Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Afghanistan Crisis

Afghanistan Crisis and Relevant Geopolitical Realities
By Jamal Hasan

Deshi Voice has republished Mr. Jamal Hasan's article for its readers to look back the rise of fundamentalist Mullahs in that Country. Mr. Hasan wrote this article in 1989 when he was working for Florida Atlantic University. This article was circulated among US Senators, Congressmen, Scholars, State Department officials and foreign policy analysts. The writer attempted to shed light on the dichotomies and fallacies of global power politics and their relevance to the ongoing crisis in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan is burning. Even though the Russians are gone, the country is still being torn apart by internal strife. Preoccupied with achieving geopolitical gains, the superpowers often tend to sidetrack the ethical and moral issues. The predisposition on the part of the "Big brothers" occasionally leads to undermining a nation's right to self-deternmination. As the world began to see peace initiative after the end of the catastrophic Second World War, the new power blocs started to polarize the Mother Earth into spheres of influence. The world experienced the rise of the COLD WAR. As a consequence, smaller nations engaged in proxy wars that were usually bloody and violent.

Vietnam and Afghanistan are two examples of the superpowers' impulsive foreign policy postures. America was so obsessed with the specter of communism that she had been apprehensive to let any country go through anti-colonial struggle led by nationalist-communist coalition. This sort of black and white demarcation was characteristic of the Truman doctrine and the legacy continued on to Lyndon Johnson's period. Anyone striving to analyze the futility of perceived omnipotence of American muscle power in Indo-China peninsula two and half decades ago, may find that the administration in many cases was following a policy revolving around one subject. That was to eradicate communism or communistic influence at any cost. The factors like particular circumstance and the degree of popularity of the nationalistic-communistic movement were not taken seriously. Ultimately America became entangled in a predicament to fight against a popular movement.

The Soviets repeated the same mistake in Afghanistan in the 70's. One after another coups, counter coups and palace intrigues engineered by pro-Soviet elements in that country led us to believe that the Brezhnev Administration was reluctant to learn the Vietnam lesson. King Zahir Shah was not an unfamiliar figure in Moscow. During his tenure he signed a number of treaties with the Soviet Union and endeavored to let his country stay away from East-West tension. However, Afghanistan was basically "Finlandized" and posed no threat to the Soviets. The king even allowed his defense personnel to be trained in the USSR. The tranquility in Afghan political scene began to alter when Sardar Mohammad Daud toppled the monarchy in 1973 and proclaimed the country a republic. Though the change occurred in a bloodless coup, its political implication was momentous. Daud's government brought the country closer to the Soviet Union and the new regime started to experience a conflicting situation with the power brokers of the old monarchy.

Although Brezhnev doctrine's main official position had been collective security, non-capitalistic path of development and non-use of violence in reaching socialistic goals, the golden apple Afghanistan probably tempted the Soviet policy makers to act otherwise. On the other hand, the Soviet Union continued to maintain a consistently friendly relation with the world's largest democracy, India without seriously trying to make it a red one. These two countries' friendship had been one example of the "Gentleness" of the great bear. Some observers may opine that conditions like geography, population, ethnic diversity and the strength of democracy in India presumably refrained the Russians from pursuing any risky adventurism in this country. Conversely, the urge to gobble a tiny land-locked country like Afghanistan seemed very enticing for the Soviet policy makers. The Marxist bloody coup of 1978 brought Nur Mohammad Taraki into power and thus began the cycle of destabilization. A country which is mostly controlled by predominantly religious warlords in the country side, can hardly swallow such a bitter pill. A "Foreign ideology", specially any dominance by a foreign power, is highly detested by freedom-loving Afghans. Taraki's People's Democratic Party was undergoing internal rivalry between Parcham and Khalq factions. As a logical outcome, Taraki was killed in another bloody coup and Hafizullah Amin took control of the seat of power.

The Afghan tribal leaders had a hard time living under Sardar Daud's republic. Then came the Marxist regime. During Taraki's time the religiously inspired local leaders began to mobilize, thus forming the Afghanistan resistance. The Russians were not too happy with Hafizullah Amin as he came to power out of internal rivalry. His apparent disagreement with the Russian advisors and a bit of western orientation ( he had studied at Columbia University ) made the political guardians quite apprehensive. The seed of suspicion began to grow as the Afghan resistance fighters were becoming noticeably successful in the battlefield. Supposedly, the Soviets did not desire to take a second chance. To make their ideological process irreversible, they masterminded a coup to depose Hafizullah Amin.

