I had a piece in TIME today, on the well-educated children of the Afghan Mujahideen who are inheriting their fathers’ political legacies : Afghanistan’s Princelings: Are the Children of the Mujahideen Ready to Rule?
Here are some interesting details that didnt make it in the piece:
- Interesting fact few know: Abdul Mutalib Bek, for several weeks, was the “acting president” in Takhar, when Rabbani was flown out to Tajikistan due to fears of a conspiracy to hand him over to the Taliban. Matin Bek, just over ten years old then, remembers seeing rooms full of cash that would be dispatched to commanders, via helicopters, so they can hold their ground against the Taliban.
- Matin Bek’s choice of reading when he returned from India to campaign for his father’s parliamentary seat is very telling: Daughter of the East, a memoir by the late Pakistani prime-minister, Benazir Bhutto
- Habib ur Rahman Sayaf, son of Abdul Rab Rasoul Sayaf, is one character that did not make it to my story – mainly because he was educated in Kabul, at Kardan. But he, too, was meant to study abroad. During September 11 attacks, Habibur Rahman was in Khwaja Bahawuddin, on his way to Dubai. He had been accepted at a university in UAE. But in the panic that followed 9/11, UAE stopped issuing Afghans visas, so Habibur Rahman’s plans fell through. He finished his degree at Kardan and now helps run his father’s university as well as deliver lectures in management. He also leads the youth wing of his father’s political party, with about 3000 members. But, perhaps, his most important role is that of running his father’s private television channel, Dawat TV, which airs 11 hours a day.
- Outside Kalimullah Naqib’s house in the outskirts of Kandahar city is a checkpost, freshly whitewashed. The little room has a window, but no frame or pane. Inside sit two of his about 22 bodyguards, in plain clothes. “The age of oppression is short,” is written with pink chalk on the interior wall of the check post, above a sloppy drawing of an AK-47. The writing above another drawing, also of AK-47, says : “The arrogant one will never succeed.”
Fatima Rabbani was born in Peshawer, and spent the first ten years of her life there on a street guarded by her father’s armed men as well as soldiers provided by the Pakistani government. The first time she visited Afghanistan was in 1992, when her father had been declared president.
“I don’t remember the inauguration,” she says with a smile, “I just remember the rockets, and running for the basement every half an hour.”
- Very clear thoughts from Adib Fahim, educated in Sharjah and NYU: “Now that a political scene has opened, the manner of struggle is different. I think the Mujahiddeen – the current generation will likely remain for another 20 years - and their future generation need to modernize their politics. Yes, it’s a pride that they fought and defended the country, but they cant just say because we fought and defended in the 80s we should be in the government. That’s shouldn’t be the only reason. Administrating Afghanistan now requires everyone to be professional. We should adapt to changing times – for example, unemployment is a huge issue, we should present agendas for solving it— that we will create this much skilled labor, this much unskilled labor. The past achievements should remain in their place, but to remain a force in the future we need face up to the existing realities and provide solutions.”
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