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Honorable Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen,
Distinguished Members of the House International Relations Committee,
Subcommittee on Human Rights
Ladies and Gentlemen,
On behalf of my Government and the people of Afghanistan, I seek your indulgence at the outset in permitting me to express my appreciation for this hearing.
The Taliban are as despised by the international community as they are despised by the people of Afghanistan. In Afghanistan, the Taliban have engaged in reign of terror, genocide, ethnic cleansing, scorched-earth policy, crimes of war, crimes against humanity, forced deportation of civilians, forcible displacement of hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs), the separation of women from their men-folk.
The Taliban have implemented misogynistic practices such as gender apartheid and feminization of poverty, contamination of water wells, indiscriminate targeting of civilians based on ethnic, religious and gender origins, forced display of yellow lapels for Hindu nationals, random executions, political and other extra-judicial executions that include targeted and mass killings, cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.
The Taliban have impeded access to humanitarian aid, non-cooperation with international aid agencies and open defiance of related international instruments, roundup of foreign or domestic aid workers, cultural genocide such as the destruction of the colossal 5th Century A.D. Buddha statues in Bamyan as well as the complete destruction of Afghanistans national heritage in the Kabul Museum.
Finally, the Taliban have institutionalized the worlds most rigid interpretation of Islam one which no educated Muslim would recognize as the merciful Islam of our Holy Prophet Mohammad (peace and blessing be upon him).
No Afghan entity and certainly no Muslim to dateregardless of originhas ever so systematically engaged in these practices, as has the Taliban militia. A scrutiny of their behavior clearly manifests their close adherence to the Deobandi and Wahabi interpretations of Islamic teachings. The former is widely practiced in Pakistan, the latter in Saudi Arabia. In fact, the people of Afghanistan, never followers of either of the aforementioned Islamic interpretations, have been held as slaves of the Talibans primitive world view and, believe me, will welcome their liberation by International Community when Afghanistan is freed.
But let me stress to you that Americas role in this International force currently embroiled in ousting bin Ladin, is crucial on several fronts. Most Afghans are hesitant to trust the United States right now because they feel betrayed. They feel betrayed because we fought a protracted war on the same side as the United States and when the Soviets withdrew in 1989, we suddenly lost significance, just when we needed you the most. And in that period of time, of massive instability from 1992 through 1996, because of Pakistans backing for Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who recently joined the Taliban, Kabul was shelled with as many as 600 rockets a day.
During that period of time in Kabul, Hekmatyar cut the electricity and destroyed the turbines at the Sorubi hydroelectric damn. He totally annihilated several areas in Kabul proper, which came to resemble Downtown Manhattan after September 11. Instability during this period of time caused the disintegration of law and order, allowing incidents of looting, rape and bloodshed. Let me stress at this point that this was never state sanctioned and came about in the vacuum created when the United States and the rest of our allies ignored what Pakistan saw as an opportunity to extend its hegemonistic intentions in the region. It was during this time that the Taliban marched into Kabul with weapons supplied by the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Pakistans military intelligence services, which as you know by now is a state within the Pakistani State, with the full blessing of Ossama bin Laden. This should not be allowed to happen again.
It must be stressed with emphasis that there are two realities about Afghanistan: the international vs. the Pakistani reality. Leading experts on Afghanistan will ascertain that Pakistan is the prime reason for the instability in Afghanistan.
Among them, the noted Pakistani journalist and scholar on Afghanistan, Ahmad Rashid, who in March of this year stated:
"In fact since Kabul fell to the Mujahideen [resistance fighters] in 1992 our policies have created a wave of criticism and even hatred for Pakistan amongst many Afghans. The majority of Afghans blame us for being the single biggest contributor to the continuing war in their homeland. Today we stand isolated in the community of nations due to our Afghan policy In my personal and humble capacity I would like to apologize to the brave Afghan people for the consequences of Pakistans recent policies in Afghanistan. I would like to unconditionally apologize for deaths of countless Afghans, which have been caused by Pakistani interference. I would like to apologize for the part that we have played in the destruction of your cities, your culture, your traditions and your freedom to choose your own government."
In order to stop this from happening again and to install a government that truly represents the people of Afghanistan, which will halt the export of terrorism such as the attack on New York and Washington on September 11, the United States must commit itself to the long-term process of bringing peace, rebuilding Afghanistans infrastructure, the institution of long-term de-mining programs, political support for a truly democratic process and logistical and material support. You cannot assume that, when Afghanistan is finally freed of the terrorists we both wish to defeat, your role will be finished short of the institution of a pro-Democratic government. Your long-term friendship will be just as important as our current, immediate goal.
