Carnage in KabulOnly adequate jobs at home can stop Nepalis from seeking opportunities in unsafe places
At least 90 people were killed and around 500 injured on Wednesday morning in what was easily one of the deadliest terror attacks to have hit Kabul. A water tanker stuffed with more than 1,500kg of explosives ripped through its diplomatic zone, one of the city’s most highly protected areas, highlighting the immense security challenges facing Afghanistan. There appears no end in sight to the war in the restive country that started with the Soviet occupation and then with American operation in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.
The latest carnage has left Afghanistan—and the wider global community—in horror and grief, eliciting messages of condemnation and condolence from all over the world, including from our government. Among the hundreds of injured were five Nepalis. Four of them sustained minor injuries and were discharged from hospital the same day; one has to undergo surgery. All of the Nepalis were working as security guards.
The incident reminded Nepal of the attack last year in June which claimed the lives of 13 Nepali security guards employed by the Canadian embassy in Kabul. Last year’s attack had raised the question of whether the government’s decision in 2011 to partially lift the ban on Nepalis from working in Afghanistan had proved short-sighted and whether a ban should be reintroduced. Although no ban was reimposed, the government had decided to take extra precautionary measures targeted at aspiring and serving security guards in Afghanistan. At least 20,000 Nepalis are believed to be working in the country, but precise figures are hard to come by.
Debates about bans are fine. But a more pertinent question is: why are so many Nepalis taking the risk to work in war-ravaged countries like Afghanistan? To a large extent, it’s because there aren’t enough jobs at home. Faced with bleak employment prospects, tens of thousands of our compatriots continue to be lured to foreign destinations, including unsafe ones, for work. Many of them have even found ways to circumvent government regulations intended to control foreign employment—even if that means travelling to unsafe destinations through informal channels.
So regulations are temporary measures at best. A durable solution calls for employment generation on a large scale at home. So long as jobs are elusive, Nepalis will always find their way abroad. And unfortunately, some of them will be hapless victims of heinous acts like Wednesday’s.