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The Bellicose Mayor Of Kabul

By Mir Adnan Aziz

19 July, 2008

William Gladstone, British Prime Minister and foremost politician of his time said: "Remember the rights of the savage, as we call him. Remember that the happiness of his humble home, remember that the sanctity of life in the hill villages of Afghanistan, among the winter snows, is as inviolable in the eye of Almighty God, as can be your own."

In public, defeat in Afghanistan is anathema for western governments. In private, for many, it already seems inevitable – at least if the western definition of "victory" remains the vastly overblown goals set since the overthrow of the Taliban.

Similarly, public statements of faith in Afghan democracy are coupled with private expressions of despair when it comes to hopes of improving Hamid Karzai's, also referred to globally as the mayor of Kabul, administration. Many western officials admit privately that any real hopes of creating a democratic Afghanistan are now dead.

Karzai's influence does not extend beyond the Kabul city limits with no foreseeable expansion of those limits in sight. The real power in Kabul is either in the hands of the Tajiks, Uzbeks, the (former) Northern Alliance or the Taliban in the vast countryside.

During Milan's fashion week, Gucci's Tom Ford called Karzai "the chicest man on the planet." Unfortunately, for him, he has to govern Afghanistan and not an ensemble of models and the fashion world.

At a donor state conference in Paris, Karzai presented a 5,000 page document offering a vision for Afghanistan's next five years and asking for $40 billion to make it happen. It took 17,000 people two years to come up with the Afghanistan National Development Strategy document.

It set three priorities: building up the army and police force, improving infrastructure, and improving the livelihoods of the majority of Afghans who depend on agriculture. Today, in spite of pumped billions, we see none of these objectives even remotely realized.

The Indian embassy attack came at a time of escalating violence in Afghanistan marked by a number of high-profile Taliban actions. These included an assassination attempt against Karzai at a military parade right within his municipal limits, the dramatic raid on Sarpoza prison in Kandahar resulting in the escape of hundreds of Taliban prisoners followed by the seizure of several villages close to the city.

In the backdrop of these actions both Kabul and Delhi are at their sabre rattling best. We on the other hand, are on the diplomatic back foot. With a seemingly amputated front foot we have mastered this cringing art in the last eight years.

Now with an inherited political mantle, the A to Z of Pakistani politics, Asif Zardari should end his government in exile and bless this land plagued with uncertainties with his presence. Is it not strange, with the reported build-up of foreign forces on our western borders and a nation besieged with problems, he still prefers political rope-a-dope in alien lands.

The bellicose Kabul Mayor, who recently even threatened to send his forces across the border, blames Pakistan for restricting his governance to a municipal limit. He blames the same country whose largesse he enjoyed for two decades and without whose complete support he could never have been 'elected'.

When our embassy in Kabul was attacked and besieged, Afghan Central Bank Governor Anwar ul-Haq Ahadi addressed the demonstrators. Ahadi told demonstrators: "We will defend each and every inch of the soil and territory of our country". The money manager's gladiatorial diatribe was meant to convey that Pakistan was working against the sovereignty of Afghanistan. These sentiments are limited though to the Delhi bred ruling coterie.

Karzai's notions of Pakistan undermining and trying to roust him out are ill-founded. He is a poor student of Afghan history if he does not know that of the ten men, who have served as Afghanistan's president in the past three decades, four were murdered and one strung up from a lamp-post and disembowelled.

The Telegraph says in its January 29 edition: "Mr Karzai must live with the knowledge that every one of his predecessors for the past 107 years, whether kings or presidents, was overthrown violently. Was the ISI up and about since the last one century?

Pakistan itself is a victim of the workings of an extremely large presence of Indian 'diplomats' in Afghanistan. Musharraf's 'raksha bandhan' (tying the rakhi) with India and helping prop up Karzai has been rewarded with the unholy nexus between RAW and RAM - India's Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) and Afghanistan's Riyast-i-Amniyat (RAM). This has resulted in sponsored violence and unrest in our tribal and urban areas as well as in Balochistan.

The Northern Alliance dominated Afghan Government is acting on the whims of India. According to Afghan sources, RAW's Chief Ashok Chaturvedi treats " Karzai like a servant rather than a head of state and speaks to him while chewing and spitting out tobacco (pan)". The Indian stranglehold shows who is actually in power, controlling and contouring both the national and foreign policy of Afghanistan. India, knowing it is impossible to dominate the Pakhtuns, is dictating to the ruling elite of Afghanistan.

Today the world sees this pathetic edifice of subjugating a people crumbling and coming tumbling down. Afghanistan is a battleground, not against the oft portrayed 'evil', but between unfounded Western optimism and realism. Optimists think that Afghanistan can be transformed into a western democracy with men and women flaunting the latest in fashion and designer wear.

History cautions otherwise. Afghans have been at war for over millennia. All conquerors, attracted by the riches of undivided India, passed through Afghanistan. They did so but after being thoroughly bruised, battered and mauled by the Afghans. The history of Afghanistan counsels realism.

Rationally, the US led west should accept the Taliban and engage them positively. They will prevent Afghanistan from being an ungovernable state sliding into warring anarchy and stop drug production and trafficking. Hostility breeds resistance over a period of time. We have, more so in the post 9/11 years, seen America's fire-power thwarted and blunted. Devoid of military victories it has only help fuel hatred and global insecurity.

The strongest argument in favour of engaging the Taliban is that, with time and history on their side, they will not be subjugated by force. To face and accept reality, though extremely difficult for some, would augur well for Afghanistan and the west in particular.

We on the other hand, thanks to an alien indoctrination in these last eight years, have retarded almost to servility. This is manifest in the fact that resistance put up by a single battalion commander in the face of Afghan cross border aggression is being portrayed not as his duty but a truly heroic deed.

It should be conveyed to NATO and Afghanistan, not in the apologetic tone of our foreign office, but in emphatic and absolute terms that there will be no compromise on our sovereignty. We have paid an extremely heavy price and compromised our own security for an alien cause. It is time the Government takes the nation into confidence by rethinking and redefining its priorities. The people will stand as one with the Pak army provided it owns up to, once again, the seemingly forgotten maxim of - ghazi ya shaheed.

Mir Adnan Aziz is a Pakistani journalist. He can be reached at [email protected])


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