by Abdul Haleem
KABUL, Feb. 27 (Xinhua) -- Hundreds of Afghans from all walks of life staged a peaceful rally here on Wednesday, calling on the government of President Hamid Karzai to wage an all-out war against the Taliban while condemning the atrocities committed by the insurgent group.
"We are gathered here today to demonstrate our support and our unity with the national army and calling upon the president to toughen his stance against the Taliban terrorists," Mir Ahmad Joyanda, a former legislator, said in his speech.
Assembled in a park in downtown Kabul, the peaceful protestors denounced Taliban-linked violent attacks and urged the security forces to seek the Taliban militants wherever they are to put an end to their reign of terror.
Carrying banners and placards reading "Death to Taliban, Death to Extremism," "The commander-in-chief of the armed forces, are you with us or with our enemies?", "Long live the national security forces," the protestors expressed their support for the country's national security forces.
"We are here to say that we are with our national army and to tell them that they are not alone," woman activist Zahra Mossavi said.
"We don't want to be controlled by Taliban or any other totalitarians and radical movements. We are here for democracy and human rights; we are here to support the Afghan security forces including police, special force and national army."
The demonstration took place in the wake of the murder of 21 Afghan soldiers by Taliban militants in the eastern province of Kunar on Sunday morning, a bloody incident that prompted the ethnically divided Afghans to show unity in favor of their national army against Taliban militants.
Earlier, Afghans in the western Ghor and Herat provinces also staged rallies in support to the national security forces. Another rally in support of the army will be held in the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif on Thursday.
"The government's hypocrisy towards peace and war with regard to the Taliban insurgents has encouraged Taliban rebels to conduct such cowardly attacks against the national army and brutally butcher 21 soldiers," protester and presidential candidate Daud Sultanzoi told Xinhua.
"Today we assembled here to display our unity and our support to the national security forces and appreciate their sacrifices in defending country," Zultanzoi said, adding that they want the government to device a comprehensive policy to prevent a repeat of such incidents in the future.
According to media reports, in the bloodiest attack in the past couple of years that killed 21 Afghan soldiers, the Taliban had planted their own men inside the army unit.
The Afghan National Directorate of Security (NDS), the country' s spy agency, has reportedly informed the Defense Ministry about the penetration of Taliban in the ill-fated army unit but their intelligence report was ignored.
Two days after the incident, the defense ministry sacked nine officers of the national army. However, the demonstrators said that sacking officers is not enough and a thorough investigation should have been conducted to find out the truth and to bring to justice those found responsible for the terrible lapse.
The killing of 21 Afghan soldiers took place when the Afghan government is trying to hold peace talks with the Taliban militants and NATO-led forces are preparing to end their combat mission in Afghanistan late this year.
"We want the president to clarify if he sides with the people or with the Taliban terrorists," another demonstrator said.
President Karzai has reportedly described former Taliban leader Mawlawi Abdul Raqib, who was killed in Pakistan by unknown armed men recently, as a "Martyr of Peace" and transported his body to his hometown in northern Takhar province, to the anger of many demonstrators.
"Mullah Raqib is not a martyr, rather he is a criminal and murderer of Afghans," another demonstrator said while chanting slogans.