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Decades on, Afghans in Pakistan yearn for peace back home

They want Afghan government, Taliban to stop the fight

SAMAA | - Posted: Jun 18, 2021 | Last Updated: 1 month ago
SAMAA |
Posted: Jun 18, 2021 | Last Updated: 1 month ago

Decades on, Afghans in Pakistan yearn for peace back home.

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Zakirullah was just 11 years old when he had to move to Pakistan from Badakhshan after Russia invaded Afghanistan in 1979. He shudders at night thinking about the sound of bombs and bullets—yet it feels more familiar to him than the cooing of birds. “After I came to Pakistan, one of my brothers was injured in Russian bombardment and he later died of his injuries,” Zakirullah, a teacher in his 50s, tells SAMAA Digital. He is one of the 2.3 million registered Afghan refugees who moved to Pakistan to escape the Russian invasion. Russia has left Afghanistan but Zakirullah, who teaches about 350 students at a school in Karachi’s Sohrab Goth, couldn’t return to his home. After Russia, the rifts among Mujahideen fighters led to a civil war. Mullah Omar’s Taliban rose to prominence as vigilantes trying to restore the order in the country but bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda had other plans. The US came to Afghanistan after the bin Laden-led group stormed passenger jets into the Pentagon and Twin-Town on its own soil. Zakirullah’s hairs have turned grey and he has no hopes of seeing a peaceful Afghanistan in his lifetime. “Russia and America are both satans who have left behind a never-ending fight,” said the Afghan school teacher recalling the bloody fights between Mujahideen factions after Russian withdrawal from the land-lock country. Other Afghan refugees in the city have similar thoughts about the power players and departing international forces from Afghanistan but they use different words to describe their desire for peace. Shahabuddin, a 30-year-old Tajik Afghan refugee, wants the Afghan government and Taliban to negotiate peace in his country after the US withdrawal. The US forces will leave Afghanistan by September 11 under a deal it signed with Taliban in Doha last year. Shahabuddin, the 30-year-old oil merchant in Karachi, says his father and grandfather told him stories about Afghanistan, a country he says used to be a favourite tourist destination for foreigners. But stories are all he has heard because he never saw peace in Afghanistan. He fears a separate war to rule Afghanistan will break out After the US withdrawal. “The Afghan government and Taliban need to end the war through talks because there is no other way,” said Shahabuddin. “Afghan government can’t completely eliminate Taliban and Taliban can’t completely eliminate those in the government.” “If peace returns to Afghanistan, about 80% refugees will go back to their own country,” says the 30-year-old. Suhail Shaheen, the Taliban spokesperson in Doha, told SAMAA Digital that talks with the representative of the Afghan government have started. He didn’t, however, give specific details of the negotiations. In a statement last week, Shaheen had said that one of the meeting’s agenda was “accelerating the Afghan negotiations process and reaching mutual understanding in this regard”. Sami Yousufzai, a senior Afghan journalist and an analyst, told SAMAA Digital that he doesn't see a political settlement between Taliban and the Afghan government any time soon. “I don't think they will be able to reach any deal,” said Yousufzai. “Talks did take place between the Afghan government and Taliban negotiators but the efforts don't look serious.” The skirmishes between the Afghan security forces and Taliban have increased as the US forces are withdrawing from Afghanistan. Activists fear women may have to face strict restrictions if the Taliban ever come to power again. Yousufzai, the Afghan journalist, says many districts have fallen to Taliban but “Kabul is still far away”. Benazir, a mother of four in Karachi, says she wants to go back to her own country but after an assurance that the rights of women will be protected in Afghanistan. “Women should be allowed to work in Afghanistan, their rights should be protected, they should be allowed to work outside their homes and they should be allowed to continue their education,” that’s the kind of Afghanistan Benazir wants to see. She was born in Pakistan and lives in Karachi with his husband and children. “I want to go there but I am also scared of war,” said Benazir, who originally hails from Afghanistan’s Baghlan province. Yousufzai, the Afghan journalist, says he doesn’t see any change in the Taliban’s attitude even after 20 years of war. “Taliban stance on working with the International community on basic human values and rights has not changed at all,” he said. “What I see is civil war and more local and international militant groups will rise if more cities fall to Taliban.”
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Zakirullah was just 11 years old when he had to move to Pakistan from Badakhshan after Russia invaded Afghanistan in 1979. He shudders at night thinking about the sound of bombs and bullets—yet it feels more familiar to him than the cooing of birds.

