5. Nationalist Resistance Organizations

It is difficult to pinpoint which resistance groups were nationalist. Most might be called so, since they defended their homeland against the invasion and stood for the view that the people of Afghanistan alone had the right to set up the kind of state they wanted. Resistance to the invasion on this basis was the widest. The whole question centered on the point of sovereignty: whether it was to be actualized by the Afghans themselves or determined with the help of foreign might on the basis of universalist or internationalist notions. The point had never before been posed to the Afghans in such a stark form. Those Afghans who stood for the principle of popular sovereignty were never subjected to as much pressure as they now were. This is a distinguishing mark of the Afghan liberation movement. The weak point of the nationalists was the uncooperative attitude of Pakistan and their inability to unite in one organization.

• • •

Afghan Jirga in Peshawar

Following the invasion, a popular movement was set up whose purpose was to unite the Afghan nation, solidify the resistance organizations, liberate the land of foreign domination, topple the client regime, and establish a single political leadership. Contrary to the stand of the leftist internationalists and Islamic universalists, this movement’s stand was based on the notion of Afghan solidarity as a nation, and its leaders followed a path like that followed by Afghan elders in the past on similar occasions. Every day about one thousand Afghans, led by community elders, mujahid commanders, and former members of parliament, gathered first in the Madani Mosque and later in the Mahabat Khan Mosque in Peshawar. In Waziristan and Thal, too, Afghan refugees held similar jirgas. The meetings held in Peshawar, which lasted in intervals for three months until 13 May 1980, assumed the features of a loya jirga, a traditional way of resolving a crisis on the basis of consensus. This made it necessary for tribal and community elders to unite with leaders of the Islamic organizations. The jirga focused its efforts on this essential but difficult point.

Under the leadership of Qazi Mohammad Omar Babrakzay, the jirga made two decisions: to create conditions for the convening of a mumassila loya jirga (a jirga akin to the loya jirga) and to invite leaders of the Islamic organizations. In a proposal to the Revolutionary Islamic Council of the Islamic organizations it stated, “Since among you important talks are being held on the fate of Afghanistan, and since these talks are about our fatherland, religion, honor [namoas], and independence, we propose that on the question of determination of our fate all authoritative tribal elders should take part in decisions through such a loya jirga. Any decision made in our absence would have no validity with the Afghan nation.”[1] At first leaders of the Islamic organizations took the invitation lightly. However, when more than 150 tribal and community elders separated from them in protest and joined the jirga, the Islamist leaders agreed to take part.[2] At this time the Islamic organizations were not strong enough to ignore such a call. They had neither sufficient logistics nor weapons at their disposal. Also, the refugees, whose number was increasing, were more enthusiastic about the jirga than about the Islamic organizations. The clashes that the mujahid commanders—particularly the Hizb and Jam’iyyat commanders—had permitted to happen among them had disillusioned the Afghans. They wanted jehad, not internecine battles. Also, the Peshawar-based organizations had frustrated many of their mujahideen by their inability to provide arms.[3] The Islamic organizations then took part in the jirga, and their representatives supported its goals. Mohammad Hashim Mojaddidi, representative of the National Salvation Front, proposed that a united revolutionary council be set up. Its leader, Sibgatullah Mojaddidi, who alone of the leaders of the organizations participated, warned the jirga against sabotage by hypocrites and people in pursuit of self-interest.[4]

The jirga bore fruit on 21 February, when it passed a resolution of thirty-four clauses. The resolution consisted of guidelines covering all aspects of the jehad, the first of its kind to be laid down. One clause proposed setting up a revolutionary council, a government in exile. In another clause the Afghans in Kabul were asked to boycott the client regime. Well-to-do Afghans were called on to assist the mujahideen financially. In another clause the Afghans were asked, in accord with Islamic and Afghan codes, to desist from taking revenge until the jehad ended. Since the jirga was administered according to traditional codes, violators were considered subject to execution. Afghan tribes were, in line with the disciplinary codes of the jirga (nirkh), asked not to give asylum to perpetrators of personal revenge.[5]

