Experience of an anti-Taliban Friend in Afghanistan

By M Ghazali Khan

Two days ago, I saw an Afghani friend almost after two and a half years at the wedding of the daughter of a friend.

Until a few years ago he did not like the Taliban. So, I asked him if he had had a chance to visit Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover. He said that he had recently returned after spending a long time there. I am hiding his name because I did not seek his permission to share our conversation on social media.

He said: ‘Now there is total peace and complete law and order there. During the previous government venturing outside your house meant an invitation to be kidnapped and pay ransom money to be freed but now you can go anywhere anytime. There are no checkpoints and police presence at every corner like before. Sometimes here and there the ‘Amar Bil maroof wa nahin anil munkar’ (Enjoining good and forbidding wrong) police van is sighted patrolling. Even ministers may be seen walking on streets without security.’

Was he stopped by anyone for not growing his beard? ‘Not at all.’ He said. Pointing at his appearance he went on, ‘I went everywhere like this. I even prayed in the mosque without a cap. Some of the mosque attendees raised objections but there was no intervention from any government figure.’

He also said: ‘Corruption and the culture of influence have been wiped out. Anyone who violates the law, even if he is related to Ameerul Momineen, is taken to task, and duly punished. Judgements are delivered according to the Qur’an and no interference or undue influence is tolerated.’

His maternal uncle was a minister in Ashraf Ghani government and whenever he visited Afghanistan he used to be received from inside the aeroplane and brought out avoiding queues like a VIP.  However, he said, ‘This time it felt so nice to stand in an organised queue at the airport for everyone was getting the same treatment without any preference to anyone.’

He added: ‘Land grabbing was a norm for the mighty ones and those with influence in the previous government. But now most of the grabbed land has been freed and illegal constructions and encroachments have been removed. For example, Tarakhil, a powerful clergy and Member of the National Assembly (MNA), had grabbed a few acres of land and constructed a private hospital and a madrasa on it. After coming to power Taliban government gave him a ten-day notice to empty the buildings warning him that after ten days his illegally constructed buildings would be demolished. He pleaded that these buildings served the general public, but he was told that construction was illegal and would be removed like all other illegally constructed buildings. There are lots and lots of constructions that were constructed on illegally grabbed land all of which have been removed.’

A private hospital and madrasa constructed on grabbed land by a former MNA.

He said that despite sanctions and severe financial difficulties development work is going on.

Does he now support the Taliban then? ‘I am not supporting or opposing anyone. I am only describing the truth.’ He responded.

What does the general public think about the Taliban’s hostile attitude towards girls’ education? He replied: ‘Everyone is worried and feels concerned about this aspect. But the Taliban say that they are not opposed to girls’ education. Schools up to the eighth class are still open. They say they are working on this and preparing a new curriculum. Some say we will have to wait for at least two more years. However, there is uncertainty and serious concern about it.’

Initially, I had posted this conversation as an FB post in Urdu. To my surprise, it was widely read and shared. Commenting on my post, a FB friend Mahboob Rahman, a businessman and a frequent traveller to Afghanistan, wrote: ‘Yes this is a true account of the situation. About 20 juice factories have been opened. This year 16,000 tons of figs were exported from Kandahar.

‘A 760km railway line will be built running from Termiz in Uzbekistan, via Mazar-e-Sharif and Logar in Afghanistan, to the border crossing at Kharlachi in the Kurram district of Pakistan. Similarly, a 216km natural gas pipeline, originating from Galkynysh Gas Field in Turkmenistan, has been brought up to District Turghundi, Herat Province,  under the TAPI project. Work will start in the spring to extend the pipeline to Spin Boldak, Pakistan.

‘Besides, the country has also signed a number of agreements in the field of jewels and other stones. Steel Mills have been built.

‘As for girls’ education, we had an interesting discussion with the Education Minister of Afghanistan in the Mosque of the Holy Prophetﷺ, in Medina, in front of his Dome.

‘A university has started functioning in Herat while several projects are being designed for Qashtaba Kanal where especially the refugees returning from Pakistan will be settled.’

Reportedly, the majority of refugees returning from Pakistan did not like the Taliban but the warm welcome given to them by high officials, including some ministers who were present at the border to receive them, have won their hearts.

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