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Afghan warlords forgive themselves!

On the 1st of February 2007, the lower house of the Afghan parliament, the Wolesi Jirga, composed of 249 members passed a resolution declaring amnesty for war crimes and crimes against humanity during 1978-2001, Afghan wars. These crimes include genocide, rape and murder. 35 members of the Wolesi jirga voted against the resolution.

            In December 2006, the Human Rights Watch in its meeting in New York passed a resolution seeking arrest and trial of war criminals, by specially constituted trial courts in Afghanistan. Amongst the notables of Afghan government and members of Wolesi jirga are Ismail Khan, the minister of energy, Rashid Dostum, the army chief of staff and Karim Khalil, a vice president. They are the main accused amongst many others.

            The resolution not only wanted amnesty for the war criminals but also recommended the grant of privileges to the accused, since they had formed a resistance against aggressors and defended Afghan freedom.  These Shenanigans of the warlords even surpass Orwell’s inversion of meaning exemplifying slavery as freedom. What is the message that will now go to the Taliban and Al-Qaeda? They too are fighting for the freedom of Afghanistan according to their light; a sizable population both in Afghanistanand Pakistan agrees with them. This also raises a religious issue of high emotive content; if those who killed or raped innocent civilians are heroes than where is the morality in the Afghan Wars? What about those who sacrificed their lives defending Pakistan against Taliban and Al-Qaeda in the tribal and settled areas of Pakistan? Are they not martyrs then? The Afghan resolution is thus a great mystification.  

Afghanistan instituted a Peace and Reconciliation Commission under Professor Sebghatullah Mojadedi, who in 2005 declared amnesty for Mulla Umar and Gulbadin Hikmatyar; both have a $10 million reward each on their head for their arrest or death. Mojadedi is also the speaker of the Masherano jirga, which is the Afghan upper house. The resolution will now be put before him. It will very likely be passed to Karzai for legislation, since Mojadedi has already given his support on this issue.         

The UN, Britain, and the US have criticized the resolution. President Musharraf spoke about it in his recent address to the media but did not judge it. However, this move by the Wolesi jirga has other far reaching implications. If the measure passes the Afghan upper house, it would be sent to President Karzai for approval and legislation. Karzai may reject it. If he does so, it will pit him against the Northern Alliance majority in parliament. Moreover, the ground situation is against Karzai. The Taliban have influence and control over 14 Afghan districts. Karzai’s denial of the resolution will lead to the Northern Alliance linking with the Taliban. On the other hand if Karzai accepts the resolution it will annoy the U.S.

            In March and April a bloody conflict is predicted between the Taliban and the Coalition. Without the Northern Alliance support against the Taliban, the US and NATO face an up hill task and will have high causalities this spring. Another consequence arising out of the non implementation of the resolution will be the drift of the war lords to the Taliban to buy future good will.

            A Karzai veto will be portrayed as a stab in the back of Afghan democracy by the present Afghan parliament; after all in a sense he is denying the will of the electorate.

            The issue has also brought another contradiction to the forefront. If the resolution defines war crimes committed before 2001 as acts for the freedom of Afghanistan, how will the efforts of the Taliban be classified? They also describe their actions as contribution towards Afghan freedom; they too are fighting foreign forces like the Mujahideen who fought the USSR till 1992.

            As a matter of fact Mojadedi said exactly this in 2005, when a journalist raised the issue he retorted, Brother, don’t discuss war criminals, because there are lots of other war criminals. Which one of them should we put on trial first?

            Many organizations had recommended before the Afghan general election in 2005, that no war or drug lord should be permitted to stand for elections. Unfortunately, the advice remained unheeded by the U.S and President Karzai. The U.S thought that such criminals would assist them in its war effort. That has not happened. In turn war criminals now hold ministerial office in the Afghan administration and the country has become the world’s largest producer of opium and heroin. Afghanistan drug trade for all practical purposes is protected by the state and ironically by a US and NATO security umbrella; it is impossible to reconcile such contradictions.

What will be the message for the Taliban arising out of this resolution? They will condemn and exploit it as yet another example of moral corruption by the occupiers. As far as Karzai is concerned, if he vetoes the resolution he will be left confined to his Kabul residence without support of the Northern Alliance. His presidency now is bereft of any moral authority whatsoever, even if he had some credibility two years ago. The Taliban will take advantage of such moral bankruptcy in the days to come.

The resolution passed by the Wolesi Jirga lends more credibility to the peace agreements signed by Pakistan in South and North Waziristan. That is the way forward even though the agreements had loop holes arising out of not involving the tribes in the first stage; but it is never too late. Even now steps should be taken to correct them by reviewing the agreements. There is no other alternative; Pakistan must hold the line. On the other hand the agreements are threatened by Baitullah Mahsud, who has declared war on Pakistan after the recent missile strike against Zamazola in South Waziristan. He is now fast emerging as a guerilla leader par excellence; he has both the manpower and an ample supply of suicide bombers who include Uzbek and tribal youth. The later see death more meaningful than a life of unemployment.

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