Fall of Capital Not Good News to Pashtuns
Tim Weiner New York Times Service
Wednesday, November 14, 2001
PESHAWAR, Pakistan The news that Kabul had fallen to the Northern Alliance at dawn Tuesday did not sit well with Haji Zaman Khan Ghum Shareek. As the blitzkrieg from the north raced through Afghanistan, far ahead of the world's diplomacy, it did not sit very well at all.
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Haji Zaman is a Pashtun. His people have traditionally ruled in Afghanistan, dominated life here in the Afghan city of exile and reigned throughout the surrounding tribal areas of Pakistan. The Northern Alliance's men are Tajiks and Uzbeks.
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Once they all were Afghans. Not now.
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Mr. Haji Zaman and 23 fellow Pashtun commanders of past battles for Afghanistan met Tuesday in Peshawar to decide on a course of action. They sent an envoy to meet Kabir Hanif, the Taliban's commander in Jalalabad, two hours over the Khyber Pass in Afghanistan.
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They said they had sought American weapons and money from the United States but had received nothing.
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They will decide on a course of action soon. If history is a guide, they will fight. And they will fight against the Northern Alliance.
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"We had an agreement with the Northern Alliance," Mr. Haji Zaman said Tuesday, choosing his words carefully. "We don't accept a regime in Kabul that rules by force. But now that Northern Alliance has done this, they should be ready for punishment.
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"And as for the Taliban," he said, "if they are peaceful and not with the terrorists, we will accept them."
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The Taliban's leaders are Pashtuns, too.
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"We have had discussions with the Taliban," he continued. "Some of their leaders and soldiers have contacted us - a lot of people inside the Taliban are in contact with us. We have no enmity with them or with the Pakistanis or the Arabs who were fighting inside Afghanistan with them. If they are our prisoners, we'd say please leave us, go back, or we would turn them over to the United Nations."
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The Northern Alliance on Tuesday killed prisoners that it identified as foreigners.
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Afghanistan was not always so deeply divided. Any visitor to the Kabul of old would have been struck by its ethnic and racial diversity. People with differing colors of eyes and skin and hair made it seem a crossroads of the world.
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Then came the Soviet invasion of 1979, and a generation of war in which Afghan fought Afghan. Loyalties and betrayals often broke along ethnic and tribal lines.
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"I am against the Northern Alliance, being a Pashtun," said Muhktarullah, a banker in Peshawar who uses only one name, as he watched the fall of Kabul on television.
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"The Taliban of course had their own ideas-they don't represent Pashtuns. But if the Northern Alliance are in power, that is bad for us," he said.
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This kind of thinking grieves Gul Rahman Qazi, a Pashtun, a prominent lawyer, professor and political adviser in Kabul for many years, and now like so many Afghans an exile in Peshawar.
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"Now is the time to think about how to rebuild the country, to create a stable system, to escape the misery that 22 years of fighting have brought.
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"This is not the time to think of ethnicity," he said. "This is the time to think as Afghans."

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