Dr Latif Pedram, a Tajik leader, says not only Panjshir, but there are other provinces also that are not fully under the Taliban’s control.
Dr Latif Pedram, a Tajik leader of the National Congress Party (NCP) of Afghanistan and a former Member of Parliament, is among the few prominent anti-Taliban leaders—apart from Ahmad Massoud—who are openly resisting the Taliban as part of the anti-Taliban “resistance” at the Panjshir valley.
Pedram, who was a presidential candidate in the past, leads the only prominent party in Afghanistan that has no ties with any armed group. He was among the few political leaders who had flown to Islamabad to meet Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan immediately after the fall of Kabul on 15 August. The said meeting, which was scheduled to be held in July on the invite of the Pakistan ambassador to Afghanistan, was postponed.
Unlike other Afghan leaders and contrary to media reports, Pedram did not take the special PIA flight from Kabul to Islamabad, but went to Dubai from Tajikistan and from Dubai to Islamabad. He spoke to The Sunday Guardian from Dushanbe, Tajikistan, on the present status of the “resistance”, the role played by Imran Khan, Pakistan army chief Qamar Bajwa, the threat of Afghanistan turning into a homeland for terror groups and his expectation from other countries, including India, with regard to helping the resistance. Edited excerpts:
Q: Why did you leave Afghanistan and go to Dushanbe, Tajikistan?
A: I had come to Tajikistan for a working meeting before the collapse of Kabul.
Q: In August, after the Taliban took over Kabul, you were among the few leaders who had gone to Islamabad to meet PM Imran Khan. What was the response of Mr Khan to the entire episode? What were your concerns? Were they resolved?
A: Prime Minister Imran Khan said that “In the past we paid more attention to Pashtuns, and it was a mistake. Now we want to have relations with all ethnicities. We want an inclusive government.” However, Imran Khan did not abide by any of his promises.
Q: After this meeting, you had to move to Panjshir where you are now a part of the “resistance”. How true is the global understanding that Pakistan special forces, including the ISI, were assisting the Taliban in taking over Panjshir and breaking the resistance?
A: General Qamar Javed Bajwa had told us that “We will ask the Taliban not to attack Panjshir and the issues must be resolved through negotiations.” Like Imran Khan, Bajwa also did not abide by his promise. Faiz Hameed, the former ISI General Director, went to Kabul and led the attack on Panjshir. This is very clear to everyone.
Q: Is the resistance still continuing? As per Taliban, Panjshir is now under their control. What is the ground situation there?
A: The resistance continues in Panjshir and Andarab districts of Baghlan province. Not only Panjshir, but there are other provinces that are not fully under the Taliban’s control.
Q: Mr Ahmad Massoud and Mr Amrullah Saleh, as per reports, have moved to Dushanbe. Is this true? If yes, then are they still leading the resistance from Tajikistan?
A: Ahmad Massoud is not in Tajikistan. I have no idea about the whereabouts of Amrullah Saleh. Like his boss, Ashraf Ghani, Amrullah Saleh also had an active role in surrendering Afghanistan to the Taliban.
Q: What is the next plan of action for you and the other two leaders? How do you intend to take Afghanistan from the Taliban? Do you have the military, financial and global support needed for such an endeavour?
A: In our struggle against the Taliban and their Pakistani supporters, we rely on the people of our country. To date, no country has provided us any military or financial support. However, we are grateful for the political and spiritual support of Tajikistan’s government. Our plan is simple and straightforward: to resist against the Taliban and their foreign country supporters.
Q: China and Pakistan have already started working with the Taliban government. In this context, it will be reasonable to expect that any movement to reclaim Kabul from Taliban by the resistance will lead to the military intervention of Pakistan in support of Taliban. How do you see this scenario?
A: No doubt Pakistan will support her sponsored regime in Afghanistan. We are fully aware of the close relations between China and Pakistan. However, we are fully confident that our people will win the fight against Pakistan, Taliban and their backers.
Q: Will it be right to say that the resistance and its leaders did not receive the support from other countries that it was expecting?
A: Right now, we have the spiritual support of the free conscious nations of the world. However, sooner or later, our struggle for freedom and independence of our country will certainly attract the support of those countries who support freedom and justice.
Q: What explains such a swift fall of Kabul? It happened despite almost 300,000 well trained soldiers who at the end of the day, to a large extent, refused to fight the Taliban? Why did this happen? Was the 300,000 number something only in the books and the real number of Afghan soldiers was much less?
A: The corrupt regime in Kabul did not have a 300,000 strong force. Like every other lie, they were lying about the number of security forces.
Q: Did the world and the Afghanistan political leadership underestimate the might of the Taliban?
A: When the gang of Ashraf Ghani decided to step down, they decided to hand over the power to the people of their own tribes, Pashtuns. Prime Minister Imran Khan also had said that Pashtuns from both sides of the border were cooperating with each other and Pashtunism was the main reason for such a cooperation.
The tribal leaders were engaged in corruption. They became wealthy through corruption. Together with Ghani’s regime, they had established a political-economic mafia. Thus, they were unable to truly analyse the Taliban’s ability. The world, including the US and NATO, were involved in conspiracy against the people of Afghanistan. They helped the Taliban return to power.
Q: What is the status of drug export from Afghanistan to other countries? Has it come down or increased? The Taliban leadership has stated that they will not allow drugs to be sold from their soil.
A: The Taliban had lied and are lying about drug-related business. They are yet to establish themselves. How would they know about the situation of the drug business? Export of drugs has not decreased. Drug business is one of the main sources of Taliban’s income, why should they stop it now?
Q: India’s intervention in Kabul has been limited to building infrastructure that is used by the ordinary Afghan people. Should India, in your view, come out in support of the resistance? And will it be worth it?
A: The resistance is fighting for a just cause and independence of Afghanistan; it fights to defend citizens’ rights and human rights. All countries that support democracy should support the resistance front.
Q: One of India’s concerns, something which it has raised on other relevant platforms, is Afghanistan being used as a launch pad for terror attacks by non-state and state actors active and supported by Pakistan. How real is this concern?
A: The answer is yes. If the Taliban remain in power in Kabul, the country will once again be changed to the centre of terrorism and a hub of export of drugs and weapons in the region. Pakistan will try to conduct manoeuvres to be seen as a power in Asia and it will use the Taliban as a tool of terrorism.
Q: What is the main issue with Afghanistan today when we talk about ethnic fault lines?
A: Ethnic problems are one of the most dangerous issues in Afghanistan. The Pashtuns want to dominate other ethnic groups. They do not accept the culture and language of non-Pashtun ethnic groups. Fighting for ethnic rights is an important issue in Afghanistan. Amrullah Saleh has betrayed Tajiks and non-Pashtun ethnics to gain a position of power for himself. He is a Tajik who works for the interests of the Pashtun people and has sold himself to the Pashtuns. The Tajik community in Afghanistan hates him. He also contributed in giving the power to Taliban (Pashtuns) along-with Ashraf Ghani. We have a way to break the power of the Pashtuns (Taliban) by federalizing Afghanistan.
The Pashtuns used to insult Pakistan until yesterday, but today a vast majority of them support the medieval and fascist Taliban government, which is directly controlled by the ISI and Pakistan. The war in Afghanistan is now an ethnic war and a war of justice against Pashtun oppression.
Q: In these times, what do you expect from the world leaders, in tangible terms?
A: We want the world leaders not to recognise the Taliban. This will not only be an important contribution for the resistance front, but also a tribute to the imprisoned and suppressed people of Afghanistan.