Khaama Press (KP) | Afghan News Agency » Interviews http://www.khaama.com The largest news and information source in Afghanistan Tue, 22 Apr 2014 17:55:00 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9 Rasmussen brief Afghan journalists on NATO mission in Afghanistan http://www.khaama.com/rasmussen-brief-afghan-journalists-on-nato-mission-in-afghanistan-26404 http://www.khaama.com/rasmussen-brief-afghan-journalists-on-nato-mission-in-afghanistan-26404#comments Tue, 04 Jun 2013 14:23:15 +0000 http://www.khaama.com/?p=26404 Rasmussen brief Afghan journalists on NATO mission in Afghanistan
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen met with the Afghan journalists ahead of the start NATO Defence Ministerial to provide answers regarding NATO’s operations in Afghanistan. The NATO Defense Ministerial two-day summit kicked off in Brussels on Tuesday 4 June 2013, and is dedicated to cyber defence. The mission in Afghanistan, capabilities and a meeting Read the full article...]]>
Rasmussen brief Afghan journalists on NATO mission in Afghanistan

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen met with the Afghan journalists ahead of the start NATO Defence Ministerial to provide answers regarding NATO’s operations in Afghanistan.

The NATO Defense Ministerial two-day summit kicked off in Brussels on Tuesday 4 June 2013, and is dedicated to cyber defence. The mission in Afghanistan, capabilities and a meeting of the NATO-Georgia Commission also feature on the ministerial agenda.

All the 50 members of the ISAF coalition, and the Afghan defense minister will meet on Wednesday to discuss discuss progress in Afghanistan, and the preparation of a new and different NATO-led mission to train, advise and assist Afghan forces after 2014.

Q) The NATO-led post-2014 mission will be to train, advise, and assist Afghan security forces. What do you mean by assistance? Also, will this new mission require a new mandate from the UN Security Council?

A) At Chicago we agreed on very clear status for the post-2014 mission. We agreed that we would seek a sound legal basis, such as a United Nations Security Council Resolution. This is thus our preferred option. But let me also stress that from an international legal point of view it would be sufficient to have an invitation from the Afghan government. So an invitation would be sufficient. But if this is complemented with a UN Security Council Resolution that would be even better.
It is too early to speak about the details of the Resolute Support mission. The Train/Advise/Assist mission will take place at the institutional level and at the corps level. And it will be aimed at developing the capacities of Afghan security structures.

Q) Will the term assistance entail that the Afghan security forces would receive air support, if needed?

A) As a clear point of departure, this will not be a combat mission. We will be able to protect our trainers, so that they can operate in a secure environment. If in what we call in extremis situations the Afghan security forces need help, it will be up to our military commanders on the ground to make a decision on the provision of that military help. But, again, as a point of departure our post-2014 mission will not be a combat mission.

Q) What assistance can NATO provide to the Afghan security forces for managing military equipment?

A) It will be for our commanders on the ground to develop a proper training system. That is why developing Afghan capacities and educating new Afghan military leaders on how to coordinate security operations and ensure that individual units can operate together effectively is so important.
As a matter of fact, individual allies provide equipment and training to the Afghan security forces already. And within the NATO Russia Council framework we have established a Trust Fund to finance training activities for helicopter maintenance crews. The Trust Fund is also used to finance the provision and maintenance of spare parts for helicopters. So, all these support activities are taking place and will continue to take place so that the Afghan security forces are well equipped by the end of 2014.

Q) NATO’s mandate is within Afghanistan. Yet if we don’t deal with those territories that host terror groups the Afghan people will continue to suffer. How can we deal with this issue?

A) It is a good question. But as you just said, our UN mandate is clearly limited to Afghanistan. This is also the reason why a positive engagement with Pakistan is of utmost importance. We have urged and continue to urge the Pakistanis to step up their efforts within the tribal regions.

Q) The last tranche of the transition process will take place in areas where there is neither ISAF nor Afghan security presence. What will transition actually entail in this areas?

A) We will expect President Karzai to announce the so called Tranche 5 of the transition process. This will entail that Afghan security forces will be in the lead for providing security in those areas. And it will mean, also, that by that time the Afghan security forces will assume lead security all over Afghanistan. But we as ISAF will still be there with a combat mission. We will thus be ready to engage in combat, if needed. So, in troublesome areas you will still see a significant level of ISAF engagement. Already now, however, Afghan security forces lead more than 90% of the security operations.

Q) PRTs will close down. This will inevitably create gaps, as the Afghan government is unable to complete some projects that had been started by the PRTs. Who will fill those gaps?

A) I have discussed this issue several times with President Karzai. There is a strong wish by the Afghan authorities to see activities by PRTs transferred to Afghan national responsibilities. So, we are following up on a strong Afghan interest expressed by the Afghan government. Also, the closure of PRTs is fully in line with the overall process of transition of responsibilities to Afghans.

Q) What’s your sense of Pakistan’s role, especially after the re-election of Nawaz Sharif as Pakistan’s Prime Minister.

A) I expect Pakistan to continue playing its part in the fight against terror. There are no indication that this will not be the case with the new administration.

Q) can you comment on the recent Drones attacks in Waziristan?

A) Out UN mandate only concerns Afghanistan. I can thus only speak about our activities within Afghanistan.

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Interview with Naqeeb Noori, the New Filmmaker in Afghan Film Industry http://www.khaama.com/interview-with-naqeeb-noori-the-new-filmmaker-in-the-canadian-afghan-film-2654 http://www.khaama.com/interview-with-naqeeb-noori-the-new-filmmaker-in-the-canadian-afghan-film-2654#comments Sun, 05 May 2013 09:53:14 +0000 http://www.khaama.com/?p=25654 Interview with Naqeeb Noori, the New Filmmaker in Afghan Film Industry
By:Frozan Sultani Khaama Press has been very fortunate to have the privilege in interviewing the ambitious Naqeeb Noori whose hidden talent will soon be broadcasted to the world through his first movie, Arezo, releasing on the 21st June 2013. The 22 years old Montrealer, originally from Afghanistan, was fond of camera and movies since his Read the full article...]]>
Interview with Naqeeb Noori, the New Filmmaker in Afghan Film Industry

By:Frozan Sultani

Khaama Press has been very fortunate to have the privilege in interviewing the ambitious Naqeeb Noori whose hidden talent will soon be broadcasted to the world through his first movie, Arezo, releasing on the 21st June 2013. The 22 years old Montrealer, originally from Afghanistan, was fond of camera and movies since his childhood. Due to cultural norms, he never predicted filmmaking can one day become his career. Being now in a country like Canada where you have all the doors of opportunities open to you, Noori has the opportunity to live his dreams. Being passionate to explore new ideas in order to create an original content, the devoted young filmmaker believes that everything is possible with hard work and the belief not to give up.

Followed is an interview where Noori enlightens us mostly about his upcoming movie, Arezo, and about his future plans in terms of film industry.

Khaama Press: Give us a short review about your upcoming movie.

Naqeeb: The movie Arezo is the story of a young Afghan girl who struggles through a very unhealthy and dark relationship. She did not have the choice and the right to discover her soul mate. The movie takes a new turn when the struggling Arezo is faced with the truth of her father’s mistake.

Khaama Press: Please tell us about the production: How did the narrative come about- are elements based on true life? And how did the script evolve?

Naqeeb: There had been a lot of ups and downs during the writing process of Arezo. The genre had been a love story to begin with, however, after a lot of reviews and drafts, we ended up with the current script. The preproduction started in late November 2012 where the script was completely written. What is amazing about this movie is its shooting process. It took us only two, but very intensive days during February 2013 to shoot this movie. I then started its postproduction where I edited the movie while one of my dear friends who happens to be our music producer and our sound designer, Farhad Akbari, was working on the movie’s sound and music.

Khaama Press: Did you plan every scene in detail? How did you work everything out technically?

Naqeeb: Yes, a director should always plan things ahead, especially the scenes. I personally am a very detailed person and I do my best to aim for perfection. I plan every scene with diagrams and storyboards putting my thoughts and ideas on papers so that I can eventually move to the next scene without having to rethink about the first scene. Organizing everything in advance can be a great help during the shooting day. A good director can always adjust accordingly with the new changes to the scenes. Working everything out technically can always be problematic and has its own challenges but I have learnt to work with what I already have in my toolbox.

Khaama Press: Did you get everything you wanted on the shoot- did everything match up as intended in the edit?

Naqeeb: I am definitely satisfied with the result that I got from the production but my brain is constantly working and is always coming up with new ideas. Therefore, I always tell myself if I do it again, it will be better.

Khaama Press: Enlighten us about the cast and crew.

Naqeeb: Arezo’s cast and crew were just amazing. They were really responsive and professional throughout the making of this movie. I need to thank all of the cast and crew for their support as they have done this project out of pure interest. Moreover, it was really tough to choose the right person for the role played as Arezo, the main character. Not only because we do not have many Afghan female actresses that would be willing to act in movies but also due to the role itself. The role Arezo needed to be played by a professional actor who would understand the character and the courageous Fakhria Rezaie has done it. As for the Lead Male Role Jaber, it had been another challenge because it required someone to play a negative role with twists and turns in his emotional state and Safi Saifi has beautifully done it. It is very important to mention that without the rest of the cast and crew who have done a fantastic job, this movie would not have been complete. I express my sincere gratitude from the whole team.