Since the implementation of the resolution required the cooperation of the Islamic organizations, the jirga asked their leaders to forge unity among themselves and to allow representatives of tribes to take part in the Revolutionary Council of the Islamic Union for the Liberation of Afghanistan. It also called on the Afghan nation to solidify its ranks. Sayyed Ahmad Gailani and Sibgatullah Mojaddidi declared their support for the resolution.[6] But some from within and without opposed the jirga. A number of its founding members seceded from it to set up a rival jirga, the Loya Jirga of the Tribes of Afghanistan. This threat was soon averted, however, and the seceders rejoined. The threat from the fundamentalists was more serious. Hekmatyar opposed membership of tribal elders in the Revolutionary Council of the Islamic Unity, arguing that they wanted to snatch its leadership. He also accused certain elders of trying to destroy the Islamic Unity.[7] The Kabul regime was also quick in undermining its successes. Shaken by the February Uprising (described in the next chapter), it promulgated a new constitution and distributed conciliatory leaflets in the border regions whence many elders came. From time to time it also convened jirgas of its own.

The jirga’s last round of sessions lasted from 11 May to 13 May 1980, with 916 members from the administrative units of the country, including some from nomadic groups. In a new resolution it repeated its stated goals, proposing at the same time that an Islamic National Revolutionary Council (Islami Milli Inqilabi Jirga) be set up. The Council was to have an executive committee and a series of subcommittees, which would carry on practical affairs.[8] Leaders of the Islamic organizations could become its members provided that they supported the resolution.[9] In effect, the jirga outlined a government in exile. Headed by Mohammad Omar Babrakzay as the acting president of the jirga and Asadullah Safay, a former member of parliament, as chief of the Revolutionary Council, the structure was to remain in force until an elected government was instituted.[10] Believing in the principle of election as the foundation of state structure, the jirga declared, “It [the jirga] considers legitimate and legal only the state that is instituted in line with the national and Islamic spirit following [the restoration of] full independence, through free and impartial elections.” Affirming the principle of separation of the three branches of the state, it stood for the freedom of expression within the bounds of laws and declared its opposition to an absolute order.[11]

There were now two revolutionary councils: the Revolutionary Council of the Islamic Union for the Liberation of Afghanistan, composed of the six Islamic organizations, and the National and Islamic Revolutionary Council, composed of tribal and community elders. Both were for an “Islamic republic.” But the nature and composition of the two “Islamic republics” differed. While the former stood for an ideological Islamic republic, the latter stood for a national, Islamic, and democratic republic. This difference made cooperation between their supporters impossible. The Islamic Union branded the jirga “another enemy of the sacred Islamic revolution of Afghanistan.”[12] In response, the National Islamic Council stated that while representatives and leaders of the Islamic organizations supported the jirga, there were a few in the unity who, because of ignorance, denounced it. It also stated that the “real Islamic groups would never do something for which they would make themselves liable to the Muslim nation of Afghanistan.”[13] The jirga used such language against the Islamic Union because of its popularity with the refugees, who numbered more than 700,000 at the time. The Islamic Union withdrew its statement.[14]

