Hakim Taniwal

September 11, 2006

The memory of losses on this date five years ago is now overlaid with grief and shame at what our leaders did with the goodwill the world had for us at that moment. In Iran they had vigils in memory of the people lost in the World Trade Center, and all across the world there was broad sympathy for what our country had experienced. Now it is gone. Not only our wealth and the lives of many brave Americans (not to mention the many innocent civilians) but also the world’s sympathy, trust, and respect have been squandered. God help us.

On September 10 Hakim Taniwal, governor of Paktia province in Afghanistan was killed by a suicide bomber. I met him when he was involved in the Afghan Writers Union in Peshawar. He was a sociologist and used his knowledge to write
about the Afghanistan situation in critiques of the Afghanistan Communist regime, mostly in Pushtu. He was one of the few scholars who did not leave the area for better opportunities elsewhere. He stayed, along with several other scholars, to represent the war effort as a scholar.

The times were different when I knew him. The Soviets were pulling out their troops and the Afghanistan peoples were exultant. But the mujahedin organizations were on the verge of fighting each other, creating such confusion and grief that the Taliban defeat of the mujahedin would be welcomed a few years later, in the mid-1990s. Taniwal went to Australia in disgust. When Karzai was made provisional head of the Afghanistan government in 2002 he turned to Taniwal as well as other progressives to help him. Taniwal served the new government as governor of Khost, then as Minister of Mines, and in the present post – replacing a particularly culpable “warlord” – in Paktia.

There have been 47 suicide bombings in Afghanistan this year. The name of the one who killed Taniwal is unknown to those on the government’s side, but there is no doubt that his name is known and valorized somewhere, probably just across the border in Waziristan. Somewhere there is a place where the pictures of “martyrs” are displayed and their stories told as great exploits in the name of God; videos made by them before their deaths are available. They will be shown to another generation of young men eager to serve God. From this “hero” they will learn how they can give their best, their all for God.

Hakim Taniwal
Published: September 12, 2006 (The Herald)

Governor Hakim Taniwal, who died aged 63 on September 10 in a suicide bombing outside his office in Gardez, Paktia, was very different from the caricature of a rugged Afghan tribal leader.

A sociology professor, educated in Germany and fluent in five languages, Dr Taniwal was a gentle Afghan intellectual with the courage to instil order and spearhead development in the lawless Paktia province, bordering Pakistan.

Pakistan “Taliban” in Peace Deal

“Pakistan has signed a deal with pro-Taleban militants on the Afghan border aimed at ending years of unrest. …The North Waziristan accord calls on tribesmen to expel foreign militants and end cross-border attacks in return for a reduced military presence.” “Local Taleban supporters, …have pledged not tharborur foreign militants, launch cross-border raids or attack Pakistani government troops or facilities.” “Observers say meeting these conditions could be difficult, as the Taleban has support on both sides of the Pakistan-Afghan border.”

Everyone seems to see this as an exit strategy for the Pakistani army. And for good reason, there is abundant doubt about whether this will really accomplish anything. The statement by the Afghanistan foreign minister implies that support for the Taliban and Al-Qaida is not limited to Waziristan: “I think it is [in] a lot of other places in our region and a lot of organizationsns and also madrassas [religious schools], that they are the centre of terrorist activity.” Indeed some of the most important figures in the organization have been caught elsewhere in Pakistan. And we are hearing that support for them is broadening among the Pakistani citizenry: “a lot of other places — and a lot of organizations” he says. He specifically points to the madrassas and implies that they are at least one “center of terrorist activity.” If he is right, then this deal accomplishes very little, except give the army an excuse to bow out.

The Pakistanis have lost 500 men in attempting to get control of the tribal areas. This is a frontier area between south Asia and Afghanistan, notable for its rugged terrain (it looks like a washboard from the air), as long as the distance from Maine to Georgia, where attempts at sustained control by outsiders, the British earlier and now the Pakistanis, was unfeasible. I had thought that this time, in the era of modern warfare, the Pakistanis would finally get direct control. But it has been too costly.

We can only surmise the nature of the difficulty. When we used to travel through the Khybar pass I would try to find a place along the road that was not covered by a line of fire from at least two directions. I never found a place that was not covered by fire from at least two established, secured positions above the road. Also, the road was already supplied with huge cement blocks that could easily be moved into position to barricade the highway; it would have been easy to shut down all traffic. These fortifications were first developed in British times and no doubt the Pakistanis have maintained them. I have not been further than the northern edge of Waziristan but I surmise that the passes into that area are similarly secured: I suppose that the Pakistani army’s problem was multiple installations along the lines of access that covered every point. The Waziri tribesmen would have planned ways of shutting down an army trying to move into the area. And now, after 30 years of war, they are armed with the latest weaponry. The old muzzle-loading jazaeels that once did so much damage to the British and the Lee Enfield rifles of WWI times have been replaced by AK-47s.

Moreover, scarcely anyone believes that Pakistan is fully committed to rooting out the Taliban. The New York Times [9/7/06] quotes an American intelligence source that Pakistanis are still actively supporting the Taliban raids into Afghanistan: “Pakistani intelligence agents have provided intelligence to the Taliban about coalition plans and tactical operations …”. They have also provided support, housing and security for the Taliban leadership, including Mullah Muhammad Omar, and it is believed that they are providing money and weapons for their attacks on Afghanistan.

Not a good sign.

Pakistani Leader Admits Taliban Cross into Afghanistan

For Musharraf to admit what the world knew all along is important. It isn’t news that Pakistan has been nourishing the Taliban and sending them into Afghanistan but it is news that he is willing to admit it. This is the first time he has agreed to go after the Taliban. We live in a world in which leaders – to put it bluntly — say what works in their interest, not what is true – or at least this is tragically more true than it should ever be. There is, however, a worry about whether this could cost him his office – and there are rumors that he is not to be in office much longer, even than he may not be with us much longer. Lets hope he lives to carry out his pledge.

Pakistani Leader Admits Taliban Cross into Afghanistan
Published: September 7, 2006 (New York Times)

KABUL, Afghanistan – President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan, in a conciliatory speech to Afghan officials and members of Parliament today, conceded that Al Qaeda and Taliban insurgents have been crossing the border into Afghanistan to mount attacks but denied that he or his government were backing them. In a major policy shift that may cost him support at home, General Musharraf pledged to seek out and destroy the command structure of insurgents apparently linked to Afghanistan’s ousted Taliban rulers, who are fighting NATO and Afghan forces in southern Afghanistan.