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Friday, September 17, 2021

Evacuation from Afghanistan: India airlifts 392 amidst reports of Pakistani presence among Taliban


The evacuation took place in three aircraft amidst reports that a large number of Pakistanis have been detected among the Taliban fighters in Kabul.  

India has helped by evacuating stranded Hindus and Sikhs from Afghanistan but will have to do more by airlifting those who are left behind, said Narender Pal Singh Khalsa, a member of Afghanistan’s Parliament who was evacuated along with 392 other individuals on Sunday morning. The evacuation took place in three aircraft amidst reports that a large number of Pakistanis have been detected among the Taliban fighters in Kabul.  

“We are indeed thankful to the Government of India and Prime Minister Narendra Modi and we hope that India will help those that we have left behind. Hundreds of others are still left in Afghanistan and we wish to bring them here as soon as possible,” said Mr Khalsa who maintained that the Taliban have been undependable since they took over Kabul.  

“They came to my office on Saturday and took away my computers, official vehicles and other personal vehicles. They claimed that they were there to take away my official car that was given to me because of my status as an MP but ultimately took away many personal items including three watches,” said Mr Khalsa who maintains that there are a large number of Pakistanis among the fighters.  

“I found that those who came to my house could not speak Farsi and spoke in Urdu. There were some who spoke a language that I could not even understand. It’s quite clear that they were either from Pakistan or some other country,” said Mr Khalsa who said that he had not seen the Afghan Taliban among those who were present in Kabul saying, “In my 36 years, I have never seen such Taliban fighters.”  

168 passengers onboard, including 107 Indian nationals, are seen onboard the Indian Air Force special repatriation flight. Photo: Twitter/@MEAIndia

168 passengers onboard, including 107 Indian nationals, are seen onboard the Indian Air Force special repatriation flight. Photo: Twitter/@MEAIndia
 

Mr Khalsa is the son of Avtar Singh Khalsa, a dynamic Sikh politician of Afghanistan who was assassinated in Jalalabad in a suicide bomb attack in 2018. 

The MP was among the 392 evacuees who were airlifted from Kabul on Sunday morning in three different aircraft. Apart from a heavylift C-17 military aircraft, Air India and Indigo operated two flights via Tajikistan and Qatar that flew in  the individuals. Apart from Mr Singh, Anarkali Kaur Honaryar, the only female Sikh MP of Afghanistan was also among those who were airlifted to Hindan air base.  Ms Honaryar also thanked Prime Minister Narendra was Modi and the Government of India for evacuating her family on Sunday.  

The Hindu has learnt that the large scale evacuation carried out on Sunday was facilitated by a small multi-agency Indian team that has found base in Kabul airport. The cell has taken charge days after Government of India evacuated the India-based staff from the embassy in Kabul. The Ministry of External Affairs has not yet commented on this development. Apart from construction workers, engineers and other blue collar workers, Sunday’s evacuation also included an infant Iknoor Singh, the youngest person to be evacuated so far from Kabul.

A number of Indians from Darjeeling who were stuck in Afghanistan were also among those airlifted on Sunday. West Bengal Chief Mamata Banerjee had earlier urged the central government to help in bringing back those workers.

Hundreds of others however are left behind who require to be airlifted in coming days even as the security situation of Afghanistan is expected to deteriorate fast because of the growing military tension between the Taliban leaders and the Tajiks of Panjshir Valley who are led by the faction of Ahmad Massoud and Amrullah Saleh.

 A spokesperson for the Resistance on Sunday told The Hindu that they require support of “allies” to take on the Taliban. “Taliban are trying to send delegations and as well use Dr Abdullah Abdullah and Hamid Karzai to mediate between Resistance Leaders in Panjshir. The stance of the Resistance is clear. We have legitimate Caretaker President Amrullah Saleh who enjoys people’s support from Republic’s side,” said Homayon Ahmadi, the Spokesperson. 

“If they opt for any military offensive, people are ready to defend their rights at any cost. We will be needing support from our allies of course,” said Mr Ahmadi who argued that the Resistance believes in ballots unlike Taliban that believes in bullets. 

Evacuees thank Indian govt

A sense of relief and gratitude was palpable among the evacuees from Afghanistan as they landed at Ghaziabad’s Hindon airbase on Sunday morning, after days of uncertainty following Kabul’s fall to the Taliban.

The group included Afghan lawmakers Anarkali Honaryar and Narender Singh Khalsa and their families, people familiar with the evacuation mission said.

Terming India his “second home”, Khalsa narrated his horror story which unfolded as their vehicle was separated from a convoy of those being taken to the Kabul airport for rescue.

“They (Taliban) separated us from others while going to Kabul airport yesterday (Saturday) as were are Afghan nationals. We fled from there because small children were with us,” he told reporters at Hindon.

The lawmaker, a resident of Kabul, expressed hopes that he will manage to go back to his country after it rebuilds itself.

“India is our second home. We have been living there since generations. We pray to God that Afghanistan is rebuilt, and we can go back there to tend to our gurdwaras and temples and serve the people,” Khalsa added.

Explaining the ground situation in Afghanistan and its new rulers, Khalsa said, “The Taliban is not one group. There are 10-12 sections. It is hard to find who is a talib and who is not.” Honaryar, a member of the Upper House of Afghan Parliament, in a video message, said “I thank the government of India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Ministry of External Affairs and the Indian Air Force for lifting us from Kabul and saving my life.” All the evacuees arriving at Hindon and the IGI airport in the national capital underwent RP-PCR tests, officials said.

Alladad Qureshi, an Afghan national whose wife hails from Kashmir, expressed a sense of relief as he interacted with media persons at Hindon.

“I have two daughters. We thank the government of India, Modiji, MEA and air force for saving us,” he said.

Manik Mandal, a young jeweller who had gone to Afghanistan six months ago in search of livelihood, smiled as he said, “We faced a lot of problems in Kabul, but our government saved us.” India on Sunday brought back nearly 400 people, including 329 of its nationals, in three different flights as part of its efforts to evacuate its citizens from Kabul against the backdrop of a deteriorating situation in the city after its takeover by the Taliban.

(With inputs from PTI)



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