The USG Open Source Center translates an interview with a female member of parliament for Afghanistan's troubled Helmand Province, Nasima Niazi in which she explains the security problems there from a local point of view. Helmand is a major center of the Taliban resurgence and produces much of Afghanistan's poppy crop, which is turned by dealers into heroin.
"Afghan MP highlights causes of Helmand insecurity
Monday, August 6, 2007
Document Type: OSC Translated Text
Afghan MP highlights causes of Helmand insecurity
Text of interview by Shirin Aqa Jalali with Nasima Niazi, MP from Helmand Province, entitled "Security can be ensured in Helmand when attention is paid to people's voice" published by independent Afghan newspaper Cheragh on 5 August.
Helmand is one of Afghanistan's restive provinces with the highest level of Taleban influence. The insecurity in Helmand has different factors. The fact that Helmand borders Pakistan, the high level of poppy cultivation, the lack of attention to people's demands, and the air raids on civilians are all factors that have changed the normal situation to an emergency one in that province.
To further discuss the causes of insecurity in Helmand, we have an interview with Nasima Niazi, MP from Helmand.
(Cheragh) Please tell us about the security situation in Helmand Province.
(Nasima Niazi) Helmand is one of the restive provinces of Afghanistan. People live in fear of terror and abduction in the capital of that province. The majority of districts are in the hands of the insurgents. There is not 100 per cent rule of law in the four districts under government control. An emergency situation rules over the districts.
(Cheragh) How effective are the activities of the Afghan and foreign security forces against the Taleban?
(Nasima Niazi) Unfortunately the Afghan and foreign troops have so far had no coordination in their activities. The lack of coordination and accurate intelligence has caused civilian casualties in air raids in that province. This has created a gap between the people and the government. The lack of attention to people's demands, branding the people as Al-Qa'idah and Taleban members, and the unjust detention of innocent people are other factors behind the gap between the people and the government.
(Cheragh) Why have the Taleban chosen Helmand as the centre of their operations? Do they enjoy a high level of influence in Helmand and why? There are other provinces bordering Pakistan, but there is less Taleban influence in those provinces.
(Nasima Niazi) Helmand has a strategic location from the geographical point of view. It borders Pakistan. On the other hand, Helmand is one of the biggest provinces of Afghanistan with vast plains and highland areas. The Taleban have chosen this area as their best haven. The Taleban presence in the province is not because of a lack of government attention or lack of military operations, but the public dissatisfaction has caused the Taleban presence in the province.
(Cheragh) Why do the Taleban use the people of Helmand as human shields? Can the people not prevent this, and leave the area if their life is in danger?
(Nasima Niazi) The people cannot stop the Taleban in their areas. Secondly, Helmand is a province with a high population. A number of residents of the province earlier migrated to Lashkargah City due to air raids, but the government paid no attention to them. The other big problem is that Iran and Pakistan are also expelling Afghan refugees. The people have also invested their lives in these districts to a great extent. They therefore have to stay in the province.
(Cheragh) Do the people of Helmand not have any problems with the presence of the Taleban in their province?
(Nasima Niazi) The people have problems with the Taleban presence, and that is why they have stood against the Taleban. The government never supported them. Hundreds of the people were killed. All media sources might know about this.
(Cheragh) UN reports say Helmand produces 50 per cent of the world's opium. What measures has the government taken so far to eradicate poppy fields?
(Nasima Niazi) The lack of government rule in Helmand and the untimely counter-narcotics efforts have increased poppy cultivation instead of preventing it. The Taleban tell the people to cultivate poppy, and that they will protect their fields. Because the people have no other employment opportunities in factories, and no other sources of income, they have no other option but to cultivate poppy. Eradication campaigns usually occur when it is the harvest time.
(Cheragh) In spite of the fact that there is no security in Helmand Province, more than 200m dollars have been allocated for reconstruction and development projects in that province. How would it be possible to implement development projects when there is no security?
(Nasima Niazi) Yes, in addition to other projects, there is the Kajaki project. We still do not have the right situation for that project, but a big amount of money has been allocated for that.
We had good opportunities to work on the project in the past years, but they spent the money on other projects. Reconstruction projects would not be useful unless there is security in the province.
(Cheragh) As a public representative, what suggestions and plans have you given to the government to help improve the situation in Helmand? If you have given your plans and suggestions to the government, how far do you think the government has put the plans into practice?
(Nasima Niazi) We, all the MPs of Helmand Province have had separate meetings with the president, the ministers of defence and interior, and head of the National Security Department, to discuss the security situation in Helmand. We shared our thoughts and plans with the officials. Helmand Province would undoubtedly be in a better situation had they implemented those plans.
We suggested that the local residents of Helmand should be appointed to local government posts because they were all aware of the situation in that province and are familiar with the area. Unfortunately, this did not happen. There are circles that do not want Helmand to become secure. Paying attention to people's suggestions is the only way of improving security in Helmand. Attention should be paid to those in favour of peace in Helmand.
In addition, strengthening of the national army and police, coordination between (Afghan and foreign) forces, and finally using the experience of the people of Helmand can ensure peace in that province. Only 30 policemen could ensure security in Helmand today if they were from that province. We should not label the people with incorrect names. (Local) personalities should be respected. All these points can, in general, be helpful in addressing the problem.
(Description of Source: Kabul Cheragh (Light) in Dari -- Eight-page independent daily, publishes political, social and cultural articles; critical of the transitional government)"