Khaama Press: There must have been quite a few challenges shooting Arezo- what were the major ones and how did you resolve them?

Naqeeb: There were certainly quite a few challenges, especially in terms of preproduction and production itself. The main challenge was to get everyone together due to their busy schedules. However, the major challenge was to build three different sets from one single location and to pack up everything in only two short days. I thank everyone for doing their best and that is how we managed to pull it off. TEAM defines Together Everyone Achieves More.

Khaama Press: What experience and training led you to where you are now?

Naqeeb: My journey started with acting and I then learnt cinema and film production mostly on my own. I have studied Media Arts in college but I believe hands on experience are more effective than theoretical. Like the genius Albert Einstein says, “The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.” I am planning to perfect my production skills in film industry and grow my knowledge further. Currently, I am fonder of making short movies. My first short movie, SHORTCUT, is about a young male who is overloaded by the complications that life challenges him to face. Shortcut was dedicated to all the youngsters who give up to fight the challenges of life. Arezo is my second short movie.

Khaama Press: What is your future plans in terms of film industry?

Naqeeb: My goal is to visualize the hidden messages behind the stories worth telling. I am currently focusing on my next project, which is in the process of writing. Most importantly, I will start with broadcasting my short movie, Arezo, to public on the 21st June of this summer. Come and discover Arezo’s journey through a great night of entertainment as the students from around Montreal, Canada has came together to present you an exciting movie night along with many live performing arts at Ahuntsic College at 8:00 PM.

Please support us by watching the trailer and for those who can not make it at its releasing event, make sure you watch the movie once it will be available online.

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Dalai Lama Interview on Tolerance http://www.khaama.com/dalai-lama-interview-on-tolerance-111 http://www.khaama.com/dalai-lama-interview-on-tolerance-111#comments Mon, 10 Oct 2011 08:31:33 +0000 http://www.khaama.com/?p=6846 Dalai Lama Interview on Tolerance
By: Anne Stiens* It was one of those few perfect sunshine days when you can smell the summer, flowers, trees and grass, and feel the warm touch of sunlight on your skin with temperatures of 35 degrees Celsius as you expect in India, when His Holiness The XIV Dalai Lama met friends and Tibetans in Read the full article...]]>
Dalai Lama Interview on Tolerance

By: Anne Stiens*

It was one of those few perfect sunshine days when you can smell the summer, flowers, trees and grass, and feel the warm touch of sunlight on your skin with temperatures of 35 degrees Celsius as you expect in India, when His Holiness The XIV Dalai Lama met friends and Tibetans in the park of the Villa Goetzfried in Wiesbaden in Germany.

The introduction was a moving performance by a charming Tibetan woman named Dechen Shak-Dagsay, who is a famous mantra-vocalist from Tibet. Her songs and graceful appearance in original Tibetan dress moved the hearts of the visitors and transported their emotions from Germany to far away Tibet.

Afterwards he arrives. The Dalai Lama welcomes everybody and sits down on a small podium in front of us. There is no distance or aloofness between the Holy Man and the people. You feel his warmth and friendliness directly.

He starts his speech by underlining our own responsibility for our world: “We are the same human beings and share this small blue planet”. Therefore he demands that we forget all differences between religions and nations, find the roots of violence and also decrease the gulf between the poor and the rich. “There is no me and they”, the Dalai Lama said, “the whole world is me”.

In connection with his speech I got the chance for a unique interview with the Dalai Lama about his main ideas: to promote tolerance, learn from different religions and establish close contacts. As The Human Codes of Tolerance and Respect (www.codesoftolerance.com)  is the most important project of the World Security Network Foundation, I asked him about his experience and proposals.

How can we promote tolerance and respect towards other religions and ethnic minorities, Your Holiness?

Dalai Lama: “I always mention that the concept of one single truth and one religion is itself a contradiction.

But on the level of the individual it is very relevant and can be very helpful. You should keep a single-pointed faith for yourself.

In the reality of different communities and religions with so many people the concept of only one religion is irrelevant.

In reality we have different religions and a concept of one truth seems irrelevant to me.

From the personal point of view everything is relative and one truth for a single person is relevant.

But when you have many people with different values and backgrounds this concept is not convincing as there are many truths and religions – and this is good so.”

What can we all as simple human beings do?

Dalai Lama: “We must develop close contacts with others and their traditions.

In India for over 1000 years – besides the home-grown religions – all major religions were established there as well and lived together. Generally they lived together in harmony and friendship for a long time.

One researcher found a Muslim village with a population of 2000 with only three Hindu families there. But the Hindus had no fear and everybody was very friendly. That is India. Sometimes there are problems as in all populations. That can happen and is understandable.

Basically a spiritual sense of brothers and sisters existed. India kept 1000 years of religious harmony – why not in other areas in the word?”

What can we learn from others?

Dalai Lama: “The more close contacts we have on the personal level the deeper is the understanding and mutual respect. You need close contacts to learn about the values of other religions from each other like Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindu or Buddhists.

The deep understanding of their values develops a basis of mutual respect.

We Buddhists are eager to learn more about mutual respect and the practise of tolerance and compassion.

Some Christian friends have implemented these things already in their religion.

Thus we develop a spiritual brother-and-sisterhood.”

When will the situation in Tibet change for the better?

Dalai Lama: “When Mahatma Gandhi and other great leaders started their work nobody gave them any guarantee of success. But they were very determined and full of will-power whatever the obstacles were.

When my Indian friends started their freedom-fight no one knew when freedom

would come – they were determined as well and advised me to follow it.

Nobody knows when things will change but you must keep your determination – that is important.”

What impressed me most is that you cannot find intensive missionary thoughts in the Dalai Lama’s speech to conquer people for his Buddhist belief.  He is a general missionary for humanity and the good cause of peaceful coexistence, integrating all major religions into global codes of tolerance. For him there is no right or wrong religion. He stated:

“All major religious traditions carry basically the same message: that is love, compassion and forgiveness; the important thing is that they should be part of our daily lives. We can’t say that all religions are the same, different religions have different views and fundamental differences. But it does not matter, as all religions are meant to help in bringing about a better world with better and happier human beings. On this level, I think that through different philosophical explanations and approaches, all religions have the same goal and the same potential.”

For him moral action means not to interfere in the people’s desire for happiness and joy. Everybody must also consider the interests of others. Sensitivity is needed to take care of other people.

He teaches that “Good fortune arises from spiritual qualities like love or tolerance which make us more happy”.

Also, I like his other ideas :

“Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.”

“Happiness is not something ready-made. It comes from your own actions.”

“If you can, help others; if you cannot do that, at least do not harm them.”

“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”

“In the practice of tolerance, one’s enemy is the best teacher.”

“It is necessary to help others, not only in our prayers, but in our daily lives. If we find we cannot help others, the least we can do is to desist from harming them.”

“It is very important to generate a good attitude, a good heart, as much as possible. From this, happiness in both the short term and the long term for both yourself and others will come.”

“Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive.”

“My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness and my philosophy is kindness. This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple.”

“Today, more than ever before, life must be characterized by a sense of universal responsibility, not only nation to nation and human to human, but also human to other forms of life.”

“With realization of one’s own potential and self-confidence in one’s ability, one can build a better world.”

The Dalai Lama grounds humanity in all of us, in our kindness and responsibility as human beings.

*Anne Stiens is Vice President Media of the independent global www.worldsecuritynetwork.com , the largest social media in foreign affairs

]]> http://www.khaama.com/dalai-lama-interview-on-tolerance-111/feed 0 Exclusive Interview with Bärbel Dieckmann of German World Hunger Help on the hunger crisis in Africa http://www.khaama.com/exclusive-interview-with-barbel-dieckmann-of-german-world-hunger-help-on-the-hunger-crisis-in-africa-111 http://www.khaama.com/exclusive-interview-with-barbel-dieckmann-of-german-world-hunger-help-on-the-hunger-crisis-in-africa-111#comments Mon, 10 Oct 2011 08:14:39 +0000 http://www.khaama.com/?p=6839 Exclusive Interview with Bärbel Dieckmann of German World Hunger Help on the hunger crisis in Africa
Only those who help people helping themselves will permanently change the situation Interview by Annemarie Ulbrich World Security Network interviewed Bärbel Dieckmann, President of Deutsche Welthungerhilfe (engl. German World Hunger Help), on the topic of agriculture and hunger in Africa. Dieckmann is assuming the Presidency since November 2009. Before she has worked as mayor of Read the full article...]]>
Exclusive Interview with Bärbel Dieckmann of German World Hunger Help on the hunger crisis in Africa

Only those who help people helping themselves will permanently change the situation

Interview by Annemarie Ulbrich

World Security Network interviewed Bärbel Dieckmann, President of Deutsche Welthungerhilfe (engl. German World Hunger Help), on the topic of agriculture and hunger in Africa. Dieckmann is assuming the Presidency since November 2009. Before she has worked as mayor of the municipality of Bonn, Germany from 1994 till 2009.

How do you evaluate the current state of emergency in Africa?

At the Horn of Africa, more than 12 million people are currently affected by the hunger crisis. The situation is particularly severe in Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia. In those countries the affected people have no longer the chance to subsist on their own, as the rainfall periods have failed repeatedly and most notably because of the nomads who had to slaughter their animals as they were lacking animal food and water.

In your opinion, to what extent is the political stability within the region a premise for a effective operation of agriculture?

