by Abdul Haleem, Jawid Omid
KABUL, March 21 (Xinhua) -- "The endemic war has destroyed our life, you see, it is more than three decades that the flames of war have been devouring the Afghans and this country. Today my greatest wish is to see ending of the war and restoring lasting peace in Afghanistan," said a jubilant Kabul resident Mohammad Musa.
Attired in new dress and accompanying his family members on the way to Qarga, an artificial lake to enjoy Nawruz or New Year festival in a peaceful environment, Musa, 35 whispered cheerfully that Nawruz is the day to "enjoy" the life.
Nawruz which means new year and falls on March 21 is celebrated in Afghanistan, Iran, central Asian states, parts of Pakistan as the beginning of new year, the year of 1396 in Persian calendar.
Marking Nawruz as celebration of nature's rebirth and first day of spring in new year, according to Afghans, dates back to more than 5,500 years ago and Afghans usually start the year by planting sapling to keep the country green.
Nawruz is a public holiday in Afghanistan during which both the public and private radio and television channels besides airing special programs including music also urge the people to contribute in greening the land.
Afghan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani in his message to congratulate Nawrus also stated that any Afghan citizens should plant at least one sapling to develop greenery in Afghanistan.
Taliban militants fighting the government to regain power had outlawed Nawruz festival as un-Islamic practice during their reign which collapsed in late 2001.
Identically to Taliban and like-minded extremist groups some religious circles are also opposing Nawruz festivities in the conflict-battered Afghanistan.
Like yester years, the war-weary Afghans celebrated Nawruz in Kabul and other cities amid tight security and so far, no untoward incident has been reported. To ensure security during Nawruz festival, the Interior Ministry has deployed police personnel in sensitive areas including shrines and mosques.
The big festival was held in northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif where some half million people, according to locals, had gathered at the historic blue mosque to mark Nawruz, the rebirth of nature and pray collectively for the end of war in Afghanistan.
Here in Kabul, thousands of people from across the country gathered in and around a shrine in Karta-e-Sakhi locality to beg for the end of war and restoring lasting peace in their militancy-riddled country.
"Last year, the year of 1395 was challenging in term of security as thousands of people including civilians had lost their lives in the conflicts and thousands others left the country to escape extreme poverty," a Kabul resident Ramazan Ali, 31, told Xinhua.
"I am hopeful the year of 1396 would be the year of peace, economic development and prosperity in Afghanistan," Ali said with optimism.
"It is a good omen that we are celebrating Nawruz in a peaceful environment today and no security incident has been reported," murmured another Kabul dweller Sayed Bashir, 33.
"Since the herald of Nawruz began with peace, I am hopeful for future and I am sure that the new year, the year of 1396, will be the end of war and returning durable peace in Afghanistan," the joyful Bashir said.