Forging unity and procuring financial assistance were the two important issues to which the National Islamic Council addressed itself. But these issues sealed its doom. The council set up a commission to ensure membership of the Islamic organizations and procure financial assistance from friendly countries. Already Saudi Arabia and a few others had expressed their willingness to grant financial assistance. But they had made this assistance conditional on the creation of a unified center. The Islamic Union held that it had created such a center already, while the National Islamic Council intended to forge a larger unity. “At this juncture certain [Islamic] organizations, in order to procure [financial] assistance, tried to extend control over the National Islamic Revolutionary Council.”[15] Also, some leaders of the Islamic Union feared that, because of the success of the jirga, power was slipping from them. Although in principle in favor of the jirga, Gailani and Mojaddidi competed with each other in influencing it while the Islamists tried to undermine it.[16] The attitude shown toward the jirga by the authorities of the host country proved crucial. A number of times Pakistani police warned its participants to disperse for security reasons. Once they took away many of them in two trucks after a group from a fundamentalist organization had beaten them.[17] Pakistan did not want the Afghans to set up new organizations on its soil; this point had been decreed by the Consultative Board, a high-level commission concerned with Afghan affairs and headed by President Zia al-Haq.[18] The board persuaded Afghan refugees to join the Islamic party of Hekmatyar.[19] But the jirga’s coup de grâce came from within. Supported by his followers, a member of the Gailani family chaired the jirga in violation of its procedures, as a result of which the majority boycotted it.[20] Subsequent efforts aimed at creating regional unions for the same purpose also came to nothing. Thus failed the first attempt by Afghans to set up a political structure along traditional lines at a time of national crisis.

• • •

Afghan Jirga in Pishin

This was, however, not the end of the movement, nor could it be unless there was an alternative to it. In September 1981 elders from western Afghanistan, led by the former senator Abdul Quddos and the former deputy president of parliament Abdul Ahad Karzay, attempted to convene a loya jirga. They invited the ‘ulama, tribal elders, elder statesmen, and military officers to set up a political leadership. Pointing at the inability of leaders of the Islamic organizations to unite the Afghans, the initiators of the proposal stated that it was now incumbent on them to set up a council (shura) through which the representatives of the Muslims of Afghanistan could lay a foundation for the future. Specifically, they also stated that since party politics had disunited Afghans, they should abandon it in favor of the institution of the jirga, by which their forefathers had resolved national problems in critical times. They stated that under the leadership of an elected acting president and secretaries, the proposed jirga would adopt guidelines on the basis of which a shura and a political leadership would be set up and a government in exile formed.[21]

The response was overwhelming, despite warnings from fundamentalists to those who wished to attend the jirga. In their view the jirga was a suicidal attempt by “the enemies of Islam and leftist parties.”[22] More than three thousand influential persons from all over the country arrived at Quetta, but local authorities requested that they move to the smaller town of Pishin for security reasons. There, too, the meetings were postponed for a few days because of the arrival in the region of President Zia al-Haq. Against the opposition of the police, who argued that the jirga should not be held, the Afghans insisted that since it was an Afghan affair, others had nothing to do with it.[23] This time the moderate Islamic organizations boycotted the jirga, alleging that the Parchamis had infiltrated it. The jirga elders said that since the jirga did not intend to be an instrument in the hands of any organization, opposition to it was understandable.[24] But unlike Peshawar, where the Islamists could disrupt such meetings, Pishin was safe from such interferences. The meetings were held as scheduled in September 1981.

The question of the selection of a national leader (mille qa’id) dominated the meetings of the jirga. Ningrahar elders proposed the former king for the position; this motion was accepted after a debate in which the Kandahari proponents of the king argued against the advisability of the proposal at this juncture. A commission composed of five representatives from each province and major district, as well as from the nomads and Hazaras, was assigned the task of setting up local councils, provincial councils, and a central council, called the National Islamic Council.[25] But the former king was living in Rome: he could not come to landlocked Afghanistan, nor could he direct his followers there in the face of opposition from Pakistan as well as the Afghan Islamists. It is an irony of history that in 1929, under similar circumstances, the non-Muslim British government of India allowed Mohammad Nadir Khan to pass on to Afghanistan, where he founded his dynasty, while the Muslim rulers of Pakistan refused to allow his son (Mohammad Zahir) to do the same. Mohammad Zahir had neither organized support among his followers nor sympathetic listeners to his cause in the neighboring countries.

