War-weary shepherd Gul yearning for peace

War-weary shepherd Gul yearning for peace

KABUL (Agencies): Leaning against a rock at the foot of a hill, grazing his cattle and warbling peace poems, a war-weary herdsman hums: “Let’s stop talking of guns, bullets and destruction of our conflict-torn country.”

On the lush-green slopes of the mountain, the shepherd’s song for peace adds to the beauty of the incoming spring season. His song gently mingles with the soft breeze moving across the idyllic setting.

Hungry for peace, Riyaz Gul (17) has wrapped bread in his sheet. Having placed his sheet as a pillow beneath his head, he tends his herd and sings heart-touching peace songs.

This agency reporter gets closer to Gul and awakens him out of his dream world. When he comes to know the journalist wants to interview him, the shepherd quips: “Welcome, I am looking for someone for a heart-to-heart discussion.” Originally hailing from Parwan’s Siagird district, he has settled as a herdsman in the Qarabagh town of Kabul. Since he could not go to school due to ubiquitous insecurity and economic hardship, he has to eke out a living for his family.

In this way, he tells the tale of his life, which is full of privations and threats: “I had a lot of dreams, which could not come true due to war and poverty. Though my parents are alive, I consider myself an orphan because my father is sick and cannot work. Thus I have to look after him, my mother, sister and two small brothers.”

Living a difficult life away from his family, Gul feels anguished. However, he is forced to do everything possible to earn a livelihood for his family and to ensure that his brothers are not deprived of education like him

Gul says there is no work opportunity in his locality and the war between the Taliban and government forces makes it even harder for the people to live in peace. Many youngsters drop out of school when they fall in love with the gun and take to trenches, he deplores.He believes working far from home is better than taking up arms and being involved in the bloodshed of own people. He, therefore, has opted to become a herdsman, living away from home.

While complaining non-stop of war, he laments Afghans are being killed daily on one pretext or the other. They leave behind widows and orphans. Should peace return, he thinks, bloodshed and sorrow will go away.

Asked to hum the peace tune he was singing earlier, he started Karan Khan’s inspiring song: “Stop talking of guns, we will no more talk of our country’s destruction, won’t talk this anymore.” He loves the uplifting song and sings it over and over again because it carries a message of peace.

Humming the song, at times he falls asleep. But he still feels the pain of his life that does not allow him to rest. He carries a small radio in mountains and listens to the news. However, he never hears good news for the Afghans and prays for listening to the welcome news of peace and hearing no more about death and destruction and bickering among the political elite.

All Afghans, young or old, are duty-bound to sincerely strive for peace, believes the shepherd, who wants the government and the Taliban to join hands and steer the country out of the current crisis.

“If all of us stand united, we will be in a position to realise the longstanding dream of our countrymen — bringing peace to our homeland,” Gul continues.The Taliban and the US signed a peace agreement in Doha on February 29, boosting prospects for the launch of intra-Afghan negotiations. Gul is aware of the deal, which has strengthened his optimism.

“Nobody knows about future, whether it will be bright or dull. However, the establishment of peace will enable all to lead a happy existence. No problem if I could not attend school. I would be able to do other things in a peaceful environment, without tension. My brothers and other children will be able to go to school and people in penury will find work.”

Everything is pleasurable and tasty in peace, including tending cattle, according to the teenager, who says herdsmen are scared of landmines and attacks in remote mountainous areas. If peace is restored, he adds, this concern will be addressed.

Gul is optimistic Almighty Allah will soon answer the prayers of his mother for lasting peace in Afghanistan. All his dreams, including his longing for peace, would become a reality one day, he hopes.

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