Adieu, Swank Filer!
I have just entered my last letter into an original Frank W. Lewis crossword puzzle. I wanted him to know how much I, and obviously many others, have enjoyed his challenges over the years. The Nation will be hard-pressed to find someone with his ingenuity and wit to fill the slot. Mr. Lewis, you will be missed [“Noted,” Dec. 14].
Insinuations, Misconceptions Challenged
“How the US Funds the Taliban,” by Aram Roston [Nov. 30], puts forward unrelated insinuation instead of journalistic integrity in order to bring disrepute to legitimate and successful Afghan-owned companies. Watan Group is proud of its accomplishments, its record and its code of conduct. We categorically challenge this article–its accuracy, integrity and the depth of Roston’s knowledge of Afghan culture, political reality and security threats. We believe he is blindly misguided by local business rivalries or disgruntled Watan ex-employees. Below is our counter to the author’s allegations:
§ The owners of Watan Group, Ahmad Rateb Popal and Rashid Popal, belong to one of the proud Mujahid families that courageously fought against the threat of communism and the Soviet invasion. The price the family paid for their outstanding bravery was the most devastating blow to their lives and fortunes. All their property and businesses were confiscated by the communist government in early 1979.
After the tragic loss of my father, I joined the mujahedeen at the age of 16. As a result, in a bomb blast during the first armed uprising in Kabul I lost my left hand, an eye and three fingers of my right hand and sustained numerous bodily injuries.
In July 1988 by ignorance of consequences and cultural unawareness, I made a horrendous lapse in judgment and was found guilty of conspiracy to import a controlled substance into the United States. I spent nine years behind bars and paid my dues to the US government and people. Neither I nor my family ever concealed this dark fact. Since my release I have never conducted or conspired to enter into any illegitimate business activities.
§ When I returned to Afghanistan in 1998, the Taliban ruled and the country was in its darkest economic era. I managed to establish a legitimate business enterprise with a number of successful and well-reputed businessmen there. Since business and politics go hand in hand in all countries in the world, I befriended Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, who was deputy minister of mines and industries until 2001, when he became the Taliban ambassador to Pakistan. This relationship never went beyond personal friendship. During one of his post-9/11 press conferences, the ambassador’s translator was absent. He requested that I translate at his conference. Since the reporters did not recognize me, misconceptions about who I am were created. I never joined the Taliban movement, never worked for their government and never represented them in any official capacity.