Minister Bismillah Waziri was a man deeply troubled. Lost in thought during his journey from the Ministry of Agriculture in Kabul to the village of ‘Hatam Kala’ in the Paghman district, he was on his way to meet a small group of farmers. Gazing through the window of the van, all he could see was the barren land of the village—its fertility lost over the extended years of war.

Recently appointed as the Agriculture Minister of Afghanistan, Waziri’s qualifications weren’t the reason for his appointment. Compared to others, he was more educated. He could read and understand English, enabling him to communicate with the world and seek help—that was the sole reason. He never aspired to be an Agriculture Minister, but circumstances forced him into the role.

Born in the agricultural village of ‘Hatam Kala,’ Waziri was the fifth among seven siblings, the weakest among them. The war started when he was 15, lasting a brutal 20 years and consuming his entire family and over 70% of his village population. The remaining survivors were crippled, with many losing their legs or hands. The little ones were too young to contribute to any productive work. Everywhere, people were desperately searching for food.

Schools, offices, hospitals, and houses lay damaged beyond repair. Continuous bombing, shelling, and the mixing of explosives in the soil had rendered the land barren. No one had tended to the land or engaged in cultivation for years, and those who were willing were often killed in surprise raids.

Compared to the daunting task of cultivating crops and feeding the public, war had been relatively easy. Destruction and causing maximum damage to the opposition were the only requirements. Waziri, initially weak, felt a surge of power the first time he held a gun in his hands. He became a formidable warrior, conquering with his newfound weapon.

Countries competed to supply weapons to various factions, with militants arriving from different nations armed with the latest weaponry. Waziri was fortunate to be trained in all these new weapons, enjoying his ability to master any weapon quickly. However, he now questioned the utility of those skills as an Agriculture Minister, realizing that they couldn’t fill empty stomachs.

Foreign interest waned as soon as the war ended. The militants supporting different factions left, seeking new conflicts. The once-peaceful country was left in the hands of the Taliban, who, lacking experience, struggled to govern. During the war, everything was extracted from the villagers, leaving nothing behind. The new leadership, only familiar with warfare, faced the immense responsibility of rebuilding.

Initially, they created fake charity sites to solicit funds, but these were soon exposed, and people stopped donating. Attempts to connect with rogue countries failed, as even they weren’t interested without the allure of war. Good countries kept their distance from the new rulers.

International organizations offered some help, but with little hope of rebuilding in the near future, member countries lost faith. To exacerbate matters, countries that had accepted Afghan refugees started repatriating them.

As the van passed through the remains of a school, Waziri remembered it as the place where he had received his initial education. The school was no more, and next to it, the teachers’ building stood on the verge of collapse. Waziri recalled the day he and his group had killed 63 out of 81 teachers because the school had allowed girls to study. Despite never marrying, he now realized the gravity of his past actions.

Waziri asked the driver to stop the vehicle and entered the damaged teachers’ building. Empty now, he went to the ground-floor library, where books were stored in large glass shelves. He remembered shooting a school teacher—the lady who taught him science—mercilessly as she stood in front of the glass shelf during his rampage.

The books remained, but many were damaged or eaten by moths. Opening the largest shelf, Waziri found one book that was surprisingly intact. He took it and returned to the van. As the van moved forward, he opened the book and read the title, “Crop Cultivation Techniques for Small Farmers.” Eagerly, he began to read.