Egyptian claims to be new Al-Qaeda head in Afghanistan
DUBAI (AFP) - A former member of Egypt's fundamentalist Jihad movement declared on Thursday that he was the new head of Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, the Al-Jazeera satellite television reported.
"Mustafa Abu Yazid, also known as Said, has come forward as the general director of the Al-Qaeda organisation in Afghanistan," the Qatar-based channel reported, airing video extracts of a black-bearded man with thick glasses and a white turban.
"Mustafa Abu Yazid is a former member of Egyptian Jihad who enjoys the confidence of Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden," an expert in Afghanistan's Islamist groups told AFP on condition of anonymity.
He said Abu Yazid would be replacing Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi, an Iraqi and high-ranking member of Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, whose arrest was announced by the United States in April.
According to the Pentagon, Iraqi was arrested while attempting to travel to Iraq to head Al-Qaeda's operations there, as well as plan attacks against Western interests outside Iraq.
Back to Top
Back to Top
Germany calls for improved Pakistan-Afghan ties
Thu May 24, 5:28 AM ET
ISLAMABAD (AFP) - German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier called for improved ties between Pakistan and Afghanistan, saying that better relations would help defeat the Taliban movement.
Pakistan and Afghanistan fought border clashes earlier this month in which more than a dozen people died, the culmination of months of tensions over their efforts to tackle the Islamist guerrillas.
"The two countries have to intensify efforts to improve their relations," Steinmeier told a joint press conference in Islamabad after talks with his Pakistani counterpart Khurshid Kasuri.
"We will not succeed in bringing about a lasting peace in Afghanistan without fully engaging its neighbours including Pakistan in the process," he said.
He also underscored the need for better cooperation between the two countries. "We want both sides to work together and improve their contacts," Steinmeier said.
Steinmeier reacted strongly when a reporter used the term "occupying forces" to refer to NATO and US-led coalition troops deployed in Afghanistan.
"I do not see any occupying foreign forces," he said, adding that foreign troops went to Afghanistan to ensure reconstruction.
Kasuri said that his country had taken "necessary measures" to stop the movement of Taliban militants from Pakistan's lawless tribal areas bordering Afghanistan.
Afghanistan accuses Pakistan of not doing enough to curb cross-border infiltrations by the Taliban.
Pakistan, which was the main backer of the Taliban regime before the radical Islamists were ousted from power by US-led forces in 2001, denies the allegations.
Back to Top
Back to Top
More than 20 militants killed in Afghanistan
KABUL (AFP) - More than 20 militants, including seven foreign Al-Qaeda insurgents, have been killed in new clashes across Afghanistan, officials said.
Most of the rebels were killed Wednesday by Afghan and foreign forces in southern and eastern parts of the country, which see the worst of the violence.
Thirteen were killed in a battle in the southern province of Helmand, the interior ministry said in a statement on Thursday.
Seven of the dead were foreign nationals, believed to be from Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda network, it said. The fighting on Wednesday lasted seven hours.
The same day, five more Taliban were killed in separate gunfights in the province's Sangin district, the ministry said. Sangin was brought under government control early last month after being in the hands of rebels.
The bodies of the dead "were left at the battlefield."
The US-led coalition said it had been involved in the fighting, which erupted after about 25 fighters attacked coalition forces with machine guns and rocket propelled grenades.
"Coalition forces killed several Taliban fighters and destroyed two enemy positions during the six-hour battle," it said in a statement.
In a separate incident on Wednesday, three insurgents were killed when a bomb they were planting on a road exploded in neighbouring Kandahar, the interior ministry said. Two others were injured.
There has been a spike in Taliban attacks over the past days, with two suicide bombings at the weekend killing 19 people, including three German soldiers.
A suicide attack in the capital Kabul on Wednesday killed two people, including a policeman.
A bomb in the northern town of Maymana on Wednesday killed a Finnish soldier and wounded four Norwegians. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack.
Back to Top
Back to Top
Roadside bombs kill at least 10 Afghan police
KHOST, Afghanistan (Reuters) - At least 10 policemen and a district chief were killed by two roadside bomb blasts on Thursday in Afghanistan, officials said.
One of the blasts killed six police officers and the district chief while they were traveling in a vehicle in Yahya Kheil district of southeastern Paktika province, close to the border with Pakistan, provincial governor Akram Khpelwak said.
Hours later, four policemen died in a similar attack in the southern province of Kandahar, provincial officials said. Several more were wounded in the explosion, they said.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the Paktika attack and could not be contacted immediately about the blast in Kandahar.
Violence has surged in recent months in Afghanistan after a lull during winter. Last year's fighting was the bloodiest since the overthrow of the Taliban in 2001 and the militants have vowed to step up their campaign against foreign forces.
The guerrillas are largely active in southern and eastern areas where more than 5,000 people have been killed in the past 16 months.
The violence is rising despite the presence of nearly 50,000 foreign troops led by NATO and the U.S. military as well as about 100,000 Afghan security forces.
Back to Top
Back to Top
US stands by 'friend' Musharraf: top official
Thu May 24, 5:11 AM ET
WASHINGTON (AFP) - The United States stands by embattled Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf but wants his regime to do more to quell Taliban and Al-Qaeda violence in Afghanistan, a top US official said.
