Fawzia Koofi looks though the window of her hotel room in the city’s outskirts, eyes taking in the sunbathed surroundings even as the mind flits back to memories of every instance that finally led to where she stands now.
When Koofi speaks, the words come out soft but resolute – an apt reflection of her indomitable spirit. And when she smiles, it is with disbelief over still being alive.
After all, with a political career beset by challenges on every side, the 40-year-old woman has learnt to take death threats with her morning coffee.
The first woman MP in Afghanistan today, Koofi still remembers the time she dropped out of medical school when the Taliban stomped to power in her country. Yet, instead of kneeling in defeat, the event only strengthened her resolve to become a politician. “A week into my marriage in 1997, my husband (a university professor) was picked up by the Taliban. When I went to visit him jail, veil firmly in place, the commander noticed my nail polish. He picked up a stone menacingly to hit me,” says Koofi.
However, she realised soon enough that politics was no easy choice. Death came a-visiting several times, including an assassination attempt at her office and another incident where her security escorts were mowed down by militants.
Koofi, who nurtures the ambition of becoming the first woman president of Afghanistan, holds strong views on the Pakistan-mediated peace talks with the Taliban. “Let me be frank. Pakistan has to be more honest in its dealings with Afghanistan. It should stop seeing Afghanistan as a strategic pawn,” says she.
“There are many Taliban elements, affiliates and associates who don’t want to take part in the process of reconciliation. They are in Pakistan, and Pakistan needs to crack down on them.”
She, however, sees India in a brighter light. “The major strength of India-Afghanistan ties is people-to-people contacts. India stood by us, gave us our parliament building. It gives us over 1,500 scholarships every year,” says Koofi, reclining on the sofa. “This is an ideal partnership.” But that’s when the ghosts from the past appear again. “Our country went through 35 years of war. People are still struggling to get their lives back.”
A heavy pause follows.
“Talking about past takes me back to those painful days…” she says slowly, before her tone hardens with intent again. “But I have the resolve to fight.”