By Bakht Jamal for Opinion Maker
Conflict in Afghanistan is known to be one of the most serious issues in today’s humanitarian and foreign affairs. The International community is said to be committed to support the Afghan Government to establish the role of law and bring about peace throughout the country. Billions of dollars have been spent for achieving these goals since the fall of Taliban in the wake of 9/11. Despite the financial, political and military support of the international community to the Afghan Government, the situation in the country is deteriorating. One wonders why these immense efforts made during the last nine years remain unsuccessful. The answer is very clear. The people with long records of drug smuggling, human rights abuses, and complete disregard for the rule of law, now largely control the Government that the international community expects to enforce the rule of law and bring peace to the country.
I worked in the voluntary sector for more than six years, mainly with refugees, returnees and internally displaced people in different parts of Afghanistan and in refugee-camps in Pakistan. This gave me the opportunity to speak with many affectees of the Afghan civil wars. Whenever I asked them about how peace could be brought about in the country, I got disappointingly pessimistic answers one of which is quoted: “We cannot expect peace in Afghanistan from the people who should been behind the bars are actually in power holding key positions in the government and are powerful enough to do almost anything in Afghanistan.”
It is worth noting that the past three decades of conflicts and foreign interferences have given birth to several miscreants and warlords in Afghanistan: people whom the international community should not only have condemned but should also have brought to justice have got their patronage. Now on the contrary, these warlords are getting stronger and stronger politically, economically and militarily. Their private militias continue to exist; they are increasingly controlling the public and private sectors and the parliament through fake votes and accumulating profits from the drug trade. The rising influence of these people in the Afghan government could result in a return to the warlord culture of the mid-1990s, which will ruin whatever efforts of peace building have been made so far.
Among these warlords was the slain military supremo of the Northern Alliance, Ahmad Shah Masood who left behind some strong supporters. The warlords of the Northern Alliance glorify Masood as the ‘Lion of Panjshir’: as someone who resisted the Russians’ entry into the Panjshir Valley, his birth place but at the cost of the rest of Afghanistan. According to documented evidence, Masood had signed a secret ceasefire with Russian in 1981-83 in return for monetary and logistics support that he could use in the civil war against other ethnic groups. He also used this pact to blackmail the United States. In other words, he would not fight if he were not paid by the US. These tactics helped him to secure resources from both the Russians and the Americans, something evidenced in his Swiss secret bank account, established by CIA agent Gust Avrakotos in Masood’sname in 1984. His Swiss secret bank account is now a bone of contention between Masood’s family and other warlords of Shora-e-Nizar.
The ceasefire with the Russians facilitated Russia’s supplying of its troops in Kabul and in the south and east of Afghanistan via the Salang Highway. The Soviet Army Commander of the 40th Army, Boris Gromov, admits that, “Massoud could convert the area [along Salang Highway] into a graveyard for the Russian troops by only throwing rocks had he chosen to do so. We simply could not survive without keeping this area open.” By doing so, Masood wanted the Russians to weaken the other ethnic groups, mainly the Pashtuns, which indicates the extent of his ethno-nationalism. Michael Scheuer, in his publication ‘Through Our Enemies’ Eyes’, notes that “Masood misled the media and Western politicians about his radical anti-Western views, his intimate relationship with the Russians, as well as his misogynistic orientation for over twenty years.”
Ethnic and lingual conflicts have been the main cause of distrust and disunity among the Afghans, and this continues to be the case, forming the greatest impediment in the process of nation-building as well as peace-building. Masood is credited with initiating ethnic and lingual conflicts in Afghanistan in an effort hpw to gain the support of some of his ethnic fellows, mainly the Panjshiries. Cleverly, however, he would present himself as someone who fights for the interests of the country rather than his own, using the Iranian and French scam media.
Masood spoke fluent French, as he studied in a French-medium school in Kabul. This was one of the reasons why the French media disproportionately glorified him. Disregarding the immense atrocities and human rights abuse that Masood and his militia committed during the civil war in their lust for power, some insane French parliamentarians submitted his nomination to the Nobel Peace Prize committee. With this nomination, the French parliamentarians not only insulted the Afghan nation but equally insulted the martyrs of the French Revolution and cursed the soul of Voltaire. If Masood was ever to deserve nomination for such a prize, why did someone from Afghanistan not submit this nomination? Does the French nomination of Masood reflect his service of the French interests in Afghanistan? These are just two broad questions for the French parliamentarians. They might face hundreds more acrid questions from the victims of Masood’s atrocities across Afghanistan. It is worth noting that Nobel Peace-Prize, despite several nominations, has not yet been awarded to men like Mahatma Gandhi, M. A. Jinnah and Abdul Ghaffar Khan (Bacha Khan), role models of peace, tolerance and non-violence.
The Nobel peace prize was never awarded to Masood, as he never deserved it. Yet the post-9/11 transformations in Afghanistan, with the Northern Alliance warlords in the lead, turned Masood into a so-called national hero in the eyes of his followers. While he is a hero for the warlords, the imposition of Masood as a national hero is strongly condemned by the Afghans, especially by the marginalised segments of the population. The Revolutionary Association of Women of Afghanistan (RAWA), an independent women’s rights organisation that is banned in Afghanistan thanks to certain repressive elements in the government, knows Masood as a man who “had a deceptive personality. He belonged to the Jamiat-i-Islami that was an ultra-fundamentalist outfit. During his regime [when he was the minister of defence], thousands of women were raped in Afghanistan.”
However, millions of dollars poured into the pockets of Masood’s followers during the war, which led to the creation of the Masood Foundation after his assassination. The key service the foundation provides is printing larger-than-life posters of Masood images and installing them in different corners of the country in an effort to impose him as the national hero of Afghanistan. This is no more than pouring salt on the wounds of the victims of the Afghan civil wars. Masood has long since been assassinated, but his followers still largely control the machinery of the present government in Afghanistan, a government internationally known for its endemic corruption. As Bruce G. Richardson notes, they “enjoy a lavish lifestyle, complete with well armed militias, the finest of automobiles, the finest in cuisine, sumptuous palaces in which to live, heated swimming pools, while the Afghan people, people they claim to represent are starving, lack potable water and shelter and/or access to the most rudimentary educational opportunities and basic medical services.”
Today the government of Afghanistan and the international community talk about peace in Afghanistan. But the question is this: how can we expect peace in a country where a warlord and human rights violator is nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize and is imposed as a national hero? In fact, the imposition of such a character as a model of national heroism indoctrinates the culture of violence in the new generation. When an Afghan child asks his parents how Ahmad Shah Masood became a national hero, what will these parents reply?
He did his Masters in rural development from The University of Manchester in the UK in 2009. He started his career as a Civil Society Worker in 2000 in Afghanistan. He is an active public speaker and campaigner for peace- building and human rights in Afghanistan.
Michael Scheuer, Through Our Enemies’ Eyes (revised edition). Washington, DC: Potomac Books, 2006) p. 136.
Alexander Thier (ed) (2009) The Future of Afghanistan,Washington, DC: United States