"Pakistan is a great friend of the United States. We have a very close relationship with President Musharraf," Under Secretary of State Nicholas Burns told the Heritage Foundation.
"We strongly supported President Musharraf and will continue to do so," he said.
Pakistan's military ruler is enduring the most intense opposition since he seized power in a 1999 coup, after sacking the country's popular and independent-minded chief justice in March.
But analysts argue that having sunk billions of dollars into Musharraf's regime, the US administration is hamstrung amid deadly unrest in Pakistan, which is also locked in nuclear-fueled tensions with India.
Since the September 11 attacks of 2001, Pakistan has received roughly 10 billion dollars in US funding including for counter-terrorism operations along its border with Afghanistan.
The New York Times said Sunday the payments continue even though Musharraf had decided eight months ago to slash patrols through the lawless border area where Al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters are most active.
Burns said the US government hopes that in the border region, "further and stronger efforts can be made to make sure that terrorist groups are not using Pakistani soil to attack inside of Afghanistan."
"But we have a good relationship with Pakistan. President Musharraf is a friend of our country," he said.
Burns added: "We hope that there can be progress in building Pakistan's own democracy over the months and years ahead."
Despite a Taliban resurgence in Afghanistan, the US official said the fundamentalist Islamic militia was "not winning."
"We have taken the fight to them over the last 18 months, since the increase in Taliban attacks has been so evident, and the Taliban has lost nearly all of the encounters that it's had with the United States, Afghan and NATO militaries.
"And the Afghan government is obviously dedicated to seeing its own authority remain in the country, and to seeing that of the Taliban reduced."
Back to Top
Back to Top
Musharraf urges negotiations with Taliban
Thu May 24, 5:04 AM ET
OTTAWA (AFP) - Western attempts to crush the Taliban with brute military force must be underpinned by diplomatic efforts to bring stability to Afghanistan, Pakistan's president told a Canadian newspaper.
"We have to have a multi-pronged strategy," President Pervez Musharraf said in an interview with the Toronto-based Globe and Mail.
"In Afghanistan it is only the military strategy which is working now."
"(The) political element is the negotiations between warring factions. Who are the warring factions? Warring factions are the Afghan government and the coalition forces on one side, and the militant Taliban and even non-Taliban," he wrote, advocating "some form of negotiations between these two."
"Maybe, there are groups who want to give up militancy and negotiate ... so I can't lay down whether you negotiate with the Taliban, but (if) they want to go on fighting, you don't negotiate with them, take a military angle. You negotiate, you develop contacts with people who are not for fighting."
In the interview, Musharraf also rejected criticism that his country has not done enough to stem militants' attacks on coalition forces in Afghanistan.
"I would tell everyone: Come and learn from us. We are sitting here knowing exactly what is happening on ground," he said.
"You sitting in the West don't know anything. So, don't teach me, come and learn from us. Come and understand the environment. And then decide on what has to be done and what doesn't have to be done. We are doing more than any other country in the world."
Musharraf also said he was preoccupied with growing protests at home after his suspension of the nation's top judge and riots in the country's largest city Karachi, and a stand-off between the government and Islamists holed up in an Islamabad mosque.
But he insisted he would not declare martial law to quell the violence, which he blamed on opposition parties, before October elections.
Back to Top
Back to Top
Harper visits the front line
TheStar.com May 24, 2007 Bruce Campion-Smith Ottawa Bureau
KANDAHAR–The rocky outpost at Ma'sum Ghar offers a bird's eye view of the terrain where Canadians have fought and died.
But yesterday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper paid a visit to the sparse Canadian camp there – literally the front lines – to showcase the "guarded optimism" diplomats and military commanders now express about Canada's Afghan mission.
Harper's ride in a U.S. Blackhawk chopper and two-hour visit at the forward operating base, where insurgent attacks remain a weekly occurrence, weren't without risks, a fact made clear yesterday.
"No serving prime minister has been closer to combat," said Col. Mike Cessford, deputy commander of the Canadian operation here. "It's a happening place. It's a forward operating base in every sense of the word."
But if Harper's visit was an historic one, his aides didn't want reporters around to record it.
Only photographers were allowed to accompany Harper, turning his trip into a carefully scripted photo op. A plan to have reporters travel by land to meet Harper there was abruptly cancelled the previous night, though his aides denied any involvement in that decision.
Within sight of Ma'sum Ghar, 25 kilometres west of Kandahar in the Panjwaii district, Canadian soldiers have been killed in tangles with insurgents. Within the last few weeks, a rocket attack on the camp killed an Afghan interpreter.
Harper spent two hours at the camp, viewing LAV III armoured vehicles and Leopard tanks and lunching with members of the artillery company.
The fact that the Prime Minister was able to make the trip at all speaks volumes about the progress Canadian troops are making in Kandahar province, commanders and diplomats say.
While firefights still occur, the combat is a "pale shadow" compared with a few months ago, Cessford said.
The area around the base, virtually abandoned by Afghans last September during the Canadian-led offensive to clear insurgents, is coming back to life. About 30,000 people have returned since combat operations ceased, he said.
"We have seen a significant transition," said Cessford. "This is not to say that all is sweetness and light. We have significant work to do."
In a speech earlier yesterday, Harper told troops they are making a difference in Afghanistan while cautioning "your work is not complete."
Lauding the troops as "unsung heroes," he conveyed one of his strongest signals yet that the Canadian military will remain active in the country past the February 2009 date now set for withdrawal from Kandahar.
