“There can be peace”, stated the notorious Afghan warlord sitting cross-legged across the carpet from me in the air-conditioned cool of his palatial Kabul home. “Yes, there can be but … not until we have killed all of the enemies first”.
He is serious — more serious than I have ever seen him before. His deep-set eyes flash fire, his mouth is set in grim determination, he is primed and ready to kill right now which, under the circumstances, is understandable. Pacha Khan Zadran is in mourning for three family members who were assassinated just days ago. The jeep they were travelling in was blown to smithereens by an improvised explosive device in Paktia province. He lusts for vengeance and he will, no doubt, have it. And, if he dies before achieving this aim, he still has eight sons, all replicas of himself, to ensure that an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, is taken from the enemy.
The problem for Pacha Khan Zadran and others of his ilk in identifying the ‘enemy’ is that, the enemy has changed sides too many times to count, during the last 40 years of continual warfare and civil strife. The enemy is legion and in his own words: “Someone who was once a friend is the most dangerous enemy of all because he knows you”.
Zadran talked peace at the Washington Conference called in the wake of the Twin Towers debacle and again during the Bonn Conference soon after. On each occasion, he insisted that there would only be peace once every single Haqqani and Talib was killed. A negotiated settlement is total anathema to him and those cast in the same mould.
When asked about his opinion on the recent announcement made by an unnamed American official — that the three Afghan border provinces of Paktika, Khost and his own Paktia could be offered to the Haqqani network and the Taliban in exchange for unarmed cooperation — he laughs and says: “The Americans are not stupid. They cannot give away three provinces of Afghanistan to Pakistan. They are up to something”.
The suggestion that such an action could encourage Haqqani and the Taliban to move en masse to these provinces, instead of being scattered throughout Afghanistan as they currently are, and then be ‘taken care of’ meets with derision. “If they seriously wanted to take out Haqqani and the Taliban, they could have done it years ago. They know the exact locations of the Haqqani network and the Taliban camps on both sides of the border. They have no need to entice them to these three provinces. They can wipe them out any time they want. The big question is: why have they not done so yet? I tell you, they are up to something”.
More men arrive to offer their condolences and as they are not allowed in this inner sanctum, Pacha Khan Zadran rises to go and meet them in his guest house just inside the heavily guarded front gate. As he escorts me and my companion out, he repeats over his shoulder: “The enemy must all be killed”. This heartfelt statement underlined the harsh truth: There can be no peace in Afghanistan unless a miracle occurs.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 12th, 2012.