Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Pakistani Afghan Strategy for after the US Pullout

Pakistan has exploited and manipulated Afghanistan primarily through the use of American money for years. Now the US is preparing to pull out of Afghanistan at the end of 2014 so what does Pakistan do next. Mehreen Zahra-Malik has a brilliant article in The News International that offers and insight.
Mehreen Zahra-MalikWednesday, October 10, 2012

A Pakistani journalist visiting Kabul in the nineties half-jokingly asked the then-vice president of Afghanistan, Maulana Mohammad Nabi Mohammadi: “I’ve read in the British gazetteers that the only way to deal with an Afghan is either to buy him or to bully him. But what if he still doesn’t relent?”
The Maulana smiled: “Then he’s not an Afghan!”

The journalist insisted: “But still; how do you deal with him?”

Nabi Mohammadi thought for a minute and replied: “Well, if you can’t buy or bully an Afghan, then the only way to bring him around to your way is to convince him that it’s his idea.”

Years later, the Maulana’s words carry a lesson for the Pakistan-Afghanistan relationship: that what’s wrong with it is precisely that while Pakistan doesn’t have the resources to ‘buy’ Afghanistan, or the capacity to effectively ‘bully’ it, the poverty of the approach is such that Pakistan has also failed wholesale in convincing the Afghans it has anything close to their best interests at heart.

So, as western forces prepare to leave and the world scrambles to fashion a future Afghanistan beyond 2014, has Pakistan understood the need to change its approach?

The civilians say yes – and then trot out a list of ‘fundamentals’ that have changed to show Pakistan is truly working to abandon its traditional security-centric, Pashtun-dominated, geo-strategic approach and adopt a more politically inclusive, geo-economic one.

We don’t play the game as well as the army does but there is no dictation anymore, the civilians will tell you.

Here’s their narrative.

Unlike in the past, under this civilian government and the Hina Khar-led foreign office mandarins, Pakistan has overcome its traditional preoccupation with maintaining exclusively Pashtun ties. Today, the civilians will tell you, Pakistan talks to actors as diverse as Yunis Qanooni (Tajik speaker of the lower house of Afghanistan’s parliament); Ahmad Wali Massoud (ethnic Tajik, younger brother of Ahmad Shah Massoud and former member of the Northern Alliance); Ahmad Zia Massoud (leader of the major united political and anti-Taliban group, the National Front of Afghanistan); Ustad Mohaqiq (leader of the Hazara Shia Hezb-e Wahdat); Faizullah Zaki (an ethnic Uzbek who has been the right-hand man of the ethnic Uzbek general Abdul Rashid Dostum for years) and General Dostum himself.

A foreign office official explained: During Prime Minister Ashraf’s July 2012 maiden visit to Kabul, he met so many opposition leaders that after he left, all Kabul newspapers said the North is now in bed with Pakistan – the same accusation that has for years been trotted out about Pakistan and the Taliban! “That should tell you how much Pakistan is trying to reach out to the non-Pashtuns,” the official said

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

H.E. Habibullah Ghalib Hero of Afghanistan

H.E. Habibullah Ghalib completed his B.A. degree in 1964, he joined the Ministry of Justice at the beginning of what turned to become a life-time career. Between the years 1967 - 1969, Minister Ghalib went to Egypt to pursue his Graduate Studies at Al Azhar University of Cairo.

Habibullah Ghalib id his M.A. in Comparative Islamic Jurisprudence and Law, and thereafter registered -- as a Ph.D., candidate -- his Dissertation titled "The Legality of Crime and Punishment", only to return to Afghanistan at the request of the Ministry of Justice.

