggling. Additionally, the neglect of the Afghan population will primarily affect Afghanistan besides infecting the region.

Ironically, Afghanistan is back to square one, with the return of the Taliban, while the country is once again in their brutal obscurantist grip with their archaic, draconian and cruel laws.

Zabiullah Mujahid, Central spokesman for the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan since 25 October 2021 and Deputy Ministry of Information and Culture, in a recent media interview, expressed his opinion on injuries caused to Afghanistan’s politics, society, infrastructure, and people.

Mr. Mujahid stated that calamities and misfortunes Afghans have experienced in the past twenty years have caused great losses to Afghanistan. He claimed that the US and NATO forces failed to bring peace and prosperity to Afghanistan; hundreds of innocent people were killed every day, and more than 100 houses were destroyed every week. Additionally, thousands of Afghans were put in prison.

Mr. Mujahid asserted that the peace only made its way to his homeland after the US withdrawal. He declared that the Taliban have maintained law and order across the country soon after giving birth to the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan and now, Afghanistan has become a stable country.

The observations of the Afghan spokesperson need to be taken with a pinch of salt. After the withdrawal of US troops, drones continue to attack all parts of Afghanistan and have killed and injured many innocent Afghan people. Reportedly, Dr Ayman Al Zawahiri was eliminated through a US drone attack.

The United States has invested a huge amount of money to help Afghanistan rebuild but the Afghan government spokesperson opines that the US-led war damaged the Afghanistan infrastructure to a great extent.

It adversely impacted the life of Afghans. The people who lived in the cities became poor. War brought poverty and misery to Afghanistan. He proclaims that if the US had built infrastructure, Afghanistan would have factories. The number of unemployed people would not be so high. He claims that no work was done on the infrastructure, even the buildings they built for military operations were made of wood. The roads they built to transport their soldiers were also built in a very superficial way. The Americans did not do any basic work in Afghanistan to improve its infrastructure. What we see in Kabul or other big cities has been done by the Afghan traders themselves. The sensitive people of Afghanistan did it on their own. They spent from their pocket.

Zabiullah Mujahid claims that the Islamic Emirates of Afghanistan is putting all available resources into developing the country’s economy. All Afghan experts in the sectoral ministries, scholars and experts who have expertise in different fields are putting their energies into the revival of the economy of Afghanistan. He was sanguine that their efforts will put Afghanistan’s economy on track.

He cited examples: the Qoshtipeh Canal is a very big basic and economic project, which has been started with a lot of strength. So far, 15% of the work has been completed. The Kabul-Herat highway, which is a very long road, and the Salang road are under construction. In the railway sector, Afghans are planning to extend the railway from Uzbekistan to Pakistan. The survey is about to start. The TAPI project, an important undertaking, will be surveyed soon and will reach Herat. Other projects, including CASA-1000 are very important.

The ground reality is that the Taliban once again established their government on the basis of the rule of Sharia exactly on the pattern dictated by their founder Mullah Omar that prevailed in Afghanistan during 1996-2001.

The terms and conditions of the Doha Accord were blatantly violated as Afghan women were deprived of their fundamental rights and Ayman Al-Zawahiri, the head of Al-Qaeda, was provided sanctuary.

The TTP was also given safe havens in Afghanistan from where they continued to wreak havoc in Pakistan.

One year after taking control of the country, the Taliban regime is still unable to control the severely complicated and unsettled conditions. They face a severe economic crisis and their crackdown on all voices of dissent is pushing the country into a dangerous phase of conflict and crisis.

According to a French news agency on completion of one year of the Taliban regime, some Afghan women protested in front of the Ministry of Education in Kabul and shouted slogans “work and freedom” they were brutally dispersed by firing in the air and those who refused to leave were beaten with rifle butts.

The plight of those Afghan journalists who fled across the border to Pakistan to escape Taliban rule say they still face an uncertain future.

Living in Pakistan often on temporary or family visas, many are unable to find work and are concerned about their legal status when their permits expire. Under Pakistan’s 1946 Foreigners Act, overstaying a visa can result in up to three years in prison.

Earlier this year, Pakistan's Ministry of Interior announced a visa amnesty in place until December 31, 2022. During that time, authorities will not issue charges for those who have overstayed a visa by up to a year.

Keeping in view the dire situation, perhaps a humane approach may be taken to heed to the cries of anguish of the Afghan people so that they may not perish, be forced to migrate or worse still, join proscribed terror organisations owing to the unfolding humanitarian crisis in their war-ravished homeland.

On their part, the Taliban need to be more open about providing women the opportunity to acquire education and seek jobs. The promise by the Taliban to opt for an inclusive government remains unfulfilled.

The article does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Business Recorder or its owners

S. M. Hali

The writer is a retired Group Captain of PAF, and now a security analyst

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