Shadow play

Published: April 23, 2012
The writer is author of The Gun Tree: One Woman’s War (Oxford University Press, 2001) and lives in Bhurban

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

Indistinct figures loomed through the murk of the Kabul night, the permanent dust haze reducing headlight visibility to almost nil as our vehicle crawled, somewhat hesitantly, through one of the many checkpoints on the city outskirts. A cursory glance inside satisfied the armed police on duty and we are waved on in moments, as was the heavy traffic in front of us and that which followed in our wake. We were entering the metropolis from the direction of Sarobi, the road behind us snaking all the way back to Jalalabad and the Pakistan border.

The scenario was exactly the same when I arrived in Kabul from Kunduz at sunset a few weeks earlier — so it came as no surprise that militants were able to penetrate the so-called ‘ring of steel’ surrounding the city to carry out their recent coordinated attacks on selected targets. It was also no surprise that President Hamid Karzai blamed the situation on Nato intelligence failure without mentioning Afghan forces or his own intelligence network and, even less of a surprise, that fingers were promptly pointed towards the Haqqani network and Pakistan. Where the surprise lies, however, is that almost everyone who should be both concerned and informed continues to ignore the blatant truth, which is that the shadow play comprising Afghan politics and foreign occupation has undergone a complete volte-face, in that the majority of the population outside of Kabul want the Taliban back in the driving seat.

Shocking as this may sound to the uninitiated, it is perfectly understandable if you happen to be an Afghan villager with peace and justice in mind: Taliban-dispensed justice may be bloody but it is quick. If a murderer is apprehended for instance, then that is that and the same goes for a thief. But if such criminals are brought to government courts, then depending on who they happen to be, justice may, or may not be served. Afghan villagers and, to be fair city dwellers, too, view the government as nothing more than a collection of corrupt braggarts and upstarts who are considered, by them at least, to be war criminals and thieves of the dirtiest order. The established fact that $4.5 billion was flown out of the country last year via Kabul airport and another estimated $8 billion taken out by other means serves to underscore their point.

People throughout the country are eager for the current government to fall, yet not all are so eager to see foreign occupation forces pull out and few believe that they actually will: “If American troops were leaving, then why is it that after 10 years of living in makeshift barracks, they are replacing them with concrete ones right now?” asks an informed source. Adding, “There is also the matter of the multimillion city complex scheduled for construction adjacent to Kabul airport. This is specifically to house foreigners and service contracts — up until 2025 — which have already been given out”.

In the conundrum that is Afghanistan, the shadows are shifting, altering shape and gathering for whatever comes next, which for a sizeable percentage is the dream of a just and peaceful Taliban rule over the chaos of the current ‘now’.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 24th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (25)

  • MarkH
    Apr 23, 2012 - 10:43PM

    Keep to writing books. You set the scene up with a decent visual and then go straight into fictional story telling.


  • Super Pak
    Apr 23, 2012 - 11:08PM

    You tell us Mark, what have your travels through afghanistan taught you.


  • Roflcopter
    Apr 23, 2012 - 11:20PM

    @MarkH, To trolls like you facts are fiction and fiction is fact.


  • Bhindian
    Apr 23, 2012 - 11:22PM

    I bet MarkH believes US is winning this war lol!


  • BlackJack
    Apr 24, 2012 - 12:13AM

    @Super Pak:
    I suppose you conducted a poll amongst the villagers of Afghanistan to determine that they want the Taliban back? There may be a sense of invevitability connected with the inability of the NATO forces to win the war – this should not be construed as desire to see those blood-thirsty hoodlums back in the driver’s seat. I am surprised that a woman has written this article – despite the horrific atrocities that were visited upon women during the Taliban’s barbaric reign.


  • Thoughtful
    Apr 24, 2012 - 2:45AM

    If the author thinks people dream of a just and peaceful Taliban ,have they forgotten life under the Taliban or did she speak only with people born after 2001.Recommend

  • Arindom
    Apr 24, 2012 - 3:40AM

    The author’s obvious glee that the Taliban was able to attack Kabul and kill innocent people is barely concealed!!!


