Fear, uncertainty driving people out of Afghanistan, into Pakistan and beyond

LAHORE: Najiya Saleemi is relieved over reports that international flights to Pakistan have resumed as she packs her belongings to say adieu to Afghanistan, the land of beautiful orchards and rough mountain landscape that is suffering from severe economic hardships.

“We have done the packing, and just waiting for some official procedure to take an onward trip to the US from Pakistan,” Saleemi, 63, told Anadolu Agency while arranging food, with the great hospitality they offer to guests, regardless of their economic circumstances.

Saleemi said that her son had worked for the Ghani government and now feels frightened, avoiding expressing the invisible fear.

She used a pseudonym to prevent backlash and claimed that her son had worked for the Ghani government and now felt insecure. Her one married son is already in the US, while her other married son is in Canada, and she plans to travel with her husband and third son and his family this time.

Tears streamed down her cheeks when she spoke about her married daughter, who will remain in Kabul with her husband and four children. Saleemi said: “This is how this nation’s people have been enduring the situation for a long time […] divided families.”

The Pakistan International Airlines flight landed at Hamid Karzai International Airport on Monday, resuming international flights to the country that has been plagued by war and violence for the past couple of decades.

According to a UN refugees organisation, there are 2.6 million Afghan refugees worldwide, with 2.2 million of them registered in Iran and Pakistan alone.

Another 3.5 million people are internally displaced persons, who have fled their homes for safety within the country, the UN Human Rights Commissioner for Refugees reported.

In light of the rapidly deteriorating security situation in 2021, the number of people fleeing will likely continue to rise, it said on its website.

Saleemi’s son, who was sitting next to her, stated that the issue is not only the fear but also the future of my children’s right to receive education in a fear-free environment.

His children, he stated, have developed certain psychological issues and are currently refusing to attend school.

THREE CATEGORIES OF PEOPLE LEAVING

Several more Afghans, like Saleemi and her family, desire to flee the country.

Nasratullah Haqpal, a local writer and political analyst, said there are largely three types of people leaving the country.

“The first category of people are those who are concerned that the money they earned through illicit means during the previous regimes of President Ashraf Ghani and President Hamid Karzai will be unsafe to keep in Afghan banks or at home,” he said.

The number of these people is significant, and they fear the new interim Taliban administration may interrogate them or at least will not allow the illegal practices to continue, he opined while talking to Anadolu Agency.

The second category is of young educated people who believe there will be fewer job opportunities under the new administration in Kabul.

Finally, people who are drawn to modern lifestyles but find it difficult to adopt an Islamic way of life would strive to leave the country in some way, according to Haqpal.

CHALLENGES FOR TALIBAN

The interim Taliban administration has faced a number of issues, including security, economics, immigration, and brain drain.

Despite the Taliban’s Acting Culture and Information Minister Zabihullah Mujahid’s appeal to stay and help rebuild the country, which appears to be divided along economic lines, the exceedingly rich and the incredibly poor, many people want to leave.

The Taliban is highly likely to face a huge challenge as a result of brain drain and the desire of the educated young to flee the country.

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