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A new government for Afghanistan 24/10/01
This could just possibly be the day on
which the next government of Afghanistan
was born, and the Pakistani authorities
were taking no chances. Arriving at a
public hall on the border town of Peshawar,
a remarkable gathering of Afghanis -
former Mujahideen commanders, tribal
elders and religious leaders here to jostle
for power and plan a post-Taleban
Afghanistan. It was the first large
anti-Taleban gathering that Pakistan has
allowed. The north-west frontier police
deployed armoured vehicles outside.
For this is a Taleban town. Many from
here and the surrounding tribal areas
have gone to fight against the Americans.
There are Osama Bin Laden T-shirts on
sale in the streets. And it's fashionable
to show a Bin Laden symbol on your
mobile. Yet, it was here that Per Sayed
Ahmed Gailani launched his political
offensive against the Taleban, at an
event that was both a historic tribal
gathering and a somewhat chaotic media
circus. Gailani is a former Mujahideen
commander who helped drive out the
Russians, the leader of a Sufi Islamic
sect and an ardent royalist, supporting
the former king, Zahir Shah. Here he set
out the plans he presented to the former
king in Rome, that there should be a
broad-base council headed by the king
to act as interim government, once
Islamic troops from a UN force had
secured a suitable town in Afghanistan
where it could meet. He himself would
presumably expect a senior post, perhaps
prime minister. It was an often emotional
meeting. This religious leader attacked
the US for what he called the death of
innocent people, but he ripped into the
Taleban for the devastation they caused.
Not that all those present have a
spotless history. Many of the
commanders among those here fought
bravely against the Russians, but then
allowed Afghanistan to descend into
chaos as they fought each other for power,
so allowing the Taleban to move in with
popular support. Now, as many Afghanis
and the outside world look for a
replacement to the Taleban, this disparate
group offers a possible solution, though
with so many factions, the problems are
immense. Some here were refugees,
others had trekked across the mountains
from Afghanistan. There was no official
representative of the Northern Alliance,
but at least one member was present in
a personal capacity. There were no
defectors from the Taleban, but over 40
different Afghani groups were said to be
Does this represent the possible makings
of a new government, then?
(Peshawar Editor, "The News"):
I think all those people who want to
replace the Taleban - they are
pre-positioning themselves, and they
are making a claim for inclusion in
the new set-up. They all believe that
the Taleban will collapse.
If or when the Taleban fall, there will
clearly be the need for a new government,
ready to step in, and acceptable to both
Afghanis and the US and its allies. But
one delegate based in the States was
concerned about the role that America
PROFESSOR ANWAR UL-HAQ-AHADI
(Assembly for Peace and National Unity of Afghanistan):
I hope this military campaign will not go
on for too long. What concerns me is
that the US do not have a political
plan after the collapse of the Taleban
and that will create problems.
Many Afghanis we've been talking to
say that the bombing campaign has
strengthened support for the Taleban.
I think it is true. It has more sympathy. The
people who are affected - what do we
expect? Their immediate life is affected
negatively by this situation.
Rahimula Yusufzai knows the Taleban
well, and was the last journalist to
interview Bin Laden. He agrees that the
bombing has strengthened the previously
shaky support for the Taleban and argues
that the US is now targeting the Taleban
rather than Bin Laden.
I think it's a reactive US policy. It was
not as planned, I think. They were
hoping for quick results, and having failed
to achieve that, now they are trying new
This meeting today, will it be a major
boost to the US political cause or merely
a side show for the moment?
I still don't see any co-ordination among
all these opposition figures. The royalists
are holding their own meetings and even
among the royalists, there are different
contenders for power.
Tonight, Per Gailani was holding court,
receiving yet more delegates from
Afghanistan. He's the latest contender in
the increasingly complex machinations
for the future control of Afghanistan, in
which all the interested foreign powers
will also want their say - with Russia
and India favouring the Northern Alliance,
which Pakistan detests, and the US
apparently supporting anyone who can
achieve the impossible and bring all
sides together. Gailani claims he can do
PER SAYED AHMED GAILANI
(Leader, Assembly for Peace and National Unity of Afghanistan):
I hope in the future the Taleban will rejoin
Are you in contact with any people in
Can you say who they are at this stage?
I cannot say, no.
But you are in contact and they might
join you in the future?
I hope so.
Have you been promised, or would you
expect any help from the US in the
future or from any other outside
We need help for the new government
which we will make. And if we have
change, we need help from the US or
other friends to help us to make a strong
government in Afghanistan and to help
our people there.
Have the US or any other governments
been supportive of this movement,
have they promised you help in any way?
They are supporting us politically.
In Peshawar tomorrow Gailani's
assembly for peace and unity will
continue, but for the moment there is
still no broad-based government in
waiting here, and the Taleban are
still in power over the border.