Adil is leader of a small left wing organization based in Afghanistan. He is himself in exile. He was in Jilalabad for three days from 16-19th September to see the mood and to instruct his party comrades on future strategy. It was an illegal entry to Afghanistan. Here is a special report on the present situation in Afghanistan based on his interview with Farooq Tariq taken at Lahore on 24th September.
"I traveled to Afghanistan on 16th September and reached Jilalabad. The town was in absolute shock conditions. Everyone from there was talking of leaving Afghanistan as soon as possible. To reach Peshawar, you need at least 200,000 Afghanis ($2). Then you need another $5 to bribe the Pakistan official at the border to cross. So any one who has this amount is leaving. An average wage of an Afghani government clerk for instance at present is around 300,000 Afghanis ($3) per month. A daily worker in Jilalabad would get around Afghani 10,000 to 20,000 ($0.10 to$0.20) per day. So there is tremendous poverty in all parts of Afghanistan. Wages are not normally paid for up to 6 months. People are sick and tired of the Taliban regime. They cannot say it openly but now are very sure the regime is going to go away. Most of the shops and the trading companies were closed in Jilalabad. No one wants to do any business in the city. It is more like a deserted city.
On Taliban military power
"There are around 20,000 military men at the disposal of the Taliban. They have lost their best friend Pakistan, so their military assistance is in trouble. On the contrary, there are over 25,000 military men with Osama. They belong to China, Algeria, Nigeria and many other Arab countries apart from Pakistan. When the Taliban say they will not hand over Osama to the Americans, it has nothing to do with their courage or their service to Islam, they are unable to hand him over as Osama has more Islamic militants than the Taliban.
On the Popularity of the Taliban
They have lost support in absolute terms. The people I spoke to in Jilalabad are openly against the Taliban. I think it is only the Talibs (the militant students) who support them. No one else supports them in Afghanistan. They are the most unpopular regime in Afghanistan's history. If America comes here they will lose power not so much of the attack but more because they have no social basis. It is not like the situation when the Russians came to Afghanistan. There were a lot of people in Afghanistan opposing them. Also the Americans and Pakistan were against them. But the situation is totally different. The Taliban cannot fight with the Americans for a long time. They cannot hide for a long time. They are doomed to lose power. The Taliban are the most vicious and brutal government of all time. We opposed them from the beginning. But America and Pakistan have supported them from the beginning. They say today that the Taliban government is no good, we are saying it from day one.
Three trends within the Taliban
There are three trends within the hierarchy of the Taliban regime. One is the most fundamentalist, who are totally opposed to handing Osama over to America. One big group is in favor of handing Osama to America. The third one is balancing the two groups. It is the third group which has prevailed recently in its decision that Osama should leave voluntarily. The problem is that all three groups are smaller than the army of Osama is. Osama is the real ruler of Afghanistan and not the Taliban.
On the Northern Alliance
There is a mix of people in the Northern Alliance. Abdul Rashid Dostum who heads Junbash Milli Islamia (Islamic National Movement) was a close ally of Babrak Karmal and Dr. Najibullah, the former rulers of Afghanistan with the support of Russians. He is not a fundamentalist and represents the Uzbak and Turkmenistan people of Afghanistan. Another component party of the Northern Alliance is the party of Professor Siaf, Itehad Islami Afghanistan (Afghanistan Islamic Unity). This is the most fundamentalist party of the Alliance. Then there is Ahmed Shah's party Shoora Nizaar (Islamic Association). The same people who did the September 11th event killed him on September 9th. Ahmed Shah Massod was killed because Osama's people knew that he was the only capable person who could lead a resistance after September 11th. He was supported by many Western powers already. He was a religious fanatic but recently had changed his position to right wing ideas. Hizb Wahdat Islami is another party, which is part of the Northern Alliance. The Alliance is in full preparations to attack the Taliban. There were fights at Mazar Sharif after September 11th. There were 80 Taliban dead and 200 arrested. The fight is still going on so the Taliban can lose Mezar Sharif very soon. Ex-general Doostam has got some Western support already and he is moving forward.
On ex King Zahir Shah
He is an 89-year-old ex king who seems to have the support of all the parties in Afghanistan apart from the Taliban. The flags of Zahir Shah's party are seen everywhere in Peshawar at least. Our party at this time supports him for a transitional period. The American plan is to hand him power after the fall of the Taliban and then he call elections in one year's time. But it is clear that he will not be able to solve the problems of the people. There is a Persian saying that if the "bad" is in power and some good comes out of it, it is not that bad. So we have no other choice apart from supporting him for a transitional period.
On American military intervention
We are totally opposed to American military intervention. But we are in favor of an immediate ending of the Taliban government. The situation is like America was bringing up a dog who has now gone mad. It is the responsibility of American to control or kill the mad dog. We will do our part to hunt down this mad dog which is dangerous for the Afghan people. The Taliban were supported indirectly or directly by the Americans and Pakistan in the hope of stabilizing Afghanistan but the situation has gone out of their control.
On Shelter International
This NGO was providing bread to over 3 million Afghanis. The Taliban regime arrested them for no reason. The food is gone. People are suffering now. This has even added to the misery of the people and more hatred against the Taliban government. They wanted to control the NGOs working in Afghanistan. This has not gone well among the normal Afghanis. Every one is sick and tired of the Taliban regime. They are sick of the war. There is a lot of people waiting for the end of this government. I do not see any possibility of the Taliban remaining in power for a longer time. American strategy is to bring Zahir Shah into power. He has already got the support of the Northern Alliance and other Left and right parties. We are waiting for the day to go back to Afghanistan.
Interview by Farooq Tariq, General secretary, Labour Party Pakistan