Habibullah Ghalib esumed his career as Chief of the office of the Minister, and later as Senior Adviser to the Department of Legislation and the Institute of Legislative Affairs. Minister Ghalib was serving as Deputy Attorney General for Investigation and Petitions when the nation was cast into political upheaval in 1979. He was put behind bars for several months and an ensuing year-long house arrest. He re-joined the Justice Ministry following release. Facing imminent re-arrest, however, he fled the country and took refuge in neighboring Pakistan, where he began serving the Afghan refugees in varied capacities. He teamed up with a group of intellectuals, who, together, established the "Cultural Council of Afghanistan Resistance", an influential organization broadly involved in promoting the educational, scholastic and cultural interests of the Afghan refugees and of the greater Afghan cause.
Minister Ghalib then went on to serve at the head of Madina Monawara orphanage and of Department of Education of the orphanages run by Asra Charity, teaching as university professor in the meantime. Years later, upon formation of the Interim Government in Exile, Mr. Ghalib was called upon to assume the office of Director General of Legislation Department of the Ministry of Justice.
He returned to Afghanistan in 1992 upon coming into power of the new government and was named as Deputy Attorney General for the Department of Supervision of Implementation of the Law and Director General of the Department of Protection of the Law and Legal and Judicial Affairs. In late 2001, pursuant to the establishment of the Interim Authority and within the course of the subsequent years, Minister Ghalib held diverse portfolios with the Transitional and elected governments. He served as a member of the Independent Legal and Judicial Reform Commission, and Chairman of the Committee on Reform of the Laws.
He then entered the Legal Consultative Board to the President of Afghanistan as a member, and later on as Chairman of the said Board, while simultaneously holding the position of Senior Legal Adviser to the Ministry of Justice. Mr. Ghalib was nominated for the post of Justice Minister by President Karzi on January 14, 2010, whereupon he won confirmation by the nation's Parliament. He assumed his duties as Minister of Justice of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan on January 19th, 2010.
Minister Ghalib has been involved in efforts for peace initiated by the former King of Afghanistan under the aegis of the United Nations, attending its successive gatherings held in Quitta-Pakistan, Bonn and Rome.
He also has attended respective conferences on drafting the Constitution and formation of Government convened in Switzerland and Washington, D.C. As well, Mr. Ghalib has been a member of the Constitutional Loya Jirga (Grand Assembly). Minister Ghalib has paid working visits to Saudi Arabia, Sudan, France, Switzerland, Italy, Germany, the United States, and Canada. He has conducted scientific research with the Attorney General Office, the Police, and Prison and Correctional Services in Egypt and Turkey.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Convicting Noorzai is a Small First Step

This article in the New York Times points to a flaw in our war on Drugs as well as our war on terrorism. It is a great thing to convict Haji Bashir Noorzai but it is in the greater scheme of things almost meaningless. Haji Bashir Noorzai is not the problem he was just a leader. the real problem is the 1 million member Noorzai tribe and its ties to Taliban, commerce in Afghanistan, Hawala money trade and heroin. The Noorzai must be treated as a criminal body in the same manner the LCN crime families are targeted. But at the same time they must also be reated militarily as Al Qaida is targeted. The Noorzai are effectively a fusion of organized crime and international terrorism. Thre is no meaningful difference between the man who funds a terrorist bomb and the man who explodes the bomb.
Best wishes,
Barry O'Connell

Manhattan Jury Convicts Man Linked to Taliban Leader in Drug Smuggling Case

Published: September 23, 2008

A federal jury in Manhattan found an Afghan tribal leader guilty on Tuesday of taking part in an international narcotics trafficking conspiracy that sent millions of dollars worth of heroin around the world, including into the United States.
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Drug Enforcement Administration

Haji Bashir Noorzai faces a potential life sentence.

The jury deliberated for about three hours before returning its verdict against Haji Bashir Noorzai, whose case drew widespread attention because of his prominent role in the drug trade and his ties to one of the most wanted men in the world, Mullah Mohammad Omar, the fugitive Taliban leader.

“You have seen the defendant for what he is,” a federal prosecutor, David A. O’Neil, told the jury in closing arguments on Monday, “a drug dealer on a massive scale, a global heroin trafficker driven by greed for money and for power, a man who has made himself rich off the misery of others.”

Prosecutors had portrayed Mr. Noorzai as a businessman who would do anything to keep control of his lucrative heroin operations in Afghanistan, no matter who was in power.

They said Mr. Noorzai owned vast tracts of land in the southern province of Kandahar, on the Pakistan border, where he used hundreds of farmers to cultivate opium poppy plants, workers in remote labs to process them into heroin, and smugglers to ship drugs worldwide, including into New York City.

Mr. Noorzai’s lawyer, Ivan S. Fisher, did not flatly deny that his client was involved in the drug trade, but he said in closing arguments that the question was whether Mr. Noorzai had ever sent drugs to the United States — “intentionally, unintentionally, in any way at all.” Mr. Fisher made it clear that the answer was no.

“What is it we’re doing,” he told the jury, “running around the world going after every opium grower?”

