Page:Annie Besant - The Story of Afghanistan.pdf/14

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14

ENGLAND AND AFGHANISTAN.

the battle of Charasiab, were episodes in such a war, and not in a rebellion. They were carried on by the regular Afghan army, led by its own officers, fighting honorably and gallantly. The Afghans were defeated, and contrary to the rules of civilised warfare, all quarter was refused, all "prisoners taken in fight" were shot. Then General Roberts issued a proclamation offering rewards "for any person who has fought against British troops since Sept. 3rd; larger rewards offered for rebel officers of Afghan army." Again: "Amnesty not extended to soldiers or civilians . . . who were guilty of instigating the troops and people to oppose the British troops. Such persons will be treated without mercy as rebels." Under this bloodthirsty proclamation the religious leaders of the people have been pitilessly murdered; the military leaders when found have shared the same fate. The Statesman gives the crimes of some of those who were thus killed:—

"Muhammad Aslam Khan, chief magistrate of Cabul, issued a proclamation calling upon all true Muhammadans to go out and fight the British.

"Sultan Aziz, a Barukzye of the Royal blood, bore a standard at Kharasiab.

"Kwaja Nazir, a city moola, gave his followers a standard to be borne as a sign of a holy war."

An unknown number of prisoners—reckoned by hundreds—have been found guilty of defending their country and have been hanged. Well may Frederic Harrison cry aloud in burning indignation: "Let the old watch words be erased from all English flags: Dieu et mon droitHoni soit—and the rest, are stale enough. We will have a new imperial standard for the new Empress of Asia, and emblazon on it—Imperium et Barbaries."

In dealing with these executions, the Daily News has a letter so horrible, so forcibly in contrast with the humanity for which it is honorably remarkable, that one can only imagine that it is written by one of General Roberts's staff officers, and printed by the Daily News to show the spirit prevailing in our Afghan army. The correspondent first tells how some villages were ransacked, and all disbanded Afghan soldiers were seized, and how on one occasion eighty-nine were brought in. Of these forty were released, as they were able to show that they had not been engaged against the British troops, but any who had been at Cabul during