Many Afghans who fled to Pakistan to escape life under a Taliban regime say fear of the group's fighters marrying women and girls from their families was a major reason behind their decision to leave their homeland.
Khalid Shinwari, 25, is more than relieved after managing to flee Taliban-controlled Afghanistan and reaching Pakistan in recent days.
A father of three, Shinwari's family first moved to Pakistan during the Afghan civil war of the 1990s that brought the Taliban to power.
"My father then thought that Pakistan would be a safe place to come to, given the volatile situation in Afghanistan," he said, adding that his family had settled in Kohat. "We spent several years in that city working hard day and night."
By 2007, the situation in Afghanistan stabilized and a lot of investment began coming into the country, leading to faster economic growth and booming business, Shinwari said.
"Then we decided to move back to our country," he told DW. His family had been happy to be back in their homeland despite the turmoil in parts of the country, he said.
"I started working in a Kabul restaurant baking bread and earning enough to support my family that was living in Nangarhar. My family was doing well, with all brothers saving enough money to construct a house."But the collapse of the Afghan civilian government and the swift takeover of the country by the Taliban last month frightened Shinwari's family.
"There were rumors in the areas adjacent to ours that the Taliban would demand girls. I have four sisters, two of them unmarried. We undertook an arduous journey to save these two unmarried sisters."
"I did not want them to be forced to marry Taliban fighters," he said. Leaving his ancestral house was painful, he stressed, but he had to take that step for the sake of his two sisters.
Narrating the ordeal he underwent while traveling to Pakistan, he said: "We walked for three days, paying different transport guys who took away our money and fled. We left everything at our house and now live in Rawalpindi. I am working at a restaurant while my other brothers are also working. We are happy that our sisters are safe now."
Vegetable seller Tariq Khan, who also hails from Nangarhar, said he left the country as he was worried about the safety of his 10-year-old daughter. "I did not want these militants to cast an evil eye on my daughter. Fearing for the safety of my daughter, I came here when the Taliban were conquering rural areas."
"Now, my worst fears are turning true," he said, adding that his elder brother Mir Bacha has three daughters aged between 12 and 17. His other brother, Majid Khan, has four daughters aged between 10 and 16.
"They are all concerned about their daughters, fearing that the Taliban would definitely ask them to marry off the girls with their militants."
Khan says his family call him every now and then, pleading to make arrangements for their travel to Pakistan. "But the borders are closed, how can I do anything for them?"
Since the Taliban's seizure of power in Afghanistan, rumors have been rife that the group's fighters were collecting information about unmarried girls and widows.
"It is not only a rumor. It is correct that the Taliban have collected information about the girls and widows. This frightened many families, who then migrated to Pakistan," Syed Muhammad Ullah, a young man from Jaghori district of Ghazni province, told DW.
Anwar Hussaini, an ethnic Hazara from the same district, said that he did not personally witness this. "But we had to flee because we were worried about our daughters and family members. Since the Taliban entered my area, my son has been missing."
His daughter, Fariba Hussaini, said that since she was a teacher working for an NGO, she had to flee along with her family members to avoid the wrath of the militants.
Some Afghans argue that the Taliban are trying to give an impression in urban areas of Afghanistan that they have changed, but that in rural areas the situation has been very different.
"In rural areas they are not only targeting former government employees, but also casting an evil eye on women, forcing them to leave their homes," Ali Raza, from Pakistan's western city of Quetta, told DW.DW for more
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