December 1979 had been the critical period in Afghan history. The toppling of Amin and the installation of Babrak Karmal from abroad is so much an irrational act that hardly any one can argue in favor of it. Recently, even the chief researcher of the Institute of Oriental Studies in Moscow, Yuri V. Gankovsky had acknowledged the complicity of the Soviet troops in that infamous coup.

The Soviet soldiers from the very beginning left no stone unturned to dominate their southern neighbor heavy-handedly. As the guerilla warfare escalated, they followed a sort of scorched earth policy. They destroyed habitats avenging a single ambush. Their brutalities to some extent can be compared with the marauding Pakistani army's atrocious role in Bangladesh.

Mikhail Gorbachev brought the possibility of epoch-making changes in Soviet politics. It is amazing to note that more and more Soviet historians are becoming critical of Leonid Brezhnev's hegemonistic policy of dominance. A couple of months ago, the editor of the Youth Communist paper OGONYOK gave his dissenting view in American news media. On the other hand, from 1971 until today the Pakistani people in general are kept in the dark about the savage role of their army in Bangladesh. Other than Benazir Bhutto in her Harvard days, hardly any of the leading politicians (be it right or left) was ever vocal about the criminal acts committed by the so-called savior of democracy, Pakistani army. Even the well-known radical Pakistani poet, Lenin Peace Prize ( Soviet version of the Nobel Prize ) winner for Literature, Faiz Ahmed Faiz once said that he was not aware of any wrong doing on the part of Pakistani military in what was then East Pakistan.

Soviet leaders are presently reassessing their Afghan policy. The most dramatic shift was disclosed by Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard A. Shevardnadze. Speaking before the delegates of the Supreme Soviet on October 23 of last year, Shevardnadze said, "The nine-year Soviet military role in Afghanistan had violated Soviet law and international norms of behavior".

Pakistan and Afghanistan are like two cousins who never got along too well. The Pushtunistan movement and the controversy over the Durand Line were two significant road blocks for maintaining smooth relations between the two countries. The most striking fact of the matter is Afghanistan was the only country in the world that voted against the newly independent Pakistan's entry into the United Nations. Their bilateral relation reached the lowest ebb as the two countries severed diplomatic relations in 1961 that was restored with outside mediation two years later. The Soviet invasion changed the whole scenario. Now Pakistan seems to be the main benefactor of the Afghanistan resistance movement. The Pathans in the North West Frontier Province of Pakistan have ancestral roots in Afghanistan. The so-called Frontier Gandhi, late Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, and his son Khan Abdul Wali Khan have considerable influence in Pathan politics. Although Wali Khan had been a notable foe of the late President Ziaul Haq, now he can not retain his political alliance with Benazir Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party any more. The main reason, some analysts say, would have been the difference in extra territorial affiliations. Wali Khan's Awami National Party had been a traditionally leftist party with an inclination towards Indo-Soviet perspective. In contrast Benazir Bhutto pulled her party from an anti-Western stand to a moderately pro-American one.

The imported leader Babrak Karmal failed to serve Soviet objectives. Quietly came Mohammad Najibullah, who already proved his competence by manipulating the leeways of regional politics. Although King Zahir Shah had been a monarch his policy was relatively liberal compared to his counterparts in some Middle-Eastern countries. Women were allowed to go to school and the wearing of a veil was not mandatory. But nonetheless, women's role in society was insignificant by western standards. Najibullah and his radical predecessors took advantage of the situation by liberating the women from the conservative social mores. Like in Kamal Ataturk's Turkey, middle class women in the urban areas threw away their veils; now they work with men in many places which was unthinkable a decade ago. Although there is general emphasis on Marxist orientation, a new breed of Afghans are emerging in the big cities who are neither communists nor religious fundamentalists. They could be the potential vanguards of seculardemocracy.

While discussing Afghanistan we have to go through the historical perspectives of the countries in geopolitical terms. When the greater India was partitioned, the logical ally of the democratic India should have been the United States. But since its inception India was presumably not so eager to put herself into the crossfire of superpower rivalry. Across the border, the military regimes of Pakistan had no accountability towards their own people. The US could utilize Pakistani land to monitor Soviet activities. Peshawar base (U-2 Incident began here during the Eisenhower era) helped cement the strategic relationship between Pakistan and America. Pakistan's membership in the pro-Western alliances like SEATO and CENTO also were steps in the same direction. During the late fifties, family feud between the two communist giants, i.e., Red China and the USSR gave rise to new polarization in the subcontinent. When India and China were at war in 1962, the US could not play any vital role because of her diminished leverage on
either of the parties. But in 1965, when Pakistan-India war broke out, Russia successfully brokered for peace in the region. From the mid fifties, Soviet influence on Indian politics started to grow.