As the jury foreman announced the verdict, Mr. Noorzai, who is in his 40s, listened impassively, just as he had shown little emotion throughout the trial.

After court, Mr. Fisher said his client would appeal.

“We are enormously disappointed by the verdict,” he said. “It must be very difficult for an American jury to give a defendant associated with high levels of the Taliban a fair trial. It is our view that this jury was unable to do that.”

Afterward, jurors said that the defendant’s connection to the Taliban had no bearing on their decision.

“I’m still intimidated by him — his looks, his demeanor,” one juror, Martha Ramos, said after the jury was dismissed.

Another juror, Monica Lopez, said, “He seemed very stoic throughout the trial.”

Michael J. Garcia, the United States attorney, said that with the verdict, “Noorzai’s decades-long criminal career has finally ended, and one of Afghanistan’s most prolific heroin exporters now faces a potential life sentence to be served in a U.S. prison.”

Judge Denny Chin of Federal District Court said he would sentence Mr. Noorzai on Jan. 7.

Prosecutors said Mr. Noorzai developed a relationship with the Taliban, paying it 10 percent of his drug profits and turning over arms and fighters in return for being allowed to continue his drug operations even after the Taliban banned opium production in 2000.

Ms. Lopez and Ms. Ramos said that before deliberations, some jurors questioned the credibility of certain witnesses involved in the drug trade, and the strength of the case against Mr. Noorzai, who did not testify. But after the judge instructed them on the law, Ms. Lopez said, “There was no choice but to convict.”

Prosecutors built their case around testimony from several men who had been convicted in drug cases and who described Mr. Noorzai’s role in the conspiracy; on secretly recorded phone conversations; and on statements Mr. Noorzai gave to federal agents after he flew to New York in 2005.

A Drug Enforcement Administration agent, Patrick Hamlette, said that Mr. Noorzai admitted he was aware his heroin was carried into the United States concealed in suitcases and clothes.

Indeed, the fact that Mr. Noorzai, who has said he led an Afghan tribe of a million members, was even talking to the authorities after coming to America under murky circumstances, gave the trial much of its intrigue.

Before trial, Mr. Fisher had asked that charges be dismissed on the ground that Mr. Noorzai had been promised safe passage by American contractors if he agreed to provide information about the financing of terrorism.

But the court ruled that even if the government had used such tactics, they did not invalidate the charges and could not be used as a defense during trial.

Still, hints surfaced, as one did when an F.B.I. agent testified under cross-examination that Mr. Noorzai believed he was a “guest” of the United States.

One juror, Ms. Lopez, said jurors picked up on the issue, but added that it played no role.

“We weren’t allowed to consider that,” Ms. Lopez said. “Several of us thought he was tricked; people even used the word entrapment. But some of us thought there was no other way to prosecute individuals who violate the law outside the country.”

Judge Chin told jurors Mr. Noorzai’s arrest was “entirely lawful.”

Bashir Noorzai Named as tthe Heroin Taliban Connection

Are the Noorzai Pashtun as big a threat as Taliban? We may be missing a serious enemy because our intelligence agencies fail to understand either the nature of our enemies and the nature of the ethno-linguistic groups of Asia. If we interdict the tribes who traffic in Heroin we cut off the supplies to Taliban.

Congressman Kirk in the News
Boston Globe, April 25, 2005

Afghan charged in $50m heroin smuggling

US case alleges ties to Taliban


NEW YORK -- An Afghan the United States lists as one of the most-wanted drug kingpins in the world and alleges has close ties to the Taliban has been arrested and indicted on charges of conspiring to smuggle millions of dollars of heroin into the United States, federal investigators announced yesterday.

Bashir Noorzai was arrested Saturday by federal agents while traveling to New York City and was ordered held without bail yesterday for an alleged conspiracy to smuggle 1,100 pounds of heroin, worth about $50 million, from Afghanistan and Pakistan into the United States and other countries over 14 years, US Attorney David Kelley said during a news conference. He did not spell out the exact circumstances of the capture of Noorzai, who could receive a life sentence if convicted.

''Afghanistan is the world's largest manufacturer and supplier of heroin, and Noorzai was certainly on the upper rung of that hierarchy," Kelley said.

