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MGG: Malaysia, KMM And The Mujahideens of Afghanistans
By M.G.G. Pillai

6/9/2001 8:15 pm Thu

Malaysia, KMM And The Mujahideens of Afghanistans

KMM -- once officially known as Kesatuan Mujahideen Malaysia but later Kesatuan Militant Malaysia but commonly and irreverently as Kesatuan Mamak Malaysia -- is, if what we are told is true, is dedicated to a Taliban-style government to Malaysia. Its leaders, would you know, visited Afghanistan from their place of study in Pakistan ten or fifteen years earlier, and got imbued with revoluntary zeal from what they saw. It is bad, says the Prime Minister, that it must be rooted out. That they surfaced conveniently and in the nick of time to give the Prime Minister, Dato' Seri Mahathir Mohamed, a much-needed breather from his horrendous problems is of course beside the point.

Taliban holds Kabul and is the legal government of Afghanistan. But Malaysia does not recognise it; instead it recognises one of the Mujahideen groups active in topping the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. The Afghan embassy in Kuala Lumpur represents the Ahmad Shah Masood faction with its stronghold in the Pansheer Valley. His foreign minister, Abdullah, was here recently, and in the red carpet welcome he received, no mention was made that he represents a mujahideen group fighting to unseat the Taliban.

So, is the Malaysian government targetting those who favour the Taliban in Malaysia, but would not mind those who support the Masood faction? Could there be some truth to the Australian government's charge that Malaysia provides a safe haven for those fleeing the Talibans on condition they leave as expeditiously as possible to third countries? Our Yemeni foreign minister, Dato' Syed Hamid Albar, denies it. But there has been an unsual arrival of Afghans flying first class and staying in five-star hotels. If Malaysia is frightened of Afghans fomenting rebellion in Malaysia, why are they allowed here? Or is she saying that only Talibans export revolution and others do not?

In any case, Malaysia is disbelieved. Malaysia is caught in its Afghan policy. The then education minister, Dato' Seri Anwar Ibrahim, hijacked the official Malaysian policy of neutrality in the Afghan war, by persuading the Cabinet to ignore the official stance of Wisma Putra and forcing the recognition of one faction, that of Gulbudeen Hikmateyar. He came here on an official visit a few years before the Taleban routed his forces from Kabul. He was so well guarded by the then education minister and the Saudi Arabian ambassador that one Middle-Eastern ambassador refused to meet him in their presence, and had to ask his colleague in Jakarta to obtain the information from Gulbudeen his government wanted. Malaysia then switched loyalties to the Masood faction shortly after, with the Gulbudeen ambassador replaced by the Masood envoy. But we still do not have an Afghan policy.

When Gulbudeen and his Pathan army joined hands with the other factions to rout the Soviet Union out of Afghanistan, Malaysia sent mujahideen to fight there. Both UMNO and PAS openly claimed credit for it, and they returned to official welcome. So, this sudden fear of KMM is curious. The KMM activists arrested all studied in Pakistan, and went to Kabul, indeed were trained to fight, because they were allowed, indeed, encouraged to. When the Pathan Taliban routed the Pathan Gulbudeen in the fight for Pathan supremacy, Malaysia decided to back the non-Pathan anti-Taleban faction of Ahmad Shah Masood.

The strongest element in Afghanistan are the Pathans, who look down upon the other tribes. The monarchy was Pathan, and the succession of leaders who followed were Pathan, until Burhanuddin Rabbani came to power. His prime minister was Gulbudeen Hikmatiyar but he never left his Pathan stronghold during his term in office. Whoever captures power in Afghanistan in the present circumstances must sweep the Talebans out of power, for that only another strong and committed Pathan group could. There is no sign of that yet. Pakistan would rather deal with the Pathan Taleban.

The Durand Line which marks the border between the two countries does not take into account ground realities. Houses straddle the theoretical line that the front of the house is in Afghanistan and the bedroom in the Northwest Frontier in Pakistan. Besides civil law does not extend to the area, where Pathan tribal law holds sway. The Kyber Pass is not the only way to slip into Afghanistan from Pakistan, just as the officially designated border posts along the Thai-Malaysian border the only way to cross on to the other side. Tribal law and convention rules, but all this is misunderstood in Kuala Lumpur. The Pathans straddle the border. When Khan Abdul Gaffoor Khan, the Frontier Gandhi of Pakistan, he was buried in his village in Afghanitan. A Pakistani diplomat, a Pathan, was assigned to Kabul, a decade ago because he and his wife were related to the Afghan monarchy.

So, when Kuala Lumpur pushes a line in Afghanistan that no Malaysian student in Pakistan can accept, except at the cost of his life or worse, it loses the battle. To blame Islamic fundamentalist activity amongst students who once studied or visited Pakistan is like saying that anyone who studies at the Universiti Malaya is suspect because Dato' Seri Anwar Ibrahim was once a student there. The government would have stood on firmer ground had it not been involved, however peripherally, in the Afghan imbroglio.

But it is. And insists that only those who support its view of the Afghan condition is right, all others are Islamic fundamentalists who ought to be rooted out. That this is also a convenient way to destroy PAS for its allegedly fundamentalist leanings is not lost on many. One curiosity is the alacrity with those allegedly from KMM willing to talk on camera to visiting television cameramen and journalists; indeed, in Kuala Trengganu, alleged KMM activists demands to allowed to say their piece. That is a strange way for an organisation accused of everything from Islamic fundamentalist activity to robbery and murder to behave. To then use KMM and Islamic fundamentalist behaviour amongst undergraduates to justify curtailing student activity in Malaysian university is a dangerous way to contain anti-government behaviour. There is truth in the PAS leader, Dato' Fadzil Noor's claim that the KMM affair is a "sandiwara". a make-belief.

M.G.G. Pillai

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