India-China War of 1962 was a crucial period for India as she was in need of a friend. Russia backed her politically and militarily. Later on, during the Indo-Pakistan War of 1965 and 1971, India's only friend in the world was the Soviet Union. In fact, the Russian vetoes during the 1971 war helped expedite the surrendering of the Pakistani army in Bangladesh. Again, from 1949 to 1971, both India nd the USSR continued to vote in favor of Red China's entry into the United Nations. Ironically, the American veto was the main hindrance in the way of the potential member's possible inclusion in the world body.

The year 1971 was a time of obvious geopolitical regroupings. It was quite a rational consequence that USA and Communist China would ally themselves against Russia, leaving Pakistan and India as junior team players. American policy makers thought Pakistan would selectively serve as a CORDON SANITAIRE against the expansion of a truncated global communism; in other words, it was something like this: ignore Chinese communism, confront the Soviet variety only. When this alignment was unfolding in South Asia, Afghanistan still found she had a lot in common with the Indo-Soviet viewpoint.

The 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War gave a big blow to the Islamic fundamentalist movement in the subcontinent. Secular Bengali nationalism challenged the myth that a religion like Islam can be the only uniting factor in retaining a nation's identity. Thus the idea of pan-Islamism and the concept of Pakistan were diluted. For obvious geopolitical reasons two superpowers played differing roles during the popular struggle. After the Pakistani army's brutal massacre of 25th March 1971, the then Soviet President Podgorny wrote a letter to the Pakistani President General Yahya Khan, urging him to stop further bloodshed in Pakistan's eastern wing. The General was not obliged to listen to a person belonging to an adversarial camp. America had enough leverage on the military junta, but the Nixon Administration failed to play any positive role in this matter. Thus went on the pogrom, the process of
annihilation of a nation.

During 1971, the Indian Ocean turned into a hotbed of tension. As Pakistan and India started the war in December and the liberation of Bangladesh was imminent, the American Seventh Fleet shadowed by a Russian fleet appeared on the horizon. The Bay of Bengal lost its serenity. Immediately before December 16th, the day of Bangladesh liberation, members of the pro-Saudi Jamat-i-Islami finished their final task. This so-called pro-Western Muslim fanatic group slaughtered thousands of Bengali intellectuals without spending a single bullet. Thus a new chapter of blind fanaticism evolved in the subcontinental politics.

Islamic fundamentalism can be widely categorized into two distinctive movements. One is predominantly patronized by oil-rich Saudi Arabia which again is considered by some American policy makers as a moderate Arab country that most of the time facilitates attaining western interests. The other one is pro-Iranian which is notably backed by countries like Syria and Libya who are again maintaining strategic cooperation with the Russians. Thus, in a broader sense, the two main trends of Islamic fundamentalism have something to do with both the superpowers.

Until the Iranian revolution, only pro-Saudi Islamic fundamentalism had its foothold in the Indian subcontinent. In Pakistan, General Ziaul Haq legitimized the movement and gave it enough political power. In 1971, the pro-Saudi fundamentalist party Jamat-i-Islami committed horrendous crime in Bangladesh. After liberation, this one along with other religious groups were disbanded in that country. It may be relevant to quote another instance of misdeeds perpetrated by pro-Saudi fanatics in a nearby Asian country. After the pro-Chinese communist led abortive coup in Indonesia in mid-sixties, pro-Saudi Islamic groups butchered thousands of so-called leftist individuals. Their heinous crimes went on unrestrained because of governmental blessings.

In Middle Eastern politics, anti-Western fundamentalist groups like Islamic Jihad or Hezbollah gained notoriety. In fact, there is a significant resemblance between pro-Western and anti-Western fundamentalist movements. The bottom line is their common enemy, secular democracy. Nonetheless, on many occasions, both the superpowers manipulated and exploited the movements to their own advantage.

In the geopolitical arena of today's world, forces of a country's political objective may not succeed by acting alone. That is how the geopolitical objectivity of a nation channelizes and intermingles with that of another country. Thus, something like a bi-variate force evolves where both countries would be dependent variables of each other. In this complex world of geopolitics, there may be instances of tri-variate or multi-variate forces. For now, we shall limit our discussion to the bi-variate forces only. In such context, both the parties may have to give up parts of their ethical or moral standards or deviate from official positions in order to reach a compromised common goal. But on many occasions the actions may end up in attaining short-term goals. In the long run, either one of the parties involved or a third force may be the ultimate winner. For convenience sake, we term the bi-variate geopolitical force as an ALIGNED FORCE because this comes as a result of alignment of two or more forces.

