The assassination of Burhanuddin Rabbani, the leader of Afghanistan’s High Peace Council and a former president, underscored the fierce opposition of those who want to shatter the country’s tenuous stability and thwart its tentative steps toward peace.
During the period 1993-96 I met Rabbani a few times, and his commander of military matters Ahmed Shah Massoud. Rabbani and Massoud played a key role in bringing some stability at a time when anarchy and war-lordism was rife. It is a tragedy that will set back Afghanistan's peace process many years. I feel sad that Massoud and Rabbani are both dead, both assassinated. I am in new Delhi a city they new well, and I have said a prayer for the future of Afghanistan, a country continuously penalised by its geographic location. I saw this article in the Hindustan Times this morning, which they reproduced from the NY Times: It is worth a read.
Without the 71-year-old Rabbani, it will be exceedingly difficult to move the peace process forward. A complex figure, he was nonetheless one of the few with the stature to persuade the Taliban’s enemies, the former Northern Alliance, to embark on reconciliation discussions.
Western diplomats said that recently Rabbani had begun discussions with some Taliban members who might have the power to engage in real negotiations. A number of previous contacts had proved to be with impostors or figures who had little authority.
Within hours of the killing, Northern Alliance leaders, most of whom are ethnic Tajiks and Hazaras, were on television, denouncing the peace process and saying that the Taliban could not be trusted. The Taliban are predominantly ethnic Pashtuns.
Dr Abdullah Abdullah, a former presidential candidate and Northern Alliance leader, summed up the sentiments heard from many Northern Alliance figures in the wake of the assassination: “This is a lesson for all of us that we shouldn’t fool ourselves that this group, who has carried out so many crimes against the people of Afghanistan, are willing to make peace.”
He added: “We have to be realistic about what we are up against. We are up against people who don’t believe in any humanity. They kill people on the streets, they assassinate those trying to achieve peace.