I Have Never Been a Puppet and Will Never be in the Future
March 12, 2008
The Following article, which is translated from Persian into English, is an interview with Gen Atta Mohammad Noor, the Governor of Balkh by a reporter from Payam Mujahid Magazine
Reporter: I am grateful for your willingness to be our guest on this weekly forum. Please introduce yourself for our fellow readers.
Gen Atta: My name is Atta Mohammad. My family name is Noor. I am the son of Haji Noor Mohammad one of the businessman of Balkh city. I graduated from Bakhtar Educational Center. I joined the holy fighters force against the Russian invasion when I was 19 years old. I have studied military courses; then I started teaching military technique for the freedom fighters. After the fall of Communist Regime in 1992, I was hired as the Political and Military Chief of northern Afghanistan. After a year I became the Commander of Force-7 of the Defense Ministry. We had six forces and the creation of seventh force was my requisition from the government of time. On the war against terrorism, I was a member of the High Commission of the Islamic Government of Afghanistan. It was the time when I was the Military Chief of Northern too, that was located in district of Dare-Suf in the north part of the country.
Reporter: What was the original position that you served during the war against Red Army and why do the people call you Ustad (Teacher)?
Gen Atta: After I graduated from school, I joined the freedom fighters. Shortly afterward I was hired as a commander of Mobile Force and later I became the In-charge of many different areas. I should mention that people call me Ustad (teacher) is because I was teaching Military Techniques to the fighters and everyone still calls me that. Then in 1980, I was elected as the Assistance of Ustad Zabiullah Khan, the leader of northern forces, in that time by an official convention.
Reporter: When the Taliban and Al Qaeda attacked northern cities, where were you?
Gen Atta: When the Taliban and Al Qaeda invaded northern cities I pulled force out into the mountains and we fought two months against them. Then I went to meet Ahmad Shah Massoud, the Defense Minister of the time, bypassing the Iranian borders. After taking Massoud’s commands I returned back to the northern mountains. I never went outside of Afghanistan during the whole fighting time until today.
Reporter: When you met with Ahmad Shah Massoud, the Defense Minister of government on the war against terrorism, what did Mr. Massoud advise you to do besides being the Northern Chief?
Gen Atta: The importance of Cmdr. Massoud’s ideas was to start the war against terrorism from four zones of Afghanistan; not only from the north side of the country and we must try harder to make terrorism deteriorate. When I returned back to the district of Dare-Suf where our main center was, I had only 12 fighters with me. With the 12 fighters we had re-captured many places in a short time. Soon the civilians joined me and supported me to pull out the Taliban and Al Qaeda army from the whole province and what Mr. Massoud advised me to do, when we tried it, besides the Taliban-Qaeda faced a big weakness, we delivered great militarily damage to them.
Reporter: So far, from the removal of the Taliban and the new regime, how much are you in agreement with the new government’s output and their effectiveness?
Gen Atta: I must despondently say that the agreement of International Communities and the countries, which were supposed to help Afghanistan rebuild, didn’t happened as much as is necessary. But if learn from the past from before the establishment of the government, there was hardship and massacres that every citizen of the country was not able to believe that he or she may have to be alive by the next day. But a big change came into Afghanistan after the removal of the Taliban. Our government system is getting improved. The security is also getting tighter. Moreover, many different companies have been established and started working for the civilians.
Reporter: The Mujahiden leaders (Northern Alliance) are being dismissed from their governmental positions, on the other hand your connection with the government is getting strong. What is the reason for this?
Gen Atta: These belong to the personality of the person. And it’s also dependent on the society and peoples’ willingness. In my opinion, nobody will lose anything if they do not play the politic incorrectly. Nobody kept me in this position so far and I haven’t begged any high profile politician to keep me as a governor. I am serving in this position because my people wanted me to be here, and they want my activities and the works that I am doing. Most of the people think that the current government has lost its connection flanked by the nations. My position in the current government is due to the people’s support, people trust me. And I recognize this government as an elected one, which was established by nation votes. But I surely support this government even if its ministries system is not well, the people who are around the President are not accepted as rationally wise, anyhow with the all problems and unwillingness, I call this government highly better then our earlier period system, for the reason that people have security, freedom of speech, women and girls are attending universities and schools without any kind of difficulty and it’s a peaceful situation.
For example, if we rejected this government then who did something good for the country in the past? As we witnessed, that the others failed establishing a legislative system. Instead of being antagonistic against the government, we should fix the problems and seek solution for no matter which that are wrongs.
Reporter: What is your opinion about the establishment of the new opposition (United Front) and their policy?
Gen Atta: When the democracy created, everyone has the right to establish political party or opposition. According to this new opposition, I must say that beside of not being a member of it and I don’t confirm it too. I don’t like their activities because they are not the solutions of Afghanistan in progress problems.
Reporter: the residents of Balkh province have strong-willed for the security but they are complaining about the rebuilding process. How do you see this dilemma?
Gen Atta: Regarding to the rebuilding and development, the International Communities as they promised didn’t accomplished enough, although there are many things that have been done. People have right to complain. People complain because there were too much promises and little accomplishment. But opposite of that, Balkh province, according to other part of Afghanistan, is much improved. If some people complain, there are many others who are passionate.
