Rally demands amnesty for war criminals
A woman legislator, Shakila, cried out 'Death to Malalai Joya'
Gulf Times, Feb.24, 2007
KABUL: Thousands of former mujahedin, including an ex-president and current vice-president, rallied in Kabul yesterday to express their support for a bill which grants amnesty for war criminals of the last three decades in Afghanistan.
The crowd of more than 20,000 gathered in at Kabul Stadium, once an execution ground during the regime of the now-ousted Taliban, and chanted slogans such as "long live the Mujahedin" and "death to Human Rights commission and enemies of Afghanistan."
Earlier this month, the Afghan parliament, which is heavily dominated by warlords, approved a bill that grants immunity to individuals involved in atrocities during the past three decades, spanning the communist era, the country's 1992-96 civil war and the Taliban regime.
The football stadium was filled with angry protesters holding pictures of warlords whose names have recently appeared in the Human Rights report, for having committed war crimes.
Vice President Abdul Karim Khalili, whose supporters from the Hazara ethnic group turned out in large numbers for the rally, said "we will not let anybody question our past glory."
This was taken as a reference to the mujahedin's decade-long struggle against the former Soviet Union. Marshall Mohamed Qasim Fahim, the former defence minister in the government of Hamid Karzai and the top commander of the Afghan coalition against the Taliban, warned that this kind of propaganda against the mujahedin would lead the country into crisis once again.
Burhanuddin Rabbani, the former mujahedin president and current legislator, accused some elements of trying to foment dispute amongst Afghans "as they had done in Iraq." However, he did not name any particular groups.
Abdul Raab Rasul Sayaf, a strong warlord and parliamentarian whose name has also been listed in the New York-based Human Rights report, said "those who are against mujahedin, they are against our nation and Afghanistan."
The rally condemned in its resolution the United Nations statement that the bill could lead to serious past human rights violations going unpunished.
The rally also called on Karzai to sign the bill, which was also passed by the Upper House last week.
The stadium crowd roared in approval after a woman legislator, Shakila, cried out 'Death to Malalai Joya,' referring to an outspoken female legislator, who is known for her criticism of the warlords.
Amongst accused war criminals present at the rally were General Abdul Rashid Dostum who is current chief of army staff of the Afghan president, Energy Minister and Hazara leader Mohamed Ismail Khan, and current lawmaker Haji Mohaqiq.
The peaceful protesters then took to the streets, chanting slogans like 'Death to America', 'Death to enemies of Afghanistan' and 'Death to the Human Rights Commission.'
Hundreds of police and Afghan army forces were deployed in the city to counter any possible violence, while Nato-led peacekeeping forces remained in their barracks. - DPA