I met Waheed almost a decade ago in Peshawar in Pakistan at a modest function that the Sanayee Development Foundation was holding for its employees. Waheed worked for SDF; I was a new teacher for their affiliate English institute, Kabul English Language Center.
Back then, we --- young, partially-educated Afghans --- were a much different group. Our country had been given a second chance months earlier with the fall of the Taliban. So we were all looking very much forward to going back home and contributing not just to rebuilding our country, but rebuilding our lives.
Over the course of the next two years, I met Waheed several times. Every time, he was more cordial then before. He was smart, well-mannered, kind, and very soft-spoken. I never remember him being in any other mood than "good". I must admit, to an extent, I and others looked up to him. But he was never a show off.
But after spending years trying to contribute in Afghanistan, finding my chances of returning were dwindling, I was surprised to find out that Waheed was working for the Karzai Administration. How could someone like Waheed work for someone like this President? But then it dawned on me. Given the condition in which our country found itself, we could not choose to be picky over where and how we could help.
I take pride in the fact that he was perhaps the best communications director and spokesperson Karzai has had in a decade. That pride remained even when I heard criticism of Waheed’s behavior. I knew him. How could he be the person desribed by these people? Maybe he was flawed, of course, but he was certainly the best of the bunch in an administration whose only accomplishment so far has been the destruction of Afghanistan’s chances of becoming an honourable member of the community of nations.
The truth here is that, although many educated Afghans understand the futility of working for the current administration or continued efforts to improve the situation, our hunger for peace in our country has not died. We may be grasping at straws here, but if that is what is left, I think Waheed and others like him will continue to try and hold on to a fragment hope.
No one deserves their country being in a state of war for 30 years, even less going through the brutality of administrations that are each worse than the other. But we are stuck in that cycle. Is there a way out? For now, no. But are we going to give up on trying to break that cycle?
I’m sure Waheed will find better ways of contributing to improve the situation in the country than working for President Karzai’s administration, which is as much to blame for the current chaos as the Taliban. My best wishes to him in that effort.