“These were the scariest days of my life. Every day, ”said the Afghan, whom CBC did not identify in order to protect his family members still in Afghanistan. In the wake of the Taliban takeover, he said he, his wife and four children left their homes as little as possible to avoid attention. A friend helped bring them some necessities, he said, as they waited for information to leave. And they hoped the Taliban wouldn’t come and strike.
“That’s why I call it hell, because it felt like I was in a jail,” entrepreneur told CBC host Chris Hall. The House in an interview aired on Saturday.
“We weren’t moving. Everyone was watching our actions. “
LISTEN | Former CAF contractor in Afghanistan talks about his journey to safety:
But just a few days ago, the former contractor, who had helped the Canadian military during the country’s mission in Afghanistan, landed in neighboring Pakistan. And in less than a month, he hopes to get off a plane in Canada.
For this man, Canada represents both security and the promise of a new life: the opportunity for his daughters – his “angels” – to become doctors or dentists, for his sons to work as software engineers or police officers.
“I am looking for a bright future” for them, he said.
Difficulties with immigration and refugee programs
While thousands fled the country in August in a massive evacuation mission precipitated by the Taliban takeover, thousands more remained in the country and continue to face an uncertain future.
Canada has brought approximately 2,600 people to the country through special immigration programs (out of 9,400 approved applicants) and plans to resettle approximately 40,000 refugees.
“We will not stop until other Canadian citizens, permanent residents and their families, as well as vulnerable Afghans who have supported our work in Afghanistan and wish to leave, can leave,” Global Affairs Canada said in a statement to The House.
But the process of coming to Canada remains confusing for many, and too slow. The former entrepreneur who spoke with The House said Canada needs to engage with the Taliban to facilitate flights to and from the country so people can reach other countries like Qatar or Turkey, and then possibly Canada. He also criticized the time it took for the government to launch its special programs as the Taliban strengthened earlier this year.
The federal government is also under pressure at the national level.
“We have this moral obligation to get them out. They fought alongside us, we really have to try harder [in] Said retired Major-General Dean Milner, a member of the Veterans Transition Network, which helps Afghans reach safety in Canada. Milner said Canada may try to charter flights or disembark a ground crew in Kabul to help with departures.
This suggestion is just one argument in an intense debate unfolding in countries that were once part of the coalition that fought in Afghanistan: whether and how to work with the new Taliban government to provide aid in the country. in trouble.
The situation is serious. The Afghan economy is deteriorating rapidly and the United Nations now estimates that 97% of Afghans could be living in poverty by mid-2022.
Direct talks between the Taliban and the United States resulted in an agreement to deliver and distribute aid late last month, while in August Canada pledged an additional $ 50 million in humanitarian aid. to international organizations helping Afghanistan.
Yet the country faces “a watershed moment,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said earlier this week.
The question of recognition
In a separate interview on The House, two international development experts debated how best to distribute aid in Afghanistan and what that meant for the recognition of the Taliban government.
Nipa Banerjee, professor at the University of Ottawa, said the focus should be on providing aid to Afghans, which may require taking a “negotiating position” with the Taliban, taking advantage of aid to ensure the distribution of aid.
“Afghanistan should not be isolated at this time by removing all support from them, without talking to them,” she said.
LISTEN | Two experts debate how to get aid to Afghanistan:
International aid could help steer the new government to a different position from where it first ruled the country in the 1990s, Banerjee argued, and aid could be made conditional on guarantees for human rights. women and the security of internally displaced persons.
The Taliban have shown a “quest for recognition,” she said, and while recognition is not to be immediate, it could be later if certain milestones are reached.
Najia Haneefi, a member of the Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan organization who worked with a United Nations organization in Afghanistan, agreed that aid could be “used as a bargaining chip for human rights in Afghanistan”, saying especially women’s rights. But she argued that recognizing the Taliban as a legitimate government was a step too far.
“They have been the killer of the Afghan people for the past 40 years. And I don’t see that recognizing such a terrorist organization… is a wise thing to do at this point, ”Haneefi said.
“We always say: ‘Thank you, Canada’”
For the former entrepreneur now in Pakistan, although he still worries about his family in his home country, attention is also turning to the prospect of a new life in Canada.
He said that after waking up on the first day in Pakistan, he cut his beard and hair so that he no longer looked like “someone in the jungle for a long time”.
The next step is to start looking for work in Canada and determine where it will settle. He would love to go to Ottawa, but would be happy anywhere.
“If they send us anywhere, we’ll accept. Because where we are from, we will accept anywhere in Canada. And we will always say, ‘Thank you, Canada’. “