"You know that our work is not complete. You know that we cannot just put down our arms and hope for peace," Harper said. "You know that we can't set arbitrary deadlines and simply wish for the best."
At home, the opposition has pressured the Conservatives on setting a date for the withdrawal of troops. The Liberals want troops out when this mission expires in 2009 and the NDP wants an immediate pullout.
In Ottawa yesterday, Liberal defence critic Denis Coderre issued a statement saying he was "deeply troubled that Mr. Harper continues to support an open-ended counter-insurgency mission in Kandahar."
He complained that in the House of Commons the Prime Minister and Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor "keep repeating the stock line that Canada is only committed until 2009."
"Outside of the House, Mr. Harper and Mr. O'Connor keep hinting that our soldiers will stay longer. ..."
About 300 soldiers assembled under the hot sun to hear Harper speak.
Harper told them the progress made so far in Afghanistan wouldn't be possible "unless people like you put yourselves on the line. I don't have to tell you ... the risk that terrorism will come home if we don't confront it here."
Canadian troops' work has meant democratic elections, expansion of human rights and freedoms for women, new schools and health-care facilities and infrastructure, he said.
"Your country – as much as this country – owes you a debt of gratitude and its unwavering support," said Harper, who is due back in Ottawa today after his surprise visit to Afghanistan.
Brig.-Gen. Tim Grant, head of the Canadian operation, said the military has drawn up plans to remain in Afghanistan after the current commitment expires.
"You have to. The work will not be done in February '09. ... It would be irresponsible for us not to plan past that point for the good of country," Grant said.
At the end of his morning speech, Harper presented the troops with some hockey gear – and couldn't resist taking a shot at the media. "We kicked a few reporters off the plane and brought over some new hockey sticks," he said.
He then mingled with the soldiers in their tan-coloured uniforms, posing for photographs.
With files from Canadian Press
Back to Top
Back to Top
Harper may well miss Afghanistan
John Ivison, National Post Thursday, May 24, 2007
OTTAWA - Stephen Harper might hanker after the relative tranquility of Afghanistan when parliament resumes next week. Since the threat of an spring election passed, an emboldened opposition has drawn battle lines, not only in the chamber of the House of Commons but also in committee rooms, where traditionally MPs have operated in a less partisan environment. The government has responded by trying to drive through its agenda in the face of a concerted opposition.
Committees now resemble the theatre of the absurd that is Question Period -- last week House committees on Official Languages and International Trade were disrupted by filibustering, walk-outs and bickering.
Looking ahead, the Prime Minister can expect another week of parliamentary chaos.
The Liberals have invited the premiers of Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan to appear as witnesses at the Finance committee as it discusses the equalization proposals in the budget implementation bill.
It is understood that Premier Lorne Calvert of Saskatchewan has accepted, while Premier Rodney MacDonald of Nova Scotia has declined. Danny Williams, the outspoken Newfoundland and Labrador premier, is unable to attend but is sending his Finance Minister, Tom Marshall.
Mr. Calvert said yesterday the committee meeting on Monday will offer a good opportunity to explain why Saskatchewan is being treated unfairly.
He argues that the Conservatives broke a pre-election promise on equalization in this year's budget when they introduced a new cap that claws back much of the province's resource revenues. He said he is coming prepared for a Conservative filibuster.
"If one of their tactics is to put me in a holding tank, I'll bring a snack." he said.
The Conservatives are unlikely to look kindly on the appearance of what they will regard as hostile witnesses.
They have already attempted to move directly from the testimony of Finance Minister Jim Flaherty straight to a clause by clause study of the bill, leaving no time for further witnesses. The move was defeated by the combined votes of opposition members, who form a majority on all committees.
The government is keen to pass the budget bill as soon as possible and then adjourn or prorogue the parliamentary session in early June.
The atmosphere in Ottawa has deteriorated now that the prospect of a general election has passed and the opposition parties have been able to work together without the threat of going to the polls.
There is another reason why the Conservatives want to cut short this session -- Liberal MP Pablo Rodriguez' private members' bill on the implementation of the Kyoto Accord, which is on the verge of being passed by the Senate.
Last week, the Conservatives attempted to delay passage of the bill, which would force the government to publish a plan to meet Canada's Kyoto targets within two months of its enactment (it would also compel the government to introduce legislation to meet those targets within six months).
Senator Gerald Comeau, the Conservative whip, tabled a stack of press releases and read them out, one after the other, until it was time for the daily Question Period.
The move prevented the Kyoto bill from being read a third time and approved.
The Conservatives claimed the strategy was justified because the Liberals had rushed the bill through a Senate committee when no Tory senators were present.
The race is now on: can the Conservatives pass the budget bill in the Commons before the Liberals in the Senate push through the Kyoto bill? If they can, they will have the option of proroguing the House -- a move that would effectively kill the Rodriguez bill.
However, since the Senate traditionally sits for one week longer than the House, in order to pass a backlog of legislation, Conservative senators are going to have to be creative to delay its passage for up to three weeks. The 23 member caucus can each speak for 15 minutes and the government could introduce any number of frivolous motions to eat up the clock. But it would be an unedifying spectacle.
The Conservative response to Liberal manoeuvres in both the House and the Senate is sure to lead to more accusations of a bullying executive trying to browbeat the legislative branch of government.