A quarter of the Somali population is currently on the run: over 500.000 people are on their way to Kenya and more than 230.000 people are heading for Ethiopia. Without a peace settlement in their country the people will not return. In all our project countries we experienced that self-reliant food supply is only possible when there are no armed conflicts present. If farmers can not cultivate their land because they are afraid of combats and land mines, agriculture will not be functioning properly.

How does the Deutsche Welthungerhilfe e.V. currently become involved on site? What kind of difficulties aid workers are confronted with?

By consulting the local and international partner organisations Welthungerhilfe executes emergency relief activities in Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia. In Kenya we distribute toiletries such as soap, buckets and bowls to about 180.000 people in the Dadaab refugee camp. On a daily basis, we refill cisterns and water tanks at 15 locations in the Eastern part of the country to provide 13.000 people with potable water every day. In Ethiopia we give out food in the most affected regions in the southern and eastern parts of the country. And in Somalia food for a period of six months is distributed to 2.000 people as well.

The United Nations Organization has repeatedly been criticized for buying up the local products. How can the local agriculture be reinforced? How can help for self-help be effectuated?

Welthungerhilfe buys relief supplies and especially food in all of their projects in the country itself or in neighbouring countries. This particularly strengthens the local markets and helps to shorten the transport paths to a minimum. During the current hunger crisis situations repeatedly reoccur that  there is no more food available in Somalia. Each of our emergency relief activities aims already at the next step in the process of reconstruction or self-subsistence to prevent people from being dependent on help on the long run.

How should the European Union assist in the process?

The European Union should also provide financial support for the longterm aid. This has already started but we have to intensify our investments in terms of conserving resources and the adaption of agriculture to the progressing climate change. A recurrence of drought periods must not lead to such a crisis again.

How would you evaluate the role of  Germany’s minister of development Dirk Niebel?

The Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development has once again massively and significantly increased its support for the victims of the drought. Simultaneously it has come up with financial support for the long-term food security as well which we appreciate enormously.

About one third of the amount of produced food worldwide is thrown away – according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) this adds up to 1.3 billions of tons every year. In the developing countries incorrect storage plays a decisive role in the waste of aliments. Which approaches to solve the problem do you see? Could new packaging facilities imported from Western countries possibly solve the problem?

All attempts to solve the problems have to take into account the local conditions as well as the domestic potential. The basis of a better exploitation of the domestic products is the improvement of the infrastructure. The regions are often lacking driveable roads and means of transportation to haul the good harvest of one region to the nearby marketplaces.

People have been sceptical towards China’s involvement in Africa based on the country’s dealings and implementation of human rights. How do you assess China’s engagement in the field of development aid?

Welthungerhilfe has nearly 50 years of experience in the field of development cooperation. Our principle: Only those who help people helping themselves will permanently change the situation in a positive way and therefore offer people the chance to live a self-determined life. A connection too close to one’s own economic interests can therefore be hindering.

In your opinion, why has it taken so long for the problem of hunger and drought to appear in our media?

That there will be a crisis has been obvious to experts since the end of last year as three rainfall periods turned out to be insufficient. Nevertheless everybody still hoped for the most recent rainfall period in June but again, there has been no rain. The resonance of the media has then been initiated by a detailed report executed by the BBC which showed dramatic images of the situation.

Already in 2008 there have been riots caused by hunger in some parts of Africa. Is a comparison possible between the situation then and today? What did change or did not change since then?

The situation today can not be compared with the situation in 2008. At the time, the protests concerned the high prices of basic foods which led people to demonstrate on the streets against those developments. Today we are facing a humanitarian crisis which endangers the existence of 12 million people and which already claimed a great number of victims. Nevertheless, the prices for food are still on a very high level and are therefore additionally aggravating the situation.

Annemarie Ulbrich is Editor of the independent www.worldsecuritynetwork.com Foundation.

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ABC’s Diane Sawyer Interviews Afghan President Hamid Karzai http://www.khaama.com/1582 http://www.khaama.com/1582#comments Mon, 10 Jan 2011 05:16:37 +0000 http://www.khaama.com/?p=1582 ABC’s Diane Sawyer Interviews Afghan President Hamid Karzai
The following is a transcript of ABC News’ Diane Sawyer’s interview with Afghan president Hamid Karzai. The president says he is grateful for the “little help” that has been sent to his war battered country but disputes President Obama’s claim that Afghanistan once had a “blank check” for the U.S. The interview took place on Read the full article...]]>
ABC’s Diane Sawyer Interviews Afghan President Hamid Karzai

The following is a transcript of ABC News’ Diane Sawyer’s interview with Afghan president Hamid Karzai. The president says he is grateful for the “little help” that has been sent to his war battered country but disputes President Obama’s claim that Afghanistan once had a “blank check” for the U.S. The interview took place on January 12, 2010 in Kabul.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai told "World News" anchor Diane Sawyer that he is grateful for the "little money" and the "little help" his country has received. (ABC News)

DIANE SAWYER, ABC ANCHOR: Well, again, Mr. President, thank you so much for letting us be here. We have a new ABC News poll conducted around the country, with an enormous number of people. Seventy percent of them said they now approve of the performance of the government, and 90 percent of them said that they prefer the Karzai government especially to the Taliban and other forms. These are — these are numbers that signify what?

HAMID KARZAI, PRESIDENT OF AFGHANISTAN: Well, ma’am, this — this poll has some interesting figures. Ninety percent of Afghans approving the current government over the Taliban government is quite true. Probably more people prefer a democratic government, a government that has liberties, a government that has opportunities given to people, where you have the choice of choosing your way of life, is preferable to what the Taliban were.

On the performance of the government, 70 percent, I don’t know, perhaps surround that that figure (ph). We’ve been — we’ve been now in — in — in government for eight years. That’s a long time. People get tired of seeing the same faces and the same — the same performance.

So I — I hope that is true. I hope the 70 percent is true. That would be a high mark of approval. I’d be satisfied eight years on even with 50 percent, so I hope that’s true.

SAWYER: There is a sense in the poll that with the re-commitment of American troops that there is a feeling this is a chance, maybe a last chance, but this is a chance to make a quantum difference in what is happening in Afghanistan. Do you feel this year is the last chance?

KARZAI: I cannot describe it as the last chance or the only chance, no. I can call it a great opportunity that we must grasp this year and use it effectively and properly for the good of all of us, for the good of Afghanistan and for the good of America and the rest of the world.

I can say that this is an important opportunity with the renewal of interest in Afghanistan by the United States and the rest of the world with more awareness within Afghanistan on our shortfalls and shortcomings and the requirements for a better Afghanistan. I guess you have to use it very carefully and very effectively.

SAWYER: General McChrystal said yesterday and General Caldwell — both had headlines — General McChrystal said he feels that the surge has already changed the feeling among the people that there is a possibility that the Taliban will not return and, therefore, that changes the cooperation they’re willing to give. And General Caldwell said he feels he can make the 240,000 Afghanistan security forces by the end of 2010.

KARZAI: In terms of numbers, yes, but in terms of institutionalizing the forces, in terms of giving them a memory (ph) and a culture of a force, we will require a longer time. In terms of equipment, in terms of the means of…

SAWYER: You said five years before the forces can actually control security in the country and 2024 before it’s financially feasible?

KARZAI: Well, in — in — in this way, that we will be able two years from now to three years from now to take responsibility for securing parts of our country and for providing all the services that any country would need, and by another two years — that will make it five years — that we should be in the lead in providing security to the Afghan citizens and providing for their needs.

SAWYER: But has the tide turned, as General McChrystal said to us, that the tide has already begun to turn?

KARZAI: General McChrystal and I were together last week in Helmand province, and we visited a district called Nawa, where I met with the people, where the people were satisfied and happy and doing all right.

Now, if we concentrate almost entirely and effectively on providing protection to the civilian population rather than chasing the Taliban, the surge will be helpful and effective. And that’s what I’m — that’s what I keep emphasizing with our Western audience, that the struggle against extremism, this fight against extremism and terrorism can only be won if the Afghan people feel protected in it and if the Afghan people feel that they are given the — the protection and the security that they require. With this condition fulfilled, yes.

SAWYER: A question about that other part of the war, the drones. Do you feel they’re essential? Do you feel they’re counterproductive?

KARZAI: The drones are mostly used in Pakistan.

SAWYER: But some here, increasingly.

KARZAI: I have not — I have not heard of the drones here in Afghanistan. I’ve heard in Afghanistan of bombardment and things like that, to which we object, to which we say is — is — is not going to be helpful, which — which is hurting the civilians.

But on drones in Pakistan, where a terrorist target is hit and eliminated, that — that target of terrorism can be justified. But where civilians or civilian homes are — are damaged or civilians are hurt, of course, then the drones are counterproductive.

SAWYER: There are unmanned vehicles used here, though, yes?

KARZAI: Afghanistan is used for their flights, as Pakistan was used for their flights, but we have not seen drones attacking our villages, our targets in Afghanistan, no.

SAWYER: But the numbers have increased under the Obama administration. Do you feel that the drone attacks are recruiting more Taliban?

KARZAI: If they — if they hurt the civilians, yes, it will, and that’s why we must emphasize that this war on terror must be one that provides protection to the civilians from attacks by the Taliban, from attacks by the terrorists, and by all other elements. In other words, the presence of the international community in this part of the world, in Afghanistan in particular, must be seen by the population as having brought them security and protection, not the opposite of it.

