By Tariq Saeedi
Here is the dilemma: To be politically correct, or to be factually correct?
When we look at Afghanistan, we try to ignore a big part of the picture: The elephant in the room – The Afghan people.
No definite steps can be taken towards lasting peace without taking into consideration the part that Afghans have played in starting and exacerbating their own woes.
For their own sake and for the sake of the entire region and the world at large, it is necessary for the Afghans to be honest about their own role in this composite mess.
Since 1967, there have been several cutoff points where the Afghans could have moved in the right direction but they didn’t.
PDPA (Peoples Democratic Party of Afghanistan) was the communist party established on 1 January 1965 by Nur Mohammad Tarakai and Babrak Karmal. After gaining some popularity the party was flooded by too many ambitious people and it voluntarily split into four factions in 1967: Khalq, Parcham, Setami Milli and Grohi Kar. — This was the first major step in the wrong direction. Many of the troubles of Afghanistan today can be traced to this splintering of communists.
In 1973, Sardar Daoud Khan overthrew his first cousin King Zahir Shah and became the president of Afghanistan. He was supported by PDPA that was still a minority voice in a country where people looked with suspicion at communism. — This was the second wrong step for PDPA. Had it stayed away from power, it would have had the chance to unite internally and gain the mass popularity for better serving their country. But they preferred instant power.
Sardar Daoud Khan was assassinated in 1978 as a result of Saur Revolution by PDPA and Nur Mohammad Tarakai of Khalq faction came to power. — Tarakai was a seasoned journalist and a respected figure among educated elites and this was an opportunity to unite all the PDPA fragments into a national force and make Afghanistan an industrial power. However this opening was lost because of shortsighted and selfish moves. Taraki regime cracked down on Islam and that was its undoing.
Tarakai was replaced by Hafizullah Amin (also Khalq faction) and he tried to undo the damage done by Tarakai. — This was another chance for the Afghans to show some maturity and unite for the sake of their country. However, the whisper campaign against Amin that he was a CIA agent led to his assassination. He remained in power for only three months.
These were missed chances but if the blame must be pinned to a single person, it would be Babrak Karmal.
Karmal was an ambitious, selfish and ruthless man. He was also a shameless stooge of Kremlin, not for ideological reasons but for personal gains.
Since the rise to power of Sardar Daoud, Karmal remained in the inner power circle but the top slot eluded him. Later, during the bloody tussles between Khalq and Parcham factions, Karmal saved his neck and went to Prague as ambassador.
What transpired between Karmal and Kremlin when he was in Prague is difficult to fully uncover now. What is known is that on 27 December 1979 Babrak Karmal announced that he had been elected Prime Minister of Afghanistan and Hafizullah Amin had been killed.
The announcement came as if it was made from Radio Kabul but it was actually aired from Radio Tashkent on the radio frequency of Kabul. A few days later, again pretending as if he was speaking on Radio Kabul, Karmal announced from Tashkent that he was requesting the help of Russian troops to bring peace in Afghanistan.
Memory can be deceived but history cannot be denied.
The world was minding its own business up to 27 December 1979 and no one was interfering in Afghanistan. Even the Soviet Union, so vilified for its aggression, was acting as a mere remote control operator for PDPA factions, yet trying to unite them. It was Babrak Karmal who opened the Pandora’s Box by inviting the Soviet army.
Every ailment, every loss of life, every misery and misfortune that has visited Afghanistan since then, can be linked to Karmal and his egocentricity.
While blaming Karmal, we cannot absolve everyone else in Afghanistan. Destiny of a country is the joint responsibility of a nation.
During the entire period of resistance the Afghan people could not unite into a single entity to face the Soviet Russia. There were more than 90 factions, seven of them prominent, fighting the Soviets. Napoleon said that external aggression brings internal unity but he was proven wrong by the Afghans. Even during the most blatant aggression they could not unite.
