“It is difficult for Taliban to fight in Kashmir”

In this interview, The Kashmir Walla, speaks to the Director and Editor-in-Chief of The Kabul Times Daily, Hamidullah Arefi, who is based in Kabul, Afghanistan. Arefi speaks about the recent elections, effect of Pakistan’s internal conflicts on the country’s political scenario and also the rising threats of foreign invasions, in past or in future.

Hamidullah Arefi
Hamidullah Arefi

Can you tell us about this year’s elections, its current standing and about the acceptance of political Taliban members being in the parliament?

We have passed two rounds of elections successfully with the high turnout of voters. It was a move toward institutionalization of Democracy in the country.

The High Peace Council (HPC) here has always tried to convince the Taliban in order to be part of Afghan society they must accept the constitution of Afghanistan and therefore will have the opportunity to join the current government in democratic elections. The HPC has also encouraged them to various means to bring about a non violent and peaceful end point to the long term conflict in the country. Perhaps HPC has proposed the Taliban member seats in the parliament, but on the condition they accept the constitution and democratic system of the country.

How are the citizens of the country dealing with the current political position?

The people showed their support and responsibilities by going to polling centers and freely casting votes for their desired candidates. Nowadays, Afghanistan is crossing from a historical situation which will bring the first ever transition of power from one elected president to another. The population is concerned for their future, and the future of their country, there is great concern that the election result will be announced unfavorably or null. The Afghan people are hopfull that a positive result will come to us, to bring about a point of content, happiness and peace to this war-torn country.

What has changed in Afghanistan after the elections? Any major developments, in Democracy?

With the high turnout in the first and second round of the elections which has now been announced by the media throughout the country as well as outside of the country, it was a step toward institutionalization of the democracy in the country and informing the world that we have moved favorably towards a democratic government. It indicates to the world that the people of Afghanistan were the founders of such democracy. We can say this high turnout was a combination of the achievements of Afghanistan government, the Media and the Non-Governmental Organisations of the country that persuaded the people to go and cast the votes.

Is there a belief among Afghans that the Taliban is being supported by Pakistan?

Afghanistan has passed more than three decades of devastating war and now even an Afghan child knows that some foreign intelligence, movements in Pakistan and foreign money might be sponsoring Pakistan and the Taliban. Until there is no support to the Taliban, they will not be able to carry arms or attack for even a day in this county. They have lost the power to fight face to face with Afghan National Security Forces, but still they try to disrupt the current peaceful environment in the country, and of course they receive support from outside of the country.

India and Pakistan have several operations going on in Afghanistan. And several analysts say there is a proxy war between India and Pakistan going on in this region. What are your views from the ground situation?

Yes proxy war is going on here, but mostly these proxy wars are conducted by Pakistani military (and ISI), they are not honest with Afghan forces, people or the government to bring peace and stability here, in fact they are known to disrupt the peace process here and interfere in not allowing other countries to take part in the reconstruction processes of Afghanistan. They have abducted engineers and other professionals through militant activities and attacked Indian consulates in order to disturb or stop their missions in Afghanistan. However we have not directly witnessed or have irrefutable evidence that Indians conducted the insurgency operations against Pakistani aid workers in consulates in Afghanistan, which has also graced the international media.

The rising conflict in Pakistan, particularly the rise of Tehreek I Taliban, is seen as the threat to the peace in neighboring countries. With the NATO exit how much threat does Afghanistan have from this rise?

If NATO exits or not, the condition will be the same, because the Afghan National Security forces are always in the first line of combat with the Taliban in remote areas of the country. This has been the case for several seasons now, and they have no air assistance from NATO or US forces for these troops. In saying this the NATO presence can be efficient only in the virtual form, I honestly think if our security forces are well equipped with the right combat equipment then they will be unbeatable in combat field.

How do you see the rise of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) forces’ in Iraq? Does it have any relation or support in Afghanistan?

This has been propaganda about them coming over here and taking over power like the Taliban had in the past, however the landscape is different here in Afghanistan. Here Shia and Sunni along with community support our troops and security forces in order to work together, whereas in Iraq they fight each other. Religious leaders and our constitution differ, the Afghan judicial system is not only Shia but considers both Shia and Sunni.

