The Afghanistan Humanitarian Imbroglio: An Affirmative Nonkilling Perspective
TRANSCEND MEMBERS, 20 Sep 2021
30 Aug 2021 – Commemorating the 80th Birth Anniversary of Dr. Bill Bhaneja
Prof Anoop Swarup:
My profound welcome as also a sense of gratitude and dedication today, as I Chair the ‘’Dr Bill Bhaneja Oration’’. It is a small and modest token of our celebration, appreciation and affection for Bill, who as you all know is one of the legendary CGNK founders. Alongside Glenn Paige and shoulder to shoulder with him he laid the building blocks for the Nonkilling Movement across the globe. This August on the 5th he completed his 80th Birth Anniversary in his own modest and nondescript flair for life going as strong and as passionate for the nonkilling world view more than any youngster, both in terms of his wit and wisdom but more so in his boundless energy and drive.
He inspires and mentors all of us and as someone asserted, what you would aspire to be at 80, and prompt came the retort “like Bill”. I may reiterate that any introduction to him will not adequately suffice. Fortunately to me Katyayani has taken that responsibility, to be led by the Inaugural Address by our Sponsor and legendary Professor Dr N Radhakrishnan and to be followed by Thomas A Fee, who would be delivering his keynote and then over to other luminaries in the CGNK fraternity who take over the reins of the oration. Befittingly, today as we wish Shatayu (in Sanskrit implying, may you live a hundred years!) to a nonkilling legend, we take stock and celebrate Bill’s inspiring achievements in his milestone year with a complex, very contemporaneous and perhaps a sensitive topic The Afghanistan Humanitarian Imbroglio, An Affirmative Nonkilling Perspective.
Perhaps, you may find it difficult to believe and intriguing that Bill had written a book as early as 1973 on Afghanistan (Political Modernization of a Mountain Kingdom – Afghanistan) to follow up with several other amazing publications that I reread in last few days, such as Science and Government: Nehru Era and Quest for Gandhi: A Nonkilling Journey.
In the Afghanistan context, and in defense of the precious human lives fleeing the ensuing atrocities, massacre and the looming genocide, I call for an affirmative nonkilling global humanitarian intervention. I take recourse to the traditional Sanskrit shloka, Ahinsa Parmo Dharma: that has for centuries guided the human intellectual discourse on nonviolence and nonkilling but that also in in the same spirit, in its later part refers to, Dharma Hinsa Tatheva Cha, implying use of force for self-defense and for righteousness. Thus, Nonviolence be the righteous path, however, defend the righteous path if need be. An affirmative Nonkilling and nonviolent perspective is usually overlooked in most conventional, authoritarian military solutions to our present-day woes as was the case in the 20 years of the so-called Afghan solution.
Indeed, over the years, from a strategic point of view, the fact remains that the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) not trained for asymmetrical war fought the Taliban, suffering casualties. The American withdrawal has been a huge blow to its morale. The withdrawal of maintenance personnel crippled the Afghan air force. Divided by ethnicities, tribal and sub-tribal loyalties, under a governance system riddled with corruption, the ANDSF splintered and melted away. For centuries, the Afghans have fought on the basis of primary tribal loyalties and not for abstract values like national interest or democracy. The Taliban used all these factors to subvert it. The US calculation for an orderly withdrawal went awry as it was predicated upon the ANDSF holding up the Taliban for some months.
The Taliban does enjoy some popular support among the Afghans, who are fed up with the endemic corruption. In the last two decades little attention was paid to building the Afghan society based on ethics, values, and character where women were educated and respected from an affirmative nonkilling perspective. The building blocks of the Afghani nonkilling society went overlooked as no real institutions were formalized in the interest of the populace as such. Today we have a specter of bankruptcy as foreign aid, constituting around 60 per cent of the national annual budget, dries up causing immense shortages of food and life resources. Unfortunately, enough nations do not dole out money for nothing as the countries in alignment, past or future may seek a return. Will they provide financing in return for Afghanistan’s mineral riches? The EU as the rest of the western world has cut off all financial aid as they do not recognize the Taliban. The Organization of Islamic Cooperation, as the UN, has mouthed platitudes.
Also, the strategic impact of the events unfolding in Afghanistan may reverberate for years to come. The chaotic American withdrawal will no doubt strengthen international perception about the durability of international commitments. As China, Iran, Pakistan and Russia, wanted the US out of their backyard with Turkey joining the axis there is a fundamental shift in geopolitical alignments. Here is still a potential for the world to come together in international human rights interest for an affirmative nonkilling compromise with the Taliban. Surely this will be a great strategic approach that was overlooked in the past for the world particularly the west but also for a safe and nonkilling future for all humanity.
