Monday, December 20, 2010

My Life With The Taliban: An Excerpt [1 of 5]

An excerpt from the fascinating autobiography of former Taliban government spokesman and ambassador to Pakistan, Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef who spent four years imprisoned in Guantanamo

by Andy Worthington

 'An incredibly important book.  By revealing the inner workings of the Taliban from the early days of the movement, Zaeef challenges the accepted wisdom about the insurgency now facing international troops. … If your government sends soldiers to Afghanistan, you must read this.'
Graeme Smith, Globe & Mail Kandahar Correspondent 2005-

Note for WoP readers: We Pakistanis endured the regime led by the former army general; the self appointed president of Pakistan as we did of the past generals who too like him had installed themselves through military coups as the chief martial law administrator-cum chief executive-cum president- cum every thing. But Pervez Musharraf stands individual amongst them insofar as what he did during his rule, hit the very core values for which the nation state of Pakistan stood, [vouched] through its constitution i.e. the sovereignty of the state itself. He surrendered before an assistant secretary of state in the American establishment and in a nu became an accomplice in the US led war on terror.
I agree, in the state of wrath the former president of the United States of America was in, perhaps it would have equally been tough for any other person occupying the seat of presidency in this country, yet the way he kneeled before the US’s might, shows the very temerity and the lust he had while dealing in national and international matters.
I have my personal experience of how the state functionaries troubled and tormented the common people of Pakistan [all in the name of law which was nothing but his personal desire to rule Pakistania with the full force of might he had, a might that was vested in him as the COAS Pakistan to defend the country’s borders, and not to trample the basic human rights the people of Pakistan had and have as the citizens of an independent sovereign state of Pakistan].
The same Pervez Musharraf bargained the lives of so many people of his own country as well as of Afghanistan. Mullah Abdus Salam Zaeef too has been one of them.
I personally have never liked the Taliban style of governance nor do we Pakistanis accept their version of Islam. As I have already said quite a few times, we in Pakistan have been bred more on secular lines than our Afghan brethren, and this secularist approach stems from our psyche as the sons of the land of Indus which through centuries has open heartedly embraced and accepted all convictions, all beliefs and ideologies.  Though firm believers, we do not subscribe to nor do we believe in the Talbani Islam. This, however, doesn’t mean that US or some other country should start dictating them what is good or what is bad for them. If this concept is made a rule, this world becomes a jungle where only the stronger will have the writ. The weaker ones will have to submit to that writ.
Seen in this context what happened in Afghanistan or even what is happening now, cannot be condoned on any count [a policy which has been framed to suit the interests of the military industry circles of the US imperialism which demands the wars must go on].
While going through Mullah’s ordeal, what made me like so many of my country men who have no interest in Osama bin Laden, Mullah Umar or the Taliban in general, to ponder was that while waging war against Afghanistan, what Bush and his chamchas like Tony Blair and Musharraf  did was primarily targeted not only to hurt the Taliban but also the Muslims in general. With the power of their physical might and propaganda, Islam turned into radical Islam, militant Islam or terrorist Islam, contrary to the fact that Islam is always Islam, a deen. A fundament of Islam, Jihad has now become a dirty word for this was the intention of the neocons to dub every thing Islamic as bad.
Those who are interested to know about the history of the post 9/11 events and had or still have some misconceptions about the goodness of Bush Mush duo should read the book by Mullah Abdus Salam, some excerpts of which are being put up now on these pages [courtesy Peter Chamberlin’s ‘There are no sunglasses’ weblog]. [Nayyar]

 T o r t u r e &

A b u s e

on the USS Bataan and in Bagram 

& Kandahar

    Cageprisoners has just posted an excerpt from My Life with the Taliban by Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, the Taliban government’s ambassador to Pakistan before the 9/11 attacks, who was seized by the Pakistani authorities a few months later. Handed over to the US authorities, he was one of a number of supposedly significant prisoners held on the USS Bataan (including the Australian David Hicks), and was then moved to the US prisons at Bagram airbase and Kandahar airport. He was transferred to Guantánamo in July 2002, and was released in September 2005.

     His autobiography has been well-received. Foreign Affairs described it as “A counter narrative to much of what has been written about Afghanistan since 1979 … Zaeef offers a particularly interesting discussion of the Taliban’s origins and the group’s effectiveness in working with locals,” and the Sunday Telegraph wrote, “Spies, generals and ambassadors will pounce on this book, poring over its pages for clues to a way out of the Afghan morass.”

    This fascinating excerpt from the book, cross-posted below, deals with Zaeef’s detention in Pakistan, on the USS Bataan, and in Bagram and Kandahar.
An Excerpt from “My Life with the Taliban” by Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef (Hurst & Co.)
When we arrived in Peshawar I was taken to a lavishly-fitted office. A Pakistani flag stood on the desk, and a picture of Mohammad Ali Jinnah hung at the back of the room. A Pashtun man was sitting behind the desk. He got up, introduced himself and welcomed me. His head was shaved — seemingly his only feature of note — and he was of an average size and weight. He walked over to me and said that he was the head of the bureau. I was in the devil’s workshop, the regional head office of the ISI.
He told me I was a close friend — a guest — and one that they cared about a great deal. I wasn’t really sure what he meant, since it was pretty clear that I was dear to them only because they could get a good sum of money for me when they sold me. Their trade was people; just as with goats, the higher the price for the goat, the happier the owner. In the twenty-first century there aren’t many places left where you can still buy and sell people, but Pakistan remains a hub for this trade. I prayed after dinner with the ISI officer, and then was brought to a holding-cell for detainees. The room was decent, with a gas heater, electricity and a toilet. I was given food and drink — even a copy of the Holy Qur’an for recitation — as well as a notebook and pen. The guard posted at the door was very helpful, and he gave me whatever I requested during the night.
I wasn’t questioned or interviewed while being held in Peshawar. Only one man, who didn’t speak Pashtu and whose Urdu I couldn’t understand came every day to ask the same question over and over again: what is going to happen? My answer was the same each time he asked me. “Almighty God knows, and He will decide my fate. Everything that happens is bound to His will”.
All of the officials who visited me while I was detained in Peshawar treated me with respect. But none of them really spoke to me. They would look at me in silence but their faces spoke clearer than words could, humbled by pity and with tears gathering in their eyes. Finally, after days in my cell, a man came, tears flowing down his cheeks. He fainted as his grief and shame overcame him. He was the last person I saw in that room. I never learnt his name, but soon after — perhaps four hours after he left — I was handed over to the Americans.
It was eleven o’clock at night and I was getting ready to go to bed when the door to my cell suddenly opened. A man (also with a shaved head) entered; he was polite and we exchanged greetings. He asked me whether I was aware of what was going to happen to me. When I said that I knew nothing, he said that I was being transferred, and that it would happen soon. So soon, in fact, that he recommended that I should prepare straight away by taking ablutions and by using the toilet. Without asking for any further details, I got up and took my ablutions. 

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