Abdul Qadir’s assassination increases Pashtun fears and Karzai’s problems

Empowering Weak & Oppressed

Zafar Bangash

Jumada' al-Ula' 06, 1423 2002-07-16


by Zafar Bangash (World, Crescent International Vol. 31, No. 10, Jumada' al-Ula', 1423)

The US-imposed Afghan government has begun to unravel. Public works minister Haji Abdul-Qadir, who was also one of three vice presidents, was gunned down in broad daylight in Kabul on July 6. Abdul-Qadir’s death has increased the Pashtoon majority’s concerns: they already feel that they were not given representation commensurate with their numbers. Abdul-Qadir was given the vice-presidential portfolio as a sop to Pashtoon sentiment because they had complained that the Tajik minority was handed the lion’s share of power.

Abdul-Qadir’s assassination highlights the precarious situation of Hamid Karzai’s US-backed government. That enemies can strike even inside the city with such impunity shows up both the level of resentment and the lack of security, despite the presence of thousands of foreign troops. The unkindest cut was that the assassins fled in a taxi. The killing happened six days after 48 Afghan civilians were massacred in a US bombing raid on Kakrakai village, Uruzgan province. US planes bombed the village for two hours: people had been firing guns in the air to celebrate the wedding, according to Afghan tradition. The trigger-happy Americans, in keeping with their “shoot first, check later” policy, attacked the area without bothering to investigate. US forces then stormed the village, tied up injured men and women, and photographed them, including the women, some of whom were not properly covered because their clothes had been burned in the fires that resulted from the bombing. They were also denied medical help for nearly eight hours, resulting in many unnecessary deaths.

The attack occurred on the house of one Sharif, whose son was the bridegroom. Sharif had sheltered Karzai when the latter was injured during the American bombing of Uruzgan against the Taliban last October. Sharif’s brother, Anwar, complained: “After bombing the area, the US forces rushed to the house, cordoned it off and refused to let the people help the victims or take them away for treatment.”

Anwar, a senior military commander in Qandahar province, said that the death-toll would have been much less if the troops storming his brother’s home had allowed relatives to tend the victims. “Many of the injured with broken arms and broken legs died due to loss of blood. Until seven or eight o’clock in the morning the Americans did not allow anyone to help the injured or to cover the bodies...They kept filming and photographing the naked women...The people are asking: Is this result of the support we have extended to the Americans? This is humiliation. Our women were disgraced.”

On July 4 there was an anti-American rally in Kabul against the bombing and the humiliation of women at Kakrakai. Anti-American rage also gripped the nearby villages of Shatoghai, Siasung and Mazar, other areas hit in the US bombardment. “One day God will give us the strength and we will fight them,” said Haji Wali, whose home in Shatoghai was attacked. “Even during the Russians’ occupation [1979-1989] there was never such a sustained bombing of the area. We are weak and they are oppressing us,” he railed. He dismissed compensation offers as derisory, saying that the Americans had offered tents. “Are two or four tents worth the price of our lives?...Would the Americans forgive us if we killed two Americans and give them two tents in return? The Taliban used to lock us in jail, but they would not bomb us and dishonour our women,” he was quoted by the Agency France Presse in a report on July 7.

This is not the first time that the triggerhappy Americans have killed civilians. On April 18 four Canadian soldiers were killed; on January 24 at least 21 members of a pro-government group were slaughtered as they slept outside Qandahar. On December 21 last year 65 tribal elders on their way to Kabul were killed when the Americans bombed their convoy. The Americans are greatly concerned about their own safety, but obviously do not care for anyone else’s. This was also shown on June 26, when 10 Pakistani soldiers were killed in an attack on Azam Warsak village, South Waziristan. Pakistani troops went to this area at the behest of the Americans, who claimed that al-Qa’ida supporters were hiding there. By acceding to the Americans’ demand Pakistan not only lost 10 soldiers but also roused the wrath of the tribal people. This is a policy that will cost Pakistan dear, because the Americans are so untrustworthy. If the Americans suffer large casualties in Afghanistan they will flee the country and abandon Pakistan, leaving it with hostile neighbours on either side.

The drift in American policy is already obvious: apart from killing a large number of innocent Afghans, little else has been achieved. Not one of the top Taliban leaders or al-Qa’ida members has been arrested; nor are they likely to be. Pashtoon resentment against American heavy-handedness is increasing and will probably become much worse. There is bound to be reaction from the Pashtoons, whose anger and resentment are justifiable and understandable.

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