The result will be a further erosion of the Conservatives' reputation for principle and competency -- a standing that is slowly being replaced with a tag for political expediency and coercion.
As these parliamentary games become ever more poisonous, Canadians could be forgiven if they hark back to the last prime minister who seemed prepared to do or say anything -- even put a glamourous, floor-crossing Conservative in Cabinet --just to stay in power.
Back to Top
Back to Top
Group urges Afghan parliament to take back MP
Thu May 24, 12:33 AM ET
KABUL (AFP) - A leading international rights group on Thursday urged the Afghan parliament to reinstate a female MP who was suspended after saying her colleagues were "worse than cows and donkeys."
Malalai Joya, one of the country's most high-profile female politicians, was voted out of the lower house Monday by her fellow MPs over the comments, which she made in a television interview.
The journalist who conducted the interview told AFP Joya had said parliament was worse than a stable because in a stable, at least, there are "cows which provide milk and you have got donkeys which can carry loads."
"They are worse than cows and donkeys -- they're dragons," she said.
In a statement, Human Rights Watch said she should be reinstated immediately and urged parliament to revise procedures which it said restricted freedom of speech.
"Malalai Joya is a staunch defender of human rights and a powerful voice for Afghan women," said Brad Adams, the rights watchdog's Asia director. "Joya's comments don't warrant the punishment she received."
The group said that while parliament's rules of procedure forbid lawmakers from criticising one another, MPs had regularly done so without anyone else having been suspended.
"The article banning criticism of parliament is an unreasonable rule that violates the principle of free speech enshrined in international law and valued around the world," said Adams.
"The Afghan parliament should be setting an example by promoting and protecting free expression, not by stamping it out."
Back to Top
Back to Top
Afghanistan: Suspended Lawmaker Insists Hers Is Voice Of The People
May 24, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- In Afghanistan, legislator Malalai Joya was suspended on May 21 by her colleagues in the parliament after she compared them unfavorably with barnyard animals. Human Rights Watch (HRW) has urged her reinstatement, calling her a "staunch defender of human rights and a powerful voice for Afghan women, and Joya says she is waiting for the country's Supreme Court to rule on the validity of the suspension. RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan broadcaster Freshta Jalalzai spoke with Joya, who has waged a long campaign for justice against "criminal" warlords and perpetrators of wartime atrocities.
RFE/RL: Some have said that you suffer from a mental illness. Is that true?
Malalai Joya: No I'm [fine]. I want to tell you that this is the result of the political bankruptcy of the enemies of our country -- particularly enemies of women and democracy, who make such accusations and spread such poisonous propaganda. I'm happy that with each passing day, I realize the truthfulness of my comments. And I've been supported all along by my people, and it encourages me every day. Yes, I'm fine and healthy.
RFE/RL: Will you attend a parliamentary session?
Joya: They have fired me from the parliament. I don't grant it any importance, because to me what's important is that our people voted for me, and I'm an elected official. The legal experts, lawyers who have contacted me, have said that this is not within the competence of the parliament and that I should attend [parliamentary sessions].
RFE/RL: So you will go?
Joya: No, they've referred me to the court. If a trial is supposed to take place; then the criminals should be tried first. [Editor's note: Joya's reference to "criminals" is presumably a reference to former warlords and perpetrators of wartime atrocities.]
RFE/RL: If you think [the suspension] is against the law, then why don't you attend the parliamentary session?
Joya: I don't recognize these [procedures outlined in the unpublished Code of Conduct that was cited by legislators] that they have on their agenda. The fact that I don't go there means that I grant no importance to the [procedures] they create or to their behavior. But I will wait until things become more clear; I want to see people's reactions.
RFE/RL: Why did you receive so little support among women in the parliament?
Joya: Unfortunately, in many cases, women who have been in power have had only a symbolic role. In the parliament, there are also women who got votes from warlords and criminals; and they campaigned for them, so they act based on what those [warlords] want. Women have been beaten up because of me, they have stood by me. But those women who have threatened me -- even with knives and scissors; they've said, 'We will treat you in a way that even men will not,' -- women who have insulted me and those who have made an arrangement with criminals. I don't take [their lack of support] personally.
RFE/RL: Do you agree that you insulted the other side?
Joya: No. This is also because of their political [failure]. My power lies in my voice; and I've acted according to my conscience. Fortunately, all of my speeches and interviews have been documented -- they've been taped. And some journalists -- specifically Tolo Television -- [published my comments in a sensationalistic manner] intentionally to alter opinion and [stir up] people's views about me. Inside the parliament, those legislators who go on foreign trips and pose as politicians, they want to change the views of people around the world. This is vain and futile. When I call the parliament "a stable" -- or, as people claim, I call it "a zoo" -- I'm of the same view as our people. As each day passes, I realize the undemocratic nature of the parliament. Compare this with comments by legislators who break the law and pose as lawmakers. What is the difference? Which is more indecent?
Back to Top
Back to Top
Afghanistan missions expose political rift in Germany
Some in ruling coalition want to limit involvement
By Judy Dempsey, International Herald Tribune | May 24, 2007
BERLIN -- Differences have developed in Chancellor Angela Merkel's governing coalition over German troops in Afghanistan, with her Social Democratic partners joining opposition parties in demanding an end to German participation in the US counterinsurgency mission there.
