WASHINGTON: Former Afghan Finance Minister Khalid Payenda, who fled the country just before the Taliban takeover in August last year, now drives an Uber in Washington, the Guardian reported.
“If I complete 50 trips in the next two days, I receive a $95 bonus,” the Guardian quoted Payenda as saying to The Washington Post, from behind the wheel of a Honda Accord. The 40-year-old once oversaw a US-supported $6 billion budget. The Post reported that in one night earlier this week, he made “a little over $150 for six hours’ work, not counting his commute – a mediocre night”.
Payenda resigned as Finance Minister a week before the Taliban seized Kabul, as his relationship with former President Asraf Ghani deteriorated. Fearing the President would have him arrested, he left for the US, where he joined his family.
“We had 20 years and the whole world’s support to build a system that would work for the people,” Payenda said in a text message to a World Bank official in Kabul on the day the capital fell, quoted by the Post.
“All we built was a house of cards that came down crashing this fast. A house of cards built on the foundation of corruption.”
The Post recorded Payenda telling one passenger his move from Kabul to Washington had been “quite an adjustment”. He also said he was grateful for the opportunity to be able to support his family but, “right now, I don’t have any place. I don’t belong here and I don’t belong there. It’s a very empty feeling”.
“I saw a lot of ugliness, and we failed,” he said. “I was part of the failure. It’s difficult when you look at the misery of the people and you feel responsible.” Payenda told the Post he believed Afghans “didn’t have the collective will to reform, to be serious”. But he also said the US betrayed its commitment to democracy and human rights after making Afghanistan a centrepiece of post-9/11 policy.