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.”
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.
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.
“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.