The new Social Democrat stand on the US mission, which is separate from NATO's work in Afghanistan, was prompted by the deaths of three German soldiers in a suicide attack there Saturday.
Niels Annen, a leading Social Democrat, and Jürgen Trittin, a leader of the opposition Greens, said this week that the American counterinsurgency mission was hindering civilian reconstruction because of what they called a heavy-handed approach by the US military on the ground that was alienating Afghans.
But Merkel's Christian Democrats, who regard the two missions in Afghanistan as strengthening the trans-Atlantic relationship, cautioned yesterday that the government should not make any quick decisions about ending the mandate for the US counterinsurgency mission, Operation Enduring Freedom.
"We have to see the developments over the coming months," said Ruprecht Polenz, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Bundestag and a leading member of Merkel's conservative bloc. "We have until the autumn, when the mandate for both missions comes up for renewal, to calmly examine the situation."
Operation Enduring Freedom, established after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, has been concentrated mostly in the south and southeast of Afghanistan, where the Taliban regrouped after they were ousted from power by US-led forces in December 2001. German elite commando troops are serving with the mission.
Separately, 3,200 German troops are deployed under North Atlantic Treaty Organization command to the International Security Assistance Force. The force, which NATO has led since 2003, has started working closely with the US mission.
The cooperation has now come under scrutiny by German politicians.
"The German soldiers are being identified with the way the US led the war," Annen said in an interview. "In my opinion, the mandate for Operation Enduring Freedom should not be extended."
Trittin, whose Greens were in office with the Social Democrats when they made the decision in 2001 to send German troops to the American mission, said that the actions of US special forces were leading to the deaths of civilians and that German participation should be ended.
Germany has the third-largest force serving in Afghanistan, after the United States and Britain. Twenty-one German soldiers have been killed there.
NATO has 36,000 troops from 37 countries deployed throughout Afghanistan. Its main task is to establish small teams of civilian and military personnel to provide security for aid workers and help with reconstruction work in the provinces.
While the opposition Left Party wants all German soldiers withdrawn, the Social Democrats and the Greens say that participation in the NATO mission should continue but that it should focus on peacekeeping and providing security for Afghans and aid workers.
NATO officials, however, say that Taliban insurgents make no distinction between the US-led mission and the NATO mission.
"There is no evidence from the troops that the insurgents make any distinction between the two missions," said a NATO diplomat who declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the issue.
Back to Top
Back to Top
The Father of the Taliban: An Interview with Maulana Sami ul-Haq
The Jamestown Foundation-Volume 4, Issue 2 (May 23, 2007)
By Imtiaz Ali
Maulana Sami ul-Haq is the director and chancellor of Pakistan's famous madrassa, Darul uloom Haqqania, Akora Khattak. He has served in this post since the death of his father, Maulana Abdul ul-Haq, the founder of the madrassa, in 1988. Darul uloom Haqqania is where many of the top Taliban leaders, including its fugitive chief, Mullah Omar, attended. It is widely believed that the madrassa was the launching pad for the Taliban movement in the early 1990s, which is why Sami ul-Haq is also called the "Father of the Taliban." Besides running his madrassa, Maulana Sami has a long political history as a religious politician. He was among the founders of Pakistan's Muttahida Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) coalition of six Islamic religious parties. He recently spoke with Jamestown analyst Imtiaz Ali.
Imtiaz Ali: During the Russian invasion, the students from your madrassa were traveling to Afghanistan to fight, after which most of them were eventually inducted as governors and administrators in the Taliban government. Is the same thing continuing today? Are you still sending people to Afghanistan for jihad?
Maulana Sami ul-Haq: No, there were not only Taliban who took part in jihad. This is an incorrect assumption, which needs correction. After the Russian invasion of Afghanistan, people from all walks of life went to Afghanistan for jihad. Students from colleges and universities went more than madrassa students.
IA: But it is an undeniable fact that students who graduated from your madrassa played a significant role in the establishment of the Taliban regime.
SH: Well, the Taliban were busy in their studies when the factional wars in Afghanistan reached their climax. Naturally, when the leaders could not make it, the students had to come to the rescue of the war-torn country. Thus, the Taliban rushed back to rescue their country from the factional fighting. Similarly, when America attacked Afghanistan in late 2001, the same event happened—it is understandable that when infidels attack a Muslim country, then it is the duty of every Muslim to defend it. Maulana Sufi Muhammad of Tehreek-e-Nafaz-e-Shariat- e-Mohammadi (TNSM) also took thousands of people for jihad, which was a commendable action. The U.S. attack on Afghanistan was a clear act of aggression and terrorism. But when someone rises up against U.S. aggression, then he is called a terrorist. It is a strange and illogical philosophy.
IA: There were reports that the Taliban leadership had called for fresh reinforcements in connection with its spring offensive in Afghanistan. Is this true?
SH: These are just baseless reports. Had they called upon the madrassa students, they would have called us for the reinforcements or at least we would know. The Taliban are not that organized. They are living in caves. They lack proper communication and logistics systems, and that is why they do not want new recruits. The Afghans themselves have risen up and they are fighting against American and NATO forces.
IA: If they would ask you for help, what would be your reaction?
SH: They would never ask us. We ourselves have not sent students before nor will we send them now. It is not our madrassa policy to do so.