SAWYER: As you know — and we have talked about it before, too — there are headlines every week about administration officials, senators criticizing corruption in the government of Afghanistan. The president has said no more blank check. General McChrystal has said there’s a crisis of confidence in the ability of your government to deliver services, services as well, in some cases, as the Taliban delivers services.

KARZAI: Well, the Taliban don’t deliver any service at all. They never did. The Afghan government is providing services. We provide electricity. We provide water. We provide health services. We provide education. We have a thriving marketplace in Afghanistan.

When we came to power in 2002, Afghanistan’s per capita income was a mere $150. Today, it’s nearly $500. We had almost no schools, no universities. Today, we have nearly 7 million children going to school. We have from two or three universities that hardly functioned, we are nearly 15 universities, plus private universities in numerous numbers. And — and over 40,000 students in — in — in our universities. Our health service is a lot — a lot more better.

Now, we do provide services. Now, with regard to the ability of the Afghan government to provide better services, of course we are not as good as you are in America. We are not even as good as Pakistan or Iran. We may be 50 percent of the abilities that our neighbors have. That’s why we are in trouble. That’s why we need the help of the rest of the world.

Had we been an effective state, an effective government, we would not be talking about all the troubles that we have.

SAWYER: But, as you know, part of the opposition in the United States was Americans are losing their lives, and we know Afghan security forces and civilians are losing their lives, too. But Americans are losing their lives when corruption is undermining the objective.

KARZAI: Well — well, you — we just spoke about a survey by the ABC and BBC. And if that survey’s correct, then that means the Afghan people find the current order legitimate.

SAWYER: But they…

KARZAI: Not only legitimate, but — and also a functioning government. Corruption…

SAWYER: They did also express the feeling that there is corruption, 95 percent of them.

KARZAI: Plenty of it is here, indeed. Corruption is there in Afghanistan. Corruption is undermining our government, our — our society, and we must continue to work against it. I as the president of Afghanistan am responsible and must take care of the Afghan part of corruption within the Afghan government, within the institutional arrangement of Afghanistan, and there is a long list of things that we have done and that we will continue to do as we move forward.

SAWYER: Is…

KARZAI: So the concern is right and legitimate.

SAWYER: And General McChrystal said he felt that you agree that there must be a new day in the tackling of corruption. What is the newest thing that you plan to do that will work?

KARZAI: Well, the newest — we were just discussing this morning that rather than setting up new organizational structures, we would rather concentrate on streamlining and improving and delivering better procedures and regulations and individuals, in terms of capacity to our government. These are the things that we were discussing today on corruption, and perhaps this is something that we will take also to the conference in London.

SAWYER: You met with General McChrystal today and Ambassador Eikenberry and Senator Levin. KARZAI: Yes.

SAWYER: Anything decided? How did that go? We know that Senator Levin…

KARZAI: It went well. We discussed all the issues that you and I just discussed, including the training of the army, the war on terror, relations with Pakistan, relations in the region, the achievements that we have, the problems that we have, and the failures that we have, and the way forward.

SAWYER: In the reconciliation of the Taliban, any sign that Mullah Omar is ready to negotiate a settlement?

KARZAI: No…

SAWYER: Any sign that another major player is ready to say, “Let’s negotiate. Let’s finish this”?

KARZAI: No — no sign yet of Mullah Omar himself, but there is plenty of signs from the Taliban, from the rank-and-file of the Taliban who want to come back to their country who are not our ideological opponents or the sons of the soil (ph) who want to be given an opportunity, who have been driven out of Afghanistan because of fear or intimidation or misconduct by us and the coalition partners together. And those people must be given the opportunity that they seek and that we can offer.

SAWYER: It has been a long eight years.

KARZAI: A long eight years.

SAWYER: Just wondered, how tired do you get? Has this been the toughest year?

KARZAI: No, it has not been the toughest year. Fortunately, in this case, I am not under the pressure of difficulties. I’m under the pressure of achievements, in the sense that I’m seeking to get more and more for this country. We all know we have problems; we all know we have a very serious situation in this region and in Afghanistan.

What I’m counting is the achievements that we have. And what I’m counting is adding on to those achievements. And if I encounter problems, that will be difficult.

In other words, I’m not in negativism. I’m in positivism and optimism. That’s the mode, and that’s what — what I’ll pursue.

SAWYER: Do you feel that you can say to people in America at the end of 2010 they will see a change in the violence, a change in the reconciliation of Taliban, they will see a dramatic change in Afghanistan?

KARZAI: With the right combination of policies and commitments and a joint work with the United States and our other allies, yes. If we do what we promise, through the right decision-making mechanisms, backed by the proper resources and commitment and clarity, definitely. We did achieve that eight years ago, and we continue to have success until today on lots of fronts. The only area where we have not been able to show progress where things have gone somehow backwards is in terms of security and the war on terror.

On all other fronts, you have progress. You just had three women introduced to the Afghan parliament to become ministers of health and social affairs and women’s affairs.

SAWYER: What’s the…

KARZAI: That — yes, please.

SAWYER: Excuse me. On that point, what’s the most useful thing external countries could do to help the women of Afghanistan, to help change their lives, their mortality in childbirth, the abuse that they endure?

KARZAI: Education. Education. Education. Education. That’s the only and the best way and a long-term solution.

SAWYER: What do you think of General McChrystal?

KARZAI: Good man, has a — has a clear vision, has a clear plan, especially when it comes to concentrating on providing protection to the Afghan people. That’s why I have backed his plan clearly and openly, and I will continue to back him, to provide protection to the Afghan people.

SAWYER: You said once in an interview recently that the United States, you didn’t think, really was here for the Afghan nation, that they were — it was — there were — there were hellish problems in Afghanistan before 9/11…

KARZAI: Yes.

SAWYER: … and the United States was not here.

KARZAI: Yes.

SAWYER: Resent that?

KARZAI: The — the — I don’t resent that, just a fact of life for us. The United States came here after September 11th to fight terrorism, and legitimately to fight terrorism, because they suffered massively at the hands of terrorists at that cowardly attack on — on New York on civilians and people there.

And we saw a great opportunity for Afghanistan to have its own liberation from terrorism and to move forward. We work together. We have accomplished a lot. We have had setbacks. We’ve had misunderstandings and difficulties, in which civilian casualties was one major irritant in relations between — between the two of us.

The more we help on that account, the better will be this partnership between our two countries. So if I’m to advise the United States as an Afghan, I would tell America that Afghanistan will be a great ally of yours. It’s — it’s a good, great, friendly country. The only thing that we want from America in this war on terror is to avoid civilian casualties, to avoid nightly raids on our homes, and don’t take prisoners. Let Afghanistan have complete judicial independence to handle its own prisoners, its own — its own prisons, its own judicial decisions. The rest, everything will be good, and we can work together.

SAWYER: When you went to Helmand, there was yet another attempt. We were told it was rocket-fueled gunfire that was fired at you. How many assassination attempts against you?

KARZAI: I don’t think there was anything like that.

SAWYER: No?

KARZAI: I saw it in the press. I didn’t notice it. Nobody reported it to me. So I have — I heard one or two bangs. I thought that was, you know, a door shut or opened violently. I’m not aware of any such attacks there.

SAWYER: How many assassination attempts against you, against (inaudible)

KARZAI: I don’t know. Maybe three, four? That’s not much.

SAWYER: When the U.S. keeps pushing you to go out more in the country…

KARZAI: The Afghan people want to see more of their president. It’s a good thing. I should do and have more visits, have the means, as well, to do those visits.

SAWYER: It’s a dangerous thing, though.

KARZAI: It’s not dangerous. It’s part of life. It’s — you face danger all over the world when you travel. You can have accidents on highways. You can have accidents in sports. You can have accidents in all sorts of manners. So for me to be with the Afghan people is a great, great joy. And if that means taking risk, I must take it many times over.

SAWYER: As we know, in American lives alone, more than 950 coalition lives, 1,500, as we said, many more Afghan security forces, Afghan civilians. General McChrystal said at the end of every day the last thing he does is sit down and write hand-written letters to the families of the Americans.

KARZAI: He’s right about that.

SAWYER: What do you do at the very end of every day?

KARZAI: I call them. When there are casualties, especially with civilians, I call them. I speak to the community leaders. I speak to the — to the families of the victims. And I visit them. And I visit those in the hospital. I just was there a few weeks ago. There were some very tragic scenes there. Unfortunately, that’s how it is right now.

SAWYER: Is there something you say to yourself each night before you go to sleep?

KARZAI: Not really. I don’t say something to myself each night. I continue to work with the rest of the Afghan people for peace. And, indeed, something that’s on my mind all the time is how to avoid bloodshed, how to avoid more casualties, both for our international partners and for the Afghan people, and how to bring an end to a violent day for the Afghan civilians, for the Afghan people, for the international forces, and how eventually to end this extremism that’s affecting our lives, that’s hurting us, that’s hurting you, and how to have a peaceful society.

SAWYER: I know you’ve said that you do not feel the president’s announcement about 2011 is an exit date. But how would you feel if, in July of 2011, you see American troops as they’re exiting the country?

KARZAI: In a sense — in a sense, that — that — that exit date is good for us. It pushes us to harder work, to strengthen our forces, to train our forces, to be realistic about life in Afghanistan, and to think many times over of how better we can use our own resources and live with our own means and protect our own country, though I know that America will not be completely out in another 18 months or 15 months.