Reporter: Opium and poppies are completely destroyed in Balkh province, what was the best motivation for that?
Gen Atta: There are many reasons for the demolishing of opium and poppies. First, having useful and balanced plans, second, a great management and leading, third, the active and well-trained teams, fourth, by means and co-working of the Islamic Provincial Council and Islamic clergies, and not accepted any kind of farmers reason for grown opium. We did our best to clean up the province from any type of poppies grown. The International Communities didn’t help us enough and Afghanistan's Anti-Drug Ministry had no any professional plans and didn’t support us at all to destroy the poppies. But fortunately with the blessing of God and the civilians we did destroy it completely.
Reporter: It has been saying that you are doing some personal business by your own besides of being the governor, could you please explain this and inform us?
Gen Atta: Yes I do and being a businessman is my family heritage and because my official salary is not enough for me and I am not able help or support my family and my life. I never ask bribes and will never so I support my family in a good manner.
Reporter: You have received a conceited medal from the President Karzai, was it just an appearance or because of your official activities, since you are the only person from Mujahid (Northern Alliance) that the government has been admiring you?
Gen Atta: For me, any type of improvement or credits is about my activities and behaviors, which I have been doing for my people. When I received any recommendation or medals I am pleased for my people and I feel proud.
Reporter: When your friends the Mujahiden (Northern Alliance Leaders) get dismissed from the government what do you feel?
Gen Atta: I feel very gloomy, and I said this many times that the thought of dismissing the Northern Alliance is a useless idea. These anti Mujahiden ideologies have to stop. Because the Mujahidens belong to the people of Afghanistan. Even when I met with American politician at the White House I have mentioned this.
Reporter: What is your current curriculum?
Gen Atta: The celebration of Islamic New Year is coming and we are getting ready to provide security because three millions people are attending the New Year Eve in Balkh city from all around the country. We need to clean the city up and provide a tight security. On the other hand we are trying to set our five years plan for the development and for the starting these plans we need to get ready before the New Year begins.
Reporter: United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization named the year of 2007 after Mawlana Jalaluddin Balkhi (Rumi) what have you done regarding this?
Gen Atta: It’s very remarkable to see one of the Islamic philosopher who was born in Balkh province named the year for him. According to Jalaluddin Balkhi (Rumi)’s humanitarian work we haven’t done enough for him, which he deserves. But we organized many seminaries and meetings in order to introduce Mawlana (Rumi)’s individuality for the people. We built Mawlana’s house in Balkh city Mazar-I-Sharif last year. The first Assistant of President Karzai attended the ceremony. Two nights a week we have meetings in the Malawna’s house, they discuss his philosophic works and poetry. Moreover we have a small library inside the house and its open for public. In my trip to Turkey I attended the ceremony of Mawlana’s birthday and I met with Turkish official including Turkish President. I spoke to them about helping me to built Mawlana’s guesthouse in Balkh where he was born. Turkish official promised me three million dollars for building the guesthouse. The construction plan is ready. We are just waiting for the Ministry of Affairs to prove it. We also named a Park after Mawlana and we chose the area too. We might shortly start building the park.
Reporter: What is your future plans and which candidate are you going to vote for in the Presidential Election?
Gen Atta: Anyone who gets the majority votes and who have the people’s support. Anything my people decide or vote that is my choice. I never will be a puppet and won’t be.
Reporter: You had a media conference when Gen Abdul Rashed Dostum was blamed for torturing one of his allies. You had mentioned in the conference that you do not allow anyone to make the northern’s security risky. Was this because of supporting Mr. Akbar Bai who blamed Gen Dostum for torturing him?
Gen Atta: I do not want to take side with any of them. And I don’t judge about Gen Dostum or Akbar Bai, his allies and it’s the law that can decide about them. My conference was not about their personal fight. It was about the people who are talking on behalf of whole northern cities and threading the central government from this pose. I spoke for those who warned the government if they do not stop bothering them then seven or eight provinces in the northern Afghanistan would turn against the government. We have people living in here and we are responsible to provide security etc and protect them. I could not keep clients when people represented their political parties talking on behalf of the whole north. Balkh city is the main center of northern Afghanistan. Besides the civilians we have our officials who decide.
Reporter: Mr. Governor can you tell us about your personal life please?
Gen Atta: Yes I am married and I have a wife and six sons and one daughter. I have three brothers one is older and two of them are younger then me. I feel myself lucky about my personal life.
Reporter: As we see you are busy all the times, if you have free time what would you do?
Gen Atta: I am busy most of the time but whenever I am free, I watch TV, read and work on my official papers.
Reporter: Do you like sports?
Gen Atta: Yes I do sports every morning and I really love sports.
Reporter: Dear Ustad (Teacher) for the last question I want to know that what is your message to the politicians?
Gen Atta: I appreciate you coming to Balkh city and having me speak for the Payam Mujahid Magazines. I still remember that Payam Mujahid was one of the most active media that worked for the people during the three decade of war. My message to the people of Afghanistan is to use the time and the opportunities to support the peace and national unity not to create problems for the government. Do not duplicate whatever happened in the past. Furthermore we should think about rebuilding the country and our national partnerships. Thanks.