Understanding our neighbor!

Islamabad/Kabul: Why do we feel the need to understand our neighbor? We can’t choose our neighbors, can we? No, I don’t think so. What we can do is, to have good relationship with our next-door neighbors and live happily ever after. *Fairytale style

Can you tell, who is a Pakistani and who is an Afghan? Ayesha and Farkhonda.

Who wants to live in a place where one is always suspicious about the role of his/her neighbor. Oh, my neighbor blocks my water pipe. My neighbor is planning to bomb my house. My neighbor is stinky. Who wants to live a life like that? Stop ranting about your neighbor Pakistan and Afghanistan! Stop it! Life is not a Hollywood film and we are not James Bond. You can’t air lift your country and take it somewhere else and choose your neighbors.

Let’s have the courage and give voice to your complaints and tell your neighbors, how you feel about them. You don’t have to hide it from them that you don’t like them. You never know, how pissed they are at you. It is possible that you are annoying them more than they annoy you. Come to think of it, everything is possible.

Margaret Mead, the renowned anthropologist said that to understand ‘others’ we have to understand them with ‘others’ point of view not our own point of view. We have to leave our pre-conceived notions, myth, stereotypes and biases and understand others with an open heart and mind, without judging them for what they are and most importantly, what they are not.

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We are very happy that we achieved this goal. The 22 journalists from both side of the Durand Line are the living example of what we achieved in two-phase project, FES-Af-Pak Journalists Exchange Program: Understanding the Neighbor.  They will make the world understand the Af-Pak relation with their new understanding. They are ready to challenge the decades old established narratives about their neighbors- the narratives that are missing in the public sphere. I am very happy while writing this that these journos are no more neighbors, they happily call each other friends now. Mission accomplished!

Kabul Rocks! We will come again:)

Author: Annie Zaman

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In a man’s world: The women politicians of Afghanistan by Ayesha Hasan

It was a sight rarely seen in traditional Afghan society. Last month, Fawzia Koofi, a presidential candidate for the 2014 elections and one of the 69 female Afghan parliamentarians, arrived to meet a delegation of Pakistani journalists. In the times of the Taliban, this face-to-face encounter between a woman and a group mostly comprising men, would have been inconceivable.

Watching her interact so freely and with such obvious confidence, one can see why she’s been named among the world’s “150 Fearless Women” by The Daily Beast news website for her bold account of the hardships that women face in Afghanistan in her book The Favoured Daughter. Wearing a solitaire ring and a chunky gold wristwatch on one hand, and carrying a designer bag on her arm, she reminded me a bit of Pakistan’s own foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar.

There’s a great deal of substance to go with the style as well, and Koofi talks eloquently and with passion. She talks openly about women’s empowerment through education and access to better healthcare, saying that great strides have been made in the 11 years after the fall of the Taliban regime. She may not quite be the modern Malalai of Maiwand, the celebrated 19th century folk hero who rallied the Pashtun army against the British in the 1880 Battle of Maiwand, but her struggle is equally heroic.

In a deeply patriarchal society that is yet to fully accept women’s rights and participation in public life, Koofi and her fellow women parliamentarians have refused to bow down to rigid ideals and often suffocating customs.

Talking to us, a group of journalists who were part of an Af-Pak fellowship, she describes how women had to physically grab the microphone to make a speech in parliament because the male MPs would ignore their turn and would oppose resolutions put forward by them, just because they were women.

Being a shrinking violet in Afghanistan’s often rowdy parliament just isn’t an option. In June this year, women MPs caused an uproar when Justice Minister Habibullah Ghaleb suggested, during a conference organised by the Women’s Affairs Committee, that more than 250 women living in 12 foreign-funded shelters were prostitutes. He had said the shelters were encouraging girls to disobey their parents if they were stopped from going outside their homes.

While the women MPs were unable to get Afghan President Hamid Karzai to sack Ghaleb, it was nevertheless an achievement to be able to challenge the opinions of a man on the floor of the parliament.

Likewise, the dismissal of former politician Malala Joya from parliament in May 2007 for publicly denouncing the presence of those she called warlords and criminals in parliament was followed by condemnation from female politicians and local women. Three years later, Joya’s name appeared in the list of 100 Most Influential Women prepared annually by Time Magazine.

For Koofi, these are signs of hope. As her achievements would suggest, female parliamentarians have not settled for just being able to lambast society and state over the treatment of women. They have managed to wriggle out substantial — though still few — policy changes from the government.

