The following interview was received by AAR from French author and filmmaker Christophe De Ponfilly and was translated by Miriam Pountney and Omar Samad:
On June 11, 2000, at Bozorak, in the Panjsheer Valley (Afghanistan), two French members of Parliament (Jean-Michel Boucheron et Richard Cazenave), a member of the European Parliament (General Philippe Morillon), a Belgian Senator (Josy Dubié) and Bertrand Gallet met Ahmad Shah Masood. French filmmaker Christophe De Ponfilly recorded the entire meeting. Here are their questions and answers:
MR BERTRAND GALLET: Commander Masood, 10 years after the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, the country is still at war; is this a civil war as it is called abroad?
CMDR. AHMAD SHAH MASOOD: The main cause of this continuous war in Afghanistan is the foreign interference, particularly that of Pakistan because of its strategic views on the region. This war is not only a civil war, but the result of foreign interference.
GENERAL PHILIPPE MORILLON: Commander, could we imagine a military solution to this war under these conditions?
MASOOD: As we have said and repeated many times, the Afghan conflict does not have a military solution. It would be better to find a solution through political negotiation.
MR JOSY DUBIÉ: Commander, what opposes you to the Taliban? In other words, what is your concept of Islam?
MASOOD: The behavior of the Taliban as well as their extremist attitudes do not correspond in any way with a tolerant Islam. We have always been opposed to extremist tendencies of Islam and we still are. We have not stopped insisting on defending an Islam of tolerance which would be profitable to every Muslim, in Afghanistan and in the whole world, and we will always defend it.
MR RICHARD CAZENAVE: Commander, Afghanistan is currently considered as a drug supplier, as well as a source for terrorism. What do you think about these?
MASOOD: I agree. It is unfortunate to see that Afghanistan has turned out this way, after a long period of war against [the former] USSR. The main reason, in my opinion, lies with Pakistani responsibility and with groups that depend on Pakistan, like [Gulbudin] Hekmatyar's group and the Taliban.
MR JEAN-MICHEL BOUCHERON: In that case, very concretely, if you were in power in Kabul, what would you do with Mr Bin Laden?
MASOOD: I would like to make things clear: we do not want to see Afghanistan become a base for terrorists. In an Afghanistan that we may guide, there will be no room for terrorists or for Osama Bin Laden.
BOUCHERON: If you manage to take power in Kabul, would you install democracy, and would there actually be elections - one person one vote - and would you accept that international organizations monitor the electoral process?
MASOOD: It has always been our deep conviction, and we have always stressed the fact that the only solution for Afghanistan is democracy through elections. Each individual must have the right to vote. The day we will be in Kabul, we will organize elections under the auspices of international organizations.
CAZENAVE: In case you manage to take power and install democracy, are you in favor of equal rights for women? Do you agree that they should have the right to vote, to be elected? would they have the right to education?
MASOOD: Yes. In the democracy we are going to install in Afghanistan, women will have the right to vote, they will have the right to be elected, the right to work and study.
MR JOSY DUBIÉ: Commander Masood, in order to impose these reforms and to govern, a national union is necessary. Is there currently a consensus between the different Afghan ethnic groups?
MASOOD: Yes. We have already started to work on this matter. We insist on the ethnic groups, not on the political parties that were created before in Pakistan. At present, the Leadership Council, which is at the head of the Islamic State of Afghanistan, is constituted of people from different ethnic groups. We insist on the fact that each ethnic group must be taken into account; every ethnic group, depending on its importance, must be represented.
MORILLON: Throughout the world, the international community takes part in the settlement of many conflicts. However, it is absent in your country. What do you expect from it?
MASOOD: There is no doubt that the international community has forgotten Afghanistan since a very long time. It is a pity. Our wish is to see the international community give priority to the restoration of peace in our country. Peace in Afghanistan will only be possible if the international community exercises pressure in order to stop [foreign] interferences, in particular that of Pakistan. I am sure that under international pressure, Pakistan will discontinue its interference; it is only then that peace would be possible in Afghanistan.
MR BERTRAND GALLET: Commander, the "faction/party " system resulting from the [anti-Soviet] resistance is clearly a failure. Afghanistan will need a leader. All eyes turn toward you; If you had to, would you be ready to assume those responsibilities?
MASOOD: I am ready to serve the people of Afghanistan, particularly in order to restore peace. I will be ready to assume any duty at the service of my people./
For any information on this interview, contact C. De Ponfilly at INTERSCOOP 3, Rue Rollin, 75005, Paris, France. Tel: 01.40.46.92.92
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