Here are the questions I sent to BBC WHYS, of which he answered the first about drugs:
1) Drugs are one of the sources of income in Taliban controlled areas in Afghanistan. Why do the Taliban turn a blind eye to its cultivation although Islam prohibits its production and trade?
Is drug also used as a weapon to fight the West as its use is aimed to weaken its population?
2) How strong are the links between Taliban and Iran? How influential is the Taliban in Pakistan politics?
3) Are you ready for a compromise with the West and the Afghan government for a durable peace in Afghanistan and the whole region from Iran to Pakistan?
4) What assurances can the Taliban give the West that they won’t support terrorism and surrender internationally wanted Al Qaeda terrorists who are enjoying its protection?
5) Can you guarantee the safety of all Afghans in case international troops leave Afghanistan?
7) The US forces have so far failed to put an end to your movement. What do you attribute this to? Is it
a) your fighting skills,
b) the geography of the region where you operate,
c) the number and quality of your followers,
d) your faith which gives you more determination to fight,
8) Iran envoy was abducted in Pakistan. Areas close to Peshawar - the biggest city in north-west Pakistan - are known to be Taliban and al-Qaeda strongholds. How much is the Taliban involved in the killing and kidnapping of foreigners, especially diplomats and aid workers in Pakistan and Afghanistan?
He answered my question about drugs, denying the Taliban had anything to do with it. This what he had to say:
I don’t think that the Taliban have no responsibility over he cultivation of drugs. During their rule, Afghanistan was he greatest exporter of drugs. Currently they have little financial sources other than trading in drugs. They can prohibit people in the areas they control from its consumption. But they allow its trade to foreign countries via Pakistan and Iran.
Their only argument can be that drug is cultivated even in government controlled areas, as the reports have shown its cultivation has increased even with the presence of international forces. But this doesn’t absolve them of having a big role in its cultivation. They have their own responsibility. In their war against foreign presence, they can legitimize anything that can be a source of money to get weapons across the borders with Pakistan and Iran.
Should the BBC have invited him?
Inviting a Taliban onto WHYS isn’t a propaganda for this movement. It’s better to give them time on air and to ask them challenging questions rather than keep the audience in the dark about what they stand for.
Refusing to have them on air can be viewed as an anti-Taliban position by the BBC. The BBC had many interviews with the IRA. That didn’t sway public opinion in its favour despite its high rhetoric. What put an end to its armed conflict was the political settlement it had with the British government through international mediation, especially from former US president Bill Clinton.
What matters in inviting any spokesperson for any group, criminal, political or terrorist, is to maintain a balance and to expose different views, leaving the audience take their decisions.
After all, the Taliban have their means to speak loud an clear through websites, followers and “spectacular” operations. Banning them from the BBC altogether will reinforce their view that the West is altogether against them and it is a reason for them to continue fighting through arms and propaganda.
Many thanks to Mr Frank Gardner for his interesting and invaluable contribution to the show. He has been more placed to speak to and about the Taliban since he himself was the victim of Al Qaeda barbaric attack.
I salute him for his courage to continue his coverage of Al Qaeda although he himself was its victim in Saudi Arabia. The fact that he continues his work as a journalist in the Middle East although he continues to bear Al Qaeda scars that have crippled him permanently shows that Al Qaeda can’t destroy the spirits of those they seek to destroy.
At least the show has shown that Taliban is the other side of the Al Qaeda coin although its spokesman tried unconvincingly to disassociate his movement from its terror attacks or rather to deny that it has anything to do with terrorism.