We know the U.S. and our other allies will be with us for many more years to come. But even then, Afghanistan needs to be a self-sustaining country in all aspects of the needs of — of this country.

SAWYER: When President Obama criticizes the government of Afghanistan, your reaction when you hear him?

KARZAI: Well, he hasn’t done that — he did that when he was in the — in the race for — for president in America.

SAWYER: He made the one statement where he said that there will be no more blank checks.

KARZAI: Blank checks we never had, actually. We really never had a blank check. We are only receiving 20 percent of the resources given to Afghanistan somehow through the Afghan government. The rest is spent by the donors themselves, of which even on a count (ph) is not given to us.

So we never had a blank check. But we’re grateful even for the little money that’s come to Afghanistan, even for the little help that’s come to Afghanistan. We have no right over the American people to — to pay for us or to — or to help us. This is our country. We must protect it ourselves and — and — and provide for it ourselves.

So help from America is welcome. And even a penny is worth billions for us. In terms of gratitude, we are grateful for the help that we have received.

But politically talking, in terms of two countries and two nations, and the needs of each, we have not been given a blank check. We have never been given one, and we don’t expect one, and that’s not right also to expect one. So we are grateful anyway.

SAWYER: When you look back over the eight years, what’s the one thing you most wish you had done differently?

KARZAI: A lot of things I wish I’d done differently, and a lot of things I wish us and America had done differently, a lot of things we — we requested, we informed the United States about to do differently, which it didn’t do. That was matters relating to the region and the neighbors and concentration on sanctuaries and issues like that.

Within Afghanistan, there’s — there’s a lot that we could have done differently, not one particular thing.

SAWYER: And, finally, sir, to the 30,000 American troops about to arrive now, the surge of troops just arriving, coming in, some of them coming for the first time, what is it you want to say to them?

KARZAI: Well, I would first wish them all the best, and I would wish them a lot of safety and security there, and I would wish that they all go back to their families in good health and — and — and in safety.

Next to that, I would wish them to care for the Afghan people and care for families and children. And when they’re in those villages in Afghanistan, they must recognize that every man with a turban and a beard and an Afghan dress is not a Taliban, that there are maybe in 1,000 men, one or two may be Taliban or — or violent people, that the rest of the people are just communities like you have in America, families like you have in America, who love their children, who love their homes, who work hard, who want to provide, and who are friends with America and who want to see America succeed.

So wish them all the best with their own safety and hope that they would treat those villagers and people as friends.

SAWYER: And a measure of gratitude?

KARZAI: Measure of gratitude to the American people, yes, definitely, for all that help given to us and for all the assistance provided and for the training of the Afghan army and the Afghan police and all that. But on the war on terror, it’s the United States that has to be grateful to Afghanistan. It’s our soil that’s — that’s being used. It’s our people that are put in danger every day for a purpose which is not only ours, which is also America’s, which is also European, which is also the rest of the world, in which Afghanistan is in the front line.

SAWYER: But Americans feel they’re also — it’s, in a sense — well, can I say this…

KARZAI: Sure, go ahead. Go ahead.

(CROSSTALK)

SAWYER: … think I can say a war on Taliban, but the American people also feel that lives are being sacrificed to keep the Taliban from returning.

KARZAI: We — we are not against the Taliban returning, if they return…

SAWYER: But to power?

KARZAI: … if they return peacefully to their own country, accepting the Afghan constitution, accepting Afghanistan’s way of life, and accepting to come back and live in their old country peacefully, within the laws of the country, and contest for — for government or power through the legitimate means. That’s all right. We are actually working very hard to make that happen.

But those who are with Al Qaida, those who are with terrorist networks, those who are the enemies of all of us, who are bound to kill our children here and in Washington and in Islamabad and in Jeddah or in — in Marrakech or in Egypt or in Germany, of course, they have to be dealt with accordingly and not allowed to return.

SAWYER: And it is a worthy sacrifice of lives for all?

KARZAI: For the safety and security of the rest of us in the world, it is a worthy sacrifice, yes. I hope it wouldn’t happen. I hope we wouldn’t need it. But it is, unfortunately, a reality, and we have to face it.

SAWYER: Mr. President, it is so good to see you again.

KARZAI: Very good to see you, ma’am. Most welcome.

SAWYER: Thank you.

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“The Power of Wisdom” – His Highness the Aga Khan’s Interview http://www.khaama.com/aga-khan-interview-the-power-of-wisdom-786 http://www.khaama.com/aga-khan-interview-the-power-of-wisdom-786#comments Sun, 09 Jan 2011 14:30:37 +0000 http://www.khaama.com/?p=1567 “The Power of Wisdom” – His Highness the Aga Khan’s Interview
“We are a long way from the democratization of nuclear energy. Maybe I’m naïve but I advocate another approach, which I call “positive proliferation.” The positive proliferation that I would dearly love to see happen is based on a simple principle: yes to energy, no to arms.” Editor’s Note: Politique Internationale is a French political Read the full article...]]>
“The Power of Wisdom” – His Highness the Aga Khan’s Interview

“We are a long way from the democratization of nuclear energy. Maybe I’m naïve but I advocate another approach, which I call “positive proliferation.” The positive proliferation that I would dearly love to see happen is based on a simple principle: yes to energy, no to arms.”

Editor’s Note: Politique Internationale is a French political affairs journal, dedicated in particular to international relations. Over the past 32 years, the journal has been recognized as a highly influential French-language publication addressing international issues. As a prominent French journal, it has published interviews with leaders from France and around the world, including His Highness the Aga Khan, whose interview with author and journalist Jean-Jaques Lafaye appeared in the spring 2010 issue.

“In 1957, His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan became the Imam of the Ismaili Muslims (a Shiite branch). In this position, he must take care of his flock’s spiritual life, as well as their economic health. This could be considered almost an impossible task, since there are Ismaili communities in many countries worldwide, from the Middle East and Africa, to Asia, Canada, the United States and Europe. But thanks to the immense fortune his family has built up over the centuries, the Aga Khan has been able to set up projects designed to enhance their lives wherever – or almost wherever – his fellow Ismailis live. For instance he was one of the pioneers in micro-credit operations, helping rural populations take advantage of the slim surplus from their farm production. In this historic document, the leader of the Ismaili Muslims reviews a half-century of philanthropy and shares his vision of Islam, and the relationship between religion and State.”

_________________________________

English Translation of Jean-Jacques Lafaye’s Interview in French
with His Highness the Aga Khan

“The Power of Wisdom”

“the Imamat is an institution whose two-fold mission is to guarantee quality of life and to interpret the faith. The religious leadership of the Ismaili Imam goes back to the origins of Shia Islam when the Prophet Muhammad appointed his son-in-law, Ali, to continue his teachings within the Muslim community”

Jean-Jacques Lafaye: Your Highness, as spiritual leader of Ismaili communities throughout the world, you exert unquestionable influence on the international scene. Nevertheless, you have no wish to be regarded as a political player…

Aga Khan: …or as a politician. From my point of view, even though religious groups and governments have to maintain relationships based on cooperation and mutual respect, religion and politics are two quite different things.

Lafaye: You are the embodiment of the Imamat. Your co-religionists see you as their “lord and master.” What form does your leadership take?

Aga Khan: In both Sunni and Shia Islam, the Imam is responsible for the quality of life of those who look to him for guidance and for overseeing the practice of the faith. There is no division as there is, for example, in the Christian interpretation, between the material and the spiritual. The Imam’s responsibility covers both domains. Hence, his first concern is for the security of his followers; his second is for their freedom to practice their religion; his third is for their quality of life, as I have just mentioned. I repeat, the Imamat is an institution whose two-fold mission is to guarantee quality of life and to interpret the faith.

The religious leadership of the Ismaili Imam goes back to the origins of Shia Islam when the Prophet Muhammad appointed his son-in-law, Ali, to continue his teachings within the Muslim community. The leadership is hereditary, handed down by Ali’s descendants, and the Ismailis are the only Shia Muslims to have a living Imam, namely myself. The other Shia – the Twelvers – revere a “hidden” Imam who will return on the Day of Judgment to take part in the final judgment. It is the presence of the living Imam that makes our Imamat unique. The Sunni are completely different in that they do not accept the idea of continuity of religious leadership by members of the Prophet’s family.

“I think that most conflicts arise out of essentially political problems. I emphasize, it is not about religious but political issues Religion is often no more than a pretext or, even more so, an instrument manipulated by political forces.”

Lafaye: So your community with its worldwide presence is unique within the context of Islam.

Aga Khan: It is indeed unique since it recognises only one Imam who exercises his authority over all Ismailis throughout the world. There are Ismaili communities in the Middle East, Africa, South-East Asia, Central Asia, Canada, the United States and Europe. This diversity is expressed through our cultural and linguistic traditions, and through the variations in the way we practice our religion, but all Ismailis are united by their recognition of a single Imam.

Lafaye: You advocate a humanistic Islam. How do you react to the violent outpourings of certain political and religious leaders in the Middle East and to acts of terror carried out in the name of your religion?