In fact, the Russo-Afghan war could have been cut short had Ahmed Shah Masood, the Lion of Panjsher, not kept the Salang Pass open for Soviet supplies. The Afghans, blaming everyone else except themselves for their troubles, eulogize Masood in superlative terms.
The period hpw between the Soviet withdrawal and the start of American aggression on 7 October 2001 is also a dark spot on Afghan conscience. Instead of uniting, they split into local bands of thugs, each warlord controlling his postage-stamp territory.
While we spit viciously at Taliban, we should also keep somewhere in the back of our mind that the Taliban movement started the day Mulla Omar led a small group of students to rescue a boy who was being sodomized by a war lord. Taliban were welcomed as lesser evil.
And, if it is doesn’t inconvenience us, we can also remember that there was zero poppy crop in Afghanistan in 2001, the last year of Taliban in power.
The brief Taliban era was a chance for the Afghan people to unite because unity would have eventually diluted the Taliban way of governance. Instead of uniting, each Afghan group ran weeping to its foreign mentors, in all four directions.
Even after 911 there was the chance to avert war with the United States. The initial demand was to hand over Osama bin Laden. After several rounds of negotiations, Mufti Shamzai managed to convince Mulla Omar that bin Laden should be expelled from Afghanistan to prevent the war. On the morning of 7 October 2001, it was announced from Kandahar, while Mufti Shamzai was still there, that bin Laden can be deported provided he is tried in a Muslim country, by a Muslim judge. The only condition was that he will not be handed to Pakistan or Saudi Arabia.
This was not acceptable to Neocons. They started bombing Afghanistan the same day.
As the Russian aggression is linked inseparably to Karmal, the American-led war on Afghanistan is plastered around the neck of late Burhanuddin Rabbani, the former president of Afghanistan who was deposed by the Taliban.
While Mufti Shamzai was negotiating with Mulla Omar, Rabbani was in Dushanbe, encouraging the war on Afghanistan. He said in a press conference that time had passed for negotiations.
On 11 October 2001, while there was still a slim chance of stopping the war, Rabbani addressed a press conference in Dushanbe and said that he fully approves of the war on Afghanistan. — If Karmal feels lonely in carrying the burden of Afghan misfortunes, he is joined by Rabbani, a former president who later had the Russian passport and cheered the destruction of his own country.
Professor Rabbani, may God Bless his soul, was a political chameleon. Despite the meritorious disservice to Afghanistan, he managed to become the head of the High Peace Council of Afghanistan, a half baked idea for indigenous process of reconciliation. The man who appointed him – President Hamid Karzai – ignored the fact that it was Rabbani who brought the war to Taliban and the Taliban would not be in a charitable mood to trust him. In fact, the best way to defeat the peace process was to ask Rabbani to lead it. Mujaddadi would have been a better choice for the job.
Most of the wounds of Afghanistan are self inflicted wounds – and, self inflicted wounds take longer to heal.
Instead of running with wet handkerchiefs to far off capitals, it would be advisable for Afghans to call a truly representative Loya Jirga, without keeping this group or that faction out of it.
While we are being politically incorrect, let’s go all the way.
President Karzai, in his speech at the Istanbul conference last year, called Afghanistan the Heart of Asia. He was referring to a poem by Iqbal, the national poet and philosopher of Pakistan. Here is the translation of the poem:
Asia is a body of water and earth,
Of which the Afghan nation forms the heart.
The whole of Asia ails,
If the heart ails,
Its decline is the decline of Asia;
Its rise is the rise of Asia,
The body is free only as long as the heart is free,
The heart dies with hatred but lives with faith.
Since he quoted Iqabal, it is evident that Karzai has read his poetry. He must have read another couplet, a rephrasing by Iqbal of the ideas of the poet Mehrab Gul Afghan. Addressing the Afghan nation, Mehrab Gul says:
I am afraid, you have a childish nature;
And, the sweetmeat sellers of the west are deceitful.
Tariq Saeedi is the editor of nCa, a small news service based in Turkmenistan.