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|INTERVIEW: Col Gaddafi of Libya
‘I like Indians’
By M Afzal
Recently, an Indian delegation representing religious leaders and intellectuals in different fields had met Col Moammar Gaddafi of Libya. Shortly thereafter, on a special request from us he agreed to grant an interview to a small delegation of journalists consisting of Saeed Naqvi, Sajjad Mirza and self, each representing an English, Hindi an Urdu daily respectively. Obviously our questions covered subjects in different fields.
There was a time when Col Gaddafi, founder and leader of the great revolution of Libya used to indulge frequently in antics and outbursts against imperialist powers, specially USA during the initial period of the revolution which created a stir throughout the world. On the one hand he was busy in reconstruction of his country and on the other hand he was trying to build his image of an Afro-Arab leader who had a distinct style of thinking and ideology of his own which was different from the traditional thinking and life style of Arab rulers and who also knew how to sail against the wind.
Though he was founder-leader of the Libyan revolution, he chose to be neither the king, nor the president nor the prime minister of his country. He gave a new concept of running the country through people’s committees. He brought about reforms in his traditional Muslim society and gradually brought it in line with the changing world in many respects. Today Libya is an amalgam of modernity and tradition. Though a modern country, Islam pervades different aspects of social and political life. Alcoholism is banned; calls for prayers from mosques are heard as usual; preaching of Islam goes on without restrictions. Government even runs and manages religious institutions.
Col Gaddafi is the first leader of any Muslim country who has employed lady commandos as his security guards and has given adequate representation to women in the Libyan army without caring for the criticisms that were heaped on him for this. Today women of Libya work like men in different walks of social and political life. Women driving on the streets of Libyan cities is a common sight.
In spite of so much freedom, corruption is unknown there. Government’s policy is very strict in these matters. Even the personal life of Col Gaddafi is free from corruption and nepotism. He leads a simple and austere life unlike rulers of other Arab states. Often he even leads prayers. He is an excellent orator and delivers thought provoking religious speeches. When he delivers speeches in Arabic even for hours, people listen to him with rapt attention. A man of mercurial nature, he is now a man of mature and balanced mind with age. He is very anxious about the unity and progress of Afro-Arab countries. His speeches and conversations clearly betray his pains and worries for the poverty and backwardness of African countries which he wants to make progressive and self sufficient and also free from dependence on western countries. He is working for converting Organization of African States into ‘African Union’. When asked about his planned ‘African Union’, he said with confidence that it will be more powerful than the ‘European Union’.
On my asking that formerly he was trying to bring about Arab Unity but now his efforts are concentrated on African unity. Does it mean that he has abandoned his idea of Arab unity? His clear-cut reply was ‘certainly not; but two-thirds of Arab world is part of Africa only. Therefore the remaining one-third of the Arab world is free to join the African Union.
With regard to Israel he made a startling revelation. He said that he is in favour of Israel joining Arab League with certain modifications. His proposal in this respect is under consideration by a committee of seven Arab countries.
With reference to Islam he said that at present a war is going on between believers and non-believers in God; but there are some people who believe in USA’s power instead of God’s omnipotence and therefore they take pride in licking its (USA’s) boots. He further said that some people are trying to divide people in the name of God which is a great sin.
Libya valiantly and steadfastly faced sanctions imposed on it by the United Nations at the instance of the USA. Now that USA is talking of lifting the sanctions imposed by it against Libya, some people think that Libya has changed its policy towards USA; but actually this is not so. His statements against USA are as strong as ever. He clearly says that USA wants to spread lawlessness and enmity in the countries of the sub-continent. He said that if India, Pakistan and Bangladesh were one, this region would have been very powerful and progressive but imperialist forces do not want this and they had hatched a conspiracy to break up this block and now some forces want to divide India into smaller states. During this interview he said that India and Pakistan, instead of relying on USA and Israel, should sit together and settle their differences and thereby foil their conspiracy of making each other fight and weaken themselves.
Col Gaddafi is keen to visit India because in his own words ‘I like Indians’. He is very much appreciative of India’s concept of ‘unity in diversity’ which, in his view, is the real strength of India. He believes that if Indian people live as a family and become internally strong, they can be a great and strong power. He sees China as a great and powerful country in the coming days which will play a vital role in international politics.
He revealed that soon he is going to enter into an agreement with WTO so that Libyan Arab Republic could also play a role in the world economy.
We had many more questions in our minds for which we wanted to be enlightened by him but time had already run out. We had taken more than the allotted time but the Libyan leader was patiently and confidently replying to our queries through his English interpreters. Other delegations were also waiting there to have an audience with him. Therefore reluctantly we had to leave but before leaving, on our request he cheerfully agreed for a photograph with us. Gratefully we bade farewell to him to which he responded with a sincere smile.
On our way back from his camp, I was thinking that I had met umpteen heads of government and state including Bill Clinton, Gen Parvez Musharraf, Benazir Bhutto, Nelson Mandela, Chinese President and scores of other VVIPs but people like Col Gaddafi appeared to be distinct from all of them. He is one of a kind who leaves an indelible impression on one’s mind for all times to come.
(By arrangement with Akhbar-e-Nau)