Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Canadian media sits on juicy murder story

Here's a rather revealing item which got almost no mention in the Canadian press. A cousin of Hamid Karzai kills another cousin of Hamid Karzai in an honour killing. It appears that the killer, Hashmat Karzai, had the support of Hamid and his brothers, one of whom, Ahmed Wali Karzai, is the recognized head of the Karzai clan and the de facto governor of Kandahar - and drug kingpin and CIA informant. Police investigation seems to be blocked, likely due to Wali's influence.

This remarkable story got mentioned on page 16 of the Montreal Gazette (Dec 24/09) and nowhere else in the Canadian press.

Killing Bares Karzai Clan Feud, And Doubts on Afghan Justice
James Risen - The New York Times

WASHINGTON, Dec 20 - On Oct. 16, four sport utility vehicles barreled into Karz, Afghanistan, the hometown of the country's president, Hamid Karzai, and pulled up to the home of one of his cousins, Yar Mohammad Karzai.

Teams of armed guards blocked the street and herded passers-by into a nearby mosque while seizing their cellphones, then removed the front door of the house, according to Karzai family members and several people from the mosque. A man in traditional white Afghan robes, accompanied by two security guards, walked inside and found two of Yar Mohammad Karzai's children, 18-year-old Waheed and his 12-year-old sister, Sona, doing their schoolwork in their bedroom.

The girl later said that she remembered the robed man raising a pistol and shooting Waheed three times as she shouted: ''Don't kill my brother! Don't kill my brother!''

As the intruders fled, firing their weapons, a cousin, Zalal Karzai, 25, came running from elsewhere in the house and saw Waheed stagger from the bedroom. ''What happened to you?'' Zalal Karzai recalled asking.

'' 'Hashmat shot me!' '' he said the youth screamed back.

Waheed Karzai, who relatives say provided the same account to other family members before dying two days later at an American military hospital in Kandahar, was referring to Hashmat Karzai, 40, a first cousin of the president and the owner of a private security company that has close ties to the Afghan government and millions of dollars in contracts with the United States military...

Some relatives said they believed that the death was vengeance for an ''honor killing'' of Hashmat Karzai's father nearly 30 years ago by Yar Mohammad Karzai...

While some family members accuse the Karzai government of stonewalling, they do not claim that the president played an active role in blocking an investigation. Instead, they blame several of his brothers, including Ahmed Wali Karzai, the political boss of Kandahar...

Noor Karzai, 40, a cousin who lives in Maryland, expressed similar disappointment. ''They are protecting Hashmat,'' he said. ''He is sitting in Kabul getting money from the U.S. government. No one will touch him. We are sending billions of dollars of ...

The village of Karz is in Kandahar Province, about three miles outside the city of Kandahar, where Ahmed Wali Karzai, one of the president's brothers, wields enormous political power. But after Waheed's killing, government officials in the Kandahar area were strangely unhelpful...

Meanwhile, at least three of President Karzai's brothers -- Ahmed Wali, Mahmoud and Qayum -- have been urging family members to allow relatives to deal with the killing privately without bringing in the police, said Noor and Mohammad Karzai, the brothers from Maryland... (link)
A few days after the NYT story, which caused quite a stir in Afghanistan, the Associated Press related that President Karzai had finally ordered an investigation:
A spokesman for the Interior Ministry, Zemeri Bashary, said Karzai ordered the ministry to begin investigating the killing Sunday, the same day the newspaper report was published.

He said counterterrorism police and criminal investigators were assisting local officials, who began looking into the killing earlier.

Yar Mohammad Karzai said he was frustrated the president took so long to acknowledge the slaying. "He did not even give me a condolence call,'' he said... (link)
So President Karzai apparently made no move to order a murder investigation early on and didn't even call to condole his cousin whose son was murdered. It thus seems the alleged murderer's family is closer to Hamid and his brothers than is the victim's family.

But clearly this debacle is not simply a matter of the security forces wisely staying out of difficult family feuds. Forty-year-old Hashmat Karzai, the alleged killer, heads a major security firm contracted to the US military while his younger brother Hekmat, 36, founded the Centre for Conflict and Peace Studies and is an advisor to his cousin Hamid Karzai. (It was their father, Khalil Karzai, who was killed in the early 80's by the father of the recently dead teen.)

It seems likely that many Afghans will see this latest slaying not as justice being served, but as another wealthy and powerful man using the immunity of his position to victimize others. Which is surely the last thing that Afghanistan needs right now. It also seems like something people in Canada might want to know about, given our important role in propping up the government there. But boosters for the war - and the media have more than their fair share of those - find such revelations a little bit awkward. Best to leave it out.

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