After years of activism by Koofi and her fellow women parliamentarians, the government has fixed a quota for women in higher education institutions without which, she says, there is no point in allotting quotas for women in parliament. Egged on by this development, Koofi, who is also the chairperson of women rights in parliament — the only woman to have the post of a chairperson — has now proposed to President Karzai that at least one woman member be appointed in the Supreme Court.

“We need to increase women’s capacity for them to be able to effectively function on the political front,” she says. “This is the first time such a programme [like the new higher education policy] has been introduced for women. Trust me, this was not easy as months of work and campaigning are involved before a policy is approved.”

No matter how difficult it may be to overcome age-old Afghan traditions, women seem to be slowly making their presence felt in the political domain.

One indication of this is the Taliban’s absence of dissent to the presence of women in the High Peace Council’s governing body that is assigned with carrying out peace negotiations with them. Najia Zewari is one of two women who serve on the 15-member body, and it seems the Taliban have accepted her presence.

“The governing body directly negotiates with the Taliban, and that is not an easy thing to do,” she says. “But I am glad that us women have not once been criticised for being a part of the council.”

Overall, the HPC has 70 members, nine of which are women.

As Afghan women prepare themselves for a post-US withdrawal scenario, many of them are eager to take on new-found opportunities in Afghan politics. There has been a surge in admissions of female students in the Institute of Diplomacy (ID) in Kabul, and 21-year-old Hadeia Amiry, head of NGOs at the economics department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Kabul, is one of them.

She hopes to become a politician one day, and says that she “would be more of a people’s representative than a conventional politician”. She is happy that the present government is supporting female political participation which, she says, cannot be increased until women receive higher education.

The ID’s one-year mandatory course for future diplomats includes subjects like politics, global political economy, conflict resolution, policy making, international relations, foreign languages, culture, ethics, organisational behaviour and entrepreneurship.

Other than the course, Amiry is also in the process of self-training: she wears suits and light makeup, and walks with obvious confidence. She crosses her hands at her back and broadens her shoulders while she stands to talk to her colleagues and guests at the office.

Yet at the same office, her colleague Samira (not her real name) is worried about getting permission from her husband for a one-week business-related foreign trip. She is a new bride and is not allowed to attend conferences abroad, even though her husband knew her from before and was aware that she worked at the foreign office.

This is what critics point to when they downplay the importance of Koofi and other likeminded women politicians and activists. To think that allowing women a few displays of opposition and giving them token political representation amounts to any substantial change in the way people think and act around them is naive at best, these critics contend.

“It will take another three decades before Afghanistan is ready for a female president,” says Faheem Dashti, editor-in-chief of Kabul Weekly. “I doubt even five men can handle the country after all that it has been through.”

Women parliamentarians are, in fact, aware of their limitations. A prominent feminist, journalist-turned-politician Shukriya Barakzai, agrees that even if an Afghan woman is successful, she still remains a victim of tradition.

For traditions to change in a patriarchal society, men need to change their mindset. But the country director of the Open Society Foundation, Najla Ayubi, a judge-turned-human rights activist, says there is still a long way to go before education starts changing the minds of men in Afghanistan. She believes that the government is trying to appease the Taliban, and hence would not want women in decision-making political offices.

But no matter how painstakingly slow the progress on women’s political representation is, for a country like Afghanistan, where war has ravaged lives for decades and the patriarchal mindset has reigned supreme, it is at least a starting point. It may take many years, even generations, before Afghan women can measure up to their counterparts in other countries, but the first steps on the road to emancipation have been taken by women like Koofi and Barakzai.

(This report was written during the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Af-Pak fellowship 2012 in collaboration with The Express Tribune).

Published in The Express Tribune, Sunday Magazine, November 4th, 2012.

 

CityScapes: Kabul

Originally published at PakTeaHouse

The experience of any city is created by the ‘user.’ You can make any city our own. Even in a city as close as Karachi, Kabul is deemed ‘exotic’ and adventurous.  As a Pakistani, it is closer to home than most of us would imagine. However, Kabul is not for tourists, it is for travelers. But there is a romance in the air that is unmistakable. If you are in Kabul, explore something besides the ruins and war relics.

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Food Trail

Kabul, like Karachi, has only one kind of nightlife – a foodie kind of nightlife. But it can be a little bit more risqué/fun that Karachi. While Karachi asks you to bring your own, Kabul serves its own.  Kabul has a decent variety of cuisines being served across the city. Thai, Chinese, Indian, Croatian, Middle Eastern and many more.

