by Shristi Kafle
KATHMANDU, June 24 (Xinhua) -- Two days after a suicide bomb attack in Afghanistan killed 12 Nepalese people, Nepal received the remains of the deceased on a chartered Nepal Airlines flight.
Nepal not only airlifted 12 coffins to its Tribhuwan International Airport, but also welcomed 24 migrant workers who have been working in war-torn Afghanistan over the last few years.
Following the announcement Nepal would bring back migrant workers wanting to leave Afghanistan, 24 Nepalese who were working as security guards for a Canadian mission in Kabul returned home out of terror and fear.
At the airport, they seemed relieved to have landed in their own country, after their ordeals in the high-risk region of Kabul, where some of their friends' hopes and lives were claimed.
Maniram Khanal, from the Kaski district, is among those who returned on Wednesday after staying in Afghanistan for five years. Khanal, a retired Nepal Army official, told Xinhua that the latest violent attack is evidence of how risky their daily lives were.
"We knew about the risks from the very beginning but such attacks were centered outside of Kabul. But now, as violent acts are happening in broad day light inside the main city, life became so risky that I immediately decided to return," Khanal said
Khanal, a father of two, was on his night-shift duty on the day of attack while his colleagues were in a mini bus on their way to their duty station. The former soldier said that the distance between the living quarters and the Canadian mission was less than a 10-minute journey, but full of risks.
"If we had an armored vehicle instead of a mini bus for transportation, then the loss would be quite less. The armored vehicle can carry 4 or 5 people which would be comparatively safer. Afghanistan is no way a safe place for Nepalese workers," Khanal said.
Among those who lost their lives was Amrit Bahadur Thapa, from the Lamjung district, who was Khanal's roommate for the past year and a half, a memory which pulls at Khanal's heart every minute.
Along with Khanal, some 147 Nepalese used to work as security guards for the British security consultancy firm Sabre International based in the Afghan capital. The returnees, mostly retired Nepal Army and police officials, claimed that other diplomatic missions like those of the U.S. and Australia have better security arrangements than the Canadian one.
Most of these security guards earn an average of Rs 100,000 (nearly 1,000 U.S. dollars) monthly, which they admit is impossible to earn in Nepal.
According to the Department of Foreign Employment, nearly 9,000 Nepalese migrants had received permission to work as security guards in war-hit Afghanistan in the last 10 years, while there is no record on Nepalese working there off the books.
Earlier, Nepal had imposed a blanket ban on Nepalese working in Afghanistan and Iraq after 12 Nepalese were killed in Iraq in 2004. Following a partial reversal, some Nepalese could receive a permit to work only in green-zones in Afghanistan, where the United Nations and other diplomatic agencies have their bases.
"I had chosen Afghanistan thinking that it's a better destination for former Army officials. In Gulf countries, the work is difficult and the pay is low. Since we don't have enough opportunities here, it made sense to leave the country," 51-year-old Lal Bahadur Tamang, another returnee, told Xinhua.
A resident of the Tanahun district, some 170 km from the capital, Tamang said he did not want to work overseas any more, adding he would start his own business. Most of the returnees echoed Tamang's sentiments, with some saying that even if they have to die, they want to die in their own motherland.
Those back from Afghanistan said that many of their friends in Kabul have also decided to return as soon as possible, as their companies do not care about their security.
Thanking the Nepalese government for bringing them back home, Bhagwan Banajra, maintained that the Nepalese youth should opt not to go to Afghanistan or other risky destinations like Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.
"The attackers have started targeting Gurkhas so the Nepal government must stop sending its citizens to their graves. The government must create job opportunities here," Banjara said, while exiting the airport with his luggage.
At a time when 1,500 to 2,000 Nepalese people leave the nation every day due to poverty, political instability and unemployment, many believe that the Kabul incident has been a big lesson for the Nepalese government.