Lessons from the Afghan crisis
Qazi Hussain Ahmad
The Geneva talks on the future of Afghanistan were in the final phase when the Soviet Union announced its withdrawal from Afghanistan, apparently enabling the Mujahideen to form their own government to run the country.
Moscow's sudden decision of withdrawal from Afghanistan landed Islamabad in great trouble.
Ironically, the four-point Geneva talks did not include the formation of even a skeleton of an interim government in Kabul after the Soviet withdrawal.
This was done to help materialize the well thought out American and Soviet plan of disintegration in Afghanistan.
This vacuum also owed to the oversight of Islamabad, under US pressure, with an intention to sideline the Mujahideen and enable Pakistan to control the making and breaking of governments in Afghanistan.
In this backdrop, Moscow exploited this lacuna in the Geneva talks and played the card of immediate withdrawal from Afghanistan, thus landing the Mujahideen and Government of Pakistan in trouble.
Although Jamaat-e-Islami was not part of the IJI at that time but appreciating the importance of these developments, I sought an appointment with Mian Mohammed Nawaz Sharif, the then prime minister, with a view to share the JI viewpoint on the future of Afghanistan.
When I reached the PM secretariat, the [former] Afghan President Prof. Burhanuddin Rabbani was either waiting for his turn to see Mian Sahib or had concluded his meeting with the PM.
It may be mentioned that Prof Rabbani, accompanied by his two pupils, broke the siege of police in Kabul and came to Pakistan in 1974.
Rabbani Sahib opted to seek refuge at my house, appreciating the fact that I had visited Kabul, despite all odds, during the Daud era and met the affiliates of the Islamic movement in Kabul University and other educational institutions in order to help them.
I can vividly recall that Engineer Gulbadin Hikmatyar, Prof. Burhanuddin Rabbani, Ustad Abdul Rab Rasool Sayyaf were in the same movement while Maulvi Mohammad Younas Khalis had close liaison with them.
At this important and sensitive juncture of Afghan history, I suggested to Mian Mohammad Nawaz Sharif to evolve a formula, in the first phase, between Hikmatyar-led Hizb-e-Islami and Rabbani-led Jamiat-e-Islami Afghanistan.
It was generally believed that discord in the ranks of the Mujahideen ensued from the differences between these two leaders.
If these two leaders endorsed some formula than it would be easy to muster the support of other Mujahideen leaders for the formula.
While on the contrary, any discord between the two could have turned the situation volatile due to their potential of playing havoc in Afghanistan.
Let it be clear once and for all that I made this suggestion while appreciating the ground realities and it had nothing to do with my personal likes and dislikes.
Upon the conclusion of my meeting, Mian Nawaz Sharif called an emergency meeting at Governor House Peshawar and dashed to the provincial metropolis the same evening.
Upon entering the Governor House, it dawned on me that Mian sahib had invited all the Afghan leaders contrary to my suggestion of striking some basic formula between Prof.
Rabbani and Engr Hikmatyar.
Mian sahib left the meeting frequently in order to consult the UN representative in Kabul.
At one time, he sought the name of the proposed head of Afghanistan through balloting.
It was an indication that someone else was to decide the fate of Afghanistan.
To me, Mian sahib was devoid of playing some effective role for the lack of his knowledge about the issue.
Nor was he capable of acting upon some sane piece of advice on this subject.
At times, when Mian sahib went to attend a telephonic call from Kabul, I also skipped out from the meeting.
After a two day lull, a formula of periodic rule in Afghanistan saw the light of day.
According to this formula, Prof. Sibghatullah Mujadaddi was to head Afghanistan as President for three months.
Prof. Burhanuddin Rabbani was named to succeed him for the same period of time.
Engr Hikmatyar was not taken into confidence regarding this proposal.
In his opinion, Hikmatyar had presumably won Kabul and therefore was not willing to take part in any parleys undermining his central position.
