Hum-Ahang, a student-led society, has dedicated considerable efforts towards working and raising awareness, as well as promoting tolerance and diversity through panel talks and discussion forums on a variety of topics. These range from theoretical philosophical discourse to major socio-political developments around the globe. On August 22, 2021, Hum-Ahang hosted an imperative talk regarding the ongoing Afghanistan crisis that has unfolded after the takeover of the Taliban over most of the country’s districts. Whilst world media has covered Afghanistan extensively, be it the gut-wrenching pictures of Kabul Airport or the supposed ‘PR’ of the Taliban, the indigenous narrative has, in the process, been tragically sidelined.
Hum-Ahang invited four students studying in Pakistan, including a second-generation refugee from the Soviet-Afghan invasion and a Hazara community representative from the Pashtun belt. During the first half, the panelists made significant insightful comments. They first engaged in a general discussion on the history of the region. The panelists analyzed the controversy of the Durand Line, and how the lack of resources for Afghan refugees in Pakistan has led to a general criticism of Pakistan’s policies. This had led to a certain level of reluctance to embrace Pakistan as a true ally of the Afghan national government. They also explained, at length, how people in Afghanistan perceive the recent turn of events; the general public is not in favour of the Taliban taking over.
The crucial question of women’s rights was also raised, especially since under the new regime it is believed that women are being severely oppressed. To this, one of the female panelists expressed that the Western media is being biased; it has portrayed the Taliban as barbaric oppressors of women. She emphasized that there is a selective restriction on female mobility as hijab has been made mandatory. This information proved to be useful in debunking myths about the position of Afghan women under Taliban rule.
Additionally, the panelists shed some light on the imperialistic tendencies of the US, constantly weakening Afghanistan. They also discussed how the Taliban have ‘created a positive image’ for themselves this time as compared to the 90s.
The first half of the talk concluded with an exchange of hopeful, optimistic words, and with the promise that there will be more such informative exchanges between Pakistan and Afghanistan’s youth.
The second half of the talk moved towards a more conventional discussion between academics that have researched and significantly worked on topics like international security and Pak-Afghan relations. They conversed about the role of the United States in providing a contradictory policy with regards to the Taliban, shifting between outward hostility and the negotiation table. The academics engaged with many key areas of research that often get ignored in the Afghan discourse, including the Western portrayal of the Afghan woman and the role of the NATO forces in the region impacting Taliban mobilization and strategizing. The illustrious discussion was concluded by a short question and answer session where the attentive audience pitched in and put forth their queries regarding the topic going through most people’s minds these days i.e Afghanistan’s future.
Overall, the talk was highly enriching and provided a fresh perspective on a topic that continues to shape the future of this region in radical ways. We hope to witness similar initiatives being taken in the near future to evoke further awareness in the youth on topics of socio-political significance.