IA: What would you call the situation in Afghanistan? Is that jihad?
SH: When the red forces of the Soviet Union entered Afghanistan, it was a war of independence and we all agreed that it was jihad. Even the United States had said that the Russians must be ousted from Afghanistan. When Russia left, the United States committed the same aggression. So, the situation is the same. One infidel force replaced another. No difference at all. Whether it is Russia or America, it is a jihad.
IA: Some analysts call it a Pashtun uprising. What do you think?
SH: It is neither a Pashtun uprising or a Persian one, or a Sunni uprising or a Shiite. In fact, the Afghan nation has risen up against the invaders—the United States and its allies. It is a war of independence. After the fall of the Taliban regime, the Afghan people remained quiescent for two years to see if any positive change would come into their lives. But they did not see anything that was promised to them at the time of the collapsing Taliban regime and that is why they started this revolt against the occupied forces. It is now a war of independence for all Afghans. They want to get rid of the U.S.-led occupation forces. Terming it only a Pashtun uprising is a completely incorrect assumption.
IA: Do you not consider the Karzai-led government in Afghanistan a Muslim government?
SH: We have nothing to do with the Islam of Karzai. It is not our business to issue a decree about him being Muslim or non-Muslim. We just want an end to the suffering of the Afghan people. We ask the current Afghan rulers to start negotiations with the Taliban and other jihadi forces to pave the way for a durable peace in the war-torn country.
IA: It does not matter to you, then, if there is a Karzai-led government or the Taliban, just as long as it is an Afghan government?
SH: We say that there should be no foreign interference in Afghanistan, and the Afghans themselves should come up with a solution. All the factions—the leaders, the Taliban, the jihadi forces—should come forward and work together for peace. They should decide their fate in the absence of foreign interference. But I firmly believe that there is no chance for peace and stability in Afghanistan until the presence of foreign troops is removed.
IA: What are your thoughts on the flow of fighters between Afghanistan and Pakistan over the Durand Line?
SH: Like I said earlier, it is an Afghan uprising against foreign invaders and it has nothing to do with cross-border terrorism and the flow of fighters from Pakistan.
IA: Why, then, has the government decided to fence and plant mines on the Pakistani side of the border? Do you approve of that?
SH: I oppose this plan because the Pashtun nation on both sides of the border shares cultural, racial and religious values. Their lives are intertwined. They are all Muslims. They are one nation. Fencing the border will not solve the problem. The main reason behind the tension on the Pakistan-Afghan border is the presence of U.S.-led foreign troops in Afghanistan. The day they leave Afghanistan, there will be no tension at all.
IA: With the ban on foreign students' admission in the religious seminaries in 2003 by the government, has enrollment of the students changed in your madrassa?
SH: That ban is a total violation of our fundamental rights. People from here go to the United States and the United Kingdom for studies. Similarly, students from other countries come to Pakistan for education. That was a kind of service we were providing to the Muslim students from other countries. But this ban is an unconstitutional, inhumane and unlawful act. The government has taken this step only to appease the United States and its other Western masters. It is a shame for us because India is a secular country, but has been issuing visas to students from all Muslim countries who want to come to India for education.
IA: But there have been accusations that terrorists are being trained here in the madrassas.
SH: This is nothing more than an example of the perpetual propaganda against the madrassa system. This is what we have been hearing, but so far no one has produced any solid evidence.
IA: The mystery has always been shrouded by the lack of an audit of the money being received by madrassas, correct?
SH: We are not bound by the government to audit our funding system because they do not give us any money. First, let them give us funds for running our madrassas and then we will let them have their audit. Why are they taking pains when they are not giving us a penny? Only those who give us financial support have the right to audit our funds. We have our system of donations and we do not accept any donations from the government. I also want to make it clear that we keep a record of all our donations and funding. The funding is being registered and we prepare annual reports and then those reports are printed along with the names of the donors.
IA: Who gives you the donations for running this big madrassa?
SH: Common Muslims. And the majority of the funding comes from the poorer classes of society. They know that madrassas are the forts of Islam and the students in madrassas are the real guardians of Islam. God's religion is flourishing in the madrassas. These people cut their meager domestic budget and give us donations. This is how they express their love of Allah almighty and save the integrity of these madrassas.
IA: Is Musharraf validated in meddling with religious issues considering he is supposed to be the leader of a secular government?
SH: He has been doing all this just to appease the United States and his other Western masters.
IA: To what extent could a nuclear Iran pose a potential threat to the strength of Pakistan?
SH: Iran is not a threat to Pakistan at all. Iran is giving the United States a tough time in the region and seems quite determined to acquire nuclear power status. Muslims all over the world are happy about this move because there should be someone who has the courage to demonstrate the religious strength to look into the eyes of the United States. We support Iran. Besides, we would not allow the Pakistani leadership to toe the U.S. line in dealing with Iran, as they have done in the case of Afghanistan.
IA: There has been speculation that Iran has ambitions for a "Shiite Crescent" in the Middle East. What is your opinion of this?
