Why did you leave your education in India and go back to Afghanistan?
I was set to join Delhi University for my doctoral work, but my country was struggling with an existential crisis that engulfed all of us. The year was 1980, and all that I could think of was ways to giving a ray of hope to my people so I left everything and joined the struggle in Afghanistan. I decided to walk the length and breadth of the country. As a mujahideen (freedom fighter), I continued my travel for nine months, mobilising people to rise for freedom.
You have often referred to Gandhi being a source of inspiration when you were fighting the Soviets. Please elaborate.
The challenge was to mobilize the people against the Soviets, and to win back the freedom of Afghanistan. The task was indeed difficult: how to spread hope in a society mired in poverty … some people have done it in Latin America. In India, Gandhi did it. He walked among and with the people, mobilizing them against the British rule. He had no earthly possessions, but he had a dream, he had vision, he had conviction
Unfortunately for us, there was no Gandhi who could raise the moral consciousness, and lead by example. Gandhi had been able to mobilize Indians across caste, class and religion. Gandhi ousted the British with moral force, by Satyagrah, rather than with bullets.
Please take us through the inception of the book.
My father, iconic Afghan poet and academic Khalilullahs fears came true when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan in December 1979. I responded by traversing the country, mostly on his donkey, for the next nine years to mobilise Afghans against the occupiers. In between dodging bullets, the Red army and KGB, I made it a point to maintain diaries addressed to my wife, Sohaillah, who lived in a refugee camp in Pakistan with my son, Mahmood. By the end of the war, I had written 42 such diaries, which are now published in the form of a book, ‘Whispers of War’. I was writing something every hour (about) the plight, suffering, fears, faith, lament, laughter and above all the hopes of the people.
It is a great underdog story! A Super power was defeated by sheer grit and determination. How did
Afghanistan pull it off? And what were the consequences?
Can you believe it? We won that particular war, but we lost peace forever It has been very tough.
During the time of the war against the Soviets, the whole country was united in its purpose: but now not everyone is involved in the war against the Taliban. Our immediate neighbors have an ambivalent take on Taliban.
What motives does Pakistan have in pursuing this meddling?
Afghanistan is seen by Pakistan as the means to get to Kashmir because, for Pakistan, all roads always lead in that direction. The ISI believes in a policy of strategic depth. They like to believe that if they have influence on the politics of Afghanistan, they will be in a better position to win back Kashmir.
I, however, hope that when Afghanistan has internal peace and accord, we could think about economic cooperation between the three countries (India, Pakistan and Afghanistan) and restore the traditional commercial, cultural and social ties
Please tell us about what steps are being taken by Afghanistan today?
We are a nation in the making. We are trying to rebuild our nation we have opened up education, intervened in health, and started road construction… we are also trying to change the perceptions of the world about us… our professional army , police, engineers, development managers are receiving training from friends like India, and we are trying to rebuild our institutions . Every now and then, there are setbacks…but we are determined to succeed, and we will.
About the Author
The son of a renowned Afghan poet, Khalilullah Khalili, Masood Khalili is the currently posted as the Ambassador of Afghanistan to Spain. He is respected both in his country and abroad as an honest, patriotic elder statesman, as well as a political leader.