Likewise, the elders—who were the embodiment of social wisdom and experience but who, unlike their opponents, were neither organized nor supported by a foreign power—were alienated from the Islamic groups in general and the fundamentalist groups in particular. Because of that alienation, the liberation movement worked against itself, creating a situation that made it dependent on foreign powers and distanced it from its grass roots, thus leading to its weakness. At a time of struggle against foreign domination, when the neighboring supportive powers also intended to influence Afghan politics through their surrogates, those who acted on the principle of self-determination had little chance of success. But the Pishin jirga, by pinpointing the former king as an embodiment of Afghan nationalism, brought him to the focus of attention.

• • •

Mohammad Zahir

The former king responded to the Pishin jirga in words that reflected Afghan nationalism. In a communiqué issued on the occasion, he stated that traditional jirgas were the last resort for free debates and the adoption of resolutions in a democratic fashion about national problems in times of emergencies such as the present one. In the former king’s view, the resolutions of such jirgas must take into account the viewpoints and tendencies of all national groups who are engaged in the struggle for the realization of common goals—in this case, “independence, territorial integrity, restoration of the status of traditional nonalignment, the national and Islamic identity of our homeland, and the maintenance of the right to self-determination for the institution of the future government through free elections.”[26]

By the “state of emergency” the former king meant the lack of a legitimate government in the country and its occupation by the Soviet Union. The king responded to the situation by convening a loya jirga and pursuing a policy of waging armed jehad and holding political negotiations, depending on the circumstances. From the elaboration of these points, the features of Afghan nationalism as envisaged by the former king become clear.

In the king’s view, the jirga is a traditional institution in which all tribes and sectors of society (through their elders) take part on an equal basis to settle national problems. The jirga is convened in times of national emergency, especially when Afghanistan feels pressured by outside powers. King Amanullah even required participants of a jirga to “settle by consensus of votes all the vital problems and schemes for the uplift and progress of Afghanistan.”[27] The agenda fixed for the jirga covered the entire range of foreign and domestic affairs. In general, an elderly statesman presides over the jirga until someone else is appointed for the whole session. Whatever the issue, the participants resolve it by consensus after they discuss it in a democratic way. This is a description of a national jirga (loya jirga) attended by influential people from throughout the country and by selected government officials. The national jirga is then open to influence by governments, which have frequently held them in modern times and particularly in the twentieth century. But in a particular locality everyone concerned with the issue attends the jirga, along with elders and other persons (jirgamawr, marakchiyan) who have special knowledge of its rules and procedures. The mullas are invited to attend the jirga not to administer it but to provide advice, if needed. The jirga is solemnly convened after the usual Muslim prayer is offered, and a Pashto verse is recited: “Events are with God, but deliberation is allowed to man.” The more democratic the tribe, the larger the jirga. Part of Pashtunwali (the social and legal codes of the Pashtuns), the jirga is a Pashtun institution by which the Pashtuns resolve not only ordinary disputes but also issues, particularly criminal issues, that defy solutions through the Shari’a or civil courts. The decisions are enforced and, among some tribes, the violators punished by a special militia (the arobaki).

As noted, Mohammad Zahir held that such an assembly was to deliberate over ways and means to restore Afghan sovereignty and lay down the basis for a future government. But since the prospect for holding jirgas were dim, the former king also viewed armed jehad as a means of realizing the national goal. In his view, “Presently the people of Afghanistan are engaged in an armed jehad for the restoration of their rights and national honor. Other than that no way has been left open to them, and if this goal can be attained by a peaceful means they would consider it.” For the success of jehad, in December 1981 he proposed the formation of a “united front.” He appealed to his compatriots to set aside—in accord with the injunctions of Islam and the approved national traditions—whatever personal and tribal differences they might have and choose their representatives “so that if God wills through the institution of a great national assembly with the participation of the representatives of all tribes, existing unions, organizations, and associations the foundation for such a united front may be laid down which can represent all the people of Afghanistan for the purpose of waging the armed struggle, and legally representing the people in international councils and states.”[28] Realizing the difficulty of convening a loya jirga under the conditions of war, the former king proposed setting up a constituent assembly to pave the way for it. For this purpose a commission was set up.

