Feature: Afghan New Year marked with hope for peace
By Abdul Haleem, Jawed Omid
KABUL, March 22 (Xinhua) -- On the eve of the Afghan New Year, President Hamid Karzai called on Taliban militants to lay down arms and join the government in the rebuilding of Afghanistan.
"I once again call on Taliban as brothers... to lay down foreigners' arms from your shoulders," Karzai said in his message.
"Come back to your beloved motherland and home and join hands with your fellow countrymen for progress and development of your country and for strengthening Islam and Afghanhood so that our country could be relieved from foreign dependence," Karzai said.
He also congratulated the Afghan people on the occasion and expressed the hope that the New Year would bring peace, security and progress to Afghanistan.
As the country celebrated Nawroz (New Year) on Thursday, there was only one wish in the minds of most Afghans: they can finally live in peace.
"We are fed up with the endemic war and continued conflicts in Afghanistan. Today I am praying for the return of lasting peace to our country, something that we have always longed for,"Mohammad Jamil, 35, said.
Jamil said without peace, Afghans cannot hope to be happy and the country cannot move forward.
Nawroz, which falls on Thursday (March 21), the first day of the year 1392 in the Afghan calendar, is celebrated amid tight security across the country.
Nawroz has been declared a public holiday and Afghans from all walks of life celebrated the day by holding parties, visiting families and friends, touring shrines and holy places, and praying for a better future.
Afghanistan has suffered a lot from more than three decades of war and conflicts.
Even on Nawroz, two blasts claimed the lives of eight Afghans and injured eight others in the southern and northern parts of the country.
On Wednesday, a Taliban loyalist, who served as police constable, opened fire on his colleagues in Qadis district of northwestern Badghis province killing five policemen. He later joined the Taliban militants.
Meanwhile, Afghans are worrying over the withdrawal of NATO-led troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014 in the midst of the unabated suicide attacks and ambuscades staged by Taliban militants in different parts of the country.
"It is a critical issue and a matter of concern for all Afghans that the Taliban-led insurgency is widespread and yet the NATO-led coalition forces are withdrawing from Afghanistan with the mission, the war on terror, still unresolved," Faridon, 38, said.
Faridon appealed to the Taliban to give up fighting and join the government-initiated peace process for the sake of their country.