Interview: [Karzai’s life, the Durand Line, Taliban and peace process, current politics in Afghanistan and also a message from the former president to Pashtuns/Afghans]
The Pashtun Times: We welcome you to our program and thank you for giving us time.
Hamid Karzai: Welcome. I am glad. Always welcome!
The Pashtun Times: Can you tell our viewers about your early life? Where you lived, your educational journey and how you become president of Afghanistan?
Karzai: Well. I was born in Karz area of Kandahar province. I studied first for two years in Kandahar, then I came to Kabul with my father who was a member of the Wolesi Jirga (Lower House of the Afghan parliament). I was admitted into class 3 in a school here in Kabul and from class 3 to grade 12, I pursued my studies in Kabul. After that I went into higher education in India. While I was in India, there was a coup d’état in Afghanistan and the Khalq and Purcham government was established; the Soviets also came and people of Afghanistan launched jihad against them. When I completed my studies, M.A, in India, I went to Quetta and Peshawar and eventually joined the mujahideen, in the struggle for our country’s freedom.
The Pashtun Times: In our society sometimes naughty children are scolded and beaten by their parents, were you ever scolded by your parents?
Karzai: No. No. I was not naughty. I was a calm child.
The Pashtun Times: Was there anything that you did in childhood and now you regret?
Karzai: I can’t remember any such thing. I did nothing I regret.
The Pashtun Times: Who is your best friend?
Karzai: I have so many best friends. One is my cousin, Zalmay Khan, who is here in Kabul; another best friend is Abdul Saboor Khan, who is in the United States; another is Ziauddin, who is also in the United States. I have so many good friends—from jihad times as well as in the past 14 years. But those are my childhood friends whom I mentioned.
The Pashtun Times: In one of your childhood pictures, taken in Habibia School, we also see President Ashraf Ghani standing together with you? Was he your friend too?
Karzai: No, I didn’t know that Ashraf Ghani studied in Habibia School, maybe he was there earlier than me, senior, by five or six years.
The Pashtun Times: Which countries you see as good friends?
Karzai: Germany in Europe has proved a good friend of Afghanistan. Then Turkey also has remained a good friend. India too is a time-tested friend. These three countries are strong allies of Afghanistan. Russia also has historical relations with Afghanistan and supported us a lot at one time. The Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, which was a mistake, but we were not deceived.
The Pashtun Times: We have heard that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is your best friend?
Karzai: Yes. Both Manmohan Singh and Narendra Modi are amongst my best friends.
The Pashtun Times: In an interview with a private Pakistani TV channel, you said that if war broke out between Pakistan and India and if Pakistan needed Afghanistan, Afghanistan will support Pakistan. Still you stand on that statement?
Karzai: The question was not if there was war between Pakistan and India but if a country attacked Pakistan. My answer was that, as the people of Pakistan stood firmly beside Afghanistan and welcomed the Afghan people—they embraced us—, the Afghan people would also treat the people of Pakistan in the same way; only with the people of Pakistan. We cannot forget the support provided by the people of Pakistan and all the provinces. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa supported us a lot and is like our body. Likewise, Balochistan, Punjab and Sindh helped the Afghan refugees. If any trouble comes to Pakistan, and I pray such time shall not come, I will stand beside my Pakistani brothers and sisters to help them.
The Pashtun Times: In your view, can the Durand Line separate the Afghans living on both sides of the line?
Karzai: No. Durand Line cannot separate Afghans because the line has not been recognized by anyone for over a century. No one will recognize it. It cannot separate the nation. The line has not separated the nation. As I said before, when we went to the other side of the Durand Line, the people welcomed us as their own brothers. Therefore, it cannot separate us and no-one recognizes it. It cannot keep us away from each other.
The Pashtun Times: When we study the history, it is mentioned that the Durand Line was imposed on King Ameer Abdur Rahman Khan. When the Taliban came they did not recognize it, Pakistan-backed people did not even recognize the Durand Line. In your opinion, will someone emerge in Afghanistan who will recognize the Durand Line?
Karzai: No. Such a person will never arise in Afghanistan. If such a person did come, at that very moment, the people of Afghanistan will kick him out of Afghan Millat.
The Pashtun Times: What is your viewpoint? Do you recognize the Durand Line?
Karzai: No. When have I ever recognized the Durand Line? I have repeatedly said that I do not recognize this.
The Pashtun Times: What you mean by not recognizing the Durand Line?
Karzai: I mean that this line was imposed by British Empire on Afghan people. It was imposed on Afghans because of a weak government and at difficult time. Neither then or now does Afghan recognize the line. We did not complain about this to Pakistan because at that time Pakistan did not exist. There was Hindustan only, which was ruled by the British, part of the British Empire. Pakistan came into being later. We say two things to Pakistan, first, we do not recognize the line because it was imposed on Afghans by the British and the whole world knows it, as does Pakistan. Second, we have no grudge against the people of Pakistan, we want friendly and brotherly relations.
