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A Lopsided Loya Jirga

The fundamental premise of any agreement is that it should be fair and equitable to all those who may be affected by it. Six months into the induction of the Afghan Interim Government (AIG), a traditional caucus, the LOYA JIRGA (Great National Assembly of Notables) is supposed to assemble to choose the representatives of the Afghan people. Hungry for peace, the Afghans accepted an overwhelmingly Tajik (and Panjsheeri Tajik at that) dominated AIG, putting their faith in Loya Jirga Commission that was mandated to complete the process of choosing the representatives according to a complex formula, but one which was mainly rooted in the democratic concept of apportioning delegates on the basis of percentage of population, provided, of course, that they had individual reputation for integrity and acceptability to those whom they sought to represent. Even a cursory look at the procedural document issued by the Loya Jirga Commission showed that the Northern (Tajik) and Western (Uzbek) Districts have been allotted a much higher number of delegates. The Panjsheeri Tajiks who actually wield power in the AIG (having the all-important Ministries of Defence, Interior and Foreign Affairs) manipulated an artificial majority for Tajiks in the number of delegates while denying the same to the majority Pashtuns. While Pashtun Hamid Karzai has kept the disparate but heavily Tajik-weighted coalition together, the seeds of discontent may reverse all the gains made in removing the Taliban from power. The Eastern and Southern Regions are Pashtun and densely populated, they should have been given greater representation.

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Labelling Enemies as Terrorist

At face value the brutal murder of Abdur Rahman, Afghanistan Interim Government (AIG) Minister for Aviation and Tourism, looked like a spontaneous mob reaction by Hajj-bound Afghans irate at not being provided aircraft for their pilgrimage. Actually it was a carefully planned execution deliberately carried out publicly with multiple intentions, viz (1) to eliminate a person within the regime viewed as a turncoat (2) to put the fear of God into the other leaders in the AIG for not complying with the dictates of the Punjsheeri Tajiks and (3) escape retribution by camouflaging the assassination as mob violence because of an emotional issue. Abdur Rahman belonged to Jamaat-e-Islami before a disagreement with late Ahmed Shah Masood forced him to flee to New Delhi. He later joined the Monarchists loyal to King Zahir Shah. To the Punjsheeri Tajiks Abdur Rahman was a traitor twice-over, a dead-man walking, waiting to be symbolically eliminated, a very public warning to someone who had the temerity to question the Punjsheeri Tajik-cult hero, late Ahmed Shah Masood.

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Back to the Future

Pakistan has lived for more than two decades under the threat of a religious Sword of Damocles, after the Talibs took over in Afghanistan in 1996 our “future” began to take name and shape, the Talibanisation of Pakistan. A very vocal, religious minority in Pakistan held a rather submissive and terrified liberal majority in virtual thrall, threatening to convert our present back to the past and to make our future bleak. While religious teaching is more than necessary it can never be a complete education by itself, given the technological advances, theology is hopelessly mired in the past. Instead of investing in more schools and colleges, we allowed Madrassahs to move into this vacuum, proportionately increasing ignorance among our school going children. An absence of basic world knowledge among our youth virtually asked to be exploited by the religiously motivated. The religious rioting in Pakistan in September/October this year had the streets brimming over with sympathy for the Taliban. The youth yelled their throats hoarse and lungs out in support of “their” heroes Osama bin Laden and Mullah Umar, a frenzied thousand or so crossing over into Afghanistan to join the ranks already fighting with the Taliban. Moulvi Sufi Mohammad of the Tehrik Shahriah Nifaz Muhammadi (TSNM) flamboyantly led them across the border on prime time TV, first in he was first out, abandoning them on the “every man for himself” basis and making it safely back across. Sales of Osama bin Laden T-shirts nose-dived when Osama took off on the age-old principle, discretion is the better part of valour. Heroes are supposed to fight and die fighting, not to slink from hole to hole in the night like common thieves.

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The Talibs

Assuming the war with the Soviets would be a long drawn out one, CIA funded many of the Madrassahs through the ISI in the 80s as a future source of recruits. The Soviets packed up from Afghanistan far earlier than anticipated, Talib detachment with the various Mujahideen factions went home or back to the Madrassahs to continue their education. Pakistan did not really try convincing the Americans about their post-war responsibilities. Having seemingly defeated a Superpower by themselves, the then ISI bosses did not want the US to disturb their vision of a crescent of Pan-Islamic Countries. This naked individual ambition has contributed to the problems of this region today, the perpetrators still hiding behind “Islamic” garb and unbridled rhetoric as a convenient smoke screen. Only too happy to oblige, the Americans abdicated as paymasters in further financing the war or the peace to follow. Our then military rulers were not unduly worried, after all the Muslim world, led by the rich Arabs, would move in with massive funding, or so they thought! The net result, no post-war plan for Afghanistan, arrangements for economic aid and / or political rehabilitation, even in the pre-planning stage.

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