Aga Khan: I studied history – specifically at Harvard – and I feel very uneasy when I see religion being held responsible for all the human problems that no one knows how to solve. When people talk about a “clash of civilizations” my response is that what we are in fact dealing with is a “clash of ignorances.” I think that most conflicts arise out of essentially political problems. I emphasize, it is not about religious but political issues. Religion is often no more than a pretext or, even more so, an instrument manipulated by political forces. Thus, the problems in the Middle East or Kashmir are, in the strictest sense, political but with an added religious dimension. This tendency is not peculiar to the Muslim world. Christian countries have had the same experience. You only have to look at Northern Ireland.

Lafaye: In 2007, you celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of your accession as Imam of the Ismailis. Which have been your greatest successes during that period?

Aga Khan: The Cold War era presented me with my first major challenge. Part of the Ismaili community lived in the Soviet republics. As a result, its members had little or no contact with their Imam. At the time, as well as dealing with the burning international issues of the moment, we were considering what position we should adopt vis-à-vis Communist countries. It was an extremely complex situation. What was our organization’s role in a world where Communist dogma came face to face with capitalist dogma? Not to mention the internal tensions within each country. After ten or twenty years we managed to streamline all our activities and to make sure that the Imamat had at its disposal credible, specialized and competent international institutions capable of operating in many countries and providing effective help to Ismailis throughout the world.

“Microfinance relies on the honesty of the borrower because he or she is not asked for any guarantee…But as the accounts were checked and discussed in public each week, a kind of public morality came to light in a most remarkable way. Men repaid 98% of their debts, women 99%.”

Lafaye: You were among the first to introduce microfinance – a financial tool which has become the most effective solution in the development of poor regions. Where did that idea come from?

Aga Khan: In the early 1960s we became aware of a horrendous gulf – I use strong words because it was a particularly dramatic situation – separating rural and urban populations in the developing world. The rural populations were completely marginalized. Then we discovered that, in both the West and the developing world, all decisions regarding development support were taken by “urban” organizations. By that I mean that the decision-makers knew absolutely nothing about the reality of the lives of millions of men, women and children who were virtually invisible, lost in the midst of vast regions. National political systems took no interest in these populations, through lack of any effective census arrangements or electoral system. Before our very eyes, the vast majority of Ismailis living in Africa and Asia were being totally excluded from the development process. I have to say quite frankly that this was a terrible discovery. At the beginning of the 1960s, I completely overhauled our development support processes. I decided that our priority was to provide these rural populations in the developing world – isolated, ignored, with no local leadership or contact with the decision-makers in the big cities – with an effective form of aid.

Lafaye: What were your key initiatives?

Aga Khan: First of all, we needed to make improvements to agriculture itself, hence the Aga Khan Foundation’s Rural Support Programmes. Above all, the main thing was to guarantee access to food. It should be remembered that many of our communities were on the brink of famine, for example in the east of Tajikistan during the civil war in the early 1990s, but also in Syria and other countries. We helped consolidate agriculture in the affected areas. I won’t deny the fact that this was more easily done in the former colonies of western nations than in the Soviet Republics where our activities relating to the distribution or sale of the harvests were curbed by the state-sponsored collective farm system. And then we noticed an interesting phenomenon. In general, the farmers managed to produce a tiny surplus, be it daily, weekly or monthly. These surpluses were sold and the money made from their sale was spent in winter when there was no agricultural produce. What could be done to stabilize and multiply these minuscule savings?

In order to consolidate them, we came up with the idea of microfinance and set up village organizations whose accounts could be made public. Microfinance relies on the honesty of the borrower because he or she is not asked for any guarantee. But as the accounts were checked and discussed in public each week, a kind of public morality came to light in a most remarkable way. Men repaid 98% of their debts, women 99%. We established village associations and then created inter-village associations. These groups went to see the banks which in turn lent them money. This marked the beginning of a genuine financial support system, namely microfinance, which is now so well known. Since then, the program has continued to expand, so much so that we now have micro-insurance as a means of guaranteeing access to education and healthcare for members of large families. We have moved from the financial domain into that of social protection. We are developing the program in partnership with the Gates Foundation and are already trying it out in Tanzania and Pakistan.

“Before these two men [Presidents Obama and Sarkozy] came to power, it seemed to me that major international issues were suffering a kind of paralysis. Fortunately, things have changed. The two presidents belong to a younger generation. Both have shown great open-mindedness and I think they can be trusted.”

Lafaye: You have mentioned women are exemplary. And yet the position of women in Muslim countries is often cause for criticism in the West. What is your stance on this as Imam?

Aga Khan: We must briefly take a look back at history. In pre-Islamic Arabia, women were no more than chattels, sold at the market like cattle. When Islam was in its nascent stages, the followers of Islam decided that this situation was unjust. In Islam, men must respect women and women must respect men. Nevertheless, we are also concerned with avoiding any abuse of freedom that might cause women to be regarded as objects as they are perceived by certain schools of thought in the West. Islam firmly rejects the notion of woman as object. In future, even beyond the Muslim world, I believe it will be the abuse of freedom that fuels debate. Indeed, in many areas people defend the principle of freedom to a point where freedom tends to become depravity, permissiveness and disrespect. At that point, Islam says “no.” And that doesn’t only apply to the problem of the relationship between men and women. Take the economic crisis that is affecting us all. The root of the problem is that certain financial institutions have been allowed too much freedom, which they have abused in a way verging on the immoral.

Lafaye: Which personalities, past and present, do you see as providing moral benchmarks?

Aga Khan: I wouldn’t use the word “moral”, which is delicate. I would sooner say “humanistic.” Who are the men and women who have displayed admirable humanism? In the course of my life I have met all sorts of people. Political leaders, artists, philosophers. Among those who have made an impression on me I can happily include Pierre-Elliott Trudeau, Kofi Annan, Félix Houphouët-Boigny, Jomo Kenyatta, who was the first President of Kenya, Derek Bok, who was President of Harvard for a record 20 years, and the cellist Yo-Yo Ma, who was appointed a Messenger of Peace by the United Nations. All these men possessed or continue to possess one extraordinary quality – the ability to step away from their own value system and put themselves in the place of the people they are dealing with. They knew how to place themselves in another person’s shoes in order better to understand and help that person. It is an ability that I deeply admire, an irreplaceable talent that is unfortunately all too rare.

Lafaye: People like to compare and contrast Presidents Sarkozy and Obama. What do you think of them?

Aga Khan: Before these two men came to power, it seemed to me that major international issues were suffering a kind of paralysis. Fortunately, things have changed. The two presidents belong to a younger generation. Each certainly possesses a young man’s determination and sufficient confidence in his energy, education and intellectual capabilities to be able to say “I am going to take a fresh look at this issue.” Both have shown great open-mindedness and I think they can be trusted. It would be unrealistic to say that they are going to solve every problem. But in my view their rejection of taboos and all forms of inflexibility is very important. And in Russia, too, younger leaders are in charge. There exists throughout the world a desire for change after years that have seen a marked unwillingness to give ground, particularly over the disaster of the war in Iraq, which was horrendous. These young leaders have to begin by repairing the damage done before they take office.

“I had great respect for the man [President Zia]. He was deeply religious and honourable, but he was no theologian. By attempting to make Pakistan more Islamic than it was, he failed to answer a crucial question – what kind of Islam did he intend?”

Lafaye: Can independent financial players like Bill Gates or George Soros counterbalance the weight of international institutions?

Aga Khan: The involvement of these super-rich businessmen in development issues is a wonderful thing. Firstly, it brings a new economic dimension to development aid, based not only on donations but also, and most crucially, on the creation of wealth. It also contributes know-how from the private sector which governments would be unable to provide. In developing countries, there is a huge gap to be filled in this area. Whether in relation to education, healthcare or finance there is no private-public partnership. Not long ago, the financial institutions in many countries were all in the public sector. That is not to say that these institutions were inefficient, but they could be manipulated by successive governments. As regards education, for example, remember the 1970s. At that time, certain governments, in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, tried to create an artificial national unity by encouraging the teaching of languages that no one outside the country could speak. This linguistic nationalism had regrettable consequences at international level. For example, a degree in medicine from Pakistan in Urdu was worthless outside Pakistan, which was absurd.

Lafaye: So let us talk about Pakistan. How do you regard this country whose political life is characterized by the alternation between military régimes and periods of what might be termed democracy and which has now become the crucible for the most radical Islamism?

Aga Khan: It is a country whose huge difficulties date back to its creation in 1947. As you know Kashmir, a part of which is located in Pakistan, remains in dispute to this day. Furthermore, the government in Islamabad has not managed to exert its authority over the north and north-west of the country. In a situation like this instability could be seen as structural. Pakistan’s second great problem dates back to an independence movement which created a nation based on the fact that a particular section of the population were Muslims. But in these regions the religion was itself pluralistic, which meant that from the outset the very thing that bound the nation together also sowed the seeds of division.

Paradoxically, these divisions were reinforced by the Zia ul-Haq’s* policy of Islamisation. I had great respect for the man. He was deeply religious and honourable, but he was no theologian. By attempting to make Pakistan more Islamic than it was, he failed to answer a crucial question – what kind of Islam did he intend? No one ever asked that question. So the Sunni went one way and the Shia another, and then the problem of Afghanistan arose in 1979. I had what I would term a “special” relationship with Zia ul-Haq. I have not forgotten that he helped us to establish our university – the Aga Khan University in Karachi. At our last meeting before he died in 1988, he admitted he had been wrong. He told me, “I think I made a mistake in trying to turn Pakistan into a more Muslim country, because it caused many more internal divisions than we expected.” He was a very honest man.