“After I came to Pakistan, one of my brothers was injured in Russian bombardment and he later died of his injuries,” Zakirullah, a teacher in his 50s, tells SAMAA Digital.

He is one of the 2.3 million registered Afghan refugees who moved to Pakistan to escape the Russian invasion. Russia has left Afghanistan but Zakirullah, who teaches about 350 students at a school in Karachi’s Sohrab Goth, couldn’t return to his home.

After Russia, the rifts among Mujahideen fighters led to a civil war. Mullah Omar’s Taliban rose to prominence as vigilantes trying to restore the order in the country but bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda had other plans.

The US came to Afghanistan after the bin Laden-led group stormed passenger jets into the Pentagon and Twin-Town on its own soil.

Zakirullah’s hairs have turned grey and he has no hopes of seeing a peaceful Afghanistan in his lifetime.

“Russia and America are both satans who have left behind a never-ending fight,” said the Afghan school teacher recalling the bloody fights between Mujahideen factions after Russian withdrawal from the land-lock country.

Other Afghan refugees in the city have similar thoughts about the power players and departing international forces from Afghanistan but they use different words to describe their desire for peace.

Shahabuddin, a 30-year-old Tajik Afghan refugee, wants the Afghan government and Taliban to negotiate peace in his country after the US withdrawal. The US forces will leave Afghanistan by September 11 under a deal it signed with Taliban in Doha last year.

Shahabuddin, the 30-year-old oil merchant in Karachi, says his father and grandfather told him stories about Afghanistan, a country he says used to be a favourite tourist destination for foreigners. But stories are all he has heard because he never saw peace in Afghanistan.

He fears a separate war to rule Afghanistan will break out After the US withdrawal.

“The Afghan government and Taliban need to end the war through talks because there is no other way,” said Shahabuddin. “Afghan government can’t completely eliminate Taliban and Taliban can’t completely eliminate those in the government.”

“If peace returns to Afghanistan, about 80% refugees will go back to their own country,” says the 30-year-old.

Suhail Shaheen, the Taliban spokesperson in Doha, told SAMAA Digital that talks with the representative of the Afghan government have started. He didn’t, however, give specific details of the negotiations.

In a statement last week, Shaheen had said that one of the meeting’s agenda was “accelerating the Afghan negotiations process and reaching mutual understanding in this regard”.

Sami Yousufzai, a senior Afghan journalist and an analyst, told SAMAA Digital that he doesn’t see a political settlement between Taliban and the Afghan government any time soon.

“I don’t think they will be able to reach any deal,” said Yousufzai. “Talks did take place between the Afghan government and Taliban negotiators but the efforts don’t look serious.”

Benazir says she wants to go back to Afghanistan but she is scared of war. (Picture: Roohan Ahmed)

The skirmishes between the Afghan security forces and Taliban have increased as the US forces are withdrawing from Afghanistan. Activists fear women may have to face strict restrictions if the Taliban ever come to power again.

Yousufzai, the Afghan journalist, says many districts have fallen to Taliban but “Kabul is still far away”.

Benazir, a mother of four in Karachi, says she wants to go back to her own country but after an assurance that the rights of women will be protected in Afghanistan.

“Women should be allowed to work in Afghanistan, their rights should be protected, they should be allowed to work outside their homes and they should be allowed to continue their education,” that’s the kind of Afghanistan Benazir wants to see.

She was born in Pakistan and lives in Karachi with his husband and children. “I want to go there but I am also scared of war,” said Benazir, who originally hails from Afghanistan’s Baghlan province.

Yousufzai, the Afghan journalist, says he doesn’t see any change in the Taliban’s attitude even after 20 years of war.

“Taliban stance on working with the International community on basic human values and rights has not changed at all,” he said. “What I see is civil war and more local and international militant groups will rise if more cities fall to Taliban.”

 
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