Afghanistan: profit and loss

Published: April 3, 2012

The writer is author of The Gun Tree: One Woman’s War (Oxford University Press, 2001) and lives in Bhurban

‘Warlord’, ’bandit’,’ patriot’, and ’politician’ are just a few of the terms used to describe legendary Pashtun Mujahid Commander Badshah Khan Zadran, sometimes called Pacha Khan Zadran, of the Paktia province in southeastern Afghanistan. This is a province in which he is alternately revered or hated depending on which side he, and his opposition, happen to be at the time. In the continuing charades of national and international politics, in which nothing is ever as it initially seems –– as is always the case here in Afghanistan –– Badshah Khan Zadran is diligently honing his negotiating skills, his weapons and his men, for the promised grail of 2014, when foreign occupying forces are scheduled to hand crucial security mechanisms back into Afghan hands where they belong.

Oozing a magnetic mixture of power, intimidation and deceptively benign self-righteousness, Zadran strode through the dramatically-fractured electric light beams emitting from dusty bulbs of the courtyard of one of his Kabul homes, to usher my companion and myself into the large guard house located just inside the barricaded entrance gate. In between profuse apologies for having to meet us in such surroundings because his traditional guestroom was under renovation, he was quick to point out that “the international community sees Afghanistan as nothing more than a business opportunity. It is a case of amassing profit at the cost of our country and our people and this is wrong”.

Enveloped in a traditional chador and imposing a tribal turban atop his now-lined and grizzled face, he sat cross-legged on dusty floor cushions sipping green tea and nibbling dried fruit and nuts as he offered his personal interpretation of things to come: “There was only ever one answer; one way to achieve peace in Afghanistan and that was thrown away at the Bonn Conference in 2001 when the international community chose Hamid Karzai over King Zahir Shah for president. If a loya jirga had been held then, King Zahir Shah would have been elected but the international community would not listen. They had their own ideas and imposed a puppet on us instead of the man people knew and trusted”.

Badshah Khan Zadran — reportedly a close friend of President Hamid Karzai who, immediately after what at the time was his ‘temporary’ presidential appointment, elevated the controversial Paktia personage to the post of the region’s provincial governor — is certainly no angel. Though he valiantly kicked the Taliban out of much of Paktia, Zardan promptly replaced their rule of terror with one of his own and through an incredibly tangled maze of rights, wrongs and shape-shifting –– including being elected to the Wolesi Jirga in 2005 –– has continued to be an extremely sharp and totally unpredictable, thorn in everyone’s side.

He explained that “2014 is a double edged sword”, as he sipped a second helping of green tea from the porcelain cup dwarfed in his beefy hand. “First, there is the scheduled withdrawal of foreign troops and the handing over of security to Afghan forces, who are unlikely to be ready for this major task. And secondly, there is the presidential election where, since no good person is available, another puppet will be imposed on us. The Taliban will, undoubtedly, be offered a role but, as a result of internal disputes between their own various groups, they will lose focus and collapse, taking the country and any chance of national unity with them”.

“As it stands,” he concluded, “There is no visible solution and there will be no peace.”

Published in The Express Tribune, April 4th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (6)

  • Raj
    Apr 4, 2012 - 9:16AM

    I, as a Kafir know that profit is Haram in Islam.

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  • Apr 4, 2012 - 11:26AM

    @Raj: from where did you get this insight Raj…may be you need to study a bit about concept of profit in Islam…

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  • Pashtun
    Apr 4, 2012 - 12:06PM

    A good article and expressing Bacha Khan in a realistic way

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  • A S
    Apr 4, 2012 - 2:14PM

    “As it stands,” he concluded, “There is no visible solution and there will be no peace.”
    The solution is there but those who need the solution most care the least about it.
    The solution is there, for all the people whether in Afghanistan or anywhere else to change their habits. Change for the good, embracing truthfulness, sincerity and justice.
    When people do the foregoing preferably enmasse they create a good chance for unity of the people. Unity by coming together and practice self help in every matter. The practice of consulting all the participants in matters that affect them is also very important.
    Those who exercise self help and uphold justice will alway and always be successful in their quest for peace and hence progress.

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  • Bazai
    Apr 4, 2012 - 2:14PM

    It is a good artistic description of the discussion, not of the content. Recently I read one comprehensive article on the Haqqani Network, where he was presented as one of the major culprit responsible for current array of instability in the Loya Paktia. It would have been helpful if the writter has written some things about his ideas, currrent loyality and record as a warlord. I don’t understand that how a 90 years old Zahir Shah would have been different from Karzai. It is unfair to put the blame of Afghanistan instability on the karzai regime. It is not posssible for a civilian set up to show miracle in just ten years especially at the time of insurgency and terrorism. There is the need of clear and long term commitment from the US and international forces and reconciliation between various ethnic groups in Kabul.

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  • Dr V. C. Bhutani
    Apr 4, 2012 - 5:49PM

    Afghans do not like a leader or a ruler imposed on them from outside or mainatained in power with the aid of foreign arms. The British in India tried this twice in the course of the 19th century: on both occasions the British had to accept defeat of their plans and rejection of their candidates for the throne of Kabul. The Americans have very nearly done the same thing by imposing Mr Karzai on the Afghans. Especially when he was seeking re-election the Americans should have allowed the election to produce a winner; they should not have declared their preference for any one candidate before the election. As a result, the Afghans saw that their president Mr Karzai had been imposed on them and that he was keeping himself in power with the support of American arms. He failed to win acceptance by the Afghans. It was not surprising that after his re-election he was derisively spoken of as the “mayor of Kabul”: his writ did not run outside the capital. Let us hope, for the sake of the Afghan people, that Americans shall not try to nominate someone when the next election takes place. If the Afghans can elect their own president, then there is hope for the Afghans.

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