The Panjshir name driven from the river Panchami mentioned in Mahabharata the Hindu scripture. The name is also said to be on the legend of five brothers dating back to the 10th century. They constructed a dam for king Mahmood Ghazi to protect from water flooding in the valley. It’s calm amidst the chaos.
Significantly, Panjshir Province is located in eastern Afghanistan, near the Afghanistan – Pakistan border. The literacy rate is 27%. The province dominated by the Panjshir Valley and surrounding mountains. The population in the valley consists of Tajik, Hazara, Pashai, Nuristani, Ghilzai Pashtun communities, and other minority groups.
WHY IN FOCUS?
With the ongoing takeover of Kabul by the Taliban, the Panjshir valley has been safe from the chaotic atmosphere in Afghanistan since the NATO-backed government from 2001 to 2021. Listing the few reasons below-
1. Geopolitical location – The region is folded in the Hindu-Kush mountains which provides it with a natural defence from the Taliban and even the soviet dating back to the 1990s. Access to the valley is possible only through narrow passage created by the Panjshir River, making it easy to defend. Panjsher Range to the north and the Kuhestan Range to the south; the mountain peaks covered permanently in the snow; small areas of rain-fed crops.
2. The Panjshir resistance– Also known as the second resistance. The most famous anti-Taliban Ahmad Shah Massoud protected the entrance of Panjshir who is said to be assassinated in 2001 by Al-Queada. Amrullah Saleh, Bismillah Khan Mohammadi are the other leaders along with Ahmad Massoud (son of Ahmad Shah Massoud).
3. Human Terrain- The Panjshir mostly consists of ethnic Tajiks, the second largest after Pashtun’s in Afghanistan. Ahmad Shah Massoud supported Islam only that in his personal view, women should get equality and the institutions built on democratic principles.
4. Economy– The valley is known for its emeralds, thus a source of finance resistance movements against the power. The valley has always demanded an autonomous status from the centre.
Massoud vowed he would not surrender to the Taliban. “I write from the Panjshir Valley today, ready to follow in my father’s footsteps, with Mujahideen fighters who are prepared to once again take on the Taliban,” he wrote in the Washington Post newspaper. “We have stores of ammunition and arms that we have patiently collected since my father’s time because we knew this day might come.”
Massoud and other leaders seeking support from other countries seeking peace, progress and stability with France, the EU and U.S.A. They were aware the day would come, with Ashraf Ghani fleeing and willfully failing to stand by his country.
Furthermore, Amrullah Saleh (who declared himself as the acting President as per Afghanistan’s constitution) tweeted “Nations must respect the rule of law, not violence. Afghanistan is too big for Pakistan to swallow and too big for Talibs to govern. Don’t let your histories have a chapter on humiliation and bowing to terror groups.”
Currently, the Taliban resistance seems strong, but the uncertainty is “how strong and for how long”. Ahmad Massoud said they can settle the situation with peace but will not surrender. The option of peace talks comes with no international support is being provided and low on defence resources. Presently, the Taliban forces are major in number and strongly equipped.
Moreover, Taliban’s currently stopping the access to food and fuels to the other regions, knocking at doors and abducting women and elders using them as a shield to move around. Panjshir is currently preparing for the worst, and the people are united.
The Taliban forces have amassed outside Panjshir entrance on the other hand Saleh also claimed that the situation is under control while the vital Salang highway has been blocked by the resistance army. According to a recent report Taliban has threatened to attack if Ahmad Massoud doesn’t surrender peacefully.
Above all, hoping that the resistance is strong enough to protect the “Valley of Resistance” with uncertainty surrounding The Oasis of Calm.
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