Our national hero, Ahmad Shah Massoud, the legend of anti-Soviet Afghan resistance as early as 1990, instructed me to convey upon having volunteered and fought two years of Jihad under his command - that three things will happen if Afghanistan were abandoned by the United States: drugs, terrorism and human rights violations in Afghanistan. On December 14, 2000, Massoud wrote to Vice President Richard Cheney:
"We believe the international communitys ineffective response to Pakistans hegemonic adventurism through the ISI-led coalition of Pakistani religious organizations, the Taliban and extremist cliques and figures such as the renowned Ossama bin Laden, set a horrible example for petty despots and terrorists around the world."
Sadly, Commander Massoud was assassinated by two Al-Qaeda suicide-bombers posing as journalists just two days before the terrorist acts of September 11. The two incidents were not coincidental.
As we see, all these have come to pass. And today we are here in this hearing to specifically discuss the abolition of human rights, which Commander Massoud predicted. But rather than look back, lets look forward and work together to finally put a halt to the systemic matricide, gender apartheid, rampant racism and persecution of Hindus, Sikhs, Jews and Christians and total degradation of any form of human rights that have become the hallmark of Taliban rule.
To bring about a government that would rebuild Afghanistan, respect human rights and truly represent our countrymen and women, we need your political help in bringing about a traditional Loya Jirga, or grand council, which is a tradition in our country since the 18th Century. It is widely honored and accepted by all Afghans and the best means of selecting a new government in Afghanistan.
On October 1, 2001, a delegation of the United Front visited Rome to meet with former King Zahir Shah, and concluded an Agreement. The main points of the agreement are:
--"The formation of a new structure entitled The Supreme Council for National Unity of Afghanistan;
--"In light of current national and international realities, this Council will convene an emergency Loya Jirga which will elect a head of state and a transitional government; and
--"In the case of a dire situation, whereby an emergency Loya Jirga cannot be convened as agreed, this Council will have the authority to take appropriate measures to execute the points stated under article (2) above."
It is important to note that nominations to the Council of National Unity have been made in light of ethnic parameters, not political or military realities, in an aim to truly bring national unity.
A broad-based government will develop if this Loya Jirga under the auspices of our former King, Zahir Shah as a unifying figurehead and not as a monarch is allowed to convene. In order to convene the Loya Jirga, several things must take place.
First and foremost, the Loya Jirga must be convened without any outside interference. Second, it shall aim to achieve the widest possible representation from across Afghanistan in a fair and just manner, including Afghan refugees and elements from among the Afghan Diaspora and others who have been previously alienated.
All of Afghanistans major ethnic groups i.e. Pashtun, Tajik, Hazara and Uzbek must be justly represented in all future political institutions and government bodies. This, however, is not to be construed as either preclusion and/or exclusion of other smaller groups such as Turkman, Baluch, Nooristani, and others from their administrative share. Finally, the Loya Jirga must be convened under present conditions and inside Afghanistan. Hence, America must involve itself in Afghanistans political evolution by throwing its full weight behind the Council of National Unity and, later, the Loya Jirga.
The United States should also try to encourage the participation of the United Nations in a key role in the Council of National Unity to assist the convening of the Loya Jirga. In this context, inclusion of so-called moderate Taliban in the Loya Jirga would be like the imposition of so-called moderate Nazis in the post-Hitler German state. Abdul Haq, the legendary anti-Soviet Commander, who was recently murdered by the Taliban inside Afghanistan, was in the process of working for the Loya Jirga.
We wish for the people of Afghanistan to have the right of self-determination and the right to local elective administrations; observation of the rights of the Shia community; the observation of the rights of all ethnic and religious minorities; the respect and observation of the rights of women, including their rights to education and to work as well as their right to elect themselves to office.
We Afghans seek your support for this process and request appropriate dispensation of political support and material and financial assistance with the goal of convening the Loya Jirga at the earliest plausible time.
