|Afghan villagers pray over the grave of one of the 16 victims killed in a shooting rampage in the Panjwai district of Kandahar province south of Kabul, Afghanistan, Saturday, March 24, 2012. Mohammad Wazir has trouble even drinking water now, because it reminds him of the last time he saw his 7-year-old daughter. He had asked his wife for a drink but his daughter insisted on fetching it. Now his daughter Masooma is dead, killed along with 10 other members of his family in a shooting rampage attributed to a U.S. soldier. The soldier faces the death penalty but Wazir and his neighbors say they feel irreparably broken. (AP Photo/Allauddin Khan)|
The man only wanted an answer from Hamid Karzai and his men. I speak, of course, of the Afghan villager whose brother Mohamed Dawood was shot dead, along with 16 others, including nine children and several women, in their homes in the early hours of the morning of March 11, 2012, by one American soldier - or more than one - from a nearby US base (see story here). He was one among the families of the victims in Afghanistan's Panjwai who met with their country's president and his senior officials.
This utterly distraught man could not make sense of what had befallen his own and other families and thus he demanded an answer from Karzai and his men. It was justice he demanded, not monetary or material compensation as bribe. There was no answer, nor any promise of justice.
The clever men running the show in Afghanistan were at wit's end. They had nothing but silence to offer, a silence which, however, was profoundly eloquent. It was an admission of guilt and collusion on their part. At one point the villager even succeeded in extracting the word 'guilt' from Karzai.
As the report shows, the simple village Afghan did not go to the meeting with false hopes or unrealistic expectations. He understood the situation perfectly clearly. And he got what he really wanted from the meeting. He wanted to speak his mind, to say what he thought and felt. And in the most candid and effective manner he had his say and then took his leave of those important men. He told them to their faces what they really are, puppets of foreign occupying masters; he forced them to admit their guilt; he made ringingly clear the point that there is no Afghan identity without the Islamic identity; and he countered the calculated lie that the killer was insane or was acting alone. He reminded the president that the Afghan people live by a code, and how precious that is to them, and how this code is daily being trampled upon by the occupation. This simple man did not get melodramatic or hysterical. He did not demean himself by begging. He did not degrade the terrible loss and humiliation inflicted on his family by stooping to accept any material benefit from the hands of the perpetrators of the crime. He behaved with perfect dignity.
What a sight to behold: politicians, their advisors, diplomats and generals, who speak with a thousand tongues, rendered speechless. When do such men ever run short of words? Something hard to believe and rarely seen in history.
Hamid Karzai now finds himself in a terrible fix. He swallowed the American bait. And now he cannot survive without American support, nor can he survive with it. He cannot save face with his own people. He is in a no-win situation. Greedy and unprincipled puppets overestimate the efficacy of their own cleverness. They inevitably get snared in devices of their own making and in those of their masters. Karzai believed he could outfox the Americans and that events would follow the course of his desires. He must have realized while listening to that Afghan villager and the other elders from the villages where the massacre took place that the scope of 'damage control' is not unlimited, although it has served him well so far. He has brought disaster on himself and on his people.
There is only one way left for Karzai to redeem himself. He has to assert his independence of America and openly side with his own people. This would be taking an enormous risk and require a radical change of heart and exceptional heroism. It is hard to imagine his doing that. His masters would not tolerate such open rebellion, and very few of the many enemies he has made at home would feel convinced. The wolves around him who have thrived on their association with him will turn against him. There is hardly any hope that he can succeed even if he decides to change his course. The price to be paid may be his life itself. Yet sadly for Karzai this extremely risky course is the only honourable way out. If there is any sense of worth as a human being left in him, he can only try, and hope to die in dignity. (I do not speak here of redeeming himself before his Lord; that is an altogether different and much, much bigger matter.)
A Muslim is nothing unless he has dignity. Yet very few leaders in the Muslim world show any shred of dignity. We have an abundant crop of leaders who are vain, haughty, arrogant, self-serving crooks, narcissistic, empty braggarts and foolish, shameless clowns. Hardly do we see a leader with vision, courage, knowledge, generosity, humility, and selflessness. The pygmies and the petty-minded unabashedly strut across the Muslim landscape.
In stark contrast, this Afghan villager shines in his dignity and clarity of mind. In bleak times like ours, a few men like him here and there provide us much needed consolation and hope. My heartfelt tribute to this Afghan villager and others like him, wherever they may be. May Allah bless such servants of His.
A. K. M. Mohiuddin is a retired university professor of English literature living in Bangladesh. He can be reached at this address: akmm45yahoo. com
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