Even opponents of “a united front” could not reject overnight the proposal for its formation. Afghans were disturbed by the disunity among the jehad organizations. That was why, according to the king, by October 1984 a number of “fronts and other groups from inside and outside Afghanistan as well as a large number of Afghan refugees in Pakistan and the majority of Afghan associations in various parts of the world” supported the proposal. The three moderate groups, the Triple Alliance, also endorsed it, suggesting at the same time that the Muslim and other interested organizations and governments should be consulted about it.[29]

Nevertheless, the proposal remained in abeyance. In particular, Pakistan was against it. As already described, although Pakistan supported the jehad, it preferred a divided leadership even among the Islamic organizations. It was even more in favor of division in the case of a national front, especially the one propounded by the former king, who was considered a symbol of Afghan nationalism. Also, the rift between the two countries on the issue of Pashtunistan might have influenced Pakistan to oppose a movement that would have helped Afghan nationalists rise to leadership. The king had favored improved relations with Pakistan, offering “his pledge to Pakistan during her wars with India that Afghanistan would not move her troops nor create any disturbance on the Pak-Afghan border”;[30] even so, Pakistan did not trust him. For forty years he had been the sovereign of an independent land, and now, too, he stated, “I do not think I can become an instrument in the hands of anyone.”[31]

This may have been why Pakistan discouraged those groups and persons who supported the former king as well as the cause of the Afghan nation. Among the known nationalist Afghans was Abdur Rahman Pazhwak, a diplomat and former president of the General Assembly of the United Nations. The Social Democratic Party (Afghan Millat) is a case in point of a nationalist party that—although it had opposed the Khalqi government, and although the Parcham regime had imprisoned many of its leaders—was not allowed to work independently but only under the umbrella of the National Islamic Front. Azizulla Wasifi, an influential Alkozay elder from Kandahar and a former cabinet minister and president of the last loya jirga of the precommunist period, was the only one who was able to carry on his resistance activities in the spirit of nationalism. He could do so because as an elder of the Durrani tribal confederation he enjoyed the support of his refugee tribesmen in Quetta, where in 1980 he set up the Islamic National United Front (Islami Muttahida Mille Jabha).[32] Apparently, this scheme also called for the elimination by terrorists of leaders of emerging self-reliant Afghan groups and for the discouragement of others—community elders in particular—who might otherwise undertake resistance activities beyond the aegis of the Islamic groups. Many such persons took refuge in the West. Pakistan refused politely or deferred to an indefinite date the requests that the former king had made to visit it.[33] The Islamist organizations opposed both him and his proposals to set up a national front.

Under these circumstances it was not feasible for a united front to be formed through a jirga. It was so not because the jirga had become anachronistic, to be looked on as “a final attempt by an aristocracy in decline to oppose the rise of Islamists,”[34] but because the neighboring governments opposed the emergence of a national leadership since each followed an agenda of its own to dominate Afghanistan. For this purpose they supported the Islamist groups in their bid to restrict to themselves the right not only to wage jehad but also to be part of the future political leadership. But in the sociopolitical structure of Afghan society at the time, there was no alternative to the jirga of influential groups and magnates to set up a political leadership in accord with the social norms and conventions—unless, of course, one believed in the use of violence and the setting up of an undemocratic or client leadership.

The opposition deterred the former king from moving from Rome, where he met with foreign emissaries. Since he had neither an organization nor a dynasty nor independent financial or military means, he had no other choice. Contrary to the rumors his opponents had spread, the former king, while a ruler, was among the poorest monarchs in the world. In Rome he lived in a villa with financial assistance from the king of Saudi Arabia. A realist and unambitious, he said he would not try to restore the monarchy.[35] Like other Afghans, he was convinced that the Mohammadzay rule has become a part of history. But he was popular. In an opinion survey among the Afghan refugees in Peshawar in 1987, more than 72 percent favored him as their leader. He is, however, not the sort of person to accept risks as his father did in 1929. In his defense, he has been quoted as saying that if he became active, his followers might suffer at the hands of the opponents and he would not be able to help them.[36]