  • Adeel759
    Apr 24, 2012 - 3:44AM

    @BlackJack. Very well put Sir that “Inevitability connected to Inability”. This is the only reason why”Sizeable Percentage” have made up their mind for the “Return Of Taliban”. Those who are happy for the Taliban coming back to power, they have no feelings and sympathy what so ever for the Beautiful people of Afghanistan. I wonder Taliban String pullers would ever realize that frail, aged looking young men and women, tormented souls walking on the streets of Kandhar and Kabul and around do have dreams and hopes. Let peace arrive in Afghanistan, Please.Recommend

  • Muqarrib
    Apr 24, 2012 - 6:26AM


    ” I am surprised that a woman has written this article – despite the horrific atrocities that were visited upon women during the Taliban’s barbaric reign.”

    BlackJack, if it were so horrific then an educated and western women – Yvonne Ridley – would have not gone from Taliban prison into the fold Islam. Agree?


  • Afridi
    Apr 24, 2012 - 8:42AM

    Hmmm i my opinion the writer have appreciated the situation to some extent in the right direction. It is hard fact to believe that USA has failed to fight taliban. And things are going out of there control. People are fedup of ISAF. But the idea that people want taliban back is in my opinion not true. What they want is ISAF out of there country and balanced government in power which may be impossible to materialised due to local, regional and international interests. Lets see how the situation in afghanistan snakes thorough the time. Many big events are coming in future like american withdrawl, Qatar peace talk and twist and turns in PAK US relation.


  • BlackJack
    Apr 24, 2012 - 9:06AM

    An exception doth not the rule make. Homework for today – Patty Hearst.


  • Farrukh
    Apr 24, 2012 - 9:49AM

    @ Muqarrib:

    Disagreed. Please do not paint the Taliban as the saviors of Islam. The reasons for this woman’s conversion to Islam probably had to do with her personal study of Islam rather than any impact from the Taliban. Or it is just a case of the Stockholm Syndrome, who knows.

    I have personally visited the northern areas of Afghanistan, places like Bamyaan, Baghlan, Takhar, Kunduz, Mazar Sharif and Badakhshan and seen the effects of the atrocities committed by the Taliban. The writer may be talking about the Pushtun majority areas of Afghanistan, but people from other areas really do not want the barbaric Taliban to come back in power. The current structure, with all its failings, at least keeps the hope alive for these people, specially women and children, who want a bright future like other global citizens.


  • malik
    Apr 24, 2012 - 9:50AM

    If the illiterate masses of Afghanistan are happy under Taliban rule, then let them have it. They are content having a hand-to-mouth subsistence living, reminiscing about the golden age of Islam. Why should we bother ?

    I think we should build a strong wall around our border to prevent Afghani refugees to enter our soil and then wait for the entire population to get decimated and wiped out in internecine quarrels, in honor killings and judicial punishments and religious warfare.

    Then we will populate the country with more humane gentry and give the country some civilized people it deserves.


  • wonderer
    Apr 24, 2012 - 10:53AM

    Afghans may or may not be wishing for return of Taliban, but the Pakistan Army does want them back. That is because of the perceived necessity of “strategic depth”. Pakistan has been treating Afghanistan as its backyard all along, and feels fully entitled to have an Afghan Government of its choice. Pakistan also seems to have decided that India will have no role to play in Afghan reconstruction. What the Afghan people want is obviously of no concern at all.

    The NATO is not chasing victory in Afghanistan. The future has a baffling surprise in store for Pakistan and its dreams.


  • Naveed Alam Khattak
    Apr 24, 2012 - 11:26AM

    Resistance & Gureilla Wars cannot survive & succeed without the help of locals and we are looking that Afghan resistance is alive from the last 11 years, it means that they are supported by locals. Furthermore, it is now becoming evident, that US didn’t come here for Osama or Taliban, they came to attain their goals and these goals are very clear i.e. Using Afghanistan as a basecamp to get the Natural resources of this area (Balochistan, Afghanistan & Central Asia), Restricting Chinese influence and progress, Nukes of Pakistan & Iran.


  • Apr 24, 2012 - 12:34PM

    the majority of the population outside of Kabul want the Taliban back in the driving seat

    Finally someone said it.