The Pashtun Times: By not recognizing the Durand Line, do you mean to make Loy Afghanistan?
Karzai: As we have not recognized the line, it means the historic Afghanistan which existed before the line was imposed.
The Pashtun Times: You were in power for 14 years. Afghanistan’s Constitution was drafted and approved in your term. What was your policy on the Durand Line? Now, Ashraf Ghani is in power, what formula does the current government have on the Durand Line? Or is Durand Line just a claim and nothing else?
Karzai: It is not a claim but an aspiration of Afghan people. It is about the historical right of the Afghan people—living on both sides of the Durand Line. Only people can solve this problem, not governments.
The Pashtun Times: Do you know about public opinion on Durand Line issue?
Karzai: History is very clear in this regard. Look at the political struggle of Bacha Khan and after him. Look at the sacrifices. A few days ago when the government of Pakistan was harassing Afghan’s refugees, all Pashtun elders stood with their Afghan brothers against Pakistan. They stood firmly. Therefore, it is very clear that what people want.
The Pashtun Times: Pakistan says that Pashtun land, as far as Attock as you claim, has been inherited by her from the British Empire. What is your answer to this?
Karzai: It is true. It was left to Pakistan from the British Empire. That’s why I said that we do not have grievances with the people of Pakistan because the Durand Line was imposed by British. What we say to the British, we say to the heir of British, which is now Pakistan. Neither Afghans that time nor now, will recognize the line. The fate of the line will be decided only by the people living on either side of the Durand Line. It cannot be decided through the use of violence or force.
The Pashtun Times: It is said that until 1947 the money from the lease was given to the Afghan government in regard of the Durand Line agreement?
Karzai: A lease was not involved in it. The British government announced assistance. It was in two phases. First, was Gandhamak agreement. If you study the agreement of Gandhamak, you will find that large part of Balochistan, including Zhob, Pashin and Sibbi, and then South and North Waziristan, Bajaur, Dir and other areas, were taken from Afghanistan for security and administrative purposes. Revenue collected from these areas would be given to the Afghan government. It is also mentioned that these areas are part of the Afghanistan’s sovereignty. It is very clear in the Gandhamak agreement. That time 0.6 million rupees were given to Afghanistan. After the Durand Line agreement the amount was increased to 1.2 million. In the Durand Line Agreement, the line was not called a border. It was not called a ‘border’ but the term ‘sphere of influence’ was used. It means sphere of influence between the British India and Afghanistan, not a border.
The Pashtun Times: We heard that all agreements with the British Empire expired in 1947 when the British left the region. The Durand Line agreement expired in 1993. The agreement has expired and it is now more than 20 years since that expiration. Have you taken steps to renew the agreement for five or ten years? And take the revenue from the government of Pakistan?
Karzai: Good question. We shall think about it. We shall discuss it on legal grounds to take steps.
The Pashtun Times: There is a debate going on that great changes will take place in the geography of this region in the near future. Do you see such changes?
Karzai: Circumstances sometimes give a glimpse that something has been planned for this region. It is now clear that the war, which has been fought for 14 years, was not against extremism. Actually, extremism was promoted. Fourteen years ago there was no Daesh, but now Daesh is here. Fourteen years ago there was no extremism to such an extent that we see today. There is no doubt that somebody has had hand in this. No doubt that someone is benefiting from it. What and why this is happening and against whom, it should be asked. This needs an answer.
The Pashtun Times: If the Durand Line was not eliminated, would you stand beside Pashtuns living on the other side of the Durand Line to support an independent state of Pashtunistan? Are you in favor of a Pashtunistan? Will you support them to have an independent state?
Karzai: From the River Amu (Oxus) to Attock, Afghans live. There are different groups of Afghans. If Afghans living on the other side of the Durand Line decide to have an independent state we will accept it. We shall respect their decision whatever it is.
The Pashtun Times: How and who will bring Afghans, living on both sides of the Durand Line, together?
Karzai: I tried to do so in Pervez Musharraf’s regime. We had a meeting, comprising of people from both sides, on the security situation. It was a productive meeting. From the other side of the Durand Line, our brothers and from here, different elders sat together. In my opinion, such meetings are very good. We will do it Insha’Allah.
The Pashtun Times: Has that gathering produced any results?
Karzai: It has not yielded results. The Pakistani government was not ready for it and did not want to end extremism and war. We tried but this did not give result. But we have come to know how people on the other side of the Durand Line are used in the foreign imposed war and killed in conspiracies. They are killed as well as defamed. In Afghanistan and Afghans, the same thing is happening.
The Pashtun Times: When Pakistan did not agree, did you take this to an international or any other platform?
Karzai: No. It is worth considering whether to do it or not.