According to the indictment, Noorzai, born in 1961, ran a criminal organization that harvested opium poppies in Afghanistan and processed the raw material into heroin and opium in Pakistan and Afghanistan from 1990 to 2004. Kelley said Noorzai maintained a ''symbiotic relationship" with the Taliban, giving weapons and manpower to the Islamist militia that ruled Afghanistan for five years in return for protection of his drug-making and smuggling operations.

''In exchange, the Taliban allowed Noorzai's business to flourish," said Kelley. The Taliban ran Afghanistan from September 1996 until it was ousted in late 2001. Officials said Noorzai made his most recent shipment to New York City in 2002.

As evidence of that cooperation, federal officials cited an incident in 1997, when a truckload of morphine owned by Noorzai was seized by Taliban officials but returned to Noorzai with apologies from Mullah Mohammed Omar, the Taliban leader deposed in the US-British invasion in 2001. Omar remains at large, and Taliban insurgents continue to operate in remote, mountainous regions of Afghanistan.

Officials said Noorzai met in 1990 with coconspirators in Karachi, Pakistan's largest city, where he offered them heroin to distribute in New York. How much of the drug was involved in that deal was not specified, and the coconspirators are not named in the indictment.

Last year, Representative Mark Steven Kirk, Republican of Illinois, testified before the House International Relations Committee that Noorzai had strong ties to the Taliban as well as Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden. Al Qaeda was financing its operations from the sale of Noorzai's heroin in Pakistan, not with large foreign donations, he testified.

''It amounts to about $28 million a year," Kirk said yesterday during a telephone interview. ''Remember, Sept. 11 cost Al Qaeda only $500,000, according to the 9/11 Commission."

Kirk, who has traveled to the region twice in the past two years on fact-finding missions, said he received much of his information from Mirwais Yasini, who formerly ran antidrug efforts in Afghanistan, on the first trip there. Kirk said in the interview that the money provides Al Qaeda with top military equipment and communications gear and that the terrorist network is trying to extend its drug selling to the West to reap higher profits, because 2 pounds of heroin sells for $80,000 in New York City, compared with $2,000 in Pakistan.

Kelley, the US attorney, declined to comment on the alleged Al Qaeda connection. ''It's not something that's part of the case," he told reporters.

Elizabeth Jordan, a spokeswoman for the Drug Enforcement Administration, said in a telephone interview that her agency received many calls during the day about Kirk's past comments about Noorzai and Al Qaeda, but she said the office would not discuss them. ''We are not talking about anything outside the indictment," she said.

In June 2004, President Bush identified Noorzai as one of the world's most wanted traffickers under the Drug Kingpin Act, prohibiting from making transactions with US financial institutions. It was not clear whether he had previously made such transactions.

A bearded Noorzai, 44, did not speak during his brief initial court appearance in Manhattan. His court-appointed attorney declined to comment outside the courtroom.

''Today's arrest . . . is a resounding victory for both Afghan and American citizens. We removed one of the world's top drug traffickers who orchestrated the smuggling of hundreds of kilograms of heroin into the United States and other countries, and for too long, devastated the country of Afghanistan," said Karen P. Tandy, the administrator of the DEA.

The State Department's report on international drug trafficking found that Afghanistan produces about 600 tons of heroin a year, more than 20 times the amount that comes from Burma, which ranks second. But the report also indicates that while some Afghan heroin reaches the United States, most is smuggled in from Colombia or Mexico. In 2000, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy estimated that 5 percent of the heroin in the United States originated in Afghanistan.

General Zaher Akbar, head of a US-funded unit of Afghan police working to destroy opium poppy fields, said Afghan authorities ''appreciate the arrest of drug smugglers anywhere in the world, so long as there is proof against them and they are not just released the next day."

Copyright© 2005

The Taliban Money Trail Heroin Cars California UAE Hawala

I spotted this article and it struck a chord with me. This article deals with the Noorzai and Achakzai tribes and how they launder money for Taliban. No big secret there but the Noorzai and Achakzai tribes also "dominate the business of salvaging and reconditioning cars". I have heard a rumor that someone has been shipping heroin from Pashtunistan to California where it is sold. The Heroin is being set in shipments of consummer goods and distributed by the consummer goods whlesalers. From Heroin to cash and then the the cash is used to buy old cars and shipped to Pakistan. Money laundering and cars certainlty are interesting clues. Then we ask where is the Taliban money coming from. I am not making an accusation I am just wondering where the trail leads.