Permit me in this context to refer back to Massouds letter to Vice President Cheney:
"The United States has a moral responsibility towards Afghanistan which shall address key issues, i.e. democracy, political pluralism, human rightsespecially including womens and girls human rightsand advocacy of moderation and tolerance in Afghanistan Meanwhile, stationed at the forefront of the resistance against religious extremism, our goals remain clear. Afghans being multi-ethnic want to gain their right to self-determination through a democratic mechanism acceptable to our nation. No one group, party or individual has the right to dictate its will by force or proxy on others. But first, the obstacles have to be overcome, the war has to end, a just peace established and a transitional administration set up to move us toward a broad-based representative government."
Massoud had facilitated the The Declaration of Principles by the United Front adopted on 20 September 1997 by the Government of the Islamic State of Afghanistan and recorded as official document of the United Nations (A/52/384-S/1997/733 on 23 September 1997), which are as follows:
1. The principle of Islam;
2. The principles of independence and international cooperation;
3. The principles of democracy and political pluralism;
4. The principles of election and delegation of authority to local administrations; and
5. The principle of human rights, including the rights of women and the right of self-determination.
And let me elaborate on the role of women in a future government, because this is paramount to the establishment of a future government that will, indeed, respect human rights. Commander Massoud last year met with a group of French womens rights advocates, who presented him with a petition for his signature guaranteeing rights for women in a future Afghan government. When Commander Massoud read the petition, which called for the right of Afghan women to work, receive an education, function in society as full partners and vote, he called attention to one missing factor the right to run for public office. That philosophy we still retain.
Afghan women have historically received educations abroad, driven cars, dressed in modern fashions and were leaders in our society such as ministers in the government and members of the parliament. We strongly believe that without the active participation of women, the task of reconstruction, rehabilitation and repatriation of Afghanistan cannot be achieved. To cite one example, the UN reported when the Islamic State of Afghanistan controlled Kabul, more than 50 percent of all civil servants, doctors and nurses, and students were all women. When I was working with Massoud in Kabul in 1995-6, we made certain that women played a significant role in the composition of the civic society. Even today, women enjoy employment and education rights in our territories working side by side with their male counterparts. The Taliban have thrust on our society a Deobandi/Wahabi influenced gender apartheid, which is alien to our culture. It has never been an intrinsically Afghan concept. We categorically reject it for a future Afghanistan.
The United Front has never, as a matter of principle, sanctioned, advocated or condoned human rights violations. Any human rights violations that have taken place in United Front territories have been personal reprisals on a local level. The United Nations Charter and all major world legal systems recognize the inherent right of self-defense against armed attack. The Islamic State of Afghanistan, which is the political extension of the United Front, as a globally recognized Government personifying an independent and sovereign State, has been in a state of self-defense against Pakistani proxies, first Hekmatyar and, later, the Taliban and their international terrorist allies like bin Ladin.
As the Government of the Islamic State of Afghanistan, we have the right to defend out sovereignty and independence against all ongoing cross-border aggression and take appropriate measures in full conformity with the UN Charter and international law of the past and the present century. There needs to be a distinction between righteously fighting for independence, resisting aggression and upholding noble human principles vs. those of obscurantist and extremist forces engaged in a war of aggression and reign of terror. On the contrary, widespread and systematic violations of human rights, including rights of women and girls, perpetrated in the occupied parts of Afghanistan under the military control of the Taliban and their foreign guests, are a daily practice.
The United Front has never institutionalized taxation on drugs or engaged in drug cultivation or trafficking. The Taliban, despite having issued a decree banning poppy cultivation, continue to champion drug cultivation, processing and trafficking. Of course, after a three-year draught, banning poppy cultivation is not a difficult measure. And, having surpassed the Golden Triangle in poppy cultivation, the Taliban produced 4,700 tons of illicit drugs in 1999. Purely a calculation of supply vs. demand, the Taliban banned poppy cultivation as un-Islamic, thus driving up international prices. Conveniently, in previous years it was Islamic according to the militias. Current stockpiles of Taliban narcotics constitute seven years annual global consumption of heroin. By the way, these stockpiles exist in warehouses and have not yet been targeted by American bombers.
This hearing is just not any hearing. In many ways the seeds of hope for millions of Afghans will be planted here in this hall. It is dire time to compensate for past negligence, fulfill the responsibility that America abrogated and, finally give the Afghan people the kind of institutions with which you are blessed: democracy and human rights. In our mind, a neglected Afghanistan has paid a high price both for you as well as for us. There are two paths to be taken: one of repeating September 11 and the other to prevent a recurrence of September 11. Our people pray for the latter so that our nations will not be victimized again. A first step is the total removal of the Taliban.
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