AFGHANISTAN: A view from the left

Issue 

BY FAROOQ TARIQ

LAHORE — Adil is a leader of the Afghanistan Labour Revolutionary Organisation who lives in exile in Pakistan. He secretly visited the Afghan city of Jalalabad on September 16-19 to assess the situation and to consult with his party's members.

"Jalalabad was in an absolutely shocking condition", Adil said. "Everyone was saying they would leave Afghanistan as soon as possible. To reach Peshawar, in Pakistan, you need at least 200,000 Afghanis [US$2]. Then you need another $5 to bribe the Pakistan border officials to cross. So anyone who has this amount is leaving."

The average wage of an Afghan government clerk is around 300,000 Afghanis per month. A labourer in Jalalabad gets just 10,000 to 20,000 Afghanis per day. Wages are not normally paid for up to six months.

"People are sick and tired of Taliban regime", said Adil. "They cannot say it openly but now are very sure the regime is going to fall. Most of the shops and the trading companies were closed in Jalalabad. No-one wants to do any business in the city. It is deserted."

According to Adil, there are around 20,000 military personnel at the disposal of the Taliban. "They have now lost their best friend, Pakistan, so they will be in trouble. On the other hand, Osama bin Laden has the support of 25,000 fighters from many Arab countries, Pakistan and even China and Nigeria."

"When the Taliban say they will not hand bin Laden over to the Americans, it has nothing to do with them being courageous or respecting their obligations to guests under the tenets of Islam", said Adil. "They cannot hand bin Laden over because he has more Islamic militants than the Taliban.

"The people I spoke to in Jalalabad are openly against the Taliban. Only the Talibs (militant Islamic students) support them. No-one else supports them in Afghanistan. They are the most unpopular regime in Afghanistan's history.

"If the Americans come here, the Taliban will lose power — not because of the effect of an attack but because the Taliban has no popular support. It is not like the situation when the Russians came to Afghanistan. There were a lot of people in Afghanistan opposing them.

"The situation now is totally different. The Taliban cannot fight with the US for a long time. They cannot hide for long. They are doomed to lose power."

Adil said his party had opposed the Taliban from the beginning. "But the USA and Pakistan have supported them from the beginning. Only now do they say that the Taliban government is no good."

Adil described the opposition Northern Alliance as a coalition of forces. One group is headed by Abdul Rashid Dostum, who heads Junbash Milli Islami (Islamic National Movement), a close ally of Peoples Democratic Party leaders of Afghanistan who ruled with the support of Russians. He is not a fundamentalist and represents the Uzbek and Turkic ethnic minorities of Afghanistan.

Another component party is the Itehad Islami Afghanistan (Afghanistan Islamic Unity). This is the most fundamentalist party of the alliance. Then there is the party of recently assassinated Northern Alliance military leader Ahmed Shah Masood, the Shoora Nizaar (Islamic Association).

Masood was killed by the Taliban because he was the only capable person who could lead the resistance after September 11. "He was supported by many Western powers already", said Adil. "He was a religious fanatic but recently had been emphasising right-wing ideas rather than religious ones."

Adil said that his party would support an interim regime headed by Zahir Shah, the 86-year-old ex-king. According to Adil, Zahir Shah seems to have the support of all the parties in Afghanistan apart from the Taliban. The flags of Zahir Shah's party are seen everywhere in Peshawar.

"Our party", said Adil, "will support his rule in a transitional period. Washington plans to hand power to him after the fall of the Taliban and then he can call an election in one year's time. There is a Persian saying that the 'bad is in power and there some good is coming out of it'. So we have no other choice apart from supporting him for a transitional period.

"But it is clear that he will not be able to solve the problems of the people.

"Our party is totally opposed to US military intervention. But we are in favour of an immediate ending of the Taliban government. The situation is like the Americans have a dog that has now gone mad. It is the responsibility of Americans to control or kill the mad dog. We will do our part to hunt down this mad dog which is dangerous for the Afghan people.

"The Taliban was supported by the US and Pakistan in the hope of stabilising Afghanistan but the situation has got out of their control."

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