“In my view, the chief cause of the revolution in Iran originated in the regrettable mismanagement of the economy under the Shah’s régime. I regret to say that, of all the heads of state I have known, he was probably the one with the worst understanding of economic issues – or he was poorly advised.”

Lafaye: You have just mentioned the problem of Afghanistan. What effect did developments there have on Pakistan?

Aga Khan: After the Soviet Union invaded the country in 1979, western leaders thought to themselves: “We won’t drive the Russians out through direct intervention, and it would be better to mobilise the Pakistanis.” In its turn, Pakistan called upon the most extremist elements. The result was that ultra-radical groups entered Afghanistan, which is not a nation state, but merely a place where different ethnic groups, tribes and religious ideas come together. These Islamists then swarmed across the entire region, including Pakistan. So Pakistan paid the price for having sided with the West in that endless war. In such a context the military rulers seemed to provide stability. But in Pakistan as in other countries of Asia and Africa, while having the army in power generally guaranteed independence and stability, considerable difficulties prevented the government to become a successful democracy.

Lafaye: While we are on the subject, what are your thoughts on the concept of “democracy for export” as proposed by former US President George W. Bush?

Aga Khan: I believe that George W. Bush’s stance on democracy was merely the result of his wish to justify the invasion of Iraq after the event. But moving beyond the case of Iraq, the important thing is to understand why, at this time and in so many countries, especially those in the developing world, democracy is so fragile. As I see it, one of the main explanations is that the situation arises out of the weakness of what I call “constitutionality.” Indeed, the vast majority of the countries that I know live with dysfunctional constitutions, drawn up at times of historical transition – following independence or regime overthrow – and based on injudicious compromises, frequently adopted to satisfy a tribe, a minority or a religious group. Nowadays, many governments are considering the possibility of redrafting their constitutions. Look at what is happening in the countries of the South and even in Eastern Europe. It’s remarkable.

Lafaye: Do you believe that, in Afghanistan, it will be possible to establish representative government and military institutions despite all the problems facing the country?

Aga Khan: In Afghanistan as in Iraq, despite years of trying it has not been possible to create a local army or police force effective enough to guarantee security. To achieve long-term stability in these countries, western forces would have to remain there for a very long time. Under current conditions, it is extremely difficult to create an effective Afghan national police force. Imagine I am a Shia Hazara and among the other recruits I come across a Pashtun whose father I know murdered my brother. The only solution is to let time do its work. That certainly does not mean that I am advocating a fatalistic view of the situation. I believe we have to pre-empt these political infernos and try to snuff them out them using political tools. The more results we achieve by purely political means, the more success we will have in separating purely apolitical, religious ideas from the politico-theological hotchpotch preached by extremist groups and movements. Today, the world is divided into theocracies and secular states. Sometimes people talk – quite rightly – about the three nations which are, each in its own way, theocratic, namely Iran, Israel and Saudi Arabia. If they were to change, you would have a different world. If I dare say it, politics should be left to politicians, and God to God.

“Iran could even contribute to the worldwide removal of nuclear energy for military use. That is what I told the Iranians several years ago: “Your history is that of an intellectual nation several thousand years old which has brought to Islam all the richness of its culture and its philosophical thought. Keep following the path that is truly your own and the world will thank you for it.”

Lafaye: Doesn’t the Israeli constitution, which does not allow the formation of clear, stable majorities, also impede the achievement of enduring peace between the Jewish state and its neighbours?

Aga Khan: I do not know the specifics of the Israeli constitution well enough. However, as I told you, it makes no doubt that the problem of dysfunctional constitutions is the most frequent source of political instability in a vast number of countries.

Lafaye: What should Israel do now to achieve lasting peace?

Aga Khan: I have never wanted to engage in this debate but I believe there is one fundamental requirement – a viable Palestinian state. Furthermore, I shall surprise you by saying that, as far as I am concerned, one of the conditions for peace is the acceptance of Israel by the Shia minority within the Muslim world. Iraq has a Shia majority, so does Bahrain, and there have always been large numbers of Shia in Lebanon. Let’s not forget that Bashar El-Assad is himself a Shia. This is an essential key, something that President Sarkozy understands very well. Agreement with Sunni countries** is fine, but it isn’t enough.

Lafaye: How do you analyse current developments in Iran?

Aga Khan: The direction in which Iran is moving is very worrying for the whole world, including other Shia nations. In my view, the chief cause of the revolution in Iran originated in the regrettable mismanagement of the economy under the Shah’s régime. I regret to say that, of all the heads of state I have known, he was probably the one with the worst understanding of economic issues – or he was poorly advised. This ineptitude led to growing numbers of pockets of resistance. Khomeini only had to arrive on the scene for the course of history to change radically. I am a Shia and when I heard his speeches I thought that no Shia on earth could remain unmoved by his preachings.

Lafaye: Which brings us to the nuclear issue, always so worrying. Should all nations be allowed access to nuclear power for civilian purposes?

Aga Khan: It seems to me that rules of non-proliferation are now applied to all nuclear technology for both civilian and military purposes. In fact, the conditions for the sale of civilian nuclear energy is like some kind of technological colonization, insofar that the most advanced nations make a point of holding on to all the “keys.”

From this point of view, we are a long way from the democratization of nuclear energy. Maybe I’m naïve but I advocate another approach, which I call “positive proliferation.” I am in favour of the widespread distribution of civilian nuclear power. Of course, careful thought must be given to the conditions under which positive proliferation would operate. How to avoid environmental problems. How to prevent the misappropriation of civilian nuclear power for military purposes. As you know, I have studied history and it has never been possible to halt any globally significant scientific advance. The positive proliferation that I would dearly love to see happen is based on a simple principle: yes to energy, no to arms.

Lafaye: How do you see Iran’s ambiguous attitude to this issue?

Aga Khan: Iran’s current policy in this respect is causing concern in the Sunni world. If Tehran managed to obtain nuclear weapons, certain states in the region could just as easily equip themselves with a bomb, probably with help from the West. The atmosphere is tense, even paranoid. Nevertheless, through the International Atomic Energy Agency, it is important to build up and maintain constructive collaboration with the Iranian authorities in dealing with this issue.

Iran could even contribute to the worldwide removal of nuclear energy for military use. That is what I told the Iranians several years ago: “Your history is that of an intellectual nation several thousand years old which has brought to Islam all the richness of its culture and its philosophical thought. Keep following the path that is truly your own and the world will thank you for it.”

© Copyright.

Publication date on Simerg: August 18, 2010 | www.simerge.com

For French Text please click LA FORCE DE LA SAGESSE

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About the Interviewer: Jean-Jacques Lafaye is an author and journalist and founder of the association « Éthique et politique » (1988). His publications include: Saint-Just, l’ombre des chimères, Rocher, 2007; David Shahar, le sacre de l’écriture, Michalon, 2007; Dialogue pour un monde meilleur, Alban, 2008.

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Interview with Ahmad Shah Massoud http://www.khaama.com/interview-with-ahmad-shah-massoud http://www.khaama.com/interview-with-ahmad-shah-massoud#comments Sat, 10 Jan 2009 05:00:43 +0000 http://www.khaama.com/?p=1577 Interview with Ahmad Shah Massoud
Date: 8/7/2000 Source: Azadi Afghan Radio Ahmad Shah Masoud, National Hero of Afghanistan A group of Afghan and foreign journalists accompanied by representatives of the “Women on the Road for Afghanistan” Conference (organized by Paris-based Negar and held in Dushanbe, Tajikistan between June 27-28) traveled to Afghanistan on June 29. The group visited internal refugee camps, Read the full article...]]>
Interview with Ahmad Shah Massoud

Date: 8/7/2000
Source: Azadi Afghan Radio

Ahmad Shah Masoud, National Hero of Afghanistan

A group of Afghan and foreign journalists accompanied by representatives of the “Women on the Road for Afghanistan” Conference (organized by Paris-based Negar and held in Dushanbe, Tajikistan between June 27-28) traveled to Afghanistan on June 29. The group visited internal refugee camps, educational and social institutions, POW camps and local people during their four-day stay in the Panjshir Valley. This trip coincided with the latest summer Taliban offensive North of Kabul, between June 30 and July 1. On its way to visit schools in UF/ISA territories in Kapisa province, the group encountered hundreds of newly displaced refugees from the Shamali plains fleeing the war zones and documented their stories. On the morning of July 2, the group met with Ahmad Shah Massoud, commander of the Mujahedeen resistance forces in Afghanistan. The following are excerpts of the discussions and question/answer session between the participants, Dr. Maliha Zulfocar, Hassina Sherjan-Samad, Chekeba Hashemi, Manila Khaled, Mary Quinn, Nadjia Bouzeghrane (El Watan daily), Gerard Cardonne, Francoise Causse, Sophie Marsaudon (Radio France International) and Massoud. Recorded by AAR correspondent and Dushanbe Conference delegate Sherjan-Samad.

