Voices from Jalalabad on the Kabul Conference

19 Jul 2010

Voices from Jalalabad on the Kabul Conference

19 July 2010 - People in Afghanistan’s eastern region hope that tomorrow’s Kabul Conference will conclude with positive steps towards bringing sustainable peace and economic development to their country.



Most of the more than dozen people United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) interviewed in the eastern city of Jalalabad said they are craving stability and that any conference of international stature should give serious thought to peace, even if it means bringing onboard “previously ignored groups.”

Another issue that should be at the forefront of the Conference - to be hosted by the Government of Afghanistan and to be co-chaired by the United Nations - is corruption control, they said.

“I think the Conference will be very successful if the decision makers consider all the aspects and problems of our society including corruption,” said Dr Qiamudin, a medical doctor.

He said that he thinks the Government of Afghanistan and the international community will be successful if all national actors are given “a fair chance.”

“Previous conferences were not very successful because some groups were ignored,” said Qiamudin.

Around 40 foreign ministers are expected to attend the one-day conference, with further deputy foreign ministers and heads of multilateral organizations such as NATO and the European Union. Representatives of civil society will also participate.

At the conference, the Government of Afghanistan will present national priorities and programmes that will give the Afghans increasingly more control over security and development within their country.

Prem Singh, who belongs to the minority Sikh community in Jalalabad, said he has been following the Kabul Conference in the media.

“It will help us in fostering peace and economic growth,” he said.

But not everyone thinks the same way as Qiamudin and Singh.

Abdul Wajid, who owns a cellphone shop in downtown Jalalabad, said the Conference should generate economic resources to Afghanistan and that the Government “should construct hydro-power stations.”

Wiqar Ahmad, who came to buy a cellphone at Wajid’s shop, said that although he does not know much about the Conference, the country’s first priority should be the construction of large and small factories.

Qari Enayatullah Sahak, a pharmacist, thinks the country’s first priority should be to strengthen its industries.

Mirwais, who repairs cellphones, said the lives of many Afghans have been improved in the last eight years and hopes that this conference “will bring positive changes.”

Meanwhile, people like Basira, a member of the Afghan National Police, and schoolteacher Sana Sadaat, said they had not heard anything about a Conference taking place in Kabul, despite it being the first Afghan-focused conference to be held in the country and the biggest in at least four decades.

Taj Mohammad, who works at the Social Affairs Department, knows that neighbouring countries are sending representatives and thinks that the Conference will bring some positive outcomes.

“If you look at our history, you will see two things - religion and conferences in the form of Jirga (assembly). We believe in them,” said Mohammad.

However, Ismail Safi, who works at the Department of Justice in neighbouring Kunar province, is sceptical about the outcomes of the Conference.

“There were a lot of conferences, the London Conference being the last one. Still, there is no positive change on the ground. So I have doubts this time too,” he said.

By Shafiqullah Waak and Tilak Pokharel, UNAMA