The Pashtun Times: Recently, the Pashtun leader in Pashtunkhwa, Mehmood Khan Achakzai, said that Afghans living in the Sindh and Punjab provinces can come to Pakhtunkhwa if they are harassed, because Pakhtunkhwa belongs to them. Achakzai was brought under crippling pressure and severely criticized by the Pakistani media and government. At the end it seemed that he was helpless. What is your take on this?
Karzai: Mahmood Khan Achakzai is a much respected leader. We revere and respect him—greatly. I am glad that other leaders like Asfandyar Wali Khan, Aftab Ahmad Khan Sherpao and even Mullana Fazlur Rahman supported Achakzai. They expressed their feelings clearly. I respect them.
The Pashtun Times: Who are the Taliban or what we call terrorists? Do they have presence only in Afghanistan?
Karzai: Most of Afghans are Taliban.
The Pashtun Times: But there are also Punjabi Taliban.
Karzai: Yes, there are Punjabi Taliban but I am talking about Afghan Taliban. They are sons of this soil. We shall explore all the ways to convince them to end the war and killing of people—their people—and return to their own country. I also know that some secret hands are trying to stop this from happening. Circumstances have been created where Afghans are at each other’s throats and to disperse them using different names. The Afghan people are paying full attention to this challenge. I am sad to say that Pashtuns on the other side of the Durand Line are also going through tough time. What happened in Waziristan—elders were killed, the people who were famous for Jirgas— indicates that there is something else going on in this region. Whenever there was Jirga, there was either a suicide blast or a drone strike. This game is being played at the cost of our peoples’ lives—Afghans living on both sides of the Durand Line. Afghans on the both sides of the line are paying the cost.
The Pashtun Times: Why didn’t you reconcile Taliban in the past 14 years, when you were in the driving seat? Why?
Karzai: I tried my best. I did everything. When my brother and also Professor Burhanuddin Rabbani were martyred, even then I said to the Taliban that they were our brothers and we wanted peace. I tried my best. But they were not ready to sit together with me. They were controlled by someone else’s hands.
The Pashtun Times: To which groups of the Taliban are the current government talking and what is the progress? How do you see future of the peace talks?
Karzai: I support the peace talks. I want peace.
The Pashtun Times: With how many groups of the Taliban are talks underway?
Karzai: The Taliban is one single group. There are no different groups. They are all one. Talks are underway with Hezb-e-Islami. I pray for success of the talks.
The Pashtun Times: During your and the current governments, why is it that the peace talks with the Taliban have not succeeded? What is the role of Pakistan in this? What does Pakistan say and want, such as with whom the Afghan government shall talk and how?
Karzai: The governments of Pakistan and the United States both have a hand in the failure of the Afghan peace talks. The United States is securing its interests and Pakistan does the same. They want to protect their interests at the cost of Afghan people, living on both sides of the Durand Line. That’s why the reconciliation process has not succeeded. Whenever these two countries show sincerity, on that very day the peace process will be successful.
The Pashtun Times: Has the will of the United States changed now?
Karzai: No. Is the bombardment a goodwill? Is it a good intention that our villages are bombed? No, that is not good intention.
The Pashtun Times: According to your information, how many famous leaders of the Taliban are in Pakistan? Are they free or subdued?
Karzai: If they had their own will and were free then they would have sat down with us for peace talks. If they were free they would have not been killed. Mansoor was killed in Pakistan. Mulvi Raqeeb, who was supporting the peace talks and was a prominent religious scholar from Takhar, was killed in Peshawar. Scores of them were killed. If they were free, they would have not been killed, especially so easily. Look at Mullah Mohammad Omar. We do not know that where and how he died. Was his death natural or not, we do not know this.
The Pashtun Times: Why has Pakistan deployed their army on the Durand Line?
Karzai: Maybe they are trying to establish their writ. They must have some plan and objectives.
The Pashtun Times: What is Daesh and who are supporting Daesh?
Karzai: It is very clear that Daesh is a foreign project. We know that Pakistani soldiers were in Daesh—they were discovered and arrested. Documents were recovered from them. I don’t say that only Pakistan is involved in this but also some other powerful countries too.
The Pashtun Times: Here in Kabul, every young Afghan male and female says that Pakistan is interfering in Afghanistan’s internal affairs. What is your viewpoint?
Karzai: Yes, it is like this. It is very unfortunate that a country inflicts wounds on its neighbor and Muslim brothers. The government of Pakistan has been very cruel towards Afghans. The people of Pakistan are very kind to us. As much as the people of Pakistan supported us, to the same extent the government of Pakistan was brutal. We will never forget the support of Pakistani people. We wish that Pakistani military and ISI should not overrun Afghans, living on both sides of the Durand Line, for their own and others’ interests.
The Pashtun Times: You talked about government. According to you who is running Pakistan?
Karzai: The Military.
