Afghanistan, or historically Aryana, has been the cradle of different civilizations and religions. It is a place where several civilizations were born and then spread to different parts of the world.
However, the belief that Afghanistan’s strategic position has converted it into a centre of civilizations is half truth as it has the same geographical location as it had in the past; however, it is now exporting narcotics and terrorism to rest of the outside world.
The fact is that the nurturing and spreading of civilizations needs durable peace and friendly ties with different countries. The past shows that Afghanistan was both peaceful and enjoyed good ties with the rest of the world.
Regrettably, some forces used the Afghan soil for their nefarious designs, creating mistrust between Afghans and the outside world. It is because of those hidden forces that Afghans consider all foreigners as their enemies.
Events over the past three decades almost cut ties between the Afghan people and rest of the world and overshadowed their love of civilizations. For this reason the land of civilizations has emerged as hub of terror and miscreant activities, posing a threat to global peace and stability.
Before foreign interference, history proves, Afghanistan played a positive role in international affairs by not only promoting civilization but also proving the best commerce link between different countries of the globe.
Look, Balkh region of Afghanistan was a place of rest for the Aryan tribes who used to travel to the South, thus the area became the cradle of many civilizations. Due to its proximity to the Oxus River and its greenery, Balkh has been an attracting place to live in.
Maps are available in the Central Asia Research Centre of the Kashmir University that show that Balkh was the meeting ground between the Silk Route and a centuries-old cultural centre.
In those old days, the Silk Route played an important role in boosting international trade by creating vital links among Japan, Korea and China. Strategic trade routes from China, Mughulistan and northern India intersected in the Kashmir Valley before reaching Balkh.
Three routes, one from Tibet, Central Asia and Caucasus, a second from Pamir to northern Afghanistan and the third to the south leading to Pakhtunkhwa, Khyber Pass, Nangarhar, Kabul and Hindu Kush and Balkh, spread from this place.
The Silk Route passed through Balkh close to Bala Hesar, capital of the Yama Kingdom. Relics of that period exist to this date in Balkh despite years of war.
In this way, the roots of all the three roads from the north, east and south and onward to Herat, Marwa and Old Persia in the west lay in Balkh that formed a key intersection.
History proved that any country which is important from trade, agriculture and economic point of view is also developed in educational, cultural and social sectors. And Balkh was one of such fortunate cities in those days. Not only that Buddhist civilization reached there from the East and Greek from the West, but itself become the cradle of Zoroastrianism leaving its effects on the adjoining regions.
Xanthus was a historian before Herodotus. He writes that Zoroastrianism first emerged in Balkh. In this way, the history of this religion is traced back to 1080 years Before Christ (BC). Although, the date of birth of Zoroaster is not known, what is proven is that he was from Balkh.
Anyhow, Zoroaster emerged from Balkh, Buddha in the east, later the Greek civilization, appeared from the west and thus converted Balkh into the junction of civilizations. After the advent of Islam, this land was variously named as Ummul Bilad, Qubtul Islam and Darul Fuqaha.
Professor G Wishal, who has done comprehensive research on the Silk Route, writes in his paper entitled The Silk Route and old Civilization of Central Asia: “One link of the Buddhist triangle was spread to North up to Balkh, one branch was spread to Hada (area in Nangarhar) and Shapura (today’s Peshawar) and the other up to Bamyan. And in the south, one branch leads up to present-day Paktia.”
Different items and signs found in Balkh show that the area has been home to many civilizations. With all this discussion, we want to prove that the Afghan soil was of historical importance. That interaction was basically driven by trade interest. It was no coincidence.
The Silk Route further developed when the countries located on this road and their rulers decided to ensure its security. The road -- beginning from India and China, passing through the strategic and political centers of Afghanistan and reaching Rome -- connected the Hunan Empire of China in the east, Kushans in Central Asia and Rome in the West.
The question is: why has this land become a living hell for its people today? In their own country, once known for its grandeur, Afghans can’t roam around without fear, much less foreigners, because of a variety of threats like kidnapping, whole new methods of manslaughter, robberies and other grisly crimes.
I want to refer to the ruthless jokes being played on a nation that boasted of being the bastion of civilizations and history at one point in time.
Without going into the very old history, I wish to remind you of jihad [holy war] against the former Soviet Union. Due to blunders committed at that time, the whole world is now facing problems and seeking a way out.
Our neighboring and some other countries supported jihad at a time when many Afghans even did not know about the areas located around their villages, what to speak of outside civilizations, cultures and religions. At that time, they did not know how to fight even a conventional war. 
The common Afghan had only heard of Jihad, but did not know the philosophy behind it. Prophet Hazrat Muhammad (PBUH) taught his companions in the core principles of Islam and only then asked them to wage a jihad.
However, the international community, particularly the Muslim world, had done nothing to educate Afghan Mujahideen about this lofty Islamic ideal and the need for co-existing with other nations. They handed them only war gear to block the advance of the Red Army.
Little did they realise that a time would come when the Mujhahideen would be using the same weapons against themselves and the rest of the world. And this has happened to a larger extent.
The Islamic countries and the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) are doing nothing for bringing peace to Afghanistan, which has been left high and dry. This state of affairs is fuelling hatred among Afghans against the world at large.
Is it not the responsibility of the Islamic world to focus on their training and educating them on the basic teachings of Islam, a religion that preaches peace, progress and respect for humanity? Islam offers its followers hundreds of examples of how to deal the rest of humanity. The religion also teaches its followers how to deal with people of other religions.
The Afghan society is a melting pot of different cultures, religions and sects. Promotion of tolerance is a guarantee of peace and quick economic progress in this society.
It is crystal clear that a society can’t be at peace if its people have no mutual understanding. Democracy can’t be promoted and progress will remain elusive as long as there is no peace. There is no possibility of cooperation between different religions and cultures without understanding.
Cooperation among peoples increases as a result of inter-faith dialogue focused on respect for and information about each others.
Some groups in Afghanistan have used Islam to promote their own agendas, taking advantage of widespread illiteracy among the people. It is for this reason that our homeland has seen several rebellions that were controlled after a lot of hardships.
If you want to save this society from threats, promote education among Afghans and among your peoples so that the strength of the masses is not used against Afghanistan and Islam.
People, who killed others under different garbs and landed the country into serious problems due to lack of understanding are still out to create more trouble for a long-wronged nation.
Some forces are trying to instigate the people in the name of nationalism, places and ethnicities to achieve their nefarious designs.
However, we must keep in mind that if such efforts in Afghanistan are not frustrated, the problem would gradually spread to neighboring countries and the rest of the world.
The Islamic world, particularly the OIC, bears a huge responsibility to support Afghans at this critical juncture and inform them about what is happening around them. Suicide attacks, kidnappings for ransom, abductions, which have no link with the Afghan culture, have now become a routine affair in this country.
By the same token, it is the responsibility of the Islamic world to stop further killings of Afghans and address the problems mentioned before. The world must see to it that Afghanistan is not be used as a battlefield to further the interests of outsiders.
Instead, sincere efforts should be made to convert Afghanistan once again into a cradle of civilizations and use the Silk Route for trade by ensuring lasting peace and stability in the country.
[This paper is presented by Director of Pajhwok Afghan News Danish Karokhel in Baku, capital of Azerbaijan, on the occasion of 40th anniversary of the Islamic International Conference)