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Kebabs are everywhere in Kabul!For traditional Afghan food head to Sufi . The restaurant is frequented by expats and visiting delegations as an introduction to Afghan food and will cost you about $10-12.  For a flavor of the aid-worker/foreign journalist watering hole try L’Atmosphere – a French restaurant serving crepes, pizzas, pastas, salads and soups. The bar area is rather popular  for obvoious reasons. The food is a bit pricey but the music is nice – starting with classics in the early evening and ending with Lady Gaga and Pitbull at night. A meal and drinks will set you back by $20.  To eat where the locals eat, try Barg Restaurant in the Khair Khana bazaar.  Barg serves Western fast food and local fare. The ground floor is for men and the upper floors are for families. Meal and drinks will cost you no more than $7.

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Golden pakoras and fries at Mandavi

 

Kabul also has fantastic street food – pakoras, fries, deep fried ‘aloo paratha’ and spicy corn on the cob – from 5 to 10 Afghani.

It is not uncommon for most ‘meetings’ to take place at lunch. It seems most offices, organizations and even ministries have their own mini-catering units, manned mostly by women. These lunches will be the best food you find anywhere in Kabul.

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Home made mantu at the FES Kabul office

 

 

Bazaars

There are plenty of bazaars all over Kabul. The cool weather makes it easy to spend hours in a bazaar but the dust doesn’t help. Mandavi, is a whole sale market selling almost everything you can imagine – vegetables, fruits, clothes, shoes, motorcycles, mattresses, biscuits – from Afghanistan as well as Pakistan, Iran and China. Of course, the one thing you must buy from here are the dry fruits – go for the local produce instead of those imported from Iran.

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Dried fruits and seeds at Mandavi

 

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The legendary Kandhari Anar

If you’re looking for more contemporary’ shopping then head to the Laisa Marium bazaar in the Khair Khana locality – you can find traditional Afghan outfits here, colorful, embroidered kurtas for men and women. It’s also a great place for people watching. The Shar Nau area is great for loitering around and get posters of Afghan heroes and local handicrafts. Most of the malls including Kabul Mall and City Center are also located in the area.

 

People

By far, the most interesting thing about Kabul is it’s people. The city is rich with stories. Nearly every Afghan I have spoken to in Kabul has lived in Pakistan and speaks Urdu fluently. The people on the streets are friendly and love telling their stories – even if they are a bit exaggerated. Striking a conversation is not difficult. Kabul is a microcosm of Afghan society – Pashtun, Tajik, Hazara, Uzbek and the foreigners from all over the world. Take the time to visit sporting events, cafes, barber shops, beauty salons and markets and talk to people to get the real flavor of Kabul.

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Semi-final game of the first ever Afghan Premier League football tournament

Music  

Kabul has a thriving music scene – both local and foreign. There are some plenty of venues that host and groom young musicians. The French Cultural Center in Kabul, recently hosted the Sound Central Festival – an alternate music festival featuring bands from Central and South Asia and beyond.

The Venue is a space for young musicians to get together and jam. The Venue is run by Humayun Zadran, an avid music supporter working on several music related projects including ‘The Bridge’ – which currently brings Pakistani musicians to Afghanistan. If you are a rock music fan, look out for performances by Kabul Dreams. Kabul Dreams consists of young Afghan men, who are average musicians at best but rock and roll needs all the encouragement and support it can get. White City is another Kabul based rock band consisting of an Australian, a Brit and a Swede, who describe themselves as ‘rock therapy.’

 

The dust never settles in Kabul. There is a permanent slow moving haze. In October, the air is chilly and dry – dry enough to cut skin. Kabul is not an easy city – moving around the city is difficult and slow; the weather can be harsh; a woman’s laughter might offend someone on the street.   – but it is a city that will embrace you only when you begin to embrace it. I would love to return to Kabul and get to know it even better, because this was one of the hardest goodbyes I have had to say….

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Reluctant good bye

 

For more pictures from Kabul, check out my tumblr

Palatial mansion: Pakistan’s biggest and busiest diplomatic mission

By Robin Fernandez

KABUL: Situated in the Karte Parwan neighbourhood of Kabul is Pakistan’s diplomatic mission. Steeped in history, the embassy building and the adjoining ambassador’s residence together form the country’s single biggest mission in the world – a frontispiece to our public diplomacy abroad.