In the Middle Eastern and many third world politics, Saudi-American and Israeli-American aligned forces show notable activities. The most interesting point is, these two aligned forces usually remain in opposing positions although their common variable is USA. In the Indian sub continental politics, Saudi-American aligned force had been playing a pivotal role for some time. In the Middle Eastern region, both Saudi-American and Israeli-American aligned forces have been operating dominantly. The economic might of Saudi Arabia and the political significance of Israel pulled the United States towards such puzzling geopolitical alignments.

During the 1960's, India became an active member in the game of alignments. Indo-Soviet aligned force already gained strength and until the middle of the 1970's remained the most influential in the subcontinent. After the end of Indira Gandhi's rule in India and Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Administration in Bangladesh, the Indo-Soviet aligned force suffered a severe setback in the region. This development also facilitated the Indo-American aligned force to come into play. Presently, only Afghanistan's Najibullah is catering, with enough zeal, to the geopolitical needs of the Indo-Soviet aligned force.

Chinese-American aligned force crystallized in Pakistan in 1971. It had a dominant role in that country during the reigns of General Yahya Khan and General Ziaul Haq. For now, it is trying to readjust with both the Saudi-American and the Indo-American aligned forces there. In Bangladesh, the Chinese-American aligned force had the most vital role during the presidency of General Ziaur Rahman. Now, it is mainly working in conformity with the Saudi-American aligned force in that country.

As we discuss the concept of aligned forces, some readers might wonder if there is any instance of Soviet-American aligned force. We all know that there were a number of examples of strategic movements of the Soviet-American aligned force during World War II. Two decades later, the Biafra crisis in Nigeria helped mobilize limited action of that force. At present, the Cambodia problem brought the Soviet-American aligned force in the forefront. In Indonesian politics also, there were signs of Soviet-American aligned force's presence for some time.

The slaying of Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1984 was very upsetting for the Russians. As a consequence, Indo-Soviet aligned force was negatively affected. Indira Gandhi's son, the incumbent Premier Rajiv Gandhi declared he would continue his mother's policy. In reality, he had been slowly changing the country’s fiscal policy and political process in a different direction. His appointment of the Indian-American technocrat Sam Petroda as his advisor and the unparalleled diversification of the country's arms deals signified that he was not enthusiastically following his predecessor's footsteps. Clearly, he appeared to be a sympathizer of Indo-American cause.

The recent parliamentary election in India ended the traditional governing role of the Indian National Congress. The recently elected Prime Minister, Viswanath Pratap Singh is backed by the Chinese-American aligned force in that country. This new political development brings an unusual parameter to the complex geopolitical puzzle of the subcontinent.

The mysterious death of General Ziaul Haq and Benazir Bhutto's consequent ascension to power in Pakistan resulted in ending the monopoly of the Saudi-American aligned force there. The leadership of Benazir Bhutto gave Indo-American aligned force a big boost. Ultimately the new dynamics assisted in abating substantially the existing regional tension. General Hussain Muhammad Ershad and his associates of Bangladesh are the only remaining enthusiastic proponents, like their Afghan Mujahedeen counterparts, of the Saudi-American cause in this part of the world.

The extraordinary fraternization of two superpowers in today's world is ceaselessly influencing their respective aligned forces. The Indo-American aligned force seems to have better chance of rapprochement with one time major player in the subcontinent, the Indo-Soviet aligned force. However, the Indo-Soviet aligned force is still maintaining a cool and often hostile relationship with the Saudi-American aligned force in most of the countries in this area.

In India, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, understanding between Indo-American and Saudi-American aligned forces is gradually falling apart. In Pakistan, the special circumstances compelled the two forces to work collectively on many occasions.

