National Geographic : 1993 Oct
comes from the northwest, rippling fields of wheat like ocean waves. We wander down to the road, where scores of Kuchi, nomads who have crisscrossed Afghanistan for centuries, are driving sheep north for summer grazing. Irrigation canals destroyed in the Soviet attacks again gurgle with fresh water. As the animals sweep by, Ashraf leans over and picks up a newborn lamb and hugs it. Back at the house Nasrullah bows and kiss es his father's hands. "I will be back soon," he says. "But first I have a promise to keep." With Ashraf and Faizuddin, he has vowed to take Nasrat, the former army sergeant, to look for his brother up in Peshghur. Late in the afternoon of the second day we drive into Peshghur, a shady outpost where the valley narrows. We enter the town with some trepidation, not knowing what we will find. As we drive past the ruins of the garrison where Nasrat's brother was last seen alive, it becomes obvious that the fighting was grue some. The former sergeant stares out the window, then starts to tremble. Finally, he slumps forward, sobbing, and buries his face in his hands. No one in the jeep speaks. Then, from his seat beside Nasrat, Ashraf wraps his arms around his former enemy's shoulders, pulling him to his chest. He holds him, and Nasrat weeps softly for the next 15 minutes. At what was once a mujahidin base in Barak, Nasrullah takes Nasrat to meet a red bearded mullah who is the keeper of the books of prisoners. "They have all long since been released," he tells Nasrat and takes him by the arm to a shed beside the house, where Nasrat frantically searches through the lists of those who lived to be prisoners. His brother's name is not there. The mullah offers tea. POKING THROUGH RUBBLE for pre cious stones, emerald miners work a tunnel in the HinduKush mountains, 70 miles northeastof Kabul. Gem dealers say Af ghan emeralds are among the world's most beautiful and could earn much needed cash for reconstruction.But primitiveand dan gerous mining techniques, such as using explosivesfrom leftoverSoviet bombs to blast away limestone, destroy much of the cache. Nasrat tries but cannot drink. "Go home and pray," the mullah says. After dinner at a smoky tea shop that night, Faizuddin, the former torture victim, takes Nasrat out for a walk in a grove of trees. A full moon lights the natural park, and the scent of juniper wafts in the air. "Give it up," Faizuddin says. "Your brother is gone, and you are only tormenting yourself. I know from my own experience that the past must be buried. You must live for the future. The past will kill you." That night, Faizuddin and Nasrat begin a lasting friendship. What Faizuddin does not tell Nasrat is that he took part in the attack on the Peshghur garrison.