Inaugurated in July 2012, the sprawling grounds of the Quaid-e-Azam Complex cover more than 26 acres of land that once belonged to the British Legation in Kabul. Today it may well be Pakistan’s busiest diplomatic mission.

On any week day (from Sunday to Thursday) one is likely to find thousands of Afghans queuing up outside the Pakistan Embassy for a visa. “Up to 12,000 multiple [entry] visas are issued every day. Not a single application has been rejected so far,” says Ambassador Muhammad Sadiq. This figure may seem high, according to officials, but it pales in comparison to the sheer number of people who make border crossings every day between the two countries. Currently, Pakistani officials say, 56,000 people travel between Pakistan and Afghanistan through both designated and undesignated crossing points daily — mainly for trade and business purposes.

The main embassy buildings are now housed in what used to be the dispensary of the British Legation buildings in the Afghan capital. In one corner of the premises, English-language and computer classes are held for Afghan students, especially those in the neighborhood. “The classes are free and are part of the embassy’s effort to encourage education,” says an official.

The next door residential complex of the ambassador is much grander, still reflecting the colonial glory that Lord George Curzon, the then foreign secretary, had wanted Britain’s top envoy in Kabul to have. Curzon, also a former viceroy general of India, did not live to see the majestic Legation structure, dying two years before its completion. The Legation buildings in Kabul sprang up some eight years after Britain signed the 1919 Treaty of Rawalpindi which officially recognised the independence of Afghanistan.

Though Pakistan’s right to the Legation buildings’ ownership was recognised by the early 1960s, Islamabad had to wait three more decades for the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) to finally accede to its possession. But the property did not pass into Pakistan’s hands until another decade and a half. By that time it had already been ransacked by a violent mob and suffered a vicious arson attack. Several buildings, including a church and smaller residences, were razed to the ground. Perhaps the only building that escaped harm was the clock tower that stands near one of the boundary walls.

When Ambassador Sadiq moved into the gleaming white palatial building this year following a massive renovation of the premises, President Hamid Karzai took a gentle swipe at the envoy. “I see you have moved into your vice-regal seat,” Karzai was quoted as telling Sadiq.

The entire building was reconstructed in a record time. “Despite the huge challenge, it took us about six months to restore the complex,” a Pakistan Embassy official said. Another official said the funds saved through the [earlier used] Wazir Akbar Khan mission were spent on the restoration work. “We used that money for restoration and saved thousands of dollars in the bargain,” the official explained.

From the vantage point of the ambassador’s residence, one can see a freshly-manicured cricket ground and an equally impressive soccer pitch. And in the distance one can see the snow-capped Hindu Kush mountains. The sight would have certainly pleased Curzon no end.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 22nd,  2012.

The To-Do List for Kabul by Sundus Rasheed

The second leg of the FES Af-Pak Journalism Fellowship 2012 is due to begin in early October. In the second phase of the program, 11 Pakistani journalists will travel to Afghanistan and once again work with their Afghan counterparts on stories of mutual interest.

As we start thinking about what stories we want to do, I can’t help but want to know more and more about the magnificent yet heart-breaking city of Kabul – it’s past splendour and current attractions. However, it is not often that people think of Kabul in terms of it’s ‘attractions’ – but why not? Browsing through various travel websites and blogs has lead me to believe that Kabul is a city that’s brimming with excitement, you just have to know where to look.

So here’s my list of ‘things to do in Kabul’ – let’s see how many of these things I get around to doing:

  1. Visit the Afghanistan National Institute of Music (ANIM) :

As a project of the Ministry of Education, ANIM provides free music education to young Afghans. Students who have financial difficulty and/or are earning members of their family are even given special ‘scholarships’ to make up for their loss of income. The institute was founded by and currently run by Dr. Ahmad Nasser Sarmast, a PhD in Music. I was introduced to ANIM by my very talented friend, musician and ANIM faculty member – William Harvey. Harvey is also the co-founder of the Afghan Youth Orchestra

2. Check out Chicken Street

This sounds a lot like Bohri Bazar in Karachi. All kinds of handicrafts are available here, from jewellery to carpets, ‘antique’ muskets to lapis lazuli. Most of the buyers are foreign, so prices are bound to be scaled up. I’m not sure what the verdict is on women wandering around Chicken Street. I think I am going to need a male escort – preferably a local.