Terrorism: Focus - Taliban money trail from Pakistan to United Arab Emirates

Karachi, 9 Oct. (AKI) - Since the Pakistani border city of Chaman and the Afghan city of Kandahar play a pivotal role in financing the Taliban's operations in southeastern Afghanistan, there is growing speculation that the Taliban is funnelling money through hawalas or money brokers in the United Arab Emirates where Chaman and Kandhari businessmen trade.

Many Chaman businesses have offices in Dubai and the port city and free trade zone of Jebel Ali, and insiders say that the Taliban have convinced local businessmen to move their money through hawalas to Taliban leaders including Mullah Abdul Razaq, Mullah Abdul Rahim and Mullah Rozi, and several others.

Mullah Abdul Razaq, a resident of the Pakistani town of Chaman and former minister of interior affairs in the deposed Taliban regime, is considered a key player in the suspected money trail from the region to the Middle East.

After the fall of the Taliban in December 2001, Mullah Abdul Razaq was arrested by the Americans. Insiders say he was given conditional immunity when he agreed to play a role in talks between the CIA, Pakistan's ISI intelligence service and the Taliban.

The talks were reportedly over a truce and a proposal for the Taliban's participation in the political process in Afghanistan.

The Taliban, however, rejected the US offer which aimed to remove Mullah Omar from the Taliban leadership and Al-Qaeda from Afghanistan.

After the collapse of the talks in 2003, Mullah Abdul Razaq left for Dubai where the tribes of Chaman and neighbouring Kandahar in southern Afghanistan maintain offices.

Within the Afghan tribal system, the pro-Taliban Noorzai and Achakzai tribes dominate trade in the Pashtun regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The tribes' region spans the southwest of Pakistan and the southern areas of Afghanistan. On the Pakistani side of the border, they control the Chaman markets and on the Afghan side, the Spin Boldak markets.

Both tribes dominate the business of salvaging and reconditioning cars and the distribution of the 555-brand of cigarettes throughout Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan through the markets of Dubai and Chaman.

Since Afghanistan does not have a properly functional banking system, the payments are often handled through various hawala agencies based in the UAE.

In 2005, the FBI investigated a prominent Pakistani hawala and his offices were closed across the country because his network was found to have been involved in money laundering for the Taliban and Al-Qaeda.

But since the money trail is so difficult to trace through the undocumented hawala transactions, the money changer was eventually cleared.

When Mullah Abdul Razaq returned to the Taliban's fold in 2005, he convinced businesses in Chaman to support the Taliban financially in order to spare their businesses from attacks when they transported goods through Afghanistan.

Over 3,500 importers and exporters in the Chaman market who transport their goods to the UAE were threatened with a wave of violence.

The Chaman businesses had faced the same problem from warlords in the mid-1990s and supported the Taliban to drive them out.

After 2005, the stakes were higher as the Noorzai and Ackzai tribes became involved in the construction of expensive hotels in Kandahar and needed protection from the Taliban.

The Taliban had struck a similar deal in 1993 when the student militia emerged from Kandahar's Islamic school as a reformist movement against the warlords and vandalism in Afghan society. Chaman businessmen financed the Taliban at that time in exchange for protection.

Mullah Abdul Razaq, once again convinced the businessmen of Chaman to support the Taliban financially so that their transport and hotel businesses would be spared from attacks.

The mullah's move also aimed to ensure that local warlords from the Afghan border town of Spin Boldak through Turkmenistan to Herat on the Iranian border, would not trouble them in any way.

Monday, November 10, 2008

New Bamiyan Buddha Found

New Bamiyan Buddha find amid destruction

New Bamiyan Buddha find amid destruction AFP/File – Cave-monasteries of Bamiyan and the niches where the 174-foot Buddhas, which were destroyed by the Taliban,

BAMIYAN, Afghanistan (AFP) – "We got him!" screamed Afghan archaeologist Anwar Khan Fayez as he leapt from the pit beneath the towering sandstone cliffs, where the Bamiyan Buddhas once stood.

Seven years after Taliban militants blew up the two 1,500-year-old statues in a fit of Islamist zealotry, a French-Afghan team in September uncovered a new, 19-metre (62-foot) "Sleeping Buddha" buried in the earth.

The news that a third Buddha escaped the Taliban's wrath has caused excitement in this scenic valley, where the caverns that housed the ruined statues are an eerie reminder of Afghanistan's past and present woes.

