Signatures collected for Noor at gunpoint, alleges MP
KABUL (Pajhwok): A woman lawmaker on Wednesday alleged “force” was being used in a signature campaign for the acting Balkh governor, Atta Mohammad Noor, against a Human Rights Watch (HRW) report. But Noor’s spokesman spurned the allegation as “laughable”.
The HRW report released earlier this month accused top Afghan officials of presiding over murder, abduction and other abuses with the tacit backing of their government and its western allies.
The report, Today We All Shall Die, details a culture of impunity that the rights group says flourished after the fall of the Taliban, driven by the desire for immediate control of security at almost any price.
The report focuses on eight commanders and officials across Afghanistan, some of them counted among the country’s most powerful men, and key allies for foreign troops. Some are accused of personally inflicting violence, others of having responsibility for militias or government forces that committed the crimes.
They include Noor, Abdul Hakim Shujai, commander of a private militia in Uruzgan, Azizullah, Afghan Local Police (ALP) commander in Paktika, General Najibullah, a former Takhar intelligence chief, Takhar former police chief Khair Mohammad Taimor, former Jaimiat commander in Kunduz Mir Alam, former spymaster Asadullah Khalid and acting Kandahar police chief Gen. Abdul Raziq.
Gulalai, a lower house member from Balkh province, told Pajhwok Afghan News people knew names mentioned in the HRW report had committed human rights violations.
She said Shujai had been accused of killing 120 innocent people. “If the report is true about one person, it may be true about all and if not, then it creates doubts.”
She did not name another person mentioned in the report, but added: “Among the persons mentioned, there are men involved in land-grabbing, running private prisons and drug smuggling. I don’t understand why only these eight men have been named.”
However, Gulalai said those accused in the report had the right to defend themselves. But she criticized a signature-collection campaign initiated in support of Atta Mohammad Noor against the HRW’s allegations.
The campaign has been launched by the Balkh Peace Committee in coordination with some civil society groups.
Gulalai said people complained that force was used in collecting signatures. “Some people telephoned me from Chahar Kand, Chamtal, Kashindi and Chahar Boluk districts, saying unknown gunmen took signatures from them at gunpoint.”
She said people were scared and wanted to know what result their signatures would yield.
She said the signature papers carried figure prints of six to 8-year-old children, adding that officials involved in the campaign used force to get maximum signatures.
Gulalai alleged the acting governor ruled Balkh like his kingdom and its residents could not dare to refuse signing in his favour. She said people were afraid and feared for their lives in case of disobedience.
She said drug smuggling was underway on massive scale amid presence of land grabbers and powerful individuals in Balkh, but named no one.
Meanwhile, Noor’s spokesman Munir Farhad called Gulali’s remarks as ridiculous and untrue.
He said media and civil society enjoyed full freedom in the province, which was a sign of the democratic system in Balkh.
The spokesman also said nobody had been forced to sign in support of Noor and the process was conducted in a free and open environment.
Farhad said some opponents of the governor might have telephoned to the lawmaker to register their complaints. He said the time had changed and nobody could force others to do something in someone’s favour.
After the HRW report, Noor shared a letter of condemnation with the media. The letter said: “I denounce the HRW report that accuses me of human rights violations.” The report, Noor, said was baseless and untrue.
The governor maintained he would sue the US-based organization and move the UN and other international organizations against the allegations.
Also executive chief of the Jamiat-i-Islami political parity, Noor, on the occasion of Marshal Mohammad Qasim Fahim’s first death anniversary, had said the Taliban and mafia groups’ consent had been sought in the preparation of HRW report.
Noor said mafia groups had been suppressed and they could not reach their goals. He informed drug smuggling and poppy cultivation had decreased tremendously during his tenure. Earlier, he had demanded the United Nations thoroughly probe the HRW report which he called “baseless allegations”.
The HRW report released on March 3 calls on new President Ashraf Ghani and his government to prosecute officials and commanders "whose serious human rights abuses have long gone unpunished."
The report said the "previous Afghan government and the United States enabled powerful and abusive individuals and their forces to commit atrocities for too long without being held to account."
The report based on 125 interviews HRW carried out since August 2012 profiles eight "strongmen" linked to police, intelligence, and militia forces responsible for serious abuses in recent years.
Download “Pajhwok” mobile App, on your smartphone to read and access latest news, features, interviews, videos and photos about Afghanistan.