India and Israel have had extensive contacts since the days of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. Conversely, Pakistan opposed the formation of the State of Israel. Though India in general felt obligation to join other third world nations in condemning Israeli actions in world bodies, she did not mind keeping the channels of communication open. Even during Indira Gandhi's period, Israeli Consulate's NEWS FROM ISRAEL had a moderately promising readership in India. Religiously speaking, Muslims and Jews possessed antagonistic relationship dating back to the Qura'nic days. There are some serious differences of views about their religious scriptures. Any Jew will not supposedly be pleased to see the presence of unambiguous derogatory remarks about Jewish people in quite a few verses of the Islamic holy book, which is considered to be unalterable. On the other hand, the legitimacy of Israel's existence on the basis of Judaic divine principle, i.e., the "Promised Land" issue, is hardly accepted by many Muslim clerics. Although the State of Israel was established on the basis of pan-Judaistic philosophy ( i.e., the homeland for Jews in the world ), she is supposed to be concerned about any possible formation of even a loose confederation among her Arab neighbors based solely on Islam. Such a possible confederation would presumably, in the eyes of the Israelis, pose a greater threat to her national security.

When Islamic Pakistan was going to split up in 1971, Israeli analysts were probably not displeased. As General Ziaul Haq was stubbornly determined to go ahead with his Saudi-Libya financed "Islamic Bomb", Israel and India shared a common anxiety. General Zia's sudden departure from Pakistan's political scene relieved Jerusalem and New Delhi from apprehension about the dogmatic policies of a fundamentalistic dictatorship. In subcontinental geopolitics, Israeli national interest did not have any conflicting situation with the Indo-American aligned force. This is a significant reality indeed.

In Bangladesh, the assassination of the nationalist leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in August 1975 and the subsequent political change brought an end to the secularist policy of that country. This bloody pro-Western/Islamic coup also reversed the country's foreign policy direction overnight. To a greater degree Indo-Soviet influence on Bangladeshi politics was lessened. Saudi Arabia and China recognized the country (after almost four years of its existence) and the new regime immediately. The enigmatic side of the episode is yet to come - after another counter coup, the main plotters of Mujibur Rahman's assassination were given sanctuary in Libya. This might be indicative of one of the rarest instances where the opposing geopolitical behaviors/interests of U.S.A. and Mu'ammar Qadhafi's Libya converged more or less on a common ground.

Also the unusual occurrence had been the frequent visit to Libya by
Bangladeshi Air Vice Marshall M.G. Tawab. Tawab maintained his dual nationality ( Bangladeshi and West German ) and had been a NATO flying instructor. He happened to be a great champion of the pro-Saudi Islamic movement in Bangladesh.

In Bangladesh the Islamic fundamentalist forces were given back their political rights after the end of Mujibur Rahman regime. Now the defeated forces of 1971 are heading towards a collision course with the secular nationalist forces. The well organized Jamat-i-Islami already obtained enormous support ( both political and financial ) from Saudi Arabia. During the last fifteen years, the country also experienced a number of successful and unsuccessful coups emanating from army barracks. Unlike in Afghanistan, most of them were pro-Western in nature and non-secular in principle.

Some analysts might argue that the Russians' geopolitical defeat in Bangladesh prompted them to be draconian in Afghan affairs. Six years before the invasion of Afghanistan, the pro-Western army coup in Chile gave a stunning blow to the Soviet strategists. Nevertheless, they did not seem to lose patience. Even after the failure in Chile, the Russians were assessing Bangladesh as a "geopolitical guinea pig". They were foreseeing Bangaldesh as a pro-Soviet socialist country under the leadership of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Although Mujibur Rahman had built his political career advocating Western-style democracy, he suddenly metamorphosed to be
a neo-Socialist. His "new thinking" alienated himself totally from the U.S. policy makers. Russians were ecstatic with the "favorable" political climate in this populous South Asian country. During the Brezhnev era, the Kremlin leaders promoted the idea of bypassing capitalism for peaceful transition to socialism through a non-capitalistic path of development. During that period, the Soviet theoreticians perceived that most of the preconditions to attain such an objective did exist in Bangladesh.

Mujibur Rahman's Awami League forged unity with the pro-soviet Communist Party of Bangladesh and the National Awami Party ( Muzaffar ) during the Bangladesh War of Liberation. Their close relationship continued even after the war. Consequently, the Americans were not happy with the state of affairs prevailing in the country at that time. The situation became quite alarming as the ruling Awami League leadership resorted to curb press freedom and disbanded all political parties. In the beginning of 1975, the country had only one party, the newly formed BKSAL ( Bangladesh Krishak Sramik Awami League ). This single party and its affiliated labor and student fronts were constituted mainly of the former members of the Awami League, the pro-Soviet Communist Party of Bangladesh, the National Awami Party ( Muzaffar ) and other smaller leftist and nationalist groups. Meanwhile, the Nixon Administration dexterously used the "food weapon" for political pressure that resulted in a disastrous famine in this nation of chronic food shortage. This event deteriorated Mujibur Rahman's image as a national leader. His life ended in a pro-Western army coup inAugust of 1975.

