Russia was Ready to Recognize Taliban, says Ex Foreign Minister

By S. Mudassir Ali Shah

KABUL, September 6(2005): Former Taliban Foreign Minister Wakil Ahmad Mutawakil has disclosed that the Russians had offered to recognize the Taliban regime if the then Kabul Government de-recognized Chechnya.


In a book published shortly before the general elections in Afghanistan, in which he is also a candidate, the ex-Minister goes on to disclose an important Taliban-Russian contact in Turkmenistan’s capital city of Ashgabat.

At the meeting, Russian delegates offered to accord recognition to the Taliban government if the latter de-recognized Chechnya, he reveals. Taliban spurned the proposition, nonetheless, as it was probably the only country in the world to officially recognize the Chechnya separatists.

In his book titled Afghanistan and Taliban, Mutawakil also directly attacks Osama ben Laden for making repeated promises to Taliban leader Mulla Omar to invest his money in development of Afghanistan. These promises were never fulfilled, he says.

In his riveting book, Mutawakil has also ticked off the fugitive Saudi multimillionaire for mouthing meaningless platitudes to Mullah Omar regarding Afghan hospitality, courage and adherence to Muslim brotherhood.

America’s enemy number one, who paid little heed to a string of warnings then hurled at Afghanistan, would often pledge to construct parks and highways and revive agricultural farms devastated by decades of war. But these vows, aimed at endearing Osama to the Taliban chief, were never translated into action, writes the ex-minister.

The post-bellum book chides the world’s most wanted man – familiar with the impoverished South Asian country’s chilling fiscal realities – for his inscrutable failure to devote even a fraction of his immeasurable riches to the prosperity of a nation that offered him refuge in the face of mounting global pressures.

Now in the run for a Wolesi Jirga seat from Kandahar, the soft-spoken Pashtun, who can also speak fluent Dari, Arabic and English, has published the paperback a fortnight ahead of the landmark legislative elections. However, he discounts as entirely coincidental the timing of the book, which is an informative analysis of the challenges facing the country – then and now.

Commenting on his scholarly effort, Mutawakil rejected the impression that there were political motives behind the publication of the book at this point in time. He has touched on the strengths and weaknesses of the seven-year Taliban rule and the daunting tasks before the incumbent administration led by US-backed President Hamid Karzai.

Widely regarded as a straight-shooter in the Taliban leadership, Mutawakil’s views are in no way colored by party politics or his profound respect for Mullah Omar. In the 98-page book, he makes no bones about his aversion to the demolition of the rare Buddha statues in Bamyan.

Already defaced, the statues did not look like living beings, he reasons. Hence, knocking them down was not necessary even from an Islamic point of view, he maintains. “Clearly beyond the pale, the destruction – decreed by the Vice and Virtue Department in compliance with a Supreme Court fatwa – didn’t take into consideration the political, cultural or artistic sensitivities involved.”

Although he does not conform to small-town, warped and blinkered ideas of Taliban, Mutawakil is ambivalent on controversial topics like cinema, television, female literacy, working women and photographs. He writes Taliban temporized on these subjects in the absence of a precise fatwa from religious scholars.

The son of revered religious scholar Allama Abul Faiz Maulana Abdul Ghafar, Mutawakil alleges Americans always tried to bully the ousted government into handing over Osama bin Laden. “They tended to boss us around without listening to our proposals for sorting out the problem.”

With regard to the much-maligned Vice and Virtue Department’s performance, the 36-year-old admits: “In a bid to prevent evils, the department with an extremely vulnerable teaching branch often ran into bust-ups with people. In some instances, its incompetent and clueless staff didn’t balk even at humiliating citizens on trifling matters.”

Coming to the ban on women education, he observes: “Dealing with the other half had been a big teaser for Taliban, who closed down girls’ schools in Kabul, Herat, Nangarhar and Balkh , dealing a blow to a female literacy in the process…the introduction of hijab (veil) or segregation of boys and girls would have been a better option.”

Printed by the Maiwand Publishing House, the paperback, yet to hit the news stands, is a hugely insightful read for those interested in knowing Afghanistan’s tattered economy and administrative problems under the Taliban regime.

The book also carries Mutawakil’s letter urging President Karzai to show magnanimity to his political foes in the supreme national interest. “The spirit of accommodation and tolerance holds the key to resolving political disputes in an amicable way,” he stresses.

It sheds ample light on important things like the genesis of the Taliban movement, its links to jihadi outfits, support from Pakistan, the designs of American oil giant UNICOL, its partnership with the Bridas company of Argentina, Dr Najibullah’s execution, income sources of the dislodged regime, the Indian plane hijack episode, Iran’s threats to invade Afghanistan, the US missile attack and his surrender.

Second Part of this story on Taliban-Pakistan relations, as described by Mutawakil, will be published soon

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