WEEKEND POST, June 29, 1997
"The devastation in Sarajevo or Beirut is nothing as compared to that of Kabul"

Abdul Rauf

When the mighty Soviet army marched into Afghanistan almost two decades ago, The valiant Afghan started a heroic war whom they and their supporters elsewhere in the world called jihad. After a decade of an unparalleled jihad, the formidable invaders were forced to flee, humiliated and horrified, but then a greater calamity struck the unfortunate people of Afghanistan, Those who called themselves mujahideen turned the barrels or their guns on one another unleashing an endless chain of destruction and terror, The most poignant and the most heart-rendering aspect of this whole grim affair is the fact that all the war- mongering factions regard them- selves as the truest among the Muslims and are obsessed with the zeal to enforce their brand of Islam on the rest of the country. Who among them is worthy of being called Muslim, is best known to God but the horrific sufferings which their marathon rivalries have caused to the Afghan have few parallels in the whole human history.
More than two million Afghan are living outside the country as refugees. The country has far more orphans than any other country. Well over ten million land-mines are buried throughout the country. Then, one out of every ten Afghans is suffering from some sort of physical, mental or emotional disability or impairment and to top it all, there is the horrendous problem of the capital Kabul. The shops and markets have ample supplies of fruit and vegetables, but with the economy of the country shattered, the Afghans do not have the money to buy them. More and more families are being confronted with the stark reality of starvation unless, they sell all their possessions simply to buy food for themselves and their families. The predicament of the Kabulese becomes all the more agonizing during the cold winter months.
Three - quarters of the city have received serious damage. Half of the city has been virtually destroyed. The devastation in other war - ravaged cities like Sarajevo or Beirut is nothing as compared to that of Kabul. As anarchy descended upon the city, widespread and systematic looting became the order of the day. Private homes as well as municipal compounds were looted. For instance, the ministry of agriculture had four hundred vehicles, it has now got just three. The old city situated under the shadow of what remains of the ancient fort of Balahisar has received the worst damage. Almost every family here has lost some of its members in the war.
Then, there is the omnipresent danger of land-mines which are buried almost everywhere, in the schools, in the houses, in the mosques, in the playgrounds and in the open places. Over the past two decades, almost one hundred thousand Afghans have lost their limbs as a result of these land-mines.
Land-mines are a devilish tool, They are not meant to kill the people. They simply wound or maim the victims, who continue to suffer for the rest of their lives. Children are the main victims. As they go out to collect fire wood or to play, they suddenly step on to these hidden land-mines and the result is they either they are blinded of some of their limbs are blown off. The Red Cross has set up a center where artificial limbs are locally manufactured and fitted and at the same time, the UN is busy clearing the mines. As a result of these efforts, the number of accidents from land-mines has been reduced from 50 or 60 per day to five or six per week.
Land-mines are not the only problem in Kabul. There are huge numbers of unexploded shells, rockets and grenades scattered almost every where in the city. They also cause severe injuries when people accidentally step on them. Another catastrophic tragedy is that front - lines keep on shifting backward and forward. When there is some peace in a certain area, people are keen to go back to their homes. But, they are oblivious of the dangers of the unexploded shells and rockers. This is particularly the case with thousands of people who once lived on the south and west of the city. They were internally displaced and forced to live in the central and northern parts of the city but, as the fighting died down in the south and the west, they hurried back to reoccupy their old homes most of which had already been destroyed. On their way, many stepped on the unexploded shells and were crippled or killed. Layer upon layer of rubble was laid in each wave of fighting, a scene of utter desolation. In fact, land-mines were laid in each successive layer of rubble, making the task of the mine - clearers all the more difficult and hazardous. While years are needed to clear mines from Kabul, perhaps decades will be required to purge the whole country of this menace.
While fighting continues unabated in the north of the country, Kabul has seen a measure of peace since the Taliban captured it in September last year, but this pace is some - times shattered when least expected. Very often, opposition jets drop bombs on the city and the Taliban anti - aircraft guns echo around the city afterwards. The Taliban are Pushtoons, the largest ethnic group in Afghanistan. They are mostly villagers from the south and east of the country. They captured the Pushtoon speaking areas with relative ease but conquering the whole of the country and holding it together is proving a much harder task, and once gain, the civilians have to pay the price. Thousands upon thousands of villagers have been forced to flee from their homes. They are leading the life of internally displaced refugees. There is no doubt that the Taliban have tremendously improved the law and order situation in the areas which they control, but this peace is accompanied by their extreme and austere interpretation of Islam. Until two years ago, Kabul University was itself a front-line and the campuses were all but destroyed. The University was reopened after a while and the classes had to be arranged under the shade of the trees and in the rooms without ceilings. Until the middle of last year, the University had 10,000 students, 4,000 among them were women, but when Taliban took over in September, the University was closed and when it was reopened tree months ago, only boys were admitted into it. The one single issue that has attracted much of the criticism against the Taliban from outside world is their views about women. Girls and women have been banned from going to schools and colleges. They are also unable to earn for their livelihood. The Taliban insist that once peace and security is restored, women would be able to go to schools and would be free to work in the government offices, but until that time which an this time seems a distant reality, the women must stay indoors, In the Afghan society, when a woman becomes ill, she has to be treated by a female nurse or doctor. But, if women are not allowed to get education, it inevitably means that with in a few years time, there would hardly be left any female nurse to treat the female patients. Besides banning the female education, the Taliban have also closed the cinemas and all the TV channels. Even taking of photographs is considered to be something unislamic. All sorts of musical instruments have been destroyed and songs are sung with out the accompaniment of musical instruments. Men are punished for not wearing the beard.

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The Frontier Post, April 21, 1997

Kabul: From riches to rags


Catastrophe, used in relation to Afghanistan, is a mild word. Everybody in Afghanistan carries wounds. In a desolate, bleakly beautiful land that has always been counted among the world’s poorest nations, 18 years of warfare have brought appalling havoc to every sphere of life.
When one travels through Afghanistan, the deserted villages and ruined urban centers remind one of the ghostly cities of Hollywood movies.
Two million people - one tenth of this couture’s pre - war population of 15.5 million - have been killed during the past 18 years.
Another 1.5 million are so badly injured that they are per- mannerly disabled. No fewer than 5000 Afghan have lost one or both legs to mines. Inside Afghanistan, There are 500,000 refugees. Seventy percent of Kabul, an ancient city that now is home to 1.2 million people, has been laid waste. That is three times the devastation suffered by Sarajevo.

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