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Ex-Taliban Minister Castigates Ungrateful bin Laden

Now running for a seat in the Afghan national legislature, former Taliban foreign minister Wakil Ahmad Mutawakil chides bin Laden for uttering ‘meaningless platitudes' while being protected by Kabul before Sept. 11, and for never offering impoverished Afghanistan ‘even a tiny fraction of his immeasurable wealth.'

By Anwaar Hussain

September 4, 2005

Original Article (English)    

Kinder a Gentler Taliban? Wakil Ahmad Mutawakil

KABUL: Former Taliban foreign minister Wakil Ahmad Mutawakil has taken a not-so-guarded swipe at the vanquished Taliban's "cop-out response" to international calls [before the Sept. 11 attacks] for the expulsion from Afghanistan of alleged terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden.

A Man of His Word? Well ... Sometimes

In a riveting book, Mutawakil castigates the multimillionaire Saudi dissident [bin Laden] for uttering meaningless platitudes to Taliban leader Mullah Omar regarding his hospitality, courage and adherence to Muslim brotherhood.

America's public enemy number one, who paid little heed to the string of warnings then hurled at Afghanistan, would often pledge to construct parks and highways and revive agricultural land devastated by decades of war. But these vows, aimed at endearing Osama to the Taliban chief, never translated into action, writes the ex-minister.

Entitled Afghanistan and the Taliban, the post-bellum book chides the world's most wanted man for his baffling failure to devote even a fraction of his immeasurable wealth to the prosperity of Afghanistan, the nation that offered him refuge in the face of mounting global pressure.

Now running for a legislative seat representing the Wolesi Jirga [district] of Kandahar, the soft-spoken Pashtun who speaks fluent Dari and English has published his paperback just a fortnight before the landmark elections.

He discounts as entirely coincidental the timing of the book, which is an informative analysis of the challenges facing the country - then and now.

Speaking to the Pajhwok Afghan News about his scholarly effort, Mutawakil rejected the suggestion that there were political motives behind the publication of his book. In the book he touches upon the strengths and weaknesses of the seven years of Taliban rule and the daunting tasks face by incumbent President Hamid Karzai and his administration.

Images from Kandahar: Election Posters; Ex-Taliban Minister Mullah Mohammed Khaksar, Runs for Office

Widely regarded as a straight-shooter within the Taliban leadership, Mutawakil's views are in no way colored by party politics or his profound respect for Mullah Omar. In the 98-page book, he makes no bones about his aversion to the demolition of the rare statues of the Buddha in Bamyan.

Now defaced, he reasons that the statues didn't look like living beings. Hence, knocking them down was not necessary - even from an Islamic point of view.

"Clearly beyond the pale, the destruction - decreed by the Vice and Virtue Department in compliance with a Supreme Court fatwa - didn't take into account the political, cultural or artistic sensitivities involved," Mutawakil said.

[Editor's Note: At the time, in March 2001, Mutawakil was quoted as saying, "We do admit all these statues were part of the cultural heritage of Afghanistan, but we will not leave the part which is contrary to our beliefs."]

Bamyan Buddha Before and After Destruction By the Taliban

Although he doesn't conform to the warped, small-town, blinkered ideas of the Taliban, Mutawakil is ambivalent about such controversial topics as cinema, television, female literacy, working women and photographs. He writes that the Taliban temporized on these subjects in the absence of a precise fatwa from religious scholars.

With regard to the much-maligned Vice and Virtue Department's performance, the 36-year-old admits: "In a bid to prevent evil, the department, based on an extremely ambiguous branch of the teachings, often ran into resistance with the people. In some instances, its clueless and incompetent staff humiliated citizens over triflings."

Of the ban on women's education, he observes: "Dealing with the other half had been a chronic problem for the Taliban, who closed down girls' schools in Kabul, Herat, Nangarhar and Balkh. This dealt a blow to female literacy. It would have been better to make sure of the use of the hijab (veil) or segregate boys and girls."

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