Understanding Afghanistan's recent past
Stabroek News
October 25, 2001

Dear Editor,

In light of the current US led and globally supported war against the terrorist hideouts in Afghanistan there have appeared numerous letters in your columns including at least two well researched pieces by one Raymond Chickrie not too long ago. Some letters simply magnify the frightening lack of understanding of the political realities that the despotic Taliban Islamic fundamentalist regime has brought to bear upon the long oppressed

citizenry of Afghanistan. Please note my remarks are meant to increase public understanding of the Afghan reality and it is therefore useful to note:

1979-1989: This period was marked by the brutal invasion and illegal occupation of Afghanistan by the Soviet Union and their installation of a puppet regime headed by the despotic Babrak Kamal. During the same period, the Islamic fighting force or 'Mujahideen' emerged as the dominant and leading Afghan resistance movement led by the Farsi speaking Ahmad Shah Masud (an Afghan of Tadjik origin and a Shia Muslim)in the north. In the south, 'the Mujahideen' was led by the Pashto speaking Gulbaddin Hekmatyar

(an Afghan of Pashtun origin and a Sunni Muslim). The United States during the entire 1980s thanks in large measure to then US President Ronald Reagan's policy of 'containment of communist expansion' financially and militarily aided the 'Mujahideen' in shaking off their Soviet oppressors. Nearby Pakistan under the late President Zia Ul-Haq served as the supply and intelligence base for US engagement with the 'Mujahideen'.

Pakistan received large amounts of US financial and military

assistance especially in light of it hosting millions of Afghan refugees in its North-West Frontier Province (Capital - Peshawar) and the military threat posed by its traditional adversary India which has always enjoyed a cosy relationship with the then USSR.

1989-1991: The end of the Cold War following the tearing down of the Berlin Wall led to a weakened Soviet Union. This resulted in an United Nations brokered ceasefire and the full withdrawal of all Soviet occupying forces from Afghanistan. In August 1991, the Soviet Union collapsed following the fall of Mikhail Gorbachev and the emergence of Boris Yelstin as the new leader of the Russian Federation. This scenario led to the emergence of several newly independent nation states within Central Asia such as Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kirghiztan, Tadjikistan and Azerbaijan (all of which are predominantly Muslim). The former Afghan strongman and Soviet proxy, President Babrak Kamal had also passed away during the latter part of the 1980s and was immediately replaced by another Soviet proxy in the form of President Najibullah.

1991-1994: This period marked not only the Soviet withdrawal but also intensified internal conflict between the two major factions of the 'Mujahideen' - the Northern Alliance led by the western favoured Ahmad Shah Masoud and the Taliban controlled by Mullah Omar. The Pakistani government now under the despotic control of Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto (daughter of the former Pakistani PM Zulifikar Ali-Bhutto)immediately swung their support in favour of the Taliban forces. In late 1994, the Taliban forces gained

complete control of Kabul and forced the capitulation of the provisional government in place under Ahmad Shah Masoud. The Taliban showed very little respect for international agreements and marched their way into the local United Nations Office and brutally executed several Soviet era Afghans that had sought political asylum in the UN compound including the former Afghan

dictator - Najibullah whose bullet riddled body was hung from a tree in broad daylight.

The Northern Alliance commander - Ahmad Shah Masoud was forced to

flee to the northern frontier and many of his supporters including the provisional President Norhaddin Rabbani had to seek refuge in nearby Tadjikistan. Gulbaddin Hekmatyar who had supported the Taliban in their early days was also forced to flee to Iran because of differences with Taliban hardliners

1995 - Present: In late 1995, the United Nations finally recognised the exiled government of President Norhaddin Rabbani as the legitimate rulers of Afghanistan. In the meantime, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Pakistan recognised the Taliban regime as the legal voice of the besieged Afghan nation. A number of command and control centres were established on the Tadjik/Afghan border under the control of the late 'Lion of Pansjhir' - Commander Ahmad Shah Masoud who was brutally murdered by cohorts of Osama bin Laden on the specific orders of the repressive Taliban regime just two days prior to the September 11th tragedies in the United States. The various regimes in Pakistan, be it the Nawaz Sharif or Bhutto and even to some extent some radical commanders within the current Musharraf regime have continued to engage the Taliban and where necessary allowed their usage of Pakistani soil for 'radical Islamic indoctrination' of the young. The border cities of Quetta and Peshawar are now host to thousands of 'Madrassahs' or Islamic schools where anti-western, anti-American, anti-Jewish propaganda is being imparted with reckless abandon. Sadly, the unsuspecting minds of its young Islamic adherents are filled with animosity for the west instead of the basic foundation of a standard elementary education.

Over the past few weeks, the world has witnessed the amazing skills and precision employed by the US Air Force in gaining control of the skies thus allowing the way forward not only for US special forces (already on the ground in Afghanistan's rugged interior) but also the elite Special Air Services and the Royal Gurkha Regiment of Great Britain. The ferocious fighting spirit of the Shia minority Tadjik and Uzbek Farsi speaking members of the Northern Alliance are also gaining control rapidly as they forge forward. These are the very descendants of the Caliph Ali (the fourth Caliph of Islam and the son-in-law/cousin of the Prophet Muhammad (OWBP) whose tomb is actually located in northern Afghanistan close to the town of Mazar-e-Sharif. However, amidst it all, there is a terrible human tragedy evolving in that no less than 6 million innocent Afghan men, women and children face the risk of increased starvation and even famine as the winter arrives. The United Nations estimates that with only 27,000 tonnes of food being able to get through every month versus the required 52,000 tonnes the tragedy is just a matter of time.

The past few days have seen more than 20,000 refugees amassing on the Afghan-Pakistan border but the Pakistani authorities have only allowed in a meagre 5,000 whilst there are about 15,000 camping out in a number of makeshift if not rather rudimentary tents in a sort of 'no man's land'. The Pakistanis are extremely fearful of a further deluge given the fact that Pakistan already is home to more than 2 million Afghan refugees. The United Nations is clearly in a race against time in terms of providing proper tents, medical expertise and supplies, potable water etc in time before the harsh, bone chilling winter arrives since these mountains (the Hindu Khush and the Karakoram) form the second most formidable range after the Himalayas. I know first hand these conditions since I had the good fortune just a few years ago of visiting Peshawar in late autumn as part of a Canadian Institute of International Affairs that visited the region in conjunction with Britain's prestigious Royal Institute of International Affairs.

The world must convince the Government of President Musharraf of

Pakistan to open its borders before hundreds of thousands of innocent and fellow Muslim refugees meet certain death because of the harsh climate and lack of proper care. The Islamic month of Ramadhan is simply a few weeks away and it is therefore incumbent upon all Muslims in Guyana to lobby their respective organizations to write to President Musharraf imploring him to

open his borders to the oppressed Afghan refugees. Foreign Minister Insanally of Guyana must also lobby his Pakistani counterpart to ease up the restrictions on Pakistan's border with Afghanistan. Guyana also has a lot of open land and it will not be a bad idea to allow the settlement of a few thousand refugees from Afghanistan since our population is so small.

Yours faithfully,

Mike Singh