An SNP MP who sponsored a Westminster reception to honour the life of a late Afghan military commander, known as the “Lion of Panjshir”, has been accused of causing distress to relatives of those allegedly killed by General Ahmad Shah Massoud and his forces.
Patrick Grady, MP for Glasgow North, was one of the key speakers at the event initiated by the charity Glasgow Afghan United, on 12 September, to commemorate the legacy of General Massoud, commander of the anti-Taleban alliance in Afghanistan, and who had fought against the Russian occupation of his country.
The row has exposed the divisions in Scotland’s 4,000-strong Afghan community.
A number of Afghan supporters of the Westminster event accuse Massoud’s detractors of being Afghan Taleban supporters “hiding in plain sight” in Scotland.
Massoud, who became the country’s defence minister, was killed, aged 49, by suicide bombers in northern Afghanistan on 9 September 2001.
Critics claim he was a warlord and criminal, bearing ultimate responsibility for the deaths of more than 60,000 Afghan citizens, gang rapes and torture.
A Glasgow-based member of another Afghan charity, the Scottish Afghan Society, emailed guests pleading with them to boycott the event.
The man, who did not want to be named, said: “I don’t know why on earth this event was held in the British Parliament. The majority of Afghans will say Massoud was a warlord, a war criminal. The MPs involved in this were naive. They should think about the victims. They ought to have found out for themselves what politics lay behind it.
“This is a very sensitive issue. Civil wars don’t produce heroes, they bring forth killers and warlords.
“Our organisation is not into glorifying such times. But we would be more than happy to take part in a peace event.”
Fahim Pashtoon Wardag, a London-based human rights activist, said: “I was really outraged and disgusted that the Westminster Parliament, which is meant to uphold democracy, was commemorating and glorifying this mass murderer.”
However, Abdul Bostani, chairman of Glasgow Afghan United, who approached Grady to hold the event, said: “Massoud is celebrated worldwide as our national hero. There was a huge demand in the Afghan community in Scotland for this event.
“We know that there are people in Scotland, Afghans, who have sympathies and ties with the Taleban.
“They are criticising this event to gain credit over there in Afghanistan. Sympathisers of the Taleban are against Massoud and use techniques such as accusing him of being a warlord. When they say ‘we are for human rights’ and ‘don’t bomb us’, they actually mean ‘don’t bomb the Taleban’. We have come thousands of miles as refugees seeking sanctuary. We escaped from the Taleban only to find they have followed us here.”
Grady did not respond to a request by Scotland on Sunday for a comment. An SNP spokesman said: “This was an event to celebrate the rich and valued contribution of the Afghan and refugee community in Scotland.”