Zaman claims his Northern Alliance rival knows Osama’s whereabouts
By Ghafar Ali
PESHAWAR: Former Pukhtoon commander Haji Muhammad Zaman said here on Monday that his rival from the Northern Alliance, Hazrat Ali, now fighting for control of Nangarhar, helped Osama Bin Laden escape and knew where he presently was.
Mr Zaman, who took part in the October 15 Tora Bora operation, believes Mr Laden to be alive. “There was no dead body there that resembled the Arab fugitive,” he said at a press conference. He accused Mr Ali, the then police chief of the province, of helping Mr Laden escape.
“(Hazrat Ali’s) commander Ilyas Khel paved the way for the safe passage of Osama and his companions from Tora Bora during the operation,” Mr Zaman said, adding that Mr Khel was still missing and was carrying a satellite phone given to him by Mr Ali. “If anyone recovers Ilyas Khel they will find out just where Osama is.”
Mr Zaman took a shot at the Karzai government refusing to characterise it as a “national government” and said warlords had established their fiefdoms across Afghanistan and were the single greatest threat to peace in the war-rent country.
He said one sign of this threat to peace was that every commander, in any official position in the Afghan government, had established an arms depot in his domain. “Restoration of the rule of law is a must for the establishment of peace in Afghanistan. Otherwise, a few warlords will continue destabilising the country for the sake of their own vested interests,” said Mr Zaman.
Those controlling the affairs of various departments in Afghanistan and its provinces, he said, had made them business centres. He said deforestation in Afghanistan during the last 23 years of turmoil and civil war had badly affected the forests. He said the Karzai government had banned this, but that commanders still allowed the cutting and smuggling of timber after getting gratification from carriers. “Even opium and heroin are being smuggled in collusion with the local commanders,” he said. Mr Zaman said ‘illiterates’ were commanding the army and police in Nangarhar, while educated people like doctors and engineers were doing manual labour in the province. He said that in such a situation, he could not return to Nangarhar.
However, he praised Hamid Karzai for putting the country on the path to progress and development in unfavourable circumstances. “I fully support Mr Karzai, who will prove to be helpful in bringing gradual positive changes in the country,” he said.
The Afghan leader also requested the US and Mr Karzai to immediately release Haji Roohullah, who he said was “innocent” and had no connection with terrorist elements.