"It was a happy moment for all of us when the first signs appeared. Our years-long efforts had somehow paid off," Fayez told AFP.

The team, led by France-based archaeologist Zemaryalai Tarzi, made the find while hunting for a lost 300-metre reclining Buddha mentioned in an account by seventh-century Chinese monk Xuan Zang.

The Afghan-born Tarzi began mapping the site nearly 30 years ago but decades of conflict and the rise of the 1996-2001 Taliban regime put the search on hold.

Then in March 2001 came the destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas, until then the world's largest standing Buddha statues.

Hewn into the cliffs in the sixth century by Buddhist pilgrims on the famed Silk Route, the statues had survived attacks by several Muslim emperors down the ages, while even Mongol conqueror Genghis Khan had spared them.

But with the backing of Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda movement, Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar declared that they were idols that were against Islamic law.

Defying international appeals, the Taliban spent a month using first anti-aircraft guns and then dynamite to obliterate them.

Saddened but with renewed determination, Tarzi and his team returned soon after US-led forces and the Northern Alliance ousted the Taliban in late 2001 to renew their search for the giant missing Buddha.

What they found instead, in September this year, were parts of a previously unknown, smaller Buddha figure, including a thumb, forefinger, palm, parts of its arm, body and the bed on which it lay.

"This is the most significant find since we started here," Abdul Hameed Jalia, the director of monuments and historical sites for Bamiyan province, told AFP at the excavation site of the new 19-metre Buddha.

"At first they found part of the leg but they weren't sure what it was," said Jalia. "But when they found more, Mr Fayez screamed out of happiness and ran to our office to find Mr Tarzi."

Fayez said the head and other parts were largely destroyed, possibly by Arab invaders in the ninth century.

"We have not found the whole statue. But we can tell from other parts that it appears to be 19-metres long," Fayez said.

The site has now been covered with earth to protect the Buddha from both the ravages of the harsh Afghan winter and from the attention of antiquities thieves.

Tarzi told AFP in an e-mail that he and a number of French colleagues aimed to return next summer to dig out the rest of the statue.

Meanwhile, there are fresh clues about the 300-metre Buddha, officials say.

What appear to be the remnants of a gate complex that may have led to the statue have been discovered under an apparently collapsed section of cliff between the two holes left by the Taliban.

"Mr Tarzi's team has found signs that indicate that the big lying Buddha is there and has 70 percent hopes that they will find it," said Najibullah Harar, head of Bamiyan's information and culture department.

Amid hopes that they could one day be rebuilt, Afghan, Japanese and German teams are also stabilising the sites of the destroyed statues -- the bigger 55-metre figure known as Salsal and the 38-metre statue known as Shahmama.

Boulder-sized chunks of the Buddhas still lie where they fell, each individually labelled. Ghostly outlines of the two figures are still etched in the rockface and twisted metal shell casings litter the ground.

Archaeologists' efforts have been helped by the fact that Bamiyan -- inhabited by Shia Muslims from the Hazara ethnic minority that was once persecuted by the Taliban -- has been a relative oasis of calm.

But ongoing debate over whether to reconstruct the Buddhas reflects the uncertainties that haunt post-Taliban Afghanistan.

"It is the desire and the wish of the Bamiyan people to see, if not both, then at least one rebuilt," Habiba Sorabi, the governor of Bamiyan province, told AFP in an interview at her office overlooking the statues.

Rebuilding the Buddhas could help foster a tourist industry in the desperately poor region, which lies 200 kilometres (124 miles) northwest of the relatively prosperous capital Kabul, she said.

UNESCO declared Bamiyan a World Heritage Site in 2003 and there have been discussions with international partners about using the process of anastylosis, by which ruined monuments are reassembled from old fragments and new materials.

"But unfortunately the central government does not want to work on it," added Sorabi, who is the only female provincial governor in Afghanistan. "It is a shame."

Monday, September 1, 2008

Afghanistan's Epidemic of Child Rape

Afghanistan's Epidemic of Child Rape


Sweeta tucked her hands between her thighs and began to rock as she told her story. The details emerged in a monotone, her face expressionless. Last winter she had just stepped out of her house in Afghanistan's northern province of Jowzjan to fetch water from the well when a neighbor approached her. He told her that her father was ill and had been taken to the hospital. He offered her a ride. When she refused, he threw her into his car, his hand over her mouth so no one would hear her scream. He took her to a room in the nearby army garrison. "And then he took off his pants," she says. "He raped me." Sweeta is only 11 years old.

