It is strange that while Nepal bars its citizens from going to Afghanistan as migrant workers, it makes a curious exception for those wanting to work in the war-torn country as security guards. So over a 1,000 Nepalis sought and obtained permission to work as security guards in Afghanistan in the course of past one year. This kind of dual provisions don’t make sense when security guards, owing to the nature of their work, face the most risk of all categories of workers. It also doesn’t make sense for Nepal to give go-ahead for migrant workers looking to go to certain ‘safe zones’ in Afghanistan. Islamic terrorists have repeatedly proven, through their murderous attacks right across the country, that no part of Afghanistan can be considered completely safe. In fact, even the area in Kabul where 12 Nepali security guards were killed in a suicide attack on Monday morning had been designated a relatively safe area. Apparently, the minibus they were travelling in was targeted by the Afghani Taliban as these security guards worked for the Canadian embassy in Kabul. Canada had been at the frontline of the war against the Taliban regime when it decided to support American combat forces in Afghanistan after 9/11.
We would like to see a blanket ban on travel of Nepali migrant workers to Afghanistan. The state should not be complicit in putting its citizens in harm’s way. But even such a blanket ban is unlikely to deter those determined to go. For some a monthly salary of up to Rs 300,000 that a Nepali security guard working in Afghanistan can expect to earn is too big a lure to resist. This is why, every month, hundreds of Nepalis go to Afghanistan illegally via Dubai, the main assembly point for Afghanistan-bound Nepali migrant workers. Nepal can do little to stop such illegal migration. Whenever a Nepali national dies an unnatural death on foreign soil, it’s a tragedy. But there is a limit to what the Nepali nation-state, with its limited means, can do to ensure the safety of all its workers abroad. Some might say what we need is a massive awareness campaign to make our youths aware of the real dangers of going to such risky places. But it is hard to believe that in a country where there are more mobile phones than there are people, anyone here is so ill-informed.
Concerning the attacks on Monday, what Nepal government can now realistically do is to arrange to have the dead bodies flown back to Kathmandu at the earliest and probably offer the poor and bereaved families some kind of monetary help. Along with the trauma of the loss of a family member, many of these families will now have to make do without their chief, probably only, bread-winner. Monday’s bloody killing of 12 Nepalis is also a stark reminder that menace of radical Islam is not limited to any particular country or region. In this globalizing world, people everywhere—from Paris to Orlando to Kabul—are their potential victims. The attack also points to an urgent need of a strong region-wide anti-terror initiative covering all eight SAARC member states, including Afghanistan, the bloodiest of them all.