An installment of a set
of special reports by Ms. Nadjia Bouzeghrane for El-Watan,
a leading French-language Algerian daily newspaper. This report was published
during a visit by Women on the Road for Afghanistan to the Panjsher valley
in early July 2000. Summarized translation by Omaid Weekly staff.
It was indeed a remarkable and strong moment, in the
Valley of Five Lions (Panjsher), as I, two other journalists, a writer
and five expatriate Afghan women met with Commander Ahmad Shah Masood.
Hero of Afghanistan's war against the Soviet Union, Cmdr. Masood symbolizes
the Afghan people's resistance against the Taliban and their Pakistani
During our visit to the Panjsher, his arrival was announced
several times. However, a new summer offensive had just been launched
by the Taliban, supported by Pakistani troops. He finally arrived on the
fifth morning of our stay, that is, one hour before our group's return
It's the first time that an Algerian journalist representing
an Algerian newspaper has set foot on Afghan soil. And this does not escape
Cmdr. Masood, leader of the Afghan resistance, as he used the opportunity
to directly address Algeria.
Cmdr. Masood, an open and tolerant Muslim, presented
his vision for the future: elections; universal suffrage; democracy; and
women's right to work and participate in the political arena. Everything,
however, within the framework of Islam and national culture and tradition.
"Laws conceived in the West cannot altogether be
transplanted into Afghanistan. But, that is not to say we support medieval-style
rule. Nevertheless, one must not be as fleeting as the wind, by dissolving
the cultural, regional and ethnic traditions of Afghanistan."
Speaking to the five Afghan women in our group, Cmdr.
Masood expressed his hope that this was the beginning of a return home
by Afghans abroad to see the suffering of their people and to take part
in the rebuilding of their country.
"Our sisters abroad should help those who remained
with their country, especially in the fields of health and education.
Are there no doctors or teachers among them to come help? It's good to
write about women's rights, but, to us, it's the action that's missing."
The message could not have been more clear.
In a quick review of Afghanistan's contemporary military
and political situation, Cmdr. Masood said, "Pakistan, since the
Zia-ul Haq regime, has planned and prepared for the occupation of Afghanistan
to gain a strategic position in Central Asia. Pakistan first attempted
to seize power in Afghanistan after the Soviet defeat via Gulbudin Hekmatyar.
[Gulbudin's] failure did not discourage Pakistan." That does not
mean that there are no internal problems, Cmdr. Masood added.
"The Taliban are supported by Pakistan, so as long
as there is no international pressure [to end Pakistani interference],
the war will continue. I persist in saying that the problem of Afghanistan
can be solved through political means on the international level, and
through the [implementation of] democracy on the domestic level. That
is, through the ballot box by which the people will choose their own government.
We must move towards elections and democracy. If one prides oneself on
having popular support, then one does not have to be afraid of elections.
To the Taliban, who claim to represent the Pashtoons and control the country,
I said that I agreed to elections."
For Cmdr. Masood, the solution to the Afghan conflict
is not the soldier's rifle. Asked what role he would play once peace returns
to Afghanistan, Cmdr. Masood asserted, "My role is to lead the Afghan
people towards democracy."