Welcoming remarks:

Ahmad Shah Massoud: First of all, I would like to welcome our sisters to inside Afghanistan. I greatly value and appreciate your courage and dedication to come here and visit your people and your country close up, and to gain first-hand knowledge of issues under such chaotic and sensitive conditions. I hope this is a real beginning for the return of Afghan men and women to their country so that they could meet their compatriots and feel the pain and agony of their people. As far as the Afghan situation is concerned, I will repeat that contrary to what is being propagated and even claimed by some educated Afghans outside the country – that this is solely an internal affair, a struggle for power – the issue is much deeper than that. We have said that Pakistan, since the times of [former Pakistani military ruler] Zia ul-Haq and since the Soviet and communist aggression against the Afghans… has adopted a program and a strategy to enable it in the future to use Afghanistan as a springboard for its affairs in Central Asia… and also to become a regional axis and superpower. As a result of this long-standing Pakistani policy, even the first time around, Pakistan did not think that the fall of Kabul and the communists [in 1992] would take place from the North. Instead Pakistanis thought that it would happen at the hands of Pakistani officers and [Afghan] subordinate factions from the South [of Kabul]… Since Pakistan realized that it wasn’t able to reach those goals, and let me be frank here and say, was not able to install it’s favorite subordinate [Hezb-i Islami factional leader Gulbudin] Hekmatyar, Pakistan did not stop till this day stop to conspire, and every [Pakistani] regime since then has followed the Zia ul-Haq policy and strategy.

There is no doubt that we have also had our share of internal problems, and that part of this crisis stems from internal causes. But I see the main cause in Pakistan and in foreign aggression. I repeat that as long as the international community does not exert the necessary pressure on Pakistan, and as long as it does not stop the hand of Pakistani interference in Afghan affairs, it is certain that the flames of war in this country will never be extinguished. On the other hand, we have announced on numerous occasions that the only solution to the Afghan problem is through a peaceful settlement, through negotiations and talks… And in these talks, the best way is to go toward elections, to go toward a democracy and to allow the people to determine their destiny. We told Hekmatyar on several occasions that if he really thought that he had influence and was effective, then fine, let’s move toward elections and let the people legitimately, legally and formally elect you with their ballots.

Now, our proposal is the same for the Taliban. On several occasions, I told the Taliban delegations that came here for talks with us in the Panjsher, that you claim to represent the Pashtun tribes – fine, we agree. You say that the majority of Afghanistan is under our control – we agree. You say that the people accept us – we agree. Fine, if there is such level of confidence – then let’s go toward elections. You [the Taliban] claim to hold the majority backed by popular acceptance; then what are you worried about? In place of so much warfare and bloodshed, move toward elections and legitimately attain power. Our position is still the same. We did not and do not consider a military option as the solution, as exemplified by yesterday’s battles.

The Pakistanis made preparations for these offensives for more than a month now. Be sure that during the first rotation 1,600 Pakistani fighters, and the second time around, 1,000 fighters were sent to take part in yesterday’s battles. This is separate from the Pakistani madrassa (religious school) and Taliban recruits. We all saw the results that with God’s grace and the nation’s resolve, they faced defeat within a few hours and were forced to retreat. But we never consider war as a solution…

Returning to my initial thesis, it is unfortunate that as a result of misunderstandings, some of our writers and scholars, instead of realizing the depth of the issue of Pakistan’s interference, spend their time making accusations against this side or the other. The key to the Afghan solution lies with the international community and Afghans – wherever they reside – to unite and stand to denounce the Pakistani aggression as they did during the Soviet aggression… and eventually to pave the way for democracy and elections, so that every individual could attain his/her natural right.

Q & A Session: Aside from the AAR correspondent, other delegation members also asked some of the questions that follow:

Q: What role can Afghan women inside and outside the country play in bringing peace to the country?

A: As they did during the [anti-communist struggle] Jihad period, Afghan women today can once again play a very effective role inside and outside the country to defend against foreign aggression and help in the restoration of peace. Afghan women on the outside can establish links with their people, especially with women inside the country, in order to assist them financially and morally. There are no problems, you can visit these areas, open schools for girls, establish a college and in so many other ways establish your links and assist them.

Q: Reporter’s question about Massoud’s assessment of the latest offensives:

A: … As General [Pervez] Musharraf had stated, they intended to inflict the final blow… because he thinks that in order to further his illicit aims in Afghanistan, this resistance… is an obstacle to his goals… Despite United Nations and international warnings given to the Taliban not to engage in this offensive, as you all witnessed yesterday, they launched a major attack. At the start they had some gains in some locations, as our lines were pushed back 2 kilometers and 4 km respectively. But with God’s grace, as a result of popular resistance and the armed Mujahedeen (freedom fighters) in the area, their operation failed. According to my [initial] reports, their casualty count may be about 150 killed and more than 200 injured. Yesterday’s blow was heavy. They have also lost at least six tanks, 10 to 15 military vehicles of all types…. But this doesn’t mean that the Taliban and the Pakistanis have given up on the idea of waging war, and I am certain that they are making preparations for the next round of fighting.

Q: Question from American panelist on what specific actions does Massoud want to see the United States take against Pakistan, to open the way for a peaceful settlement of the crisis?

A: In this case, the U.S. can exert political as well as economic pressures on Pakistan. These pressures can very easily prevent Pakistan from continuing its interference. They include World Bank loans, other bilateral aid packages from the U.S… Most of Pakistan’s military equipment is made in the U.S. and putting a stop to the flow [of weapons and parts] is yet another pressure on Pakistan…

Q: Question from Afghan panelist concerning the needs of internally displaced people (IDP) and the amount and quality of aid provided by international NGOs?

A: The most acute problem with IDPs is with the provision of foodstuff. Contrary to what NGOs and even the UN claim, they have not even been able to adequately provide the minimum subsistence needs of the refugees. The people who enter the [Panjsher] Valley only carry with them food for a couple of days. If, God forbidden, the fighting escalates and prolongs, then we all face hardship. The most important aid item is foodstuff, followed by shelter and other necessities. The healthcare situation is better.

Q: Question by Afghan panelist: What do you think about the proposed Loya Jirga by [former King] Zahir Shah?

A: We are in agreement with any peaceful movement that wants to resolve the Afghan crisis. If [Zahir Shah could call a Loya Jirga and peace could be restored in that manner, not only do we have no objections to it, but we would cooperate and assist it.

Q: Question by other panelist: Do you prefer a situation that includes a role for the Taliban in government, or must fighting continue in your view until the Taliban and its influence is completely eliminated?

A: We are not in favor of the continuation of war in our country. We also know that we cannot build a durable coalition government with the Taliban. We prefer a common [coalition] interim [temporary] government with the Taliban for six months or a year to put an end to the war and the killing of Afghans by Afghans… and then move toward elections.

Q: Question by other panelist: What message can we take back with us to other Afghans and what can we do?

A: All Afghans, our brothers and sisters who live abroad, can be of great service to the people who are inside the country by establishing their links with them. For example in various sectors, healthcare, education, economic and even handicraft to support widows, you can form small circles in France or Germany or other places. By establishing direct contacts, including such trips that are unprecedented, you can be of great help. Not long ago, a few French women came and opened a hospital and are now of great service. Don’t we have two female doctors abroad? What is the obstacle? To the extent that we can, we are ready for any assistance… To defend human rights by words or by shouting slogans or writing it on paper is easy, but come and practically do something. What problem do you have to come here and open a girls’ school?… conditions are ready, but unfortunately we Afghans have one habit: we talk too much and practically do little.

Q: What would you consider as some errors, political or otherwise, that were made in the past?

A: There is no doubt that those who act also make mistakes. No human is void of errors. The most significant shortcoming in the past was the lack of unity among the factions [parties during the anti-Soviet resistance period]. The large number of factions and their dispersion caused many disasters in Afghanistan.

Q: What effect will the return of Ismael Khan (former Massoud ally who escaped from Taliban custody earlier this year) or the possible involvement of Generals [Abdul Rashid] Dostum and [Abdul] Malik have on the military and political equations inside the country?

A: For each individual, given the limits that they have, standing against foreign aggression is effective. I think that the freedom of Amir Ismael Khan will have great effects. His freedom will allow us to expand the resistance in the western and southwestern zones, thus diffuse and divide up the single-prong pressure that has so far been imposed on our forces.

Q: What is your view about the possibility of future cooperation between [factional leader Pir. S. Ahmad] Gilani and the Taliban?

A: Naturally, since Pir Saheb Gilani lives and Pakistan and he is under the Pakistani authorities’ and the ISI’s (Pakistani military’s Inter-Services Intelligence) pressure, I am sure… personally he is a good person and took part in the Jihad… but under the existing pressures that he finds himself in Pakistan, he is compelled to make accommodation.

Q: When the war is over, what role do you see for yourself in a future Afghanistan?

A: … The most significant role that I see for myself now is to resist foreign intervention and pave the way for every Afghan to be able to freely decide his/her own destiny. From there on, I do not have any wish for a particular governmental position. I think that to prevent foreign interventions, and to be able to bring about a Constitution under which the people can exercise [the right to] self-determination, are by themselves the most significant services one can render… The best regime in the future that can have the confidence of the people, where there would be no need for coup d’etats and armed conflicts, is one that comes about as a result of a democracy and elections… a necessity for Afghanistan. Each individual should have the right to cast a vote, and this right should belong to men and women. Both men and women would have the right to elect or be candidates for elections… It is in this regard that I think of a major role for myself… to pave the way for such a regime and such a democracy.

Q: Throughout the years you have faced and encountered many problems in the cause of freedom in Afghanistan, how do you want to be remembered in History?

A: A servant of the people and a servant of the country.

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