Mohsin Hamid on Afghanistan — and the case against wars

Mohsin Hamid in the Financial Times:

A little over half a century ago, in 1970, my mother’s parents took her to Kabul to shop for her wedding. From Lahore, Kabul was only a short flight or a long drive away, much closer than Karachi. It was the first time my mother had left Pakistan.

They stayed in a hotel but were shown around Kabul by a family friend, a young Persian-speaking Afghan woman who had attended medical school in Lahore with my mother’s sister. This friend wore stylish western dresses, as many well-off women in Kabul did, and my mother was struck by how modern and cosmopolitan Kabul seemed. The city was full of westerners, including, in my mother’s recounting, throngs of “hippies and druggies”. My mother loved it at once.

One day they went for a picnic in a park. There was a river or a canal nearby, and beside this body of water some western women were sunbathing in bikinis. A group of Afghan men in traditional attire emerged from the trees and began to stare. Clearly uncomfortable, the women covered themselves and ran off.

My mother’s party all laughed as they watched this scene unfold. It seemed harmless enough. “Westerners come here,” their Afghan friend said, “and forget where they are.”

More here.