Thursday, May 8, 2008

Thousands gather to hear U.S. denounced

From Agence-France Presse:

Afghan intellectuals criticise US, NATO operations

KABUL, May 8 (AFP) - About 3,000 Afghan politicians and intellectuals criticised Thursday the international military campaign against Islamic militants in Afghanistan and called for dialogue to ending the fighting.The meeting of mainly Pashtuns, the country's largest ethnic group, launched a new body that it said would work on "saving people captured in fighting" and assist "those involved in conflict to stop fighting." ...

"Today our elders, children and women are captured and jailed," civil society activist Daud Mirakai, one of the founders of the new National Peace Jirga of Afghanistan, told the crowd.

He was referring to arrests of suspects during US- and NATO-led operations mainly in Pashtun-dominated southern and eastern Afghanistan where Taliban militants are most active and are said to have local support.

The forces regularly round up suspects but no women are known to be among them.

"Today, they (foreign forces) break through our doors while our women are sleeping," he continued...

Another key organiser, parliamentarian Bakhtar Aminzai, said the new jirga, the Pashtu word for council, wanted to bring peace through talks with the rebels.

"Fighting is not the solution," he said. "Dialogue and reconciliation is the solution for the conflict," he said. (link)
Daud Mirakai (also spelled Miraki), quoted above, was born in Afghanistan but left with his family to Pakistan when he was still a teenager. In a short autobiography, Miraki explains that his father, a general in the pro-Soviet Afghan military in the early 1980's, "was leading the underground resistance movement in Kabul". Soon he was found out and the family fled to Peshawar. (Attempts to find support for this assertion indicate that his father was indeed a general. However, there is no mention of his being a resistance leader.) Miraki the younger eventually moved to the U.S. where he became an academic sociologist. In recent years he has become a prominent anti-DU campaigner and author of Afghanistan After Democracy.

Dr. Bakhtar Aminzai, also quoted, is a member of the Afghan Senate (the Meshrano Jirga) from Paktia. He holds that position on account of his showing in the Paktia provincial election in 2005, when he placed fourth among numerous hopefuls, pulling in 3% of the vote (first place got 4%). Subsequent to his joining the Senate, he garnered 27 votes from his 101 colleagues in the poll to pick a Senate leader, while former post-Soviet president Sibghatullah Mojaddedi got 50 votes to win the post.

Also speaking to the assembly was Tajwar Kakar of the United National Party (Hizb-e Mutahid-e Milli) which is the successor to the Parcham faction of the old Afghan communist party, the PDPA. She is the former deputy minister for women's affairs and has a storied background as a resistance fighter who bravely opposed Soviet rule.

According to Minakshi Das of the Asia Research Centre, Kakar "was a member of a small group of women who directly participated in the covert war against the Soviets." (See report pdf here.) This participation resulted in her being caught, imprisoned and tortured by the Afghan communist government.

In 1999, she convinced leaders of the Taliban regime to allow her to open a school for girls, though the promise was not kept. Lately, she has been connected with the Afghan Women's Network.

Interviewed in Development and Cooperation magazine of Germany several years ago, Kakar is bold:
Q: How do you assess the international aid for Afghanistan? The donors are sometimes criticised for pursuing different goals .

Aid is important but it has not yet brought what we had hoped for. What I cannot understand is that there is far more money for the continuation of the war than there is for the reconstruction. It is wrong to bomb the civilian population and to justify it with the ongoing struggle against the Taliban. Many innocent people are killed as a result. The Afghans have had enough of war. (link)


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