  • usmani
    Apr 24, 2012 - 1:26PM

    @ Wonderer — Pakistan sees the Afghanistan its backyard because it is like that since centuries. India is new player in the dirty game. When the NATO and American leave the Afghanistan scene, India is eager to have a major role for its Army.What baffling surprise in Store for Pakistan. I think the surprise is in store for India, to entangle its feet in the quagmire of Afghanistan.

    It is certain that after the NATO departure this corrupt Karzai government would not be able to hold its ground. and Taliban are strong enough around the Kabul to fight back the lost territories.

    Personnaly , I wish that Paksiatn has enough of its feets in Afghanistan. It would be better to take care of its own house.


  • vasan
    Apr 24, 2012 - 4:35PM

    Partitioning of Afganistan is one way out and probably the only way out instead of the world silently watching the talibans and the NA killing each other in thousands and the poor afgans of north and south suffering in between.Recommend

  • let there be peace
    Apr 24, 2012 - 4:56PM

    If some people want Taliban rule then let them have it. Divide Afghanistan into one Islamic and one (strictly) secular nation. Anyway it is an artificial country created in very recent history, that too only on map.


  • wonderer
    Apr 24, 2012 - 5:33PM


    Pakistan sees the Afghanistan its backyard because it is like that since centuries.

    According to your reasoning Pakistan is the backyard of India just as Afghanistan is the backyard of Pakistan. Should India treat Pakistan the way Pakistan treats Afghanistan?

    Pakistan will have to treat Afghanistan as an independent sovereign nation, with no right to interfere is its internal matters. Afghanistan will decide its foreign policy and what relations it wants with India and others. Pakistan will not be allowed to interfere.

    NATO is not going to vanish from Afghanistan. Karzai may go, but there will be a government in Kabul. The US is building permanent bases in Afghanistan. The US has invested a lot of money there and the investments will continue even after 2014. The US will ensure suitable returns on the investment.

    There will be an army of Afghanistan which will defend its borders against Taliban, Haqqani and Pak forces. The money US has been wasting on Pakistani army will be going to Afghan forces. Agreements are already prepared for signatures.

    This is the possible future scenario. Please make your dreams accordingly.

    I strongly recommend the following by a wise Pakistani:


  • Ozymandias
    Apr 24, 2012 - 5:34PM

    If any of you trolls knew anything at all about the author you’d know that she opposes the Taliban. That she would write this only goes to show how far things have come and how badly the US and Afghan governments have failed. This goes for the local as well as imported trolls. You guys need a life.


  • Super pak
    Apr 24, 2012 - 6:12PM

    Yeah I could ask you the same thing. If you read the article she mentions that she did travel through afghanisan so I would take her opinion over your keyboard crusading.


  • bangash
    Apr 24, 2012 - 6:32PM

    Peaceful and just Taliban rule….don’t make me laugh. These Taliban were cruel when they were in power back in the 1990’s, and some fools still think these Taliban are good folk.Recommend

  • sardar
    Apr 24, 2012 - 6:51PM

    i think the author was just sharing the journey experience that made to Afghanistan.I ve all my doubt that she has interacted with the people of local area,she has mentioned that what she has read in eyes of innocent Afghans who are fighting for their today and are not sure of tomorrow.They just need any for govt who can full fill their basic needs that may Karzai r Talban.but unfortunate the dilemma is that its their country but their are hundreds of thanks tank who are planning the future of Afghan ppl.everybody has invested entrusts starting from mighty america ,india , Russia ,china and pak.i think all of us leave them in their land and them decide whom they want whether they fight are vote.


  • Ghaznawi
    Apr 24, 2012 - 7:13PM


    “If the illiterate masses of Afghanistan are happy under Taliban rule, then let them have it”.

    The literacy rate in Pakistan is about 30% and it is about the same in Afghanistan. I think more Pakistanis favor the obscurantist brand of Islam the Taliban follow than Afghans and don’t forget that these people were indoctrinated by people like you. You call yourself a humane gentry, obviously you are not reading the Express Tribune and following up on the latest mayhem caused by your so called humane gentry. The power of denial is strong among you Pakistanis.Recommend

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