By Shadi Khan Saif
KABUL, Afghanistan (AA) - Marred by years of raging conflicts, war-weary Afghanistan marked on Monday the centenary of independence at yet another historic crossroads.
Afghanistan gained independence from British influence on Aug. 19, 1919.
A roadside flag vendor in the capital Kabul, Hayatullah Khan told Anadolu Agency a recent spate of deadly attacks in the city had seemed to have dampened the spirit of celebrations.
“Last week, during Eid and before that people were buying flags very generously. Usually, on Independence eve we have very good sales, but the suicide attack has made everyone sad,” he said, referring to a Daesh-claimed terror bombing on Saturday at a wedding in Kabul which killed 64 people and injured more than 180.
In its recent past, the landlocked country linking South and Central Asia has gone through unmatched upheavals. After relinquishing monarchy in the 20th century, Afghanistan transformed into a republic and later experimented with communism and hardline Islamism, before adopting the western-backed capitalist democracy with the U.S. invasion in 2001.
On the government level, an array of festivities has been organized to mark the day in style in spite of the otherwise bitter realities of ongoing armed insurgency, crippling poverty and political divisions in the country.
All key roads, squares and public offices are decorated with the portraits of King Amanullah Khan, leader of the independence movement, and the national flag.
Much of the centenary celebrations revolved around the iconic 19th Century Darul Aman palace in Kabul. This palace, designed by German architects in the 19th Century, was devastated during the bloody civil war in the 90s. President Ashraf Ghani has commissioned its reconstruction at a cost of $9 million.
Ghani, a former World Bank economist, has coined the slogan of ‘State Builder’ for his re-election campaign vowing to complete the legacy of reforms by King Amanullah Khan, who he idealizes.
Addressing a solemn ceremony at the palace, Ghani vowed to uproot Daesh’s Afghanistan chapter ISKP.
“Enemy of our freedom and independence, enemy of our people and country cannot see this celebration and happiness. This enemy can’t face our powerful armed forces," said the Afghan president, who also blamed the Taliban for providing the terrorists with a platform for such barbaric attacks on mosques, schools and public spaces.
The Taliban insurgents -- who are engaged in crucial peace talks with the U.S. -- continue to propagate that the country remains under American occupation, hence there is no need to celebrate Independence Day.
In eastern Nangarhar province, a large number of devotees of the late king arrived from different parts of the country to pay their respect and offer prayers at his grave. The grave is placed inside a modest mausoleum in Jalalabad city.
Members of Sikh and Hindu minorities joined their Muslim country mates in Jalalabad for the traditional ‘attan’ and ‘dandya’ dances throughout the night.
As a grim reminder of the stark realities of life in Afghanistan, a string of at least seven back-to-back blasts rocked Jalalabad on Independence Day injuring at least 30 people, mostly civilians.