3. Trek on the foodie trail

Kabul seems to be have a greater variety of restaurants than Karachi – thanks to the huge expat population in the city – Mexican, Italian, Korean, Russian, Thai, Japanese,  French, Indian, Middle Eastern and of course, the delectable Afghan cuisine itself. I am hoping to check out more local food  establishments than foreign but definitely want to see how the more ‘posh’ outlets compare with those in Pakistani cities.

4.  Visit an Afghan family home

Simple enough. You never really understand a city until you visit a home. Hopefully I can get one of my Afghans colleagues or friends to invite me to their home and meet their families and talk to them

5. Kabul nightlife

Yup. There is such a thing. Kabul has a thriving expat scene supported by well paid aid workers, journalists, diplomats and ‘contractors’. Interesting to see what it would be like to party in the time of war ( a bit like Karachi, perhaps?). The two names that keep popping up are Gandamak, established by a former British soldier turned BBC cameraman and L’Atmosphere by a French radio journalist.

Sounds like a plan! Who’s with me?

Afghans Do It Better by Sundus Rasheed

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED AT Yummy mummy and me

It seems ‘Kabuli’ is THE place to eat in Islamabad – Afghan being the hot new in cuisine in the capital these days. Also, Habibi – a mix of Afghan, Central Asian and Middle Eastern is worth a try too and the old Karachi classic BBQ Tonight is now in Lahore and Islamabad too. Gone are the days of the Afghan naan wala, we now have a cool, new breed of Afghans showing the capital what food is all about.

But of course, the best way to experience a cuisine is in people’s homes. And hearts. The Afghan embassy in Islamabad was kind enough to host myself and colleagues from the media – from both Pakistan and Afghanistan attending the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) Af-Pak Journalist Exchange Fellowship Program.The Afghan ambassador Mr. Muhammad Umar Daudzai and his staff were gracious hosts. I told him I was doing a story on the growing influence of Afghan culture in Pakistan and he personally took the time to explain each dish on the spread to me. Here goes:
Kabuli pulau

Surprise, surprise – Kabuli pulau is called ‘pulau’ in Kabul. Where does all ALL this flavor come from? Slow cooking the beef and then cooking the rice in that beef broth with cinnamon and cardamon.

Afghani kebab and tikka

As you can see, most of this dish is gone. Skewered,barbecued  tender pieces of chicken and beef are probably the stars of Afghan cuisine. So rich, so simple – you’re never quite sure when you’re full.

Zamarud pulau

What a pretty name for a dish! Zamarud being emerald, of course. This is basically a vegetarian pilaf with spinach, dill and leeks with very simple seasoning. I was told lamb or beef can be added to this – which reminds of an Arab staple at my home – a pilaf made with fried meat, dill and peas, with the same ‘zamarud’ tinge.

Burani

By far my most favorite dish of the night! The humble eggplant/baingan done so well! Grilled  slices of eggplant topped off with a tomato sauce and a garlic yogurt. This is definitely one I will be trying in my kitchen.

Mantu (like Momos)

Remember my love for Nepalese momos? The Afghan-Tajik version of these dumplings is a little more suited to the ‘desi’ palate. These ‘mantus’ are stuffed with raw meat and then steamed. They are usually topped with a garlic yogurt and a tomato and ‘channa dal’ sauce. It’s an interesting little mouthful – lots of different textures and flavors.

Spinach

Simply because, as the Ambassador said, ‘Afghans love spinach.’ Which might explain the ‘fitness’ of Afghan men.  And women, of course. More power to the spinach!

Mutton Stew
Chicken Qorrma

Also on the menu, some Pakistani influences in the form of a mutton stew and chicken qorma.

When I asked to meet the chef, there was some surprise and some consultations before the chef came out to meet me. Such a gentle, old man who seemed obviously flattered (and a bit confused) by my request to see meet him. There wasn’t much conversation to be made and most of that was lost in translation. But thanks to Zalmai Azizy for the help! That’s the best Afghan chef in the region – Ghulam Sakhi Rahmani! Ghulam Sakhi has been cooking for close to thirty years and most recently for the Afghan mission in Islamabad. If they ever let him go, I’m stealing him!
Ghulam Sakhi Rahmani
The kitchen crew at the Afghan embassy

Great food, better conversations and warm Afghan hospitality – I’m really looking forward to more of that in Kabul. Thank you Mr. Daudzai and Mr. Rahmani!