The Iranian revolution created a setback for America's strategic interests. The former's "neither East nor West" policy was a stumbling block for retaining any of the old bases. As a result, American listening posts to monitor the Soviets were gone. For the United States, evolution of a communist ally like China came in handy. This communist nation started to receive military hardware from U.S.A. She also agreed to let the Americans build Soviet monitoring facilities on her soil. Thus a new understanding encircling Pakistan cropped up between countries like U.S.A., China and Saudi Arabia. Although Saudi Arabia had been advocating a policy of no dealings with any communist country, the new strategic conglomeration pulled China and Saudi Arabia closer together. They did not have diplomatic relation although arms deals between the two countries projected a positive trend.

The Afghanistan war brought a generally clear feature of international setting with some interesting contradictions. Considering the evolution of multilateral political regroupings in the subcontinent since 1971, it is quite reasonable to expect that the resistance movement would be supported by U.S.A., China, Saudi Arabia and last but not the least, Pakistan. The exception to the rule is the role of Iran. Paradoxically, this anti-Western nation sided with those "unfriendly" countries for the time being. Most of the Muslim countries sympathize with the resistance movement that include Soviet allies like Iraq, Syria and Libya. On the other hand, Soviets found in India the friend in deed, whose role in international bodies often served Soviet political objectives. Recently a notable Soviet ally, the P.L.O. came into the scene. Already this organization became useful in mediating between the confronting parties.

SATANIC VERSES controversy alienated Iran from the West to a large extent. Russians took advantage of the opportune moment. Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze's visit to Tehran was the perfect timing for the Soviets. Khomeini was still alive at that time. After the new rapprochement with the northern neighbor and six billion dollar trade package, the Iranian leader Hashemi Rafsanjani called upon the Iranians, "No more death to Russia". It goes without saying, this has tremendous historical significance. Apparently, Iran's continued neutral position may not beirreversible in future. Last year's Democracy Movement in China and Gorbachev's successful visit to Beijing contributed to bringing a new dimension in the regional politics. America was almost drawn to a trade off situation between its now pronounced human rights policy and the ongoing beneficial geopolitical strategy. The Soviets exploited the situation adroitly. Today, US-China understanding went downhill whereas Soviet-China relationship got a new momentum. These series of events have long- term impact on Afghanistan war. The optimistic context for the moment is, three most influential parties of the war, i.e., U.S.A., U.S.S.R. and Pakistan, have come to the conclusion that there ought to be a political solution away from the battleground.

The significant thaw in frosty Indo-Chinese relationship and high level contacts between them ushered in with Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi's visit to China was a new development. China's best friend in the region, Pakistan under the leadership of a democratically elected government of Benazir Bhutto, revitalized her relationship with the generally hostile neighbor India. The talks on Siachen Glacier and signing of protocols on a number of fields opened up the possibility of more stable bilateral relation between the two countries.

The painful reality of the Afghanistan resistance movement is, it is mainly controlled by different groups of orthodox clergies whose perceived management in running a state would be more suitable for the sixth century. Examining the politico attitudinal profiles of the Mujahedeen leaderships, one can not keep high expectations about them. Be it pro-Saudi Gulbuddin Hekmatyar of Hezb-i-Islami Party or the pro-Iranian Muhammadi of Harakat-i-Inqilab-i-Islami Party, we notice a unique commonality among them. They are substantially fundamentalists who do not endorse many of the rights of women. Jamat-i-Islami's brutal acts in Pakistan occupied Bangladesh and Iranian leadership's repressive domestic policy can be notable test cases to exemplify their degree of tolerance for political dissent. If given power, they would be living in as much of a "peaceful coexistence" with each other as the Druze, Shiite and Palestinian groups are living in Lebanon.

The religious demagogues are waiting for the moment to start a bloodbath in Kabul, Kandahar and Jalalabad. The freedom loving Afghans may be thrown from frying pan into the fire. The democracies in the world should resist any attempt to establish another hornets' nest of prejudicial blind faith. Considering the gravity of the situation we may wish King Zahir Shah would be pressed to take a leadership of a broad based national unity government composed of secular nationalist and moderate elements of the country. He could be the last bastion of peace in this war-ravaged nation. The peace in the region will halt, at least for a while, the deadly geopolitical chess game sponsored by outside powers - big and small.

Jamal is now a Washington DC based freelance writer. He can be reached at poplu@hotmail.com

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