By Bashir Ahmad Naadem
KANDAHAR CITY (Pajhwok): Two dreaded foreign militant outfits –Al Qaeda and Laskar-i-Taiba — are leading the war in Afghanistan’s embattled south, the Kandahar police chief claims. In an exclusive interview with Pajhwok Afghan News, Brig. Gen. Abdur Raziq rejected peace talks with the armed opposition as an unrealistic idea or a dream that might never come true. He called the peace process as a sheer loss of time and an effort to deceive the masses. The police chief spurned the Taliban’s call for the rulers to stand down as unacceptable. “Under no law or principle, the present system can be abolished and a new one put into place just because the militants want this,” remarked Gen. Raziq, an officer known for his anti-Taliban posture. He claimed the condition, set by Pakistan and other outsiders, was being parroted by the Taliban. Peace efforts by President Ashraf Ghani and his predecessor amounted to frittering away time, he insisted. “In this way (hoping for peace), we are hoodwinking ourselves,” the official continued, characterising Mullah Akhtar Mansour as the only Taliban leader who should have gone for reconciliation. But he did not. Killed in a May drone strike in Pakistan’s Balochistan province, Mansour had a political background besides running businesses, he noted. The slain Taliban leader had visited Saudi Arabia, the UAE and European countries. Other rebel leaders could not be expected to join the reconciliation campaign, Gen. Raziq maintained, suggesting an awareness drive to tell elders and youth why eliminating the opponents of peace was a necessity. He went on to underline an outright war on pro-Punjab militant leaders who were killing Afghan youth in the name of jihad. Mulklah Omar, Mansour, Zakir, Haibatullah and Sirajuddin Haqqani had killed more than 100,000 youth in the past 15 years, he alleged. “Let’s presume for a while that the insurgent leadership is forgiven for the deaths of Afghans, but who will absolve them of killing foreigners? Or who has the authority to do so?” Gen. Raziq asked. He sounded positive about negotiations with the Hezb-i-Islami Afghanistan (HIA), saying many members of the group were already part of the government. If the HIA chief also abandoned violence, Afghanistan would be better off, he thought. He asked Gulbadin Hekmatyar to tell people as a leader how to defend their motherland instead of issuing fatwas for the killing of Afghan security personnel. On the security environment in Kandahar, he acknowledged a sharp rise in militant attacks in the southern province. “Clashes in districts bordering Helmand, Uruzgan and Zabul provinces or areas close to the Durand Line are a daily occurrence…” After Mansour’s death, he claimed, factionalism had increased in Taliban. The movement has split into groups loyal to Mullah Haibatullah, Sirajuddin Haqqani, Mullah Yaqub and Mohammad Rassoul. Pakistan is fuelling the stepped-up fighting in the country to muster support for Haibatullah and minimise differences within the Taliban, according to the police boss, who said: “The war in the south is being led by Al-Qaeda and Lashkar-i-Taiba, with local Taliban aiding the.” He opined Al Qaeda was an offshoot of Lashkar-i-Taiba, a split-up induced by Pakistan to prove that the group was based in Afghanistan. He said AimanAlzawahiri was still hiding in the port city of Karachi, where he had a meeting with Mansour three weeks before the latter was killed. For several years, he said, Taliban were imposed by Pakistan on the tribespeople of Waziristan in the name of Al-Qaeda. Now the group is once again being aided to fight in Kandahar, Helmand, Zabul and Ghazni. Punjabis were fighting alongside the Afghan Taliban in different areas, Gen. Raziq said, adding the number of insurgents from Punjab in the Khak-i-Afghan district of Zabul ran into hundreds. Some Arabs are also in their ranks. The rebels had been equipped with modern weapons, including snipers, telescopes worth $40,000 apiece, he disclosed. The arms and equipment, supplied with Pakistan’s support, are handled by the Punjabis during clashes with security forces. Durand Line could not be converted into a formal border by Pakistan with the creation of new installations across the frontier, he commented. In case of need, the police chief said, Afghans would fight against Punjabis the way they resisted the Soviet invasion. Gen. Raziq scotched speculation that the interior minister was trying to fire him because of differences. He insisted there was no issue between him and the minister.