It was evident that the world powers did not want to see Hikmatyar and Rabbani united.
On the other hand, Prof Mujadaddi was unilaterally convinced that Ustad Rabbani and Engr.
Hikmatyar both did not enjoy mass support in Afghanistan.
He always questioned their leadership and branded them as "artificially coined leaders" and believed that the real religious power in Afghanistan was that of Mujadaddis.
He assured Mian Nawaz Sharif and for that matter the world powers that once he was enthroned in Afghanistan the entire country would converge around him to pay homage, kissing his hands etc.
Likewise, Prof. Rabbani had established inland and foreign political links and paid special attention to becoming the unequivocal leader of the Afghan Tajiks.
He nourished links with the Persian-speaking Communist Generals in the last days of the Soviet Union to beef up his military strength inside Afghanistan.
Late Ahmad Shah Masood was his strong ally but at the same time Masood maintained his independent identity.
Prof. Rabbani always depended militarily on Ahmad Shah Masood and his forces.
Prof. Burhanuddin Rabbani was in the habit of uttering conditional statements and thus hampered the process of striking any kind of consensus while apparently agreeing to something at the same time.
An accomplished Afghan leader and head of Harkat Inqilab-e-Islami, Maulvi Mohammad Nabi had, many times, termed a reconciliation pact between Hikmatyar and Rabbani a panacea for all the ills of the Afghan people.
It was believed that their differences played the role of catalyst in the formation of Harkat Inqilab-e-Islami as Maulvi Mohammad Nabi was appointed head of unified Hizb-e-Islami and Jamiat-e-Islami Afghanistan.
Maulvi Younas Khalis declined to be part of this integration and preferred to head his own faction of Hizb-e-Islami as a separate party.
After one month the alliance disintegrated, thus giving birth to four independent parties.
Likewise, Prof Sayyaf-led Afghan group Ittehad-e-Islami also came into being as a result of disintegration of an alliance.
Efforts aimed at effecting an alliance between the Afghan groups and Mujahideen continued unabated in the past.
My Peshawar residence was the hub of such activities.
Apparently, the efforts were directed towards cementing the ranks of the Mujahideen but hidden hands remained active in sabotaging these sincere efforts.
People from various Arab countries and representatives of the respective countries' intelligence agencies also attended these meetings under the garb of Ulema and Sheikhs.
During one such meeting, I requested Prof. Rabbani to make a categorical statement on any issue; regretfully he failed to do that due to his contingent style of talking.
The government of General Ziaul Haq was also not interested in integrating the Afghans under one leadership.
The greatest failure of Islamabad and its military intelligence owed to the fact that Pakistan did not want to see the Afghan people deciding their fate independently.
The efforts directed towards making Afghanistan a surrogate state of Pakistan strained our relations with Iran besides annoying all the Afghan factions.
Ahmad Shah Masood and Prof Rabbani were critical of Pakistan's alleged support to Hikmatyar.
The same accusation was hurled at JI notwithstanding the fact that the party had strived hard to forge unity in the ranks of Afghans without furthering the cause of any blue-eyed boy in Afghanistan.
Appreciating the ground realities and nature of Gulbadin Hikmatyar, I pointed out to Mian Nawaz Sharif that by not taking Hikmatyar into confidence about the periodical rule formula in Kabul, Pakistan and other Afghan groups had sowed the seeds of chaos in Afghanistan.
Later, when the infighting erupted among the Afghan groups, Mian Nawaz Sharif publicly held me responsible for this fighting.
It is an open secret that no Afghan group or leader was ready to shun his bias and vested interest in dealing with the situation.
It is a common experience of all those who dealt with Afghans that they did not agree [even heed to] any formula that compromised their vested interests.
The current situation in Afghanistan is an outcome of the egocentric behavior of the Afghan leaders and groups who burnt to ashes the entire Afghan nation and the repute earned during their Jihad against the USSR, due to such petty differences.