Such a statement is believable from a person who, during forty years of rule, did not sign a writ for the execution of any person for political reasons. He also used his royal influence to commute capital punishment for persons convicted in criminal cases. This is unusual for a king of the Afghans, who have in their history appreciated a strong ruler. Mohammad Zahir Shah was instead a mild ruler. A decade of his reign constituted the constitutional democracy, which had no precedent in Afghan history. He has also played an important role in demonstrating a spirit of nonpartisanship, stating that “during my reign I did not relate myself to a particular tribe or clan, but looked on the entire people of Afghanistan from the same angle.”[37] His unifying efforts in these turbulent times, when other contenders of power showed themselves willing to resort to any means available, reflect that view. In the period of divisiveness, violence, and anarchy the former king was steadfast in his stand for unity, accommodation, construction, and cooperation. Now, half a decade after the withdrawal of the Soviet Union, it is unclear whether he will be able to play a role. He can do so only when the Islamic fundamentalists and the governments of Iran and Pakistan leave the Afghans to themselves to set up a political leadership in accord with their social conventions.

• • •

Leftist Resistance Groups

The leftists opposed to the invasion and the Kabul regime were the Marxist or Maoist group known as the Shu’lais. Radical revolutionaries, they were also called Left of the Left (Chap-e-Chap). The original name of their organization, which was set up in 1964, was the People’s New Democratic (Democratic-e-Naween-e-Khalq). Its prominent founding figures were Rahim Mahmudi, Hadi Mahmudi, and Mohammad Osman, known as Osman Landay.[38] The Mahmudis enjoyed prestige for being the brother and nephew, respectively, of Abdur Rahman Mahmudi, a revolutionary figure of the 1950s, and Landay, a teacher, was popular among students. No other teacher in Afghanistan has served the cause of modern education as much as Osman Landay. Teaching mathematics and physics in his private courses, he has trained thousands of students.

The People’s New Democratic served as a mother organization of the leftist movement. It aimed at socialism through revolutionary and violent means, rejecting parliamentary ways and conversely supporting armed struggle. It also supported the ideological and political line of the Communist Party of China on national and international issues. Nevertheless, “the organization could never rise to the level of a party and offer a policy program. Lacking this, the organization could not effectively combine legal and illegal methods of struggle and ended up engaging in nothing more than political adventurism.”[39] Still, it more than the PDPA concentrated its activities among peasants.

In the constitutional period the organization published a periodical, Shu’la-e-Jawid (The Eternal Flame), after which it came to be known. The periodical was closed shortly afterwards. In this decade of strained relations between Moscow and Beijing, both chose to spread ideological literature in Kabul. In the fervor of the Cultural Revolution, Beijing eagerly distributed Mao’s works in Pashto and Persian. When Prime Minister E’timadi observed the rapid growth of the pro-Moscow leftists, he left undisturbed the free distribution of Chinese literature, hoping to encourage the Shu’lais to counterpoise the pro-Moscow communists. But this myopic policy brought about the opposite result. In the 1960s, when the university campus was in turmoil and student processions common, the Shu’lais seemed more numerous and more dynamic than the PDPA. The Shu’lais, more than other leftists, became responsible for undermining the democratic system.

The Shu’lais became active in the rural areas, particularly in Herat and closer to Kabul in Kohistan and Parwan, where Chinese experts were also working with the government on a canal project for irrigation purposes. This may explain why the Shu’lais had infiltrated the peasants of the latter areas more than other parties had. But they, too, were not immune to the law of Afghan politics, and by the time of the invasion they had split into many subgroups over theoretical as well as tactical and practical issues. The new groups, in order of significance, were Surkha (later Rihayee), SAMA, Akhgar, Paikar, SAWO, and Khurasan.[40]