Dr. Bill Bhaneja:
Dear Brother Dr. Radhakrishnan, Esteemed Professor Anoop Swarup, and Distinguished speakers. My deep gratitude and sincere thanks to each one of you for your kind appreciation and memories of the time we have spent together as Peace People. I miss Prof. Glenn D. Paige our beloved founder and mentor on this occasion and am very pleased to see Sister Glenda Paige’s presence online. There has been much work done on Nonkilling over the past 4 years under Prof. Swarup’s positive leadership and guidance as CGNK Chair, and much more to be done walking the Nonkilling path towards the goal of zero-killing.
The title, ‘Afghanistan Humanitarian Imbroglio’ is an appropriate one for these times as the western forces are withdrawing from that land, ending two decades of fighting terrorism and attempted nation-building. Hundreds of thousand lives have been lost, most of them unprotected civilians on the ground, the so called co-lateral damage, who continued to bear the brunt of violence in this prolonged conflict.
Your presentations are timely and profoundly insightful. Now that foreign forces have left, the most immediate task is to find ways to bring stability to the region by union of different tribes across the adjunct borders of neighbouring countries and within Afghanistan. Finding ways to resume the 21st century nation-building work and to rehabilitate the victims of the withdrawal and ongoing terror, cooperation will be needed at the local, regional, national and global level to remedy the vicious cycle of violence to genuine peace building.
All great leaders from Asoka, Jesus, Gandhi to Martin Luther King Jr. have reminded us that Nonviolence is as old as hills. I became aware of it in my childhood in India, witnessing the selfless peace work of the apostle of Ahimsa, Mohandass Karamchand Gandhi. Unlike most so-called leaders, the beauty of this loin- clothed Mahatma was that he practiced what he preached. His path of Ahimsa, even when fighting the mighty British Empire was dedicated to finding ways to protect and uplift the poorest of the poor.
Explaining his doctrine of Ahimsa, he would say that he was not afraid of his life being taken, it was more important that he did not harm or kill anyone or be involved in an act that led to killing. Gandhiji believed in the Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of Man, irrespective of Gender, Race, Religion and Nationality. There was union of thoughts, word, and deed in his actions.
One of his important partners in India’s Independence struggle hailed from the region known as the North West Frontier on the border of present day Pakistan and Afghanistan. Dr. Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan aka Badshah Khan who for his practice of Ahimsa and nonviolence was known throughout his life as “Frontier Gandhi”. Gaffar Khan Sahib single-handedly mobilised the support of the Pushtoon populace known for ‘their eye for eye’ revengeful mindset into becoming part of Gandhi’s unarmed Satyagraha movement. At his death, even though Khan Sahib lived in Peshawar, he insisted his body be returned to the family plot in adjunct Afghanistan. Afghanistan needs today such selfless leaders rooted in the soil who are admired for their integrity, service, and nonviolent commitment.
Brother Dr. Radhakrishnan had the opportunity to be in the presence of Khan Sahib when he visited Gandhigram Rural Development University near Madurai, South India in 1985. Badshah Khan was invited there to salute the parade of young unarmed Shanti Sena Peace Brigade sainiks.
There are nonkilling alternatives available from local, regional, and UN sources for peaceful nation-building whether it is war, pandemic or climate crisis. Many efforts at conflict transformation have been tried and failed. They have to be tried again, brick by brick. The challenge is first to understand the root causes of lethality and how to stop it – through building three key components of peace: VIOLENCE PREVENTION , CONFLICT MEDIATION, AND TRANSFORMATIVE RECONCILIATION.
Even most western countries lack such key structures in their governance machinery resulting in continued violence in their cultures. Spending money on weapons and armaments is much easier than developing and pursuing these three crucial components of peace building. The maturity as other neighbouring landlocked states such as Nepal and Bhutan have shown, takes time and skills for these peace building structures to evolve. These must preserve and grow locally, they cannot be imported or imposed. Nevertheless these states mostly on their own despite pressures of internal and external forces have managed to find their own unique political modernization as sovereign member states of the United Nations.
Our primary concern in the present situation as civil society must be to find ways of providing humanitarian assistance to the needy, those wanting to leave and those wanting to stay in their homeland. No More Killing. It is only when killing stops, progress towards genuine human security can resume.
My deep gratitude to all — friends, brothers and sisters for this superb Oration event on my 80th birthday.
With your blessings.
Dr. Bill (Balwant) Bhaneja is a former Canadian science diplomat, a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment, and author of six books and scholarly papers on politics and science. He holds a PhD in science policy from UK’s Victoria University of Manchester, currently serves as Senior Advisor to the Center for Global Nonkilling in Honolulu-Hawai’i of which he is a founding member, and produces the Nonkilling Arts Research Committee (NKARC) Newsletter. A peace activist, his recent books include: Quest for Gandhi: A Nonkilling Journey (2010) and Troubled Pilgrimage: Passage to Pakistan (2013). He lives in Ottawa, Canada. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Tags: Afghanistan, Glenn D. Paige, Nonkilling, USA
This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 20 Sep 2021.
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