With Pensions Scrapped, Afghan Retirees Forced To Work As Street Vendors

That has forced thousands of pensioners like Atel back to work, often as street vendors, to feed their families amid a devastating economic and humanitarian crisis in the country.
Afghan Retirees Forced:- The 70-year-old pensioner retired around five years ago. But since seizing power in 2021, the Taliban has stopped paying pensions. [RFA]
Afghan Retirees Forced:- The 70-year-old pensioner retired around five years ago. But since seizing power in 2021, the Taliban has stopped paying pensions. [RFA]

Afghan Retirees Forced:- The 70-year-old pensioner retired around five years ago. But since seizing power in 2021, the Taliban has stopped paying pensions.

That has forced thousands of pensioners like Atel back to work, often as street vendors, to feed their families amid a devastating economic and humanitarian crisis in the country.

"It's been nearly three years since we last received our pensions," Atel told RFE/RL's Radio Azadi. "I don't have the strength to do manual labor. But I buy onions and potatoes at the market each day and resell them."

The work is grueling, and he only earns around $1 per day. But Atel, who has a family of eight, said he has no choice but to work.

Mohammad Nasim is another pensioner who has been forced to find a job. He sells notebooks and pens on the street, earning around $1 per day.

"I don't have the means to do other work," Nasim, who has a disability, told Radio Azadi. "On the other hand, I'm in pain and I don't even have money to pay for my prescriptions."

'Un-Islamic'

An estimated 150,000 pensioners received a monthly payment of around $100 from the state before the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, where the retirement age is 65.

But retirees have not been paid their pensions since then, pushing some families toward starvation. Many of the pensioners served governments that had fought against the Taliban.

In April, the Taliban's spiritual leader, Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada, ordered his government to stop deducting retirement contributions from the salaries of civil servants, effectively dismantling the pension system. Akhundzada suggested the system was "un-Islamic."

The move triggered protests by retirees who said they cannot survive without state assistance.

Scores of retired civil servants and retired members of the armed forces staged a rally in Kabul on April 20. The protest was dispersed by the Taliban.

'Poorest People'

Mass unemployment and rising poverty as well as the lack of government assistance have forced the elderly and even children to find what work they can. The Taliban's severe restrictions on female employment has also deprived families of breadwinners.

Not all pensioners are able to work due to illness or their advanced age. And those who can find it difficult to secure even menial jobs.

"We have gray beards, our hands and feet tremble, and no one gives us work," a pensioner, who attended the April protest and spoke on condition of anonymity, told Radio Azadi.

Aafandi Sangar, head of the Afghan Pensioners Association, said the "poorest people in Afghanistan are pensioners who can no longer work."

"Some of them are doing hard work but some are sick [and unable to work]," he told Radio Azadi.

Sangar said pensioners will continue to protest and demand their rights from the Taliban government.

"This money is the personal money of the pensioners," he said. "It's not government money. Pensions are the inalienable right of every retiree." RFA/SP

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