KABUL -- Afghan officials are strongly criticising recent remarks by Afghan Deputy Chief Executive Mohammad Mohaqiq that seem to confirm -- and praise -- Iran's recruitment of Afghan "warriors" to fight in Syria.
Mohaqiq made the controversial statement Sunday (November 26) in Tehran during a summit of scholars from various Muslim nations who convened to discuss "the dark ideology" of the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS), according to Iranian media.
Mohaqiq's pronouncement appeared on Afghan TV, quickly drawing widespread condemnation and calls for his removal from office.
In the video, Mohaqiq is shown praising Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani, commander of foreign operations of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
Soleimani is believed to be one of the founders of the Fatemiyoun Brigade, which recruits fighters mainly from the approximately 3 million Afghans living in Iran. It has about 20,000 members, according to Iranian media.
"I thank all the warriors who co-operated in these wars from Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan and other parts of the world who attended the wars," Mohaqiq said, according to Voice of America. "In fact, it was the war of Islam against infidelity and against the conspiracies of the world's arrogance."
The Afghan government has previously taken issue with Iran's recruitment of Afghan immigrants and refugees -- including children -- to fight for the Syrian government. Iran is recruiting Afghan children as young as 14 for its war in Syria, confirmed Human Rights Watch in October.
Waves of criticism hit Mohaqiq
Mohaqiq's remarks in Tehran "stand in utter and absolute contradiction with Afghan foreign policy, national interests, stability, security and enacted national laws," the Afghan Presidential Palace said in a statement Wednesday (November 29).
His words do not represent the government's position "in any way, form or manifestation", the statement said.
"The Afghan government is resolved to investigate .... with resolute firmness on the basis of national interests and enacted laws," the statement continued.
A day after Mohaqiq's comments, Afghan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah said the government's policy is clear: "We do not support participation of Afghans in wars anywhere in the world."
"Recently some certain statements were made," Abdullah said Monday (November 27), without citing his deputy by name. "However, Afghanistan is against the participation of Afghans in wars of other countries ... in line with [the policy based on which] Afghanistan seeks to provide peace and comfort to its own citizens."
"The involvement of dozens of terrorist groups from other countries in war in Afghanistan should serve as an example, and we should learn from it," he said.
Remarks constitute 'treason'
A number of members of parliament (MPs) characterised Mohaqiq as undermining the national interest and demanded that he step down.
"Government officials inside and outside the country, regardless of their affiliations, should pay special attention to Afghanistan's national interest," Abdul Rauf Ibrahimi, speaker of the Wolesi Jirga (lower chamber of parliament), said in a general assembly session Monday (November 27).
"Any statement that questions the interests of the Afghan people is an act of aggression and harassment against them," he said.
Mohaqiq's stated views were "not acceptable" to the Afghan public, said Munawar Shah Bahadori, an MP representing Herat Province.
Aryan Youn, an MP from Nangarhar Province, called for the government to take legal action and to restrict Mohaqiq's travel.
Senate Speaker Fazal Hadi Muslimyar used the term "embarrassing".
Mohaqiq's statement "is an example of standing against the Afghan nation and represent a case of treason," Muslimyar said during a Senate meeting Tuesday (November 28). "The government must take serious measures in dealing with Mr. Mohaqiq."
Fawzia Sadat, another senator, also invoked the charge of "treason".
"Any punishment considered in the Criminal Code and the Constitution for traitors should be applied to Mr. Mohaqiq," she said.
'Let Afghans live in peace'
Ordinary Afghans are rejecting Mohaqiq's opinion.
"There is an ongoing war in Afghanistan, as a result of which our people are killed daily," Maliha Naziri, a Kabul University student, told Salaam Times. "When Afghans flee from wars and seek refuge in Iran, the Iranian government sends them to fight in the Syrian war."
"Instead of thanking Iran for this action, Mohaqiq should have asked Iran to no longer send Afghan refugees, who fled a war, to yet another war and to let them live in peace," she said.
Shoaib Naeemi, 28, a shopkeeper in Kabul, agreed.
"Those desperate Afghans who go to Iran to find work are being sent by the Iranian government to the Syrian war," he told Salaam Times.
Mohaqiq should have told Iran to provide Afghan refugees with jobs within Iran instead of sending them to war, he said.