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Kochi Nomads, Like Other War-Weary Afghans, Await Peace In Afghanistan

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“We could make no other choice but to leave our homeland Afghanistan for the refugee camp across the border in Pakistan. Since the loss of my beloved son, I had no day of happiness, it’s all pain – and we are yet in search of our homeland,” Haleema says desperately with tears in her eyes. Shabana feels Haleema’s sense of loss, sitting next by her, as she reflects on the wretched episode that she went through when her young son Zamarud became victim of an explosive attack in Maruf, Afghanistan, that was claimed by a militant group late in 1998. Afterwards, Halima and her elderly husband Shah Muhammad, with now their only son Ismat Ullah and two daughters Laiba and Salma and many other families, had to flee the constant violence and move to nearby neighbouring Pakistan.

Halima Kochi, 65, is happy on a rare occasion today – enjoying participating in the wedding of her friend Shabana, 25, who is a native of Pishin. The khaal (jewelry) hanging on her forehead is a Pashtun cultural aretefact that Zamarud had gifted her: she recalls the days of war and despair as she wears it. Experiencing her adolescence in a war-ridden Afghanistan, she grew up in fear and suppression. She pictures Afghanistan as a severe and a constantly war affected country.

Making it through the undefined Kalagey gate-way of the Pak-Afghan border line from Afghanistan’s district Maruf of province Kandahar, into Pakistan, the Kochi Afghan nomads are now on their seasonal stop in Pishin – and it is here that they camp for spring.

During her spring in Pishin, she works as a maid for local elites, earning enough for groceries in the Karabala village of Pishin – located some 2 kilometers from the refugee camp. She spent a month on stitching embroidery for her young and beautiful friend Shabana, who is the only girl in the village. It embodies her deep feeling of affection – they first met in 1999 when Shabana quite a child. They have had great past springs when a sorrowful Halima would finally bid farewell to her soul mate, returning to Afghanistan for the summer. She can make no other choice but to get back to her muddy home and the trees Zamarud had planted in still wartorn Afghanistan.

She is far away from today’s technological facilities, with no electric services, no gas or water supply: they and many others in the refugee camp are getting their food and other routinely needs from the woods – or they buy things after working for hours on the crops grown by the native dwellers of the region. For the water, they make it through moving a meters away to the nearest pool of the crops owner.

Afghans had left their homeland in waves as a result of major wars and persecution. The Soviet war in Afghanistan in the 1980s led to the first wave of internal displacement and refugee flow from Afghanistan to neighboring Iran and Pakistan – the main countries that began providing shelter to the Afghan refugees. When the Soviet war ended in 1989, these refugees started to return their native place Afghanistan. The flow geared up again, after the Mujahideen first seized and then fought bitterly for control of the Afghan capital Kabul and other major cities – a terrible blood-letting that resulted Afghans fleeing again to the other countries.

Notwithstanding, the 29th February 2020 partial peace agreement that was signed between the then Trump administration in the US and the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (which is not recognized by the USA and known as the Taliban), the United Nations’ recent report on Afghanistan says that the Taliban have gone on an acceleration in violence – recently carrying out four attacks in a single day causing 20 women and children to die and many more wounded.

The Afghan government has been a strategic partner in the War on Terror with the United States of America. Afghanistan has been suffering 40 years of constant war that still stalks the streets of Kabul and other major cities. The Afghan people now hope that peace overtures by the Taliban would pave the way to a peaceful and stable Afghanistan but that has not yet taken practical shape on the ground.

Afghans have lost human lives, education, healthcare and state machinery in these 40 years of war. Peace could only get prevail, if the warring sides now heed the will of the people and put the future of coming generations centre-stage in their discussions.

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Naya Daur