Soapbox: A nation held hostage by terrorists

October 12, 2001

Academics consider Afghanistan's crisis and responses to the war on terrorism: Afghanistan.

Our nation has been taken hostage by an international terrorist network. There is no infrastructure in Afghanistan - no hospitals, no schools, no university, no colleges. The nation has been deprived of everything.

People need food more than anything else. If this mission (the US-led attacks) does not succeed after a month, millions could die in the winter. People living in Afghanistan are not really alive. Our only hope is that we are released from our hostage state.

Pakistan created the Taliban and supported them. It has hosted the madrassahs (religious schools) from which the Taliban fighters come. They are brainwashed in Pakistan and sent to Kashmir and Afghanistan for practical training.

The real problem is in Pakistan. After this war, most (of the Taliban) will go back to Pakistan, so the main danger will be there. They are misleading the West, saying that the Taliban represent the Pashtun people. The Taliban are a black spot in the history of Afghanistan, the Pashtun nation and Islam. They are trying to create ethnic hatred. The Pashtuns hate the Taliban, and there is real resistance in Taliban areas.

What kind of society would support the Taliban? Sixty per cent of the population is female. They are imprisoned, they have no education. Would they support the Taliban? There is no minority problem in Afghanistan. For thousands of years, we have lived in peace. The Taliban and Pakistan are creating the conditions for a civil war that will allow Pakistan to do anything it wants.

The people of Afghanistan have suffered for 23 years. There is no culture but that of the Kalashnikov. The drought means there is not even grass to eat. People are hungry for food and education. They are exhausted by war. They need huge economic support for reconstruction and rehabilitation and then, after time, elections.

Still, I am optimistic. Kabul was a civilised place. I worked for 21 years in Kabul University, and no one was ever asked about their ethnic origins. Ninety-nine per cent of Afghanis do not believe in fanaticism. After one week of this western campaign, I guarantee that there will be an uprising in the Taliban areas.

Abdul Lalzad is the former deputy director of Kabul University and is currently researching desalination at South Bank University.

* Interview by Mandy Garner

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