By Ram Khatry, Sydney
18 October 2016
A veteran of Afghanistan’s thriving armed security industry who survived a deadly suicide bombing last June is crying foul over Nepal government’s decision to lift an embargo that barred its citizens from working in Afghanistan.
Amrit Rokaya Chhetri, who claims to have worked for both American and Canadian embassies in Kabul over the last eight years, told southasia.com.au that he is still haunted by horrible memories of headless bodies he found scattered around him when he gained consciousness seconds after Taliban’s human bomb blew up his bus on June 20.
Mr Chhetri, who worked in Nepal Police for seven years before he took up a more lucrative security job in the Afghan capital, also claims that the Government of Nepal cowered under the pressure of Kathmandu-based western embassies for lifting the ban because they badly needed Nepalese men to protect their fellow-officials in Kabul.
On June 23, three days after the suicide attack, KP Oli Government had placed a ban on Nepalese migrant workers from travelling to four conflict-ridden nations – Afghanistan, Syria, Lybia and Iraq. While the ban on Afghanistan was lifted on October 9, the embargo remains in place for the rest three.
Mr Chhetri was one of six survivors of the suicide bombing that killed 13 Nepalese security guards that morning, as they left their camp for the Canadian embassy in the so-called “green zone”. Speaking in Nepali from Surkhet in western Nepal, he told southasia.com.au that he was lucky to be alive because he did a “handshake with death” and came back to life when the Taliban suicide bomber targeted the bus he and his friends were on. At least half of his friends did not have their heads attached to their bodies when he came to, he recounted the horrible incident. He apparently was too afraid to move immediately after the blast fearing snipers would target him if he showed signs of life. So he covered himself with the body of his friend, he added, coming out only when he heard friendly voices looking for survivors.
According to the father of a nine year old son, the Government of Nepal has done nothing substantial so far in terms of sorting out the mess of that June 20 bombing. The bereaved families of the 13 victims have received only US$30,000 whereas seriously wounded like himself have received nothing. Given this, it was too early on the part of the government to lift the ban, he said during two rounds of conversations over telephone and voice chat. “What if a bigger incident happens tomorrow?” Mr Chhetri expressed his frustration indicating the government has not done proper homework to ensure Nepalese men are fairly treated by their employers in Afghanistan, let alone confronting the Canadian government to secure fitting compensation to the families of his deceased colleagues.
When asked what should have happened before the Nepalese government lifted the ban on security jobs in Afghanistan, he said in addition to providing foolproof security to Nepalese security guards right from the moment they arrive at the Kabul airport to their stay within their camps, the Nepalese government must take it up with the respective employers to ensure that Nepalese citizens are treated same as American, British and Canadian nationals working in Afghanistan.
“We get less salary than them already, although we work harder (for 12 hours everyday), the incentives they get (is lot more than us)….if they get US$ 300,000 in case of death, we also should get the same amount of money,” Mr Rokaya demanded.
The Suicide bombing survivor asserted that there should be no discrimination between what they get in case of death and injuries and what Nepalese guards are given, “We must be treated same as them.”
Because Nepal is not a western country, the benefits (for death, disability, injuries etc.) given to Nepalese guards are “four, five times lesser” than what is available for western employees which he said was not right because lives of all nationalities must have equal values.
“Where is Nepal government’s attention to these things?,” the former Nepal Police man asked.
Mr Chhetri claimed he has developed clinical depression as a result of the trauma he suffered from the suicide attack. His doctors has put him on medication for a year, he noted.
“Money is good, Nepalese are doing good. But that will remain so only until something bad happens. For instance, look at what happened to us,” he cautioned, drawing his government’s attention to the matter.