Afghan Leaders' Holiday Messages Reflect Differrent Perspectives
Taliban Accused of Pursuing Military Option Despite Talk of Peace
By Omar Samad
WASHINGTON, March 16, 2000, (AAR) - The arrival of two major holidays for Afghans, one religious and the other traditional, only a few days apart from each other, has unleashed a flurry of greeting messages by Afghan leaders -- past and present. Three men, with three relatively different world-views, leadership styles, backgrounds and perspectives, sent politically loaded congratulatory messages this week to their compatriots on the occasion of the Islamic Eid ul-Adha. But only two of the leaders chose to celebrate the centuries-old Afghan New Year, which heralds the arrival of spring, and is shunned as un-Islamic by the Taliban. Ironically, both festivities coincide with major military preparations underway by the two principal Afghan warring factions -- especially by the Taliban, who are bent on capturing the remainder of Afghanistan by force.
Former Afghan King M. Zahir Shah, living in exile in Rome, who ruled over Afghanistan for almost 40 years till his overthrow by a coup d'etat in 1973, issued a statement this week in commemoration of both occasions. He lauded the "jehad," and "great sacrifices," offered by Afghans over the past two decades for "God and country," but expressed his sorrow at the state of belligerence that has gripped his nation. "Instead of resulting in peace and security... the country's national integrity and even its survival is faced with danger," warned the former monarch, who has spearheaded a peace effort to resolve the Afghan crisis by convening a representative grand assembly (Loya Jirga) responsible for the formation of a legitimate transitional government. He termed the existing situation in Afghanistan as "historically unprecedented," and asked that Afghans and the international community support the Loya Jirga initiative, now entering its "implementation phase." Zahir Shah wished that the Afghan New Year bring "peace, serenity and reconstruction," to Afghanistan. His plan calls for a "reflection of the will of the people via a representative mechanism," such as a Loya Jirga. But the Taliban, who profess to having brought "peace and security," have made it clear that they are not willing to consider any change of regime or leadership.
Meanwhile, Prof. Burhanudin Rabani, recognized by the United Nations as the President of the Islamic State of Afghanistan (ISA), blasted the Taliban and their supporters in a message issued on Tuesday commemorating both occasions. Borrowing from Islamic teachings and scripture, he recalled the sacrifices offered by the prophet Abraham, and focused on the suffering of the people of Afghanistan at the hands of the Taliban. Using an analogy, Rabani compared the Taliban to Nimrod (also a Biblical character), who was famous for his arrogance and violent rule. Rabani, who still heads the anti-Taliban United Front's (UF) political administration, warned of impendent Taliban attacks in the days to come, and preyed that the war that "has been imposed on the Afghans," will end as a result of the nation's "valiant resistance" against the Taliban and their patrons - seen as an indirect reference to Pakistan. UF forces under the command of the resistance leader, Ahmad Shah Massoud, are battling the Taliban on several fronts in more than eight provinces.
On the other hand, Mullah M. Omar, also called Amir-ol Mo'menin (King of the faithful) by his supporters, chose to celebrate the arrival of Eid by issuing a statement on Wednesday, blasting Western countries for having imposed sanctions (short of humanitarian aid) on his regime. He used the occasion to praise the imposition of Taliban-style "Sharia" (Islamic law) in Afghanistan, and also to accuse "the infidel movements of chalking out conspiracies against the Muslims, in order to enslave them."The recluse Taliban leader promised his followers that the "Emirate will not deviate from the Islamic path." He told Afghans that only God matters, "not the United States or the United Nations." Facing a severe drought in his own home-province, he also asked the people to pray for more rain. M. Omar had previously preached that natural disasters, such as earthquakes, floods and droughts, are God's wrath and punishment inflicted on "sinners and corrupt elements." He, however, did not greet the traditional Afghan New Year, which is celebrated on the first day of spring. The Taliban consider the old Afghan tradition as un-Islamic and have banned most festivities on that occasion since their take-over of Kabul in 1996.
Most observers believe that the messages
relayed by the three Afghan leaders reflect their respective political stand
vis-à-vis the Afghan crisis at a time when a new round of heavy spring
offensives are expected to start soon. "All the rhetoric about peace
efforts and meetings aside, the unfortunate reality is that the military
situation will determine the fate of all other attempts underway to resolve the
Afghan problem," a western a military analyst told AAR.
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