SH: This is U.S. propaganda aimed at dividing the strength of Muslims. The Shiite-Sunni issue has been created by the United States just to hide its failure in Iraq and to achieve its goals in the Middle East. Besides, the United States is also creating poisonous propaganda against Iran for intervening in Iraq's affairs just to malign its position in the world community. It is baseless. I was in Iran two months ago where I held meetings with the top Iranian leadership. I urged them to counter U.S. propaganda and try to satisfy Kurds, Arabs and Sunnis. I clearly told them that if you [Iran] need the support of the whole Muslim ummah, then you have to garner support against the United States, not only from Shiites but also from Sunnis.
IA: What do you think of Lashkar-e-Jangvi, TNSM and other jihadi outfits in Pakistan?
SH: Lashkar-e-Jangvi and similar organizations are the continuity of the Kashmir problem. These jihadi forces were patronized by the Pakistani intelligence agency, the ISI, with full state support for their activities in Kashmir. But when Pakistan came under immense pressure, then this whole drama was wrapped up and that is why a ban was put on these jihadi organizations. It is all a dictated policy from the West.
IA: What do you think about the latest spate of suicide bombings in Pakistan?
SH: This is not a surprise. This new suicide phenomenon in Pakistan is the direct outcome of the government's policies, particularly the unjust military operations in the tribal belt along the Afghan border. Today, Pakistani forces are at the highest level of danger and risk due to the flawed policies of General Musharraf in the name of fighting the so-called war on terror. This is what I had forewarned about in the past, that if the government did not stop these unjust military operations, then attacks on military posts and violence would not be confined to the tribal areas, but will spread to the rest of the country. Today, you see that this is happening.
IA: Do you think that suicide attacks are fair?
SH: The bombers would not ask us to confirm whether it is fair or unfair. It is better you ask this question to the suicide bombers, whose family members have been killed and houses have been bombed. They themselves decided what they had to do. They would not ask any mullah. But they do think that they will go straight to paradise.
IA: Who do you think these bombers are?
SH: They are young and emotional Muslims. When they see that their leaders have surrendered to the United States and its allies, then they do not see any other way out except for the option of suicide bombing. Among them are students of modern universities who see how the Western powers are destroying Muslims around the world. Suicide bombing is an international phenomenon now. These young people do not receive any suicide training or motivation in a madrassa or a mosque. They watch it on their TVs—the dead bodies of Muslim brothers. They see that Muslims are being killed in various part of the world. When they see these atrocities, they go their own way. If the international community wants to put an end to this kind of activity, it is high time for them to ponder solutions to issues like Palestine, Iraq and Kashmir.
IA: Besides your madrassa role, how do you see your role as a politician in the political field?
SH: My role is very clear as a madrassa teacher as it is as a politician. I want a true Islamic system in Pakistan. That is my simple goal. The current Pakistani system of governance was introduced by the British Raj, which means we are still enslaved by that colonial legacy. Our economy, education and judicial system stem from the same exploitative British rule. I want to introduce real Sharia, which was implemented by the four caliphs of Islam.
IA: Will you support Musharraf in the upcoming presidential elections?
SH: We have not yet decided about the upcoming elections. But I think they will be a fraud and a futile exercise in the name of democracy. Elections are part of democracy, but here they have become a fraud. In my 37-year career as a politician, I have seen a particular group of politicians from a particular group of families ruling this country. They have made their own dynasties. Since the creation of Pakistan, they have just been replacing one another, with no big change in policies. I am in favor of a bloodless revolution, which would completely overhaul the existing system. I just wonder, how can a democracy flourish in the shadow of a military uniform? The present one is a shame of a democracy.
IA: Do you think that with his support for the war on terror, Musharraf's popularity has increased or decreased at home?
SH: Absolutely decreased. First, look at the declining popularity of President Bush in his own country. So, how can Musharraf be popular for his role in the so-called war on terror? The reports about his increasing popularity are just rubbish.
IA: Will Musharraf be able to maintain control over Pakistan?
SH: Well, people are not happy with what he is doing here in Pakistan. The overwhelming majority of the masses are opposing his policies, particularly the much talked about "enlightened moderation." After bringing changes to the Hudood laws, now his government might soon amend the blasphemy laws. But he does not understand that the Pakistani people will sacrifice their lives on the issue of blasphemy. All these actions demonstrate his unpopularity among the masses.
IA: Is an Islamic revolution a possibility in Pakistan's future?
SH: Anything is possible. But the most important thing to keep in mind is that the motive behind the creation of Pakistan was the establishment of an Islamic state for the Muslims of India. Establishment of Sharia is the logical conclusion of Pakistan's creation.
IA: How do see yourself and your role in the next 10 years, and how can you contribute to the peaceful revolution you mentioned earlier?
SH: I'll see how events unfold in the future. However, I'm optimistic that after 10 years, the whole Muslim ummah will have awakened from its deep slumber; Pakistan is no exception. I think that the vast majority of Pakistanis will not tolerate what is going on here as silent spectators. Here is also a lesson for the United States: to learn from what happened to the former superpower the USSR. It should address the problems of the world in a positive way and address the sense of deprivation being created in the people of this region and especially in the Muslim ummah. Things have drastically changed. With the way they [the United States and its Western allies] inflict cruelties and damages on the Muslim ummah, there will be a strong response. Now, the Muslims have awakened. It is time for the United States to act responsibly. Otherwise, there will be tit-for-tat attacks.
IA: Do you think that the suicide bombing phenomenon is a kind of awakening?
