Tue, Sep

“A Country to Build” Part Six: President Ghani’s interview with Time Magazine


What President Ghani had to say about his remarks to the BBC last year that he had “no sympathy” for Afghan migrants fleeing the war-torn country.

ashraf ghani

I’ve lived in exile for 24 years. I was never discriminated against. I went to the best schools, I taught at the best schools, I worked at the World Bank. I was given all my jobs on the phone. But I was very unhappy. I’m happy [now]. I have the hardest job in the world. I get a billion curses a day. But I’m happy. I was not talking about lack of sympathy. I was talking about love. I came back because my textbooks, my elementary school textbooks, compelled me to come. That was my message. It got distorted. Afghans are a networked society. When I go to Afghan villages, I ask two questions: how many of you have been abroad? How many of you have relatives abroad? Sixty percent of hands go up. In 1978, the answer to these two questions would probably have been zero point zero something. It needs to be looked at as an organized process. Who is underwriting this? People are spending $30,000 to $50,000 to migrate and lose their lives in the Mediterranean. That’s the part I’ve no sympathy for — the smugglers. And it’s also an appeal. When they go, when highly educated people go, and become manual laborers — it breaks my heart. There is a country to build here.

On the challenge of absorbing the recent surge in returning refugees from Pakistan, Iran and Europe. Last year, more than 600,00 returned from Pakistan alone, amid a breakdown in relations between the two countries

If we have half a loaf of bread, we will divide it with the returnees. But this will make Afghanistan whole. As long as we have refugees, we are not whole.

Those that have gone to Australia, to North America, to Europe — their second and third generation, we hope, will do what the Irish and the Indians and the Chinese have done… But the refugees that are in Iran and Pakistan, and some in Greece and others, have difficult conditions. And we need to be able to prepare. Again, it forces us to speed up certain parts of the economy.