Afghan refugees cautiously optimistic about US-Taliban peace deal

Children of Afghan refugees are seen outside their shabby homes at the Badhabher camp on the outskirts of Peshawar, the capital city of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, on Fe. 27, 2020. (AN photo)
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Updated 29 February 2020

Afghan refugees cautiously optimistic about US-Taliban peace deal

  • Many of them recall that the past agreements led to factional fighting in their country
  • Afghan refugees in Pakistan rule out their immediate repatriation to Afghanistan

PESHAWAR: Tens of thousands of Afghan refugees in Pakistan anxiously await the US-Taliban peace agreement that is scheduled to be signed in Qatar on Saturday, though many of them have ruled out the possibility of immediately returning to their homeland since they recall the civil war that followed the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan in 1989.
Most of these Afghan nationals have been living in Pakistan for decades. Speaking to Arab News in the country’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, their aging leaders feared that the peace deal between the United States and Taliban could also prove tenuous in the coming days.
“No one understands the value of peace and security better than our community,” Wahidullah Afghan, who works at Kohat’s Ghamkol refugee camp, told Arab News on Thursday. “We are nostalgic for our motherland. We are optimistic that the impending US-Taliban peace deal will bring us some respite. But we will wait for two years at least to see if this peace deal is going to last.”




Afghan refugees gather around green tea and biscuits at the Badhabher camp on the outskirts of Peshawar, the capital city of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, on Feb. 27, 2020. (AN photo)

According to the United Nations, about 4.6 million Afghans live outside their country. Nearly 2.7 million of them are registered refugees, and 1.4 million reside in Pakistan. Many of these refugees have a sharp sense of history, making them wonder if the world will leave Afghanistan in a chaotic state once again.
“We are not ready to go back instantly,” Afghan said. “Instead, we will wait and see how the situation will turn out. We have had peace deals in the past, but they only led to internal strife and factional fighting among warlords and their militias.”
Farman Ullah, an Afghan student at the International Islamic University, Islamabad, echoed the same sentiment.
“It is important for us to determine if the agreement is truly pushing the peace process forward or if it is only supposed to provide a cover to the American forces to move out of Afghanistan,” he said.




Afghan refugees being interviewed by Arab News at the Badhabher camp on the outskirts of Peshawar, the capital city of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, on Feb. 27, 2020. (AN photo)

The Afghan student continued that some of his community members were optimistic since the incumbent Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and the Taliban leaders had expressed resolve not to repeat their past mistakes.
“The weeklong cease-fire reflects that peace can be achieved if the parties involved in the Afghan conflict sacrifice their self-interest,” he remarked.
Hajji Tahir, a retired Afghan school teacher for refugees, said that his community had high hopes of the agreement, hoping it would ultimately make it possible for them to return to their homeland.
“But we also fear this agreement could trigger another civil war since we have witnessed the consequences of such deals in the past that led to a lot of bloodbath and Afghan mass exodus from their country,” he added.
Khan Muhammad, another refugee, said his community had been waiting for peace in Afghanistan.




Children of Afghan refugees can be seen outside their shabby homes at the Badhabher camp on the outskirts of Peshawar, the capital city of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, on Feb. 27, 2020. (AN photo)

“Once lost, peace becomes nearly impossible to achieve. We have our eyes on the peace agreement, but things will be clear a few months after the deal is signed,” he remarked.
Homayoun Mohamadi, an Afghan civil engineer who was born in Peshawar, rued at the troubling situation, as he pointing out that the United States and NATO forces had neither managed to control warlords nor build institutions in his country.
“Afghan warlords and former commanders still influence the country’s politics and can scuttle the peace agreement. While optimism persists, it is strongly feared that the American pullout could trigger further chaos in the country,” he added.


Nepalese climbers bag mountaineering’s last great prize: winter ascent of Pakistan’s K2

Updated 1 min 20 sec ago

Nepalese climbers bag mountaineering’s last great prize: winter ascent of Pakistan’s K2

  • One of the ten Nepalese mountaineers performed the feat without using an oxygen cylinder
  • K2 earned the nickname of ‘savage mountain’ since a large number of climbers lost their lives while trying to scale it

ISLAMABAD: A group of Nepalese climbers made history on Saturday by summiting the world’s second tallest mountain, K2, in winter, according to its team leader who made the announcement on Facebook only minutes after making the accomplishment. 

“The Karakorum’s ‘Savage Mountain’ has been summited in the most dangerous season: WINTER,” Chhang Dawa Sherpa exclaimed in his social media post.

His announcement was also confirmed by an official of the Alpine Club of Pakistan which deals with mountaineering expeditions in the country.

At 8,611 meters, K2 was the only peak among the 14 “8000ers” located in the Karakorum and Himalayan mountain ranges that remained unconquered during winter. 

Along the icy glaciers of the Karakoram, mountaineers and locals speak about K2 summits with a hushed reverence, and folklore in the area is rife with mythical stories of the mountain “permitting” climbers to reach its top — considered the ultimate honor granted to a mortal by nature. 

When a climb doesn't go as planned, locals tell each other the mountain refused to be scaled. 

“The Nepalese climbers finally reached the summit of Mt. K2 … this afternoon at 17:00 local time,” Dawa wrote. “This is the first winter ascent of the 2nd highest mountain in the world and the ONLY eight-thousander (8000er) to be climbed in winter. This is a greatest achievement in the history of mountaineering, this is a good example of team work … ‘If a mountain lets you climb it, no one can stop you.’” 

One of the ten Nepalese climbers, Mingma G, also became the first mountaineer to summit the peak in winter without an oxygen cylinder.

K2 earned the nickname of “savage mountain” since a large number of climbers — 86 in all — lost their lives while trying to scale it. 

In 2008, 11 climbers from an international expedition died in what was considered as the single worst accident in the history of mountaineering. 

K2 straddles the Pakistan-China border. While it is about two-and-a-half football fields shorter than Everest (8,848 meters), it is widely considered to be the toughest and most dangerous mountain to climb. 

More than 300 climbers have scaled K2 in spring and summer. Italians Achille Compagnoni and Lino Lacedelli were the first to reach its summit in the summer of 1954.