SH: Look, if you kick a sleeping man, he will not only wake but will also resist. So, yes, suicide bombing is an awakening. Tell me, where did the concept of suicide bombing in Pakistan come? We had not heard about any suicide bombings in the more than two decades of the Afghan conflict. But this is a new and unbeatable discovery which some Muslim youth have found as an answer to the cruelties and damages being inflicted on the Muslim ummah.
IA: Can Western governments have a healthy relationship with Pakistan through foreign aid or development work?
SH: The first step is sovereignty and respect, and only then can foreign aid work. Until the United States and the West respect the sovereignty of Muslim countries and stop their aggression and atrocities, nothing will work.
Back to Top
Back to Top
Transporters stop oil supply to foreign forces in Afghanistan
Islamabad, May 24 (DPA) Pakistani transporters supplying oil to US and NATO troops in Afghanistan have suspended supplies from a major refinery because of repeated militant attacks on tanker trucks at the border, a press report said Thursday.
'We have decided to halt oil supply from the Attock Oil Refinery (AOR) to Afghanistan due to lack of any security network,' said Shakir Afridi, president of the Transporters' Association, Pakistan's Dawn newspaper reported.
During the past month alone, 23 oil tankers were destroyed by bombs and rockets while parked awaiting customs clearance at the Torkham crossing point by the Khyber Pass, Afridi said.
Last Monday, suspected Taliban militants with rockets destroyed nine tankers in the area in one attack.
Over the past four years, 174 vehicles were destroyed, 38 drivers were killed, 116 were injured and 15 were abducted, according to the official.
The suspension by AOR does not completely choke the fuel supply to international forces in landlocked Afghanistan. Several other companies also work the route, although Afridi said they had more choice where to park vehicles during clearance and were less vulnerable to attack.
Back to Top
Back to Top
Poland To Give Helicopters To Afghan Air Force
Thursday May 24, 07:37 PM
KABUL, May 24 Asia Pulse - Poland will provide helicopters and heavy and light arms to enhance the capability of the Afghan armed forces.
An agreement to this effect was signed by Defence Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak and his Polish counterpart Aleksander Szczyglo here on Wednesday. ADVERTISEMENT
Under the accord, Poland would help Afghanistan in equipping its armed forces and enhancing their capability by providing helicopters and light and heavy arms.
Briefing journalists, Defence Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Zahir Azimi said the arms and choppers would be given as a grant and Afghanistan would not pay for it.
He said the number and type of helicopters and arsenals was not known as yet.
He said the two ministers also discussed strengthening of the Afghan air force and the sending of more Polish troops to Afghanistan.
He said the building of the country's air force would be completed in the coming two years if the allied countries fulfilled their promises.
Appreciating the assistance extended by Poland, Azimi said that country had provided heavy and light arms to Afghanistan in the past as well.
This is the second visit of the Polish Defence Minister to Afghanistan during the current year. Poland has contributed 506 soldiers to the NATO's peacekeeping mission in Afghanistan.
(Pajhwok Afghan News)
Back to Top
Back to Top
Special police unit to be deployed to Kabul
KABUL, May 23 (Pajhwok Afghan News): A special unit of police force would be deployed to ensure security in Kabul city, Interior Ministry spokesman Zmaray Bashari told journalists on Wednesday.
Personnel of the 300-man unit would be well-trained and well-equipped to control and act quickly in emergency circumstances, said the spokesman.
He said the 300 police personnel had been trained for 16 weeks in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif by German trainers.
Bashari said 4,700 more policemen would be trained on the same lines to complete the number of 5,000 specially trained men. They would be deployed in all big cities across the country.
Regarding the Taliban attacks in recent days, Bashari admitted there was a surge in attacks on police and over 10 policemen had been killed in the previous few days.
He said the surge in Taliban attacks was not an unexpected thing. The government needed support from public to thwart the threat to peace and security of the country.
Back to Top
Back to Top
Protestors demand restoration of Amarkhail
KABUL, May 23 (Pajhwok Afghan News): Dozens of people, demanding restoration of former border police chief of the Kabul International Airport Aminullah Amarkhail, staged a demonstration in front of the Parliament House on Wednesday.
Amarkhail was removed from his post after he was charged of corruption and misuse of authority. He fled the country to evade arrest by the government; however came back here last month.
Participants of the demonstration asked the government and the Parliament to cancel the suspension of Amarkhail and restore him on the seat with full honour.
Described his suspension as a conspiracy, the people gathered in front of the Parliament House demanded the formation of an impartial commission to probe the charges against him.
Muhammad Akram, head of the local council in Chardi district and one of the protestors, told Pajhwok Afghan News Amarkhail was suspended on the behest of the powerful drug mafia.
During his service as head of the border police, Amarkhail had arrested several influential drug smugglers. This was why, he was removed from the seat through a conspiracy, said the protestor.
Akram said their protest would continue till the formation of an impartial commission by the government and the two houses of Parliament to review and probe the charges against the ex-border police chief.
In an interview soon after his suspension, Amarkhail mentioned involvement of drug mafia as the prime reason behind his removal from the lucrative slot. However Attorney General Abdul Jabbar Sabit had declined his claim as baseless.
Back to Top
|Back to News Archirves of 2007|
Disclaimer: This news site is mostly a compilation of publicly accessible articles on the Web in the form of a link or saved news item. The news articles and commentaries/editorials are protected under international copyright laws. All credit goes to the original respective source(s).