The dream of unification of the Afghan groups could have been materialized during the era of Ziaul Haq as Islamabad was serving as the main artery for provision of local resources and distribution of foreign aid to Afghanistan at that time.
Late General Sahib and his aides were sceptical that if all Afghan people united under one leadership, they would become masters of their own fate, which in turn, could create trouble for Pakistan.
Now the hatred among Afghans has touched regrettable heights where they are killing their own Afghan brethren with the 'help' of foreigners.
The media is projecting their mutilated corpses, thus adding salt to the injuries so that the wounds of hatred never heal and a war-torn country remains divided on the basis of ethnic and racial prejudice.
This ethnic division of Afghanistan would certainly break a bridge that connects Pakistan to Central Asia.
Ahead of the Bonn agreement, General Pervez Musharaf kept harping on the tune of Pushtun rule in Afghanistan at the behest of America so that the entire region remains unstable due to ethnic prejudices.
This slogan was not going to benefit Pushtuns either.
Pleading for a major chunk, in the process of formation of government in Pakistan, for the Punjabis, considering their majority in the country, could have a negative fallout on the other ethnic groups.
In this backdrop one can easily understand the repercussions of seeking Pushtun rule in Afghanistan.
The Taliban never called themselves Pushtuns nor did Hikmatyar and Rabbani portray themselves as emissaries of Pushtun and Tajik ethnic groups respectively.
Despite belonging to Pushto-speaking race, the royal family in Afghanistan adopted Persian as the official darbar language.
The royal family have accustomed themselves to the darbar language to the extent that even King Zahir Shah could not speak two complete sentences in Pushto.
The royal family is very near to the culture of the Persian-speaking Tajiks.
In order to forge unity in the ranks of Muslim countries, it is imperative to rise above ethnic and racial prejudices and make Islamic civilization and brotherhood our identity.
It is an irony of fate that certain print media organizations, oblivious of the conspiracy hatched by the enemy, were giving front-page coverage to the carnage of the Afghans at the hands of Afghans.
The dream of formation of a good government in neighbouring Afghanistan could not be materialized forcibly.
The secret of long and lasting friendship with Kabul lies in heartily honouring the independence and sovereignty of Afghanistan.
The incumbent military government in Islamabad is committing the same great folly once again by seeking more [Pushtun] representation from those who were instrumental in creating a wedge in Pakistani society on the basis of language.
The Afghan debacle suggests that no one should embark upon the task of reformation of the people and the country on the basis of foreign aid and resources.
Afghanistan was hundred percent dependent on Pakistan, which down the road relied on the USA.
After fulfilling its objectives in Afghanistan, Washington deprived the Pakistani and Afghan nation of the fruits of Jihad, leaving the groups fighting.
The second lesson from the Afghan crisis lies in the fact that all schools of thought, racial and ethnic groups should unanimously endorse a common national goal and then shun all their respective prejudices to achieve this common goal wholeheartedly.
Unfortunately, Islamic groups in Afghanistan were badly driven and motivated by their bias.
Likewise, an organized movement could not yield the logical fruits of its drive unless it is united under one leadership and committed to run its affairs with consultation.
Kabul was devoid of this kind of leadership as the Islamic movements disintegrated there due to personality clash and ego.
In short, successive governments in Islamabad, through their imprudent Afghan policy, turned many good friends into foes, ostensibly in their lust for controlling the affairs of Afghanistan through various Mujahideen and Afghan groups.
Islamabad's close liaison with the Taliban regime could be judged from the fact that an accomplished Saudi leader, Turki Al-Faisal had said on record that "the Kingdom recognized the Taliban government as [former] Interior Minister Naseerullah Babar had assured Riyadh that the Taliban were our [Pakistan] sons." Now the same Islamabad sought the help of Americans to undertake the worst ever blood ath of their 'own sons' in Afghanistan.
--- The writer is Ameer [President] of Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan and currently in detention at Peshawar for opposing the US strikes in Afghanistan
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