I Was Born to Hate Pakistanis by Faisal Malik Moonjazer

During the last days of our exchange program in Islamabad, one of my Pakistani counterparts, Delawar Jan, asked me,” You said you really hated Pakistanis when you were in Afghanistan. Where did all this hate come from?”

For a moment, I was silent and finally words came out.

“I was born to hate Pakistanis.” He smiled at me and said, “It’s good now you don’t.”

I am from a remote area called Sar-e-Pul which was part of Jawzjan province years ago. Now, it is separate province. I was selected, along with 10 other young journalists from different provinces of Afghanistan to go to Islamabad and meet a group of Pakistani journalists. A few months ago, I had applied for another three-month scholarship in Pakistan and was shortlisted for it. However, with my pessimism about Pakistanis and sense of hatred, I didn’t provide them final documents to get into the program.

On May 20, 2012 at 3:50 pm, I received an email from one of my best friends, who was also my boss for several years, about this very FES Afghan-Pak Journalists Exchange Program. This was 10 minutes before the deadline. I saw the application links were for Pakistani journalists and so I started ‘googling’ for the Afghan journalists application but couldn’t find it.

I called one of my friends in Khost province who is working with Mediothek for help. He said he was out of office and will send me the application once he returned to work.

I finally received the application form from Mediothek’s main office in Kabul via email from a respectful and  kind man who told me I should complete the application and send it by  tomorrow morning. But I completed it and sent it  within an hour. After several days, I shockingly found out that I was selected for the exchange program. I was happy but still nervous about going to Pakistan. But I decided to go this time for the program. My family also told me to visit Pakistani and see it real life.

After a  few days of staying in Kabul and learning about Pakistan, my thinking had already changed. I learned many things. Pakistan after all didn’t seem as bad as as I had always thought while growing up. We had guests speakers who talked about Pakistani culture and its 50 years of journalistic background. Every word that said about Pakistan was positive. I thought they were doing so as they were paid by Pakistanis.

During the last days in Afghanistan, when we visited the Pakistani ambassador in Afghanistan, he was quite open to us and answered all questions with smiles. It was then, for the first time, I accepted that I had misunderstandings about Pakistan.

He shared with us facts about Pak-Afghan relations that I had never heard. This was all in my country. Things got better when I went to Pakistan.

The first day we reached Bara Gali – one of the most  beautiful places I have ever seen in my life – we met Pakistani friends from different parts of the country. My Afghan fellows were tired because of the long flights and went to rest. But I came to talk to my Pakistani counterparts. They offered me to join them at trekking. First I wasn’t interested, but when I saw their enthusiasm and friendliness, which reminded me of my childhood picnics with my school mates, I readily accepted the offer.

There, I enjoyed interacting with them, especially Ms Beenish for bringing different subjects of my interest about Afghans, so I wouldn’t feel alone being the only Afghan joining them at the time.

Seems like I have thousands of memories from each one of them being so kind to us.

I remember Ms Ayesha Hasan, who interviewed me for a report in her newspaper, on our first day in Bara Gali. Mr Haris, who recited a number Persian poems from different Persian poets. I could say if he was better than me in sense of loving and memorizing Persian poems.

One thing that made me very happy was the invitation from one of my Pakistani counterparts, Ms Sundus Rasheed, to a concert.  It was a big concert with young singers and great audience. We all loved being in the front row at the concert, especially left empty for us. I watched and enjoyed the live concert for the first time in my life.

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Pakistani singer Maria Fatima performing at the CityFM89 concert
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Pakistani band ‘Bell’ at the CityFM89 concert

Ms Rasheed also took me to the office of Pakistan’s largest English daily newspaper, Dawn, so I can freely look over Pakistani newspapers for headlines about Afghanistan in Pakistani media. When I got to the archives, I met someone special –  Mr Ramzan Ali  – the librarian. He was a man of discipline. Everything in place- newspapers were archived by alphabets.  He made me feel as if I was at my own office. I asked him for lots of files. When I asked him if I could take photos of the headlines, he smiled and said, “When it is your office, you can do whatever you want,”

I am not comparing it but I remember once being punched in my face in my country while taking photos.

Friendship, kindness, good behavior, support, humility and honesty –  these were all things I found in my Pakistani counterparts. Looking at the photos and recalling the good memories –  every minute reminds me of their smiles and kindness.

I urge the media from  both countries to let us, the people, decide who is the enemy and who is the friend. Do not feed us with enmity from the day when we are born, instead, I request them to promote a culture of peace and friendship.