My life with the Taliban by Mohammad Zaeef
Mohammed Zaeef was the Taliban’s ambassador to Pakistan and this is his autobiography translated from Pashtun. Zaeef grows up the son of an Imam who is orphaned at an early age, always interested in learning he wishes to become an Imam himself and becomes a Talib (student) of Islam. When the Russians invade he joins the Mujahedeen in their 10 years struggle against the invader. When the Russians leave and “The time of men with guns” happens Zaeef has achieved his dream of becoming an Imam, however as Afghanistan becomes ever more lawless he is one of the core of the Taliban who seek to oust the warlords and create the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. They are successful in driving away the warlords (many of who form the Northern Alliance) and protecting the people from their rapacious ways. He then, in turn, becomes the governor of the banks, the minister of industry and mining and the ambassador to Pakistan. He is the ambassador when the Bamyan Buddhas are destroyed, and he deals with the various interested parties seeking to avoid the destruction. He is also ambassador for the whole “Osama issue”, 9/11 and throughout the American invasion and is eventually arrested and taken by stages to Guantanamo, there, he eventually secures release and returns to Afghanistan. The last chapter is what he thinks of his country now (the book was published a couple of years ago). This is a compelling and fascinating read seeing the momentous events from a very different point of view. I find it interesting that his wife gets barely a mention, I don’t think she’s even named, although he does talk about his children. It’s also telling that what motivates him to join/help form the Taliban is not that the warlords are killing people or extorting money and goods from everyone on the road, or even that they were drug addled dangerous psychopaths (and these were our allies in the war) but that they “took part in adultery and homosexuality”. His attitude to the Bamyan Buddhas was also interesting, when the Japanese said that they had great respect for the Afghan people for being important in Buddhism he replies that the Japanese people need to evolve to a real religion, when he makes the point that the Buddhas are man-made and just stone and therefore not sacred the Japanese counter with the fact the Kaaba is man-made and just stone, that ends the meeting.
Overall - Highly recommended autobiography of a Taliban leader
previous book - Frankenstein's cat by Emily Anthes
Next book - Marcher by Chris Beckett