By Fariba Nawa
October 8, 2001
Agence France Presse
Islamabad — Bride-to-be Zinab Najam was supposed to send invitation cards, buy wedding clothes and book a banquet hall for her anticipated wedding next month.
Instead, she is watching the news worried that her fiancee may be dodging rockets and missiles in Kabul.
Najam, 28, an Afghan who has been living in Islamabad for several years, became engaged to Homayun Darwish, a distant relative in Kabul, a year ago.
The couple were anxious to wed since they barely saw each other during their engagement period.
But the US and British attacks on Afghanistan, and the belief that they were imminent, have delayed their union indefinitely, with the closure of the Afghan-Pakistan border.
Najam and Darwish’s wedding is one of dozens of Afghan weddings cancelled in Pakistan.
The crisis triggered by the September 11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington have dampened the wedding season here. Few are in the mood for celebrating and those whose fiancees live in other countries are afraid to come to Pakistan, couples say.
But Najam is taking the disappointment in her stride.
“Every girl has a wish to have a great wedding. But that’s not a priority. I want there to be peace first,” she said. “What can I do? It’s my destiny.”
In Peshawar, the bustling northwestern Pakistani city that is home to more than a million Afghan refugees, there are several Afghan weddings on every normal weekend.
The weekends are anything but normal now.
With the threat of US strikes on Afghanistan becoming a reality, Afghan refugees, who manage to sneak past the border guards, continue to arrive in the city.
And while long-term refugees who have settled in Peshawar keep working and going to school, they have cut entertainment out of their lives.
“It’s almost like we’re in mourning,” said an Afghan who has been living in Peshawar for 10 years. “But there’s no closure to this sadness.”
While the couples who canceled their weddings are merely upset, the musicians they had hired to perform at their receptions are close to desperation.
There are more than 100 Afghan musicians in Peshawar who count on income from the wedding season to see them through the rest of the year.
Said Hamid Zia, a budding Afghan musician, had been booked for five performances this month to sing at weddings and parties. But after last month’s kamikaze attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon, they were all cancelled.
He normally books six to nine events a month but Zia’s performances are now limited to a few small birthday parties.
The 27-year-old singer said he loses 8,000 to 10,000 rupees (125-150 dollars) each time a wedding is cancelled.
A significant portion of Zia’s income used to go to supporting his family in Kabul — now he can barely support himself.
“I’m living off my savings. I’ll have to go back to Afghanistan if things don’t get better,” Zia said.
Even the wedding guests are complaining.
Palwasha Mirbacha, 18, studies hard all year in school and looks forward to the wedding season.
But the 10 weddings her family was invited to this season have all been postponed, robbing her of the opportunity to see all her relatives gathered together.
But Mirbacha put her disappointment into perspective.
“I don’t care about these weddings. I care about my country now. If peace comes, that will be the best celebration,” she said.