Child rape is on the rise in Afghanistan's northern provinces, part of a general increase in crime that is largely overshadowed by an equally disturbing spread of insurgency. Government officials say only a handful of child rapes have been reported across Afghanistan in the past few months, but human rights organizations say the toll is much higher. Maghferat Samimi, head of the Afghan Human Rights Organization in Jowzjan, says that over the past two months she has interviewed 19 victims from the three northern provinces she serves. The youngest victim was 2 1/2 years old. Samimi carries the little girl's picture in her mobile phone, ready to show to anyone who might be able to stop what she calls a new plague on her country.

She is not the only one bringing the crimes to light. In this conservative Islamic country where a girl's virginity is valued above all else, rape has long been considered something shameful, something to be hidden at all costs. But as the incidents increase, families are starting to speak up, risking dishonor in order to bring justice. Families of teenage victims are airing their tales on national TV, hoping, like Samimi, that somebody will be able to do something. So far, little has been done.

The Interior Ministry has announced that it will crack down on sexual assault. During a recent press conference, President Hamid Karzai said that rapists should face "the country's most severe punishment." Yet on the same day, a man charged with the rape of a 7-year-old boy in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif escaped from prison. Three policemen, thought to have assisted his escape in exchange for a payoff, have been detained; the man has not been recaptured.

It is not uncommon for criminals to bribe their way out of prison in Afghanistan. But in the north, where warlords still command private militias and enrich their armies by running lucrative smuggling routes, impunity is rife. Police often refuse to register cases against well-known criminals, for fear of retaliation and more often because they are on the take. When Amruddin's 13-year-old daughter was kidnapped in Sar-i-pul province last year, he had to pay for the local police officer's fuel in order to get the officer to visit the cafÉ where she had last been seen. The officer was no help. When Amruddin - who, like most poor farmers in Afghanistan, only has one name - finally found his daughter a week later, she identified the police officer as one of her eight rapists. Three other suspects worked for the village strongman. When their case came to the local prosecutor, he dismissed it, saying there wasn't enough evidence. More likely, says Amruddin, there wasn't enough of a bribe. Amruddin says that in order to raise enough money for all the necessary bribes, he sold his two other daughters, ages 9 and 11, for $5,000. "I had to sell them in order to pursue this case," he says. "What else can I do? I am not a pimp, a coward, to let these men get away with what they did. I will sell all of my children if that is what it takes to get justice."

Corruption in Afghanistan's justice sector is often shrugged off by international donors who argue that security and development must take a higher priority. Some take it as the price of doing business, saying that rich countries can't expect Afghanistan to meet Western standards of transparency. Indeed, U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has just endorsed a plan that would give $20 billion to build up Afghanistan's military and police forces. But what is the use of improving the police sector when the judicial system is unable to successfully prosecute criminals? A few countries are beginning to address this problem. Norway has just announced a $6 million contribution to Afghanistan's justice-sector reform program, in addition to the $21 million already donated by other countries. The fund will cover legal reform, training, court and office rehabilitation, computers and legal assistance.

What Afghanistan needs, says Major General Robert Cone, who oversees the U.S. effort to train Afghanistan's security forces, is a surge of lawyers to take on the country's justice system, just as the international community has sent soldiers to mentor the police and army. "Good policing needs a good judicial system," says Cone. "I think that a similar effort to the police effort needs to be launched on a similar scope and scale to address the justice issues. We have some real problems with corruption in the prisons here. There are 10 links between arrest and putting someone in jail. The police own the first four links in the process, but if you fix the first four links without addressing the next six, it won't work."

Sweeta's family knows that revealing the details of her ordeal may condemn her to an unmarried life marked by shame and poverty. But they are not seeking money, only justice. After six months of waiting for resolution, Sweeta's sister Saleha has given up on the government and is starting to wonder if the past seven years of foreign intervention have brought any progress at all to Afghanistan. "If the Taliban were still here, that rapist would have already been executed by now. It would have been a lesson for all," she says. "If there is no law, and the government does not listen to people's complaints, then it is better to go back to the Taliban era. At least then we had justice." - With reporting by Ali Safi / SheberghanTime.com

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