Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Mystery over closure of Afghan blog

President Najibullah hanging in Aryana Square in September 1996
Afghan journalist Fahim Khairy has been writing his blog Suffering City for the past year or so, much of it concentrating on internal political issues in Afghanistan and in particular criticising what he perceives to be the pro-Pashtun sentiments of the Karzai government.
But something has happened in the last week and the blog has been closed down for reasons that are still unclear. It seems that someone found his username and then hacked his password. Having done that, they then closed down the site. What could have prompted such an action? One possibility is that it is connected to a series of articles Khairy has written, based on the remarkable book Hidden Secrets by Razaq Mamoon.
This book, published in Dari in Afghanistan, examines the events that led up to the brutal killing of President Najibullah in Kabul in December 1996. Until now, it has always been believed that Najibullah was dragged from a UN compound and strung up from a lamppost in Kabul by the victorious Taliban forces who had entered the city shortly before.
However, Mamoon's book argues that he was killed by three men, two of whom were former communist comrades of Najibullah, but who had fled the country following a split in the Khalq party in 1991. The third person involved, according to Mamoon, was Colonel Imam, the infamous Pakistani intelligence officer who was murdered in North Waziristan in February. Imam was shot dead on the orders of Hakimullah Mahsud, leader of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, who watched as this hero of the anti-Soviet jihad was callously shot in the head.
Mamoon's book includes a series of documents from the Taliban's own intelligence service archive that  appear to confirm Mamoon's story of Najibullah's murder. According to these documents, the two other killers were Shanawaz Tanai, who once served as Najibullah's defence minister, and Garzai Khowkhozai. These two men later formed an anti-Najibullah movement in Pakistan and were  supported by the ISI.
Garzai was later arrested by the Taliban and the documents referred to by Mamoon and reproduced by Khairy appear to be handwritten notes from Garzai's interrogation. He says Col. Imam - at that time a serving officer in the Pakistan Army as well as an intelligence officer - was with him when they brought Najibullah to the Presidential Palace from the UN building at around midnight. A Taliban judge queried whether the killing of Najibullah would create a bad image of the Taliban, but Najibullah reassured them that no-one would care. The Taliban judge also asked why the former comrades wanted to kill Dr. Naibullah. Garzai replied that they were taking revenge for their comrades who were killed by Najib after the failed the coup in 1990. Garzai added that he was proud of killing him.
Not long after arriving, Najibullah was brought in the courtyard where he was forced to get into a car. There had already been an argument between Col Imam and Najibullah, although the reason for it is unclear. As he was brought into the courtyard Najib resisted and they started beating him and calling him names. Still he refused to get in the car. They finally shot and killed him and then tied him up and threw him into the back of a pick-up truck before driving away. His dead body was driven to Aryana Square where they hung him from a lamppost.
Following the publication of his book, Mamoon was attacked and badly injured in Kabul in January this year. His assailant threw acid in his face, saying that he had been forced to do it by men with Iranian accents. Mamoon's most recent book, Footprint of Pharoah, is about Iranian interference in Afghanistan.
This may explain the attack on Mamoon, but the identity of whoever it was who hijacked Khairy's site remains a mystery. Based in the United States since 2003, Fahim Khairy is in a wheelchair, following the onset of Guillain Barre Syndrome which has left him paralysed. He is a campaigner for disabled people in Afghanistan and a harsh critic of the Karzai Administration in Afghanistan.
Was it the ISI that closed down the site, concerned about the revelations? Or was it the Iranians, possibly seeking to limit the influence of Mamoon? Or was it connected to the internecine feuding that dominates some parts of Afghan polity?

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