Huma Sultani: Karzai does not want talks with Taliban
During an interview in her office in the Dehbori area of Kabul, Sultani, 38, said that she had been introduced to Mullah Omar by MP and former mujahideen commander Abdul Basir, who she said is in contact with him and other Taliban leaders.
She said she met the Taliban leader once while campaigning in Helmand province last year, and again more recently outside of Kabul, and that she found him to be reform-minded. She described him as tall and said he looked to be between the ages of 65 and 75.
She said she had presented him with a 22-article draft agreement for peace in Afghanistan, and that the Taliban leader had accepted it and asked her to act as a mediator between the Taliban and President Karzai. Basir told a press conference last month that the draft emphasized national sovereignty, national unity, women’s rights, and other issues.
She said she spread her headscarf to the Taliban leader and told him, “As a mother and a sister, I want peace in Afghanistan.” She said they then cried together and Mullah Omar promised that he was ready for peace.
Some 3000 militants, including their commanders, have joined the peace process, but so far the Taliban claim to have rejected negotiations on joining the Afghan government.
Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid rejected Sultani’s claims in particular and said Taliban leaders had not met with any government representatives.
Meanwhile, another Taliban spokesman, Qari Yousuf Ahmadi, said on the Taliban website that some people and groups were abusing the name of peace for their own benefit and that of foreign forces.
Sultani also claims to have met Karzai 11 times. She accused him of not wanting negotiations, and said she is shocked that he is not encouraging her efforts as a peace-loving Afghan woman.
President Karzai has numerous times invited the Taliban to join the peace process. At the funeral ceremony for his brother, Ahmad Wali Karzai, he called the Taliban brothers.
Sultani told last month’s press conference that she had delivered a message from the Taliban leader to President Hamid Karzai, and that Karzai had responded to the letter, expressing his greetings to Omar.
Waheed Omar, the president’s spokesman, confirmed that Karzai had met with Sultani and Basir, but said that the letter they claimed was from Mullah Omar was a forgery.
Some Wolesi Jirga MPs, too, including Helmand MP Nasema Niazi, have said that Sultani’s claim to have visited Mullah Omar is false, and she is only trying to attract attention.
But Sultani says “the truth will come out.” She added: "It was my aim to solve the country's conflict and to bring peace, even if it threatens my life. I want to solve Afghanistan's conflict with the assistance of the government and our Taliban brothers."
Her office, decorated with gray carpets and red furniture, is on the first floor of her house, where she lives with her 12-year-old son. The house has a large green yard and a car in the garage. Her cousin serves as her guard and driver.
Sultani’s father, Mohammad Sarwar Lahistani, is an advisor at the Ministry of Public Works and is an influential figure in Ghazni province. Sultani was born in the Khair Khana area of Kabul and graduated from the Ayesha Durani school. She studied engineering at Kabul University, but left her studies during the civil war of the 1990s. She lived in Iran during the Taliban era.
She speaks Dari, Pashto, English, and Urdu fluently, and taught English to Afghan refugees in Pakistan. She was a program officer for women’s rights in the Independent Human Rights Commission of Afghanistan and claims to have launched different kinds of training programs for women in key provinces of the country.
She claims to have solved more than 2,000 cases of violence against women over the past five years, either through mediation or referring them to family courts.
But Fawzya Kakar of the Ghazni Women’s Affairs Department thinks this figure is exaggerated. She said that her entire department had solved 500 cases of violence against women in the past eight years and asked how it was possible that Sultani alone had solved 2,000 cases in five years.
Sultani has been married for 13 years. Her husband emigrated to Norway 10 years ago and comes to Kabul for a few months every four to six months.
“My husband doesn’t like to live in Afghanistan and I don’t like to live in Europe,” she explained. “When a spouse is away, there are fewer disputes and much love between them,” she laughed.
Sultani’s campaign motto was “My wish is the right of my people.” Her husband paid her campaign expenses, which came to nearly $60,000 for fuel, printing, and campaign staff.
Sultani has not visited Ghazni for the past six months; she says the Parliamentary crisis has prevented her and she intends to visit soon. Some of her constituents say they voted for her because of her human rights work, but that after she became MP she stopped caring about their problems.
In particular, some women in Ghazni said that the MP should open an office there specifically to consult with women who don’t feel comfortable sharing their problems with male MPs.
Sultani acknowledges that it has been difficult for her to work for Ghazni’s women. “The Afghan women who live in provinces can’t come without the permission of their husbands… The other reason is the bad security situation and long distance, the women can’t come to visit me in Kabul,” she said.
She earns 91,000 afghanis a month. She watches films and dramas, and is currently following the Turkish program “Five Sisters.” She says, “I can’t fall asleep until I listen to some of my favorite songs.”
She was on a basketball team in school and until recently was a member of a women’s sports club in Kabul’s Pul-i-Sorkh. She says she quit because Parliament kept her too busy.
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