Toppling of Ghani’s regime in Afghanistan and Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s statue in Pakistan

How to protect and save the religious, spiritual, architectural, and intellectual assets of the minorities that will be left behind in Afghanistan, as well as safeguard those in Pakistan? This is one of the questions raised as Taliban takes over Afghanistan

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By Bhupinder ‘Bo’ Singh | Opinion |

After recently reading the news item on how the government of Afghanistan collapsed to Taliban onslaught with complete melt down of its defense forces, we are all in state of disbelief. Then followed the news of vandalization of Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s Statue in Lahore rekindling the gruesome scenes witnessed by many at the partition of the country in August 1947. Incidentally, this is not the first time, but the third time the statue has been vandalized since its installation in 2019.

The gory act of vandalization and that of overrunning of a country separated by few hundreds of miles geographically are two unrelated events on the surface, yet the underlying cause is common. The genesis of both these incidents is direct result of indoctrination that everything we associate with is right and superior, while other person, legacy or his ideas are not equal but inferior.

The fall of Mohammad Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai government and Taliban gaining control over the country is creating a very fluid situation. The significant section of society there wants to move out of the mess they find themselves in since 1979, the time of Soviet invasion. At that time about 1 million Afghans lost their lives. But then after that the last 40 years have been a time of turmoil on and off there. Then after the Soviet exit we saw the USA entry there.

Now, 20 years later, USA is departing. The departing circumstances are grave and have been dubbed as “Saigon Moment”. As this is stark reminder of helicopter airlift of USA while the Vietcong had overrun the capital of South Vietnam. While talking about the comparison reminds of another acronym coined to describe Afghanistan as “Graveyard of kingdoms” for the invaders.

The historical track records go back to the time of invasion by Alexander the great, in 330 BC. This is a long-checkered history, where even the British could not tame the region almost a century before. The present ground realities bring out the following major challenges now:

  1. Restoration of order and a semblance of peace so that the normal life as usual can resume.
  2. Safeguarding of the rights, status of women, minorities and others who do not belong to the so-called “our” club.
  3. How to protect and save the religious, spiritual, architectural, and intellectual assets of the minorities that will be left behind in Afghanistan, as well as safeguard those in Pakistan. The issue in Pakistan that the minority population is concentrated in pockets and heritage sites spread out providing opportunity for premier location land grab. So, the issue is how to save, protect, maintain, and preserve those historical relics. Although, PETPB has been managing and maintaining some historical minority shrines in Pakistan reasonably despite encroachments and efforts to erase them. Still overall the bigger problem remains, which has been exacerbated by the recent events in Afghanistan.
  4. The evacuation of remaining minority population along with their families, out of Afghanistan to safety and their resettlement has become a high priority. The insecurity being experienced by them is frightening. They need our help today. Already the vivid images of chaotic situation with citizens there trying to escape from the country are making shocking news.

This is not a complete or comprehensive list of priorities, but just a starting point to start thinking about them.

Bhupinder ‘Bo’ Singh, Houston. Born in Bhamo, Myanmar, he now lives in Houston, US, where he runs a manufacturing company formed with his son. A mechanical engineer by training, he has authored a number of books, including Connecting with the Master – A collection of essays on topics related to Sikhism (2006) and In Bully’s Eyes – An Illustrated Children’s book on Bullying (2019).
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