Nepali survivors of Kabul blast demand job opportunities

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Kathmandu, June 24 (IANS) After a blast in Kabul that left 12 Nepalis and two Indian security guards dead and Nepal announced it would bring back migrants wanting to leave Afghanistan, the blast survivors have demanded local job opportunities.

Two days after the suicide bomb attack on June 20, which also left seven security guards injured, Nepal received the remains of those killed, Xinhua news agency reported.

Nepal not only airlifted 12 coffins to Kathmandu’s Tribhuwan International Airport, it also welcomed 24 migrant workers who were working over the last few years in war-torn Afghanistan.

Following the announcement of bringing back migrants wanting to leave Afghanistan, 24 Nepalis working as security guards for a Canadian mission in Kabul returned home out of terror and fear.

At the airport, the workers seemed relieved to have landed in their own country, after their ordeals in the high-risk region of Kabul where some of their friends’ hopes and lives were claimed.

Maniram Khanal, from the western Nepali Kaski district, is among those who returned on Wednesday after staying in Afghanistan for five years.

Khanal, a retired Nepal Army personnel, said Monday’s attack was evidence of how risky their lives were in Afghanistan.

“We knew about the risks from the very beginning but such attacks were centred outside of Kabul. But now, as violent acts are happening in broad daylight inside the main city, life has become so risky that I immediately decided to return,” Khanal said.

Khanal, a father of two, was on his night-shift duty on the day of the attack while his colleagues were in a mini bus on their way to duty station.

He said the distance between the living quarters and the Canadian mission was less than a 10-minute journey but full of risks.

“If we had an armoured vehicle instead of a mini bus for transportation, the loss would be quite less. The armoured vehicle can carry four or five people which would be comparatively safer. Afghanistan is no way a safe place for Nepali workers,” Khanal said.

Among those who lost their lives was Amrit Bahadur Thapa, from the north-wstern Nepali Lamjung district, who was Khanal’s roommate for the past year-and-half, a memory which pulls at Khanal’s heart every minute.

Along with Khanal, some 147 Nepalis used to work as security guards for the British security consultancy firm Sabre International based in Kabul.

The returnees, mostly retired Nepal Army and police personnel, said other diplomatic missions like those of the US and Australia have better security arrangements than the Canadian one.

Most of these security guards earn an average of Rs 100,000 (nearly $1,000) monthly, which they admit is impossible to earn in Nepal.

According to the Department of Foreign Employment, nearly 9,000 Nepali migrants had received permission to work as security guards in the war-torn country in the last 10 years, while there is no record of Nepalis working there off the records.

Earlier, Nepal had imposed a blanket ban on Nepalis working in Afghanistan and Iraq after 12 Nepalis were killed in Iraq in 2004.

Following a partial reversal, some Nepalis could receive a permit to work only in green-zones in Afghanistan, where the UN and other diplomatic agencies have their bases.

“I had chosen Afghanistan thinking that it’s a better destination for former Army officials. In Gulf countries, the work is difficult and the pay is low. Since we don’t have enough opportunities here, it made sense to leave the country,” said Lal Bahadur Tamang, 51, another returnee.

A resident of the western Nepali Tanahun district, some 170 km from Kathmandu, Tamang said he did not want to work overseas any more, adding he would start his own business.

Most of the returnees echoed Tamang’s sentiments, with some saying that even if they have to die, they want to die in their own motherland.

Those back from Afghanistan said many of their friends in Kabul have also decided to return as soon as possible, as their companies do not care about their security.

Thanking the Nepali government for bringing them back home, Bhagwan Banjara said Nepali youth should opt not to go to Afghanistan or other risky destinations such as Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.

“The attackers have started targeting Gurkhas so the Nepal government must stop sending its citizens to their graves. The government must create job opportunities here,” Banjara said.

At a time when 1,500 to 2,000 Nepalis leave the nation every day due to poverty, political instability and unemployment, many believe the Kabul incident has been a big lesson for the government.

–IANS

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