Afghan Prince Comments On Weekend Shootings

Mar 12, 2012
Originally published on March 12, 2012 9:56 pm
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We're joined now from Kabul by Prince Ali Seraj. He's a descendent of the royal family that once ruled Afghanistan, and after the U.S. invasion, he returned from exile. He now runs a group called the National Coalition for Dialogue with the Tribes of Afghanistan. It aims to unify the country's many tribes. Prince Ali Seraj, welcome to the program.

PRINCE ALI SERAJ: Thank you for inviting me.

CORNISH: To begin, after the burnings of the Koran, there were days of violent protest. And yet after these killings, while there's anger, so far there doesn't seem to be the same kind of violent reaction. And can you talk about why you think that is?

SERAJ: Well, they are two distinct situations, in the prescient sense of burning of the Koran, because Afghans are Muslims and their holy book, the Koran, is our - is very important to us. We all live by it and we die by it. It covers the country across the board, you know, across all ethnic groups and across all provinces. So when the Korans were burned, this affected every single Afghan living in every province in Afghanistan.

But as far as the situation in Kandahar is concerned, Kandahar is a major province in Afghanistan, but it is one of 34 provinces. So the people in the rest of the country is waiting to see what kind of reaction we're going to have in Kandahar. I had a conversation with some prominent elders today in Kandahar. So far, they're looking upon this as an incident which was done by a man who was insane.

And in our culture, an insane man, for all intents and purposes, is not held responsible for his actions. But that's just what it is today. Now, tomorrow, it may change if tomorrow, as far as I know and I've heard, that forces from beyond Afghanistan's borders are making a big thing out of this. They're using this as a big push for their movement. And I'm talking about the Taliban.

CORNISH: Since the shooting spree over the weekend, you've been talking about how the U.S. and Afghanistan should deal with this. But what is your point of view on what should be done at this point?

SERAJ: I think in this case, you know, there's a partnership between Afghanistan and the United States. If an Afghan commits such a heinous crime in the United States, whether he's military or civilian, we will expect the U.S. government to try him for his crime and punish him accordingly.

One possible solution, I know that it goes against the U.S. military rule, that if we could have a military tribunal set up inside the American camp, where, of course, it would still be a U.S. operation, where Afghan judges will be invited to look. Because once this case goes to the United States, they will not have any close contact with the proceedings, and how much of a negative effect that's going to have. That is something that we have to wait and see in the future.

CORNISH: Prince Seraj, in light of the shooting, we've heard the Taliban calling for retaliation. But we've also heard some other Afghan lawmakers calling for some kind of justice. And I wanted to get your sense of how this complicates things for them, those lawmakers who are not maybe necessarily sympathetic to the Taliban, but are very, very disturbed by this incident.

SERAJ: The lawmakers of the president of Afghanistan are the servants of the people of Afghanistan. They have to speak on behalf of those that they represent. Right now, they're making statements which serves the best interests of their people. And it's a very delicate situation - very, very delicate.

And this, I think, if we all stopped and put on our thinking caps, one of the other recommendations would be that for the U.S. government to immediately send a delegation or a representative to the Panjwai village to sit down and meet with the people, send Islamic members of the United States to sit down with these people, to attend their funeral, to say their prayers with them, and then to offer a compensation for the individuals that have been murdered in this instance. I think that would go a long way in keeping things under control.

CORNISH: That's Prince Ali Seraj. He runs a group called the National Coalition for Dialogue with the Tribes of Afghanistan. He joined us from Kabul. Thank you so much for speaking with us.

SERAJ: Thank you very much, ma'am. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.