I personally do not feel they can penetrate into Afghanistan, like many in the past the Roman’s, the Mongols, the British, the Russians, the Americans, we have had many foreigners here, the terrain and climate is quite different and difficult, without local assistance infiltrating into Afghanistan is unlikely. As a result of past invasions the Afghans have constantly defended their land and sadly we have seen many causalities, health crisis, economic and social issues to name a few. Foreign invasion will face heavy casualties and the truth is, even if we have fights with each other inside the country, one thing is certain the Afghans with fight united against foreign invasion, its in our blood and history, we will stand with each other in order to beat the invaders.

There is a debate that after NATO exits the Taliban troops will spread towards India, particularly Kashmir. What do you say?

Taliban has lost power to fight face to face, all their recent attempts in Afghanistan have failed. This is just proxy wars, which they have started with the help of foreigner intelligence. Nowadays, national police forces have the capability to fight such insurgency, particularly in Afghanistan. Our ANSF secured the environment during polling, held safe elections, our people stood against the Taliban and voted in huge numbers like 7 million people casted their votes in the first and second round of the election.

I think there is a relation to Kashmir, which is a border area between Pakistan and India. I can say that Taliban will find it difficult to go there and start their destructive operations. We all know that India has a powerful intelligence department so that they can stand against such militants easily, particularly in Kashmir. We should also accept the fact that some intelligence departments will always support the militants, this way they can further extend their activities but I think it will not depend upon withdrawal of NATO forces.

How do you see the rise of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) forces’ in Iraq? Does it have any relation or support in Afghanistan?

This has been propaganda about them coming over here and taking over power like the Taliban had in the past, however the landscape is different here in Afghanistan. Here Shia and Sunni along with community support our troops and security forces in order to work together, whereas in Iraq they fight each other. Religious leaders and our constitution differ, the Afghan judicial system is not only Shia but considers both Shia and Sunni.

I personally do not feel they can penetrate into Afghanistan, like many in the past the Roman’s, the Mongols, the British, the Russians, the Americans, we have had many foreigners here, the terrain and climate is quite different and difficult, without local assistance infiltrating into Afghanistan is unlikely. As a result of past invasions the Afghans have constantly defended their land and sadly we have seen many causalities, health crisis, economic and social issues to name a few. Foreign invasion will face heavy casualties and the truth is, even if we have fights with each other inside the country, one thing is certain the Afghans will fight united against foreign invasion. It is in our blood and history, we will stand with each other in order to beat the invaders.

How is “Freedom of Speech” position within media in Afghanistan?

Freedom of speech in Afghanistan is unique in the region as we can freely broadcast any news and we can criticize the government, the parliament, the councils, and the parliamentarians. There is freedom of speech that is un-paralleled by even the Arab states.

The law for freedom of speech is codified before our constitution. It is like the child born before his/her mom. So we have the best freedom of speech which is one of the great achievement of President Karzai government.

Tell us about the condition of journalism in Afghanistan. How tough is it to report from the region?

Journalists have and continue to receive many threats and violence during actively and nobly reporting on issues. They receive threats mostly from powerful people in the government, local commanders and from the Taliban. But if we compare it with the neighboring countries, the environment for journalists is better in that we can broadcast any kind of news. We have different organization that support the rights of journalists. Ministry of Information and Culture of Afghanistan has always tried to pave the way for easy access of information for journalists. Even recently the Ministry has established a commission to gather evidence and hold hearings against cases of violence against journalists, this commission was approved by president of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai.

Can you shed some light on news that the Taliban has been cutting the fingers of voters after polling was finished?

Yes we got the bad news that Taliban has been chopping off the fingers of some voters in western province of Afghanistan, Herat. Although Taliban has continued to reject their involvement in this event, but it was clear that again the certain circles outside of the country used Taliban to disrupt the election process and to threaten the people to not participate in such national solidarity movements of the country. People stand against such threats, although they lost their fingers but they still had the opportunity to vote for their choosen candidates and for a better future for their country.

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