Defending the Afghan Parliament
“Parliament is the house of all Afghans. If we can’t defend Parliament then we can’t defend anyone,” explains Mohammed Naeem Lalai Hamidzai. The Member of Parliament for Kandahar picked up a PK machine gun and took to the roof of the Afghan Parliament when it came under attack recently.
Lalai Hamidzai was sitting in his office with Parliament’s Deputy Spokesman, Abdul Zahir Qadir, when the firing began. He describes how Adbul Qadir organised the counter-attack.
Supporting Afghan security forces
“He was going to every point where soldiers were positioned,” says Lalai Hamidzai “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.”
Many who work within the Afghan government are former fighters from the Soviet times and years of civil war. Lalai Hamidzai used to be a sub-commander with the Afghan Border Police in Spin Boldak, Kandahar. He’s survived two assassination attempts.
“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,” he says.
Against a pre-planned attack
Five insurgents took over a building a couple of hundred metres up the road from the Parliament. From there they were targeting the parliament building 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. Four bullets hit an exterior glass wall and a couple of bullets hit the roof.
Persevering to limit casualties
There were 12 others on the roof that day: some police, bodyguards and another politician. Lalai Hamidzai was fighting from one in the afternoon until seven at night, taking 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,” Lalai Hamidzai explains.
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 a building directly opposite but they couldn’t get inside.