South Asians for Human Rights

Promoting Democracy, Upholding Human Rights


Afghanistan is changing and changing for good. This is the impression I got during my recent visit to Afghanistan’s capital Kabul to attend a seminar on Dialogue among the Civil Society Representatives of Afghanistan, India and Pakistan, organised by South Asians for Human Rights (SAHR). I could meet leaders of various women’s organisations actively working in the restive Afghanistan.
Kabul is a historic city and India has deep relations with Afghanistan. Afghanistan has seen changes in power in the near past. Union of Soviet Socialists Republic (USSR) backed Najibullah government was toppled by Mujahideen in 1992. He lived in UN Headquarters in Kabul until 1996 when he was dragged out and hanged publicly by Taliban. Then, Afghanistan saw the brutal regime of Taliban. Now, they have a democratically elected government.

Najibullah was a Communist. The US and its then-partner, Pakistan, helped Taliban and Mujahideen to topple Najib government, as it was a period of cold war. Najib was a mass leader and worked for the welfare of Afghan citizens. Even today, one finds Najib supporters in a big way. Our driver was an interesting person. He was a Najib supporter.

The first lady of Afghanistan, Rula Ghani, is actively involved in the women’s emancipation and other developmental activities. We had a long meeting with her. Originally, she is a Lebanese. She has her own office with a small staff. Various delegations visit her and she pursues their demands with government offices. Mashall, a young girl, works with her. She studied abroad. To my surprise, she told me that she will be flying to Chandrapur in India the next day. She was to attend a marriage of a Chandrapur boy with a Pakistani girl. I asked her why she wants to work in restive Afghanistan when she can easily get a job in western countries. She was clear in her thought and said she and others want to see a new peaceful Afghanistan and that’s why she is in Kabul. She was full of praise for the First Lady.

Mary Akrami is an activist and runs shelter homes for the needy women. Recently, she had started a restaurant to encourage women to go out and eat in restaurants. The idea is to cultivate a culture where families go to a restaurant and eat. Super rich people go to five stars with families but middle-class families confine themselves to home. She and her husband are targeting these women to go out and eat. The staff is predominantly women. On the entrance, there is a board which says Guns are Not Allowed. Inside, on the wall, one can see pictures of Afghanistan’s First Ladies. These women did influence Afghanistan. On another wall, there were pictures of brave Afghan women who were assassinated by Taliban and other terrorist organisations.

High Peace Council plays an important role in the development of Afghanistan. We had a meeting with them. Met interesting women like Palawasha and Nargis of Afghanistan Womens’ Education Centre, Dr Sima Samar of Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission and former minister of womens’ affairs, Habiba Sarabi (Deputy High Peace Council), Wazhma Frogh (Women & Peace Studies Organization), Hasina Safi, Huria Hamidi (Afghan Women’s Network), Zohra Daoud (advisor to the First Lady) etc.

Also met courageous women from Pakistan like Mariam Bi from North Waziristan (most dreaded terrorist organisation Haqquani network’s base), Sandana Khan, Naila Hussain, Bushra Gohar (former parliamentarian) etc. Nargis’s father was killed in Pakistan when he was living there as a refugee. He was against USSR’s aggression but was trying to get King Zahir Khan back to the country. Nargis continues to work with the women’s’ organisation. Many activists’ children study at home. They find it difficult to send their kids to the school because of rising incidences of kidnapping.

Criminal gangs kidnap kids for ransom. Sometimes, if they kidnap any Indian or foreigner, they sell them to terrorist organisations for a price and militants release person after getting a huge ransom. Sandana is a friend of Indian Judith D’souza, who was kidnapped in June this year and rescued after more than a month. They used to live together.

Afghans love Indians more. They have a soft corner for Indians. India is involved in a big way in the reconstruction of Afghanistan. They have serious issues with Pakistan. In the recent Heart of Asia conference held in Amritsar, Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani said Taliban insurgency would not survive a month if it lost its sanctuary in neighbouring Pakistan urging its neighbour to take on militant groups on its soil instead of giving Kabul financial aid.


Updated On: 11 December 2016