Afghans in Pakistan fear Taliban
AP, February 17, 1999
By Kathy Gannon

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AP) -- In the dead of night, two masked men scaled a 10-foot wall at the home of a prominent Afghan political activist living in exile and murdered his wife and 11-year-old son.

Police said the intruders sliced the telephone lines and slipped into the home of Abdul Haq, who was away. While their victims slept the gunmen fired seven shots. Five bullets struck his wife, one his son and the other the family bodyguard. All three died.

No one claimed responsibility for the Jan. 12 slaying and Haq was reluctant to point blame.

But many Afghan exiles in Pakistan, and the human rights group Amnesty International, say prominent Afghans and their families have been targeted with harassment, threats and shootings in recent months. They blame the Taliban religious army that rules most of Afghanistan with an iron hand.

Taliban leaders, whose hard-line Islamic movement has been supported by Pakistan, deny the charges. They say their fighters are not operating outside Afghan territory.

“We are not interested in any other country. ... We have enough problems in our own country,'' said Abdul Sattar Pakties, a spokesman for the Taliban's Foreign Ministry.

The victims of recent attacks in Pakistan, where 1.5 million Afghans still live as refugees, have in common opposition to the Taliban and the strict vision of Islamic law it has imposed on their homeland.

Like Haq they have supported replacing the Taliban regime with a broader-based government in Afghanistan and have strongly opposed Taliban restrictions on women.

Among the recent attacks in Pakistan:

--The brother-in-law of Afghanistan's last communist president, Najibullah, who was hanged by the Taliban army, was slain.

--Gunmen shot at the home of Shah Bacha Shinwari, head of a moderate Afghan reconciliation commission, wounding his wife and son.

--The home of Satana Gul Sherzad, a leader of the Afghan National Democratic Party, was attacked but no one was injured.

--Several men attacked the home of Shah Agha Mojaddidi, a close relative of former Afghan President Sibghatullah Mojaddidi, a former anti-communist resistance fighter and a strong advocate of a broad-based government to replace the Taliban.

--Afghan women who have jobs in Peshawar have been threatened by stick-wielding men who claimed to be Taliban members and warned the women to quit work and stay at home.

--Fatana Gailani, head of the Afghan Women Council, a women's rights group, said her life had been threatened and she had been followed.

--The Revolutionary Association of Women of Afghanistan, which seeks equal opportunity for women, canceled a rally in December in Peshawar after men claiming to be Taliban supporters threatened to break members' legs if they went ahead with the demonstration.

--Female teachers at girls schools in Afghan refugee camps say they have been warned by men to teach the girls only verses from the Muslim holy book, the Koran, and to end the girls' schooling once they reach 8 years old. So far, the teachers have resisted.

Police in Pakistan's Northwest Frontier Province say the attacks and killings are not related, but some officials within the government suspect links to the Taliban.

Abdul Hafeez Arty, an official at the Afghan Commissionerate, the Pakistani government department that looks after Afghan refugees living in Pakistan, cited the Haq case as an example.

He said it was probable the Taliban “thought Abdul Haq could be a serious threat.''

Amnesty International wants Pakistan to do more to protect Afghans, but Afghan exiles say the Pakistani government is reluctant to crack down on Taliban supporters. Pakistan is one of only three countries to recognize the Taliban government.

Pir Ahmed Gailani, a moderate Afghan leader who has criticized the Taliban, said it is Pakistan's responsibility to ensure the refugees' safety.

“There is not sufficient security,'' he said. “Otherwise why are Afghans getting killed here?''

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