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This transcript is produced from the teletext subtitles that are generated live for Newsnight. It has been checked against the programme as broadcast, however Newsnight can accept no responsibility for any factual inaccuracies. We will be happy to correct serious errors.

On the ground with one of the warlords 15/10/01

TIM WHEWELL:
This is Commander Qazi Kabeer. This is his school, these are his prisoners. This is the capital of his dusty kingdom. Three district along Afghanistan's northern border. From here, Qazi Kabeer rules over 300,000 people, half of them refugees. Unannounced guests don't get this far, but today I have been granted an audience. This is Nomaz, Kabeer's personal secretary. He is ushering me into the presence of the warlord himself. Kabeer goes nowhere without his well-armed posse. Years of fighting the Russians taught him to move nimbly and without warning. Even today he won't show us the itinerary. The aim is to show he is not just a fighter, but a builder. This new mosque is the first stop on a whirlwind tour of photographic opportunities. The commander has sound bites to match.

COMMANDER QAZI KABEER (TRANSLATION):
The prophet said that the best people are those who can give most help to others. It's my islamic duty to help the people.

WHEWELL:
With that, it's back into the Toyota pick-up, the same vehicle the Taliban used to sweep to victory across much of Afghanistan. We are heading again for a building site. Architecture is not fancy. Bricks and mortar are both made of different kinds of mud but the pace of building is impressive. The commander is not elected. His authority comes originally from the gun, but now he believes his public works have legitimised his rule as a civil governor.

KABEER (TRANSLATION):
Until nine years ago, there was nothing here, just open land. The people of this area, if they wanted to buy necessities, they had to travel 25 or 40 kilometres. We decided to solve the problem and build this town.

WHEWELL:
Next stop - the town's newest institution, a hospital that is only a month old. It's not built by the commander but by the government of Iran. Sadly the pick-up has not lived up to its promise either. The hospital was finished just in time to cope with the human fallout from the latest fighting.

DR ASHRAF AINI:
When the Taliban came they wanted to push back Taliban and during the fighting he got this injury.

WHEWELL:
Now with the Northern Alliance expected to advance, doctors here will get even busier.

DR AINI:
Any time during the attacks for the fortification of the Taliban, we have a lot of cases of minor explosions and leg amputations.

WHEWELL:
Tyre changed and machine gun at the ready, we are coming to another hospital which the commander has financed through his rudimentary tax system. Inside, this four-year-old boy is being treated for malaria, doctors say he will survive. Next door, they have not managed to save the leg of an old man who road his donkey over a mine. But Kabeer has a wad of consolation to whip from his pockets. The patients are silenced either from gratitude or sheer bemusement. Our commander has an eccentric passion for antiquities. This is the beginning of his museum. While the Taliban are destroying Afghanistan's heritage, Kabeer has salvaged fragments of past glory from a city founded by Alexander the Great.

KABEER (TRANSLATION):
These objects show the Afghan people have a history. We preserve that history by saving these things.

WHEWELL:
Education is a passion of Kabeer. 70% of boys are in schools here, twice the proportion in Taliban areas. The American food drop has now provided with them with book bags and the commander's raising standards with his own interpretation of performance related pay. Unlike the Taliban, the commander is even prepared to allow women's education. But girls don't get the same priority as boys. They are schooled for a very limited range of tasks.

KABEER (TRANSLATION):
We hope our women will do what they can to help other women within our rules. We don't want to give them hard or difficult work that they won't be able to manage.

WHEWELL:
In practice, girls here will consider themselves lucky to get any job outside the home. Many will be married by the time they are 14. There are some older girls here, this is the door to their classroom, but we are not allowed in. What the commander is happy to show us at the end of this bewildering tour, is the inside of his jail. The prisoners are captured Taliban soldiers. Mostly Afghan but some Arabs, Chechens and Pakistanis. They are packed 20 to a cell and justice depends on the commander himself. These two Iraqi Kurds are pleading that they never fought for the enemy. After a heavy day's governing, the commander likes to escape across the river to his home village, swapping the pick-up for a locally made contraption. His family were prosperous land owners here. Kabeer only became a fighter after the Communists imprisoned his father at the bottom of a well. Today he has replanted the orchard that the Russians destroyed. Beyond his personal bodyguard, Kabeer commands 1500 men, a vital contingent in the Northern Alliance. But the Alliance now says it has no immediate plans to advance on Kabul. Pakistan says it won't accept a Northern Alliance government but Alliance leaders themselves insist they are happy to wait for the former king to convoke a national gathering of chiefs to choose a new government. Kabeer expects to be invited.

KABEER (TRANSLATION):
Right now, everyone America, the western world and our neighbours are all talking about the former king, all except for Pakistan, are interested in him. During his reign he had good relations with our neighbours, superpowers and kept a balance between everyone.

WHEWELL:
Do you think the Taliban can play any role in a new Afghanistan?

KABEER (TRANSLATION):
All members of the Taliban are not the same. Many of them are moderate and would like to form a highly principled government. At the close of the day the commander likes to be alone with his guards and his God. Whether men like him really have a grand vision for their country's future is impossible to fathom, for now, they are still fighting their own struggles and they are not laying down their arms yet.


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