Afghans Say Hostages Are Lucky
Hijacking shows Afghans desperate to start a new life
"Only 17 of the freed hostages want to go home"
Hijack mirrors hard life in Afghanistan

The Frontier Post, Feb.12, 2000

Peshawar (Internews)- A large proportion of those on the hijacked Afghan airliner hostages and hostage takers have claimed asylum in Britain.

It is not known yet whether a plea for asylum was the central motive behind the hijacking or whether there was complicity among any hostages.

But there are reasons for Afghan citizens to want to leave their isolated and strictly governed homeland, according to BBC Friday.

Afghans who have been interviewed after the end of the hijack drama have expressed sympathy, even admiration for anyone attempting to escape.

The hostages are lucky because they are in Britain, one Afghan in the capital Kabul said. Though they underwent some ordeal, it is not comparable to the agonies that they experienced over the past 22 years in Afghanistan.

Others said they hoped Britain would allow those on the plane to stay, though they may not know it is an unlikely prospect given Londons expressed intention to deport those released and prosecute 19 people who were arrested.

The incident is another blow to Afghanistan Taliban regime, which has struggled for recognition from a hostile world since it succeeded in conquering 90 percent of Afghanistan three years ago.

Many Afghans are embittered by the imposition of Taliban rule, in particular the insistence of the harshest interpretation of Islamic law anywhere on Earth.

The Taliban emerged from universities and religious schools in the aftermath of the campaign by Afghan mujahideen to drive Soviet forced from the country in the 1980s.

Starting as loosely organized student militia, they swept across the country and established control over the capital Kabul in September 1996.

Their rule has been much criticized in the West on human rights ground and only neighbouring Pakistan and two Arab Gulf countries have recognized their rule and established diplomatic relations.

The rest of the world recognizes ousted President Burhanuddin Rabbani as the legitimate ruler. Forces loyal to him hold strategic positions in the north of the country.

At the beginning of the hijack drama it was reported that the hostage-takers were demanding the release of a renowned rebel commander who was captured by the Taliban in 1997.

But the anti-Taliban alliance disassociated itself from the hijacking, calling it an act of terrorism against innocent people.

It blamed Taliban for allowing the presence of terrorist networks for creating a climate of terror in Afghanistan, citing in particular Osama bin Laden.

The Taliban responded by saying the hijackers were closely connected to the main opposition commander, Ahmed Shah Masood.

The Afghan authorities now say the whole affair was an elaborate plot to gain asylum in Britain for the hijackers and some of the passengers.

Hijacking shows Afghans desperate to start a new life

The Frontier Post, Feb.12, 2000

Kabul (AFP)- Many Afghans share the desperate ambition of the hostages who were aboard the hijacked Afghan Ariana jet to leave their war-torn country and start new lives abroad.

Already 74 Afghans released when the hijacking ordeal ended Thursday have asked Britain for asylum. British police are questioning 21 people in connection with the hijacking.

More may yet seek asylum in Britain.

Afghanistan, a poor central Asian nation, has been locked in a bitter war since the Soviet occupation of the 1980s.

Already a couple million Afghans live in neighboring Iran and Pakistan-where they can earn at least their daily livelihood- with no sign of an end to this exodus immediately in sight.

Hundreds of thousands of other have migrated to the West or rich Arab countries, sending money back home and persuading others to follow to seek escape from poverty and frustration.

Years of fighting has added to the woes of Afghans.

"We prayed for peace for 20 years. The people have now given up as their long-cherished desire is yet to come true," said Mohammad Ali, a teacher.

"Now everybody is hungry. There are no jobs and no money. Teachers and other highly educated people have become vendors selling potatoes on the street," he said.

The fighting has razed to the ground the country's infrastructure and caused an outflow of capital and a brain-drain. A civil servant with a 20-year career behind him is paid the equivalent of just five dollars a month.

"People leave before they become actual beggars," university student Mohammad Rahim said.

"Before, we were endeavouring to become doctors and engineers, but now everybody is talking of getting out," he said. "My own uncle sold part of his land in Logar province and sent his eldest son to Moscow, which he was as an investment," he said.

Residents said that even the small slice of the population who are rich are still keen to leave to better enjoy their wealth abroad.

Hundreds of Afghan traders have headed south, crossed the border in to Pakistan and started business in cities like Peshawar and Krachi.

"Only 17 of the freed hostages want to go home"

BBC, Feb.13, 2000

A Home Office spokesman said just 17 of the 142 freed hostages, who have been moved to an immigration holding centre in Gloucestershire, had said they wanted to return home to Taleban-controlled Afghanistan.

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