Afghanistan’s Brightest Quitting Battle-Scarred Kabul
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) _ Mohammed Yasim is lining up with others among Afghanistan’s best and brightest to leave this battle-scarred city, joining the brain drain of those who survived one civil war and fear another is brewing.
Yasim, a 41-year-old doctor, was one of about 500 people waiting outside the Pakistan Embassy on Monday to apply for transit visas.
He said that once out of the country, he will arrange travel to Europe, the United States or perhaps Australia, where he has relatives.
″I have lived through one war. I don’t want to go through another one,″ said Yasim, a father of three teen-age boys. ″Starting over ... won’t be easy for me or my family. But I can see no future here, only more killing.″
For two weeks, security forces of the 3-month-old Islamic interim government have fought the renegade Hezb-e-Islami faction of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, which is bent on seizing the capital or destroying it.
The overhead whizzing of rockets fired at Kabul by Hekmatyar’s fighters in the surrounding mountains, the boom of retaliatory artillery from government forces and the staccato bursts of machine-gun fire have left Kabulis tired, frightened for their safety and pessimistic about the future.
R.K Singh, a Hindu cloth merchant, plans to leave Afghanistan this month, take his family by road to Pakistan and then to India.
He said, ″I stayed through the war against the (Communist) government. I was determined to stay here even though I had my doubts about the leaders. But the past two weeks have convinced me that it is going to be a long time before Kabul is safe or peaceful.″
Nearly 6 million Afghans - a third of the population - fled when Communists seized power in a 1978 coup. Most lived in refugee camps along the borders in Pakistan and Iran, although the country’s best doctors, lawyers, engineers and teachers emigrated to the West.
The United Nations estimates that nearly 1 million refugees have returned from Pakistan and Iran since the Communist regime of ousted President Najibullah collapsed in April. But few believe that Afghans living in the United States or Europe will return anytime soon, if ever.
Instead, diplomats say, the professionals and intellectuals who stayed during the war have already left or plan to go. Some feared for their lives because of their association with the former regime. Others worried their lives would be too restricted by former rebel chiefs bound on transforming Afghanistan into a rigid Islamic state.
Thousands have gone to the Central Asian republics of the former Soviet Union or returned to India, the destination of wealthy Sikh and Hindu merchants and traders who formerly controlled 90 percent of the country’s trade.
Last week’s fighting prompted the United Nations to evacuate all but a half dozen foreign employees to safe northern Afghanistan.
All embassies in Kabul plan on shipping out all but the most essential personnel. Some missions may close in fear Kabul will remain dangerous until the showdown with Hekmatyar is settled.
The hasty agreement cobbled together to fill the void created by Najibullah’s fall has all but evaporated and the chorus grows for President Burhanuddin Rabbani’s shaky and divided administration to resign.
″The government is a failure,″ former rebel commander Abdul Qadir, now governor of eastern Nangarhar province, said in Jalalabad. ″They are ... only interested in themselves. They .. . will promise whatever they must to get power and then do whatever they must to remain in power.″
Qadir is trying to cope with the influx of about 100,000 refugees from Kabul in the past week.
He has joined other prominent rebel commanders calling for a traditional grand council of tribal elders, intellectuals and religious scholars. It would select an interim government to put back together a country badly fragmanted along religious, ethnic and ideological lines.
He says if the government refuses, the provinces will have to unite and remove it by force.
Many diplomats and Afghans say the Kabul government has already ceased to exist.
Most government employees and bureaucrats report for work once a week, if at all. Guerrilla leaders spend as much time out of the country as in.
When fighting flared last week, only three guerrilla chiefs were in Afghanistan. The others were in Pakistan or vacationing in Europe or the United States.
Some Cabinet ministers have returned to their homes in Pakistan. A few even took along the black, bulletproof Mercedes cars that once belonged to members of the former regime.