On April the 15th, the Afghan Parliament came
under attack. The police were the first to respond but they
weren’t the only ones picking up weapons. “We were all in this room when the incident
took place. I was sitting here. The deputy spokesman was sitting there and the spokesman
was also here when the firing started.” Lalai Hamidzai used to be a sub-commander
for the Afghan Border Police. Two years ago, he was elected as a Member of Parliament for
Kandahar. “It was not good for a member of parliament
to engage but I felt I wanted to get involved when I saw the policemen and bodyguards fighting.
I started fighting to encourage them and to boost their morale.”
There were five insurgents holed up in this building armed with rocket propelled grenades,
Kalashnikov rifles, hand grenades and PK machine guns.
Lalai Hamidzai believes the insurgents had help from construction workers.
“Pakistani workers were working there. It is possible the workers helped them store
ammunition during the day and at night. This is how they were prepared for this attack.
It was a pre-planned attack.” The damage to the Parliament building was
minor. “Look, four bullets struck here.”
“Here a bullet hit also. Bullets struck that big building too.”
“One bullet struck the window and the window broke and the bullet hit the door.
This is the main corridor. Here is the conference hall. These are the meeting rooms for foreigners,
these two. The commission which I am member of is located
at the lower floor of parliament near the spokesman’s office. Four bullets struck
inside his office.” There were twelve others on the roof that
day. Some police, some bodyguards and another politician.
Parliament’s deputy spokesman, Abdul Zahir Qadir, was organizing the counter attack.
“He was going to every point where soldiers were positioned. He wouldn’t let soldiers
stand together in one place, to prevent them being injured. He was controlling the guards;
actually he was doing all the jobs. I was just sitting behind the PK and shooting he
was the person coordinating.” Lalai Hamidzai was fighting from one in the
afternoon until 7 at night. He took breaks for chai and to pray.
He stopped when he saw the police enter the building.
The firing ended early the next morning. Five insurgents were dead, along with one civilian.
“The reason it took 20 hours to end the fighting was because there were civilians
in houses around the building attackers were in. They took children and women hostage.
We were waiting to see if we could see their heads and then shoot them.”
“The number of casualties that day could have been a lot higher as the insurgents initially
wanted to stage the attack on the Parliament from the building behind me here which is
directly opposite but they couldn’t get inside.”
Many who work within the Afghan government are former fighters from the Soviet times
and years of civil war. When the parliament came under attack, Lalai
Hamidzai wasn’t fazed. He says his fear was nothing compared to his compulsion to
protect it. Mel Preen in Kabul, Afghanistan for the NATO