The Pashtun Times: It is said that in the coming UN meeting, maybe, Pakistan will be declared a terrorist state. What will be the benefits and/or harm of this decision? What will be effects of this decision on Afghanistan?
Karzai: We do not want Pakistan to be defamed, despite what the Pakistani military and ISI did. We do not want to see Pakistan in trouble because the people will suffer there. We want the Pakistani military and the establishment to reform itself. That they will stop creating trouble for Afghans and promoting extremism.
The Pashtun Times: In the world in general and in Afghanistan in particular, people say that your internal policy was very successful, but not your foreign policy, not as successful as today, President Ashraf Ghani’s foreign policy is. People say that Pakistan is isolated because of Ashraf Ghani’s policy. What is your view?
Karzai: We do not want to isolate Pakistan. We wanted friendship with Pakistan. We want friendly relations with Pakistan.
The Pashtun Times: It’s said that two major challenges may emerge in Afghanistan in the future; 1) ethnic tension such as we see the recent role of Hazar’s community, 2) and problems with India – to prevent the Indian government from playing its role in development of Afghanistan?
Karzai: Afghanistan is a united country. Afghans are a united nation. All Afghans are brothers. They are brothers from many generations. Hazara elders played the main role in Naika Mirwais Khan’s Jirga, and still do. In every sacrifice all Afghans were together. They are together now too. A portion of a nation will have different demands. It does not mean that the nation is divided. It is an attempt at progress. It is everyone’s right. Regarding, India – who will create challenges for India? It will be Pakistan. Afghans will respond to it.
The Pashtun Times: Due to military operations in tribal areas, many Pashtuns have been displaced. They came to this side of the Durand Line. Have you taken notice of their problems?
Karzai: Yes. When Pakistan informed us of a military operation in Waziristan, I opposed it. I wrote a letter to Prime Minister of Pakistan. The letter contained nine points. I said if you are launching a military operation then it should be real, in the sense that it should not be against common people. Civilian homes should not be destroyed. Properties of the people should not be destroyed. Children should not be killed. It should not be against a particular nation. It should be against terrorism. Terrorists’ sanctuaries and hideouts are known. Those who trained them are known.
The Pashtun Times: Where are the terrorists?
Karzai: They are there, but not among the people. They are not in Miranshah, Wanna and Mir Ali. They are in the plans and policies of Pakistani military. They cannot be eliminated until Pakistani military stop using them.
The Pashtun Times: Afghan refugees are harassed too much in Pakistan in these days. What is your message to Pakistan in this regard?
Karzai: My message is clear to Pakistan. Afghans who are living there have brought many benefits to Pakistan. They generate millions of dollars. They are living and doing business there. They should be treated well. I will tell the people of Pakistan thank you very much for the support that you have provided to Afghans.
The Pashtun Times: We saw a video, widely circulated on social media, that you would not shake hands with a Pakistani military general. John Kerry was also there. What was the reason behind this?
Karzai: I did not do so. I shook hands with him. It is bad manners not to shake hands with a representative of Pakistani military and people. I shook hands with him with respect.
The Pashtun Times: What do you say about the gate constructed by Pakistan in Torkham?
Karzai: It is totally unfair.
The Pashtun Times: What should be done?
Karzai: The gate should be removed.
The Pashtun Times: You are an intellectual, a former president of Afghanistan and a well-educated person. You can speak several languages. Are you busy in writing a book or two?
Karzai: Definitely, I am writing a book on my life, struggle and experience in the past fourteen years.
The Pashtun Times: When the book will be published?
Karzai: Next year, Insha’Allah.
The Pashtun Times: Your words carry weight because they are based on experience. What is your message to Afghan youth?
Karzai: My message to them is to get an education. Do not waste a second or a minute. Live in your own country. Do not live by others’ philosophy. Become something and serve your country. Let me recall when the US President John F. Kennedy was addressing his nation, he said ‘Oh! People of America, do not ask what America can do for you but ask what you can do for America.’ Our young people should not ask what their country can do for them, they should ask what they can do for their country, because they are the owners of this country and owners take care. They should serve their country. They should live like humans and not despise anyone. They should work for the greater good of humanity.
The Pashtun Times: I shall be grateful if you say some poetry for the viewers of The Pashtun Times.
Karzai: Why not.
Khyber dara ya lar da tlo ratlo da
Pa Kabul ao Pekhawar k Afghan yao de
خیبر دره یې لار د تلوراتلو ده
په کابل او پښور کښې آفغان یو دې
(Khyber Pass is just connecting them
Afghan is one in Kabul and Peshawar)
The Pashtun Times: Thank you very much for your time.
Karzai: Thank you. You are always welcome. THE END
Interview conducted by Aurang Zeb Khan Zalmay- Editor and founder of THE PASHTUN TIMES
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED WITH THE PASHTUN TIMES