The Times, December 23, 2009
Karzai forced to investigate family blood feud after cousin is murdered
“Not a single soul has come to investigate,” Waheed’s father, Yar Mohammad Karzai, 62, said. “I told one local official, what do you want me to do, knock on Obama’s door?”
By Jerome Starkey
A family at war: clockwise from top left, Hamid Karzai, his father Abdul Ahad Karzai, his half-brother Ahmad Wali Karzai, his cousin Hashmat Karzai, his cousin Waheed Karzai, the latest to die, and Yar Mohammed Karzai. The slow police response, and the reluctance of the Karzai clan to discuss the killing, has cast doubt over the President’s resolve to stamp out corruption and “the culture of impunity” that is crippling Western efforts to rebuild the country.
When Afghan killers burst into a 12-year-old girl’s bedroom and shot her brother at close range it barely warranted an investigation.
Police said that no one reported the crime. Were it not that the pair were President Karzai’s cousins — and that the murder had all the hallmarks of a revenge killing connected to a Karzai dynasty feud — the shooting would in all likelihood have languished as little more than a footnote in Kandahar’s long catalogue of violence.
“The family didn’t report it so we couldn’t start an investigation,” police General Fazel Ahmed Sherzad, the head of security for Kandahar province, told The Times.
Revenge killings are enshrined as a noble and legitimate part of traditional Afghan culture, especially in Pashtun areas. Blood feuds can last for generations, according to the ancient pashtunwali honour code, and there is little state justice could, or would, do to interfere.
Mr Karzai said yesterday that he had personally ordered a police inquiry after details of the killing were reported in The New York Times.
Local elders said that a gunman flanked by at least three bodyguards stormed into 12-year-old Sona’s home, which is directly opposite the village mosque in the President’s home town of Karz, about 20 minutes drive outside Kandahar city.
She begged the men for mercy but to no avail. The murderer, who witnesses said was wearing traditional Afghan robes, shot her brother Waheed three times. “We heard shooting and women screaming,” said Haji Wali Jan, one of the Karzais’ neighbours.
As the intruders fled, another cousin, Zalal Karzai, 25, ran in from elsewhere in the compound and saw Waheed, 18, stagger out of the bedroom. “Hashmat shot me!” he gasped. Relatives said that Waheed provided the same account to other family members before dying two days later at a US military hospital in Kandahar.
He was referring to Hashmat Karzai, the relatives said, a first cousin of the President, who owns a private security company with close ties to the Afghan Government and millions of dollars worth of US military contracts. Mr Hashmat, 40, is said to be the son of one of Mr Karzai’s uncles who was murdered three decades ago in an alleged honour killing.
Mr Karzai admitted that the shooting may have been linked to the murder of his uncle in Quetta, in Pakistan. “There was an unfortunate incident about 30 years ago, when we were refugees in Pakistan in the time of jihad. My uncle was killed in the house of that member of the family,” he told a news conference as he stood alongside the Nato Secretary-General. Anders Fogh Rasmussen.
“Now some months ago a young son, an 18-year-old son of that family was killed in our village in Karz, so because of that history naturally attention would come to that other cousin.”
The shooting, in a quiet farming village surrounded by vineyards and pomegranate orchards, happened on October 16. A spokesman for the Ministry of Interior said that its investigation started on Saturday — more than ten weeks after Waheed was shot.
The slow police response, and the reluctance of the Karzai clan to discuss the killing, has cast doubt over the President’s resolve to stamp out corruption and “the culture of impunity” that is crippling Western efforts to rebuild the country.
“Both sides have contacted me within the family,” the President said. Waheed’s family had accused Hashmat of murder, he added.
Hashmat has denied any involvement. “They mixed up the houses and killed the boy by mistake,” he told The New York Times in a telephone interview from Dubai, where he is staying with his family. “I had nothing to do with it.”
Other relatives said that they were under strict orders not to discuss the case. “This is family business,” said Ahmad Wali Karzai, the President’s half-brother, who acts as head of the family in Kandahar. “I have orders from New York not to talk to journalists.”
Relatives of Waheed in America accused the President’s brothers of trying to block an investigation. “Not a single soul has come to investigate,” Waheed’s father, Yar Mohammad Karzai, 62, said. “I told one local official, what do you want me to do, knock on Obama’s door?”
“Anything could be possible, so we will have to wait and investigate,” President Karzai said.
This is not the first time that the Afghan President faces embarrassing revelations about his family. His half-brother Ahmad Wali, long accused of links to the narcotics trade, was embroiled in controversy two months ago when an American newspaper reported that he had been on the CIA’s payroll for much of the past eight years.
The New York Times said that Ahmad Wali Karzai had been paid for services including arranging contacts with the Taleban and helping to operate an Afghan paramilitary force in Kandahar.
He was also paid for allowing the CIA, US special forces and local paramilitaries known as the Kandahar Strike Force to use a large compound outside the city that used to be the home of Mullah Omar, the founder of the Taleban, the newspaper said.
Ahmad Wali confirmed that the CIA, US special forces and the militia used the compound, but denied receiving payment from the CIA.
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