Among the pro-Chinese leftist groups SAMA, the most practical, was known to the public, while the rest were known primarily to their members. Majid Kalakani founded SAMA in late 1978. In 1979, in concert with other “nationalist groups,” SAMA forged a front, the National United Front of Afghanistan, or NUFA (Jabha-e-Mutahid-e-Milli-e-Afghanistan). Dominated by SAMA, NUFA was an urban guerrilla alliance. According to Khalid Duran,

[NUFA] outlined a clear program for the war of liberation as well as subsequent political and socioeconomic reconstruction. While NUFA declared itself free of any ideology, it defined itself as “national democratic.” The adherence to democracy was substantiated by a clear affirmation of universal suffrage and human rights, with full equality for women and minorities as well as freedom of worship, all within a federal state with far reaching autonomy for the various nationalities and language groups.[41]

Despite this proclamation, the public still heard the acronym SAMA, not NUFA.

SAMA’s significance was largely due to the adventurousness of its leader, Majid Kalakani, who was more of a social bandit than a leader of leftists. He was a teacher, and while a student he was alleged to have killed the principal of his school, for which he spent two years in prison. Known to his followers as Majid Agha and in the Western press as “the Afghan Robin Hood,” he had become active in his region as early as the first years of the 1970s. He came from the village of Kalakan, from where in the late 1920s the social bandit Habibullah captured the throne and became the ruler of the country for nine months. Majid Kalakani stood for armed as well as cultural and political struggle. He also valued constructive traditions, in particular the custom of opposing social injustice and observing the code of social morality by accepting risk with boldness and chivalry (’ayyari). This attitude, which distanced him from the dogmatic revolutionaries, brought him closer to the common people. An admirer of Kalakani writes, “Unlike the intellectual revolutionaries who look at the people from above, Majid Agha lived among them. The people felt him to be with them. He was knowable to the people. His language was the language of the people and his ideal the ideal of the people.”[42]

All the pro-Chinese leftist groups opposed the invading army and its client regime, and they were behind many uprisings. They also carried out terroristic attacks in daylight in Kabul, some of which were daring indeed. But their organized strength became ineffective in a short time. In cities the KGB, through the KhAD, hunted the pro-Chinese Afghan leftists more vigorously than they did the Islamic elements. Evidently it was the policy of the KGB to clear the country, particularly the city of Kabul, of pro-Chinese elements. It was a clear case of witch-hunting: a suspicion was enough for KhAD to push an educated Afghan into prison, where it would accuse him of being a pro-Chinese communist. Even I was accused of being a leading member of Rihayee, and on such an allegation the KhAD executed a well-known nuclear physicist, Professor Yunus Akbari.

In the rural areas the pro-Chinese communists were no more secure. Their partisan peasants disowned them when they found out that they were communists. Both the government forces and the Islamic opposition pursued them. When the Islamists pursued them, they surrendered to the government. Others joined the government in opposition to the Islamic resistance, while most, particularly their leaders, found their places in the Pul-e-Charkhi concentration camp, where I met many of them. Some disguised themselves and joined the moderate Islamic groups. Their fate became worse than the fate of the populists of Russia in the last part of the nineteenth century when the peasants whom they wanted to serve in their regions handed them over to the authorities. China, the distant patron of these Afghan leftists, was unable or unwilling to help them. The first group of prisoners whom the regime executed were leaders of SAWO. In June 1980 the regime also executed Majid Kalakani, who had been arrested in February of the same year. His brother, Qayyum Rahbar (b. 1942), replaced him as leader of NUFA. A graduate of the University of al-Azhar, Rahbar had specialized in Afghan constitutional development. Well-versed in five languages, including Arabic and German, he taught at the University of Kiel in Germany. A man of the pen rather than the gun, Rahbar led NUFA for ten years until he was gunned down in daylight in Peshawar in 1990.

The suppression of the pro-Chinese elements shows the fate of revolutionary leftists in Afghanistan when unsupported by the might of a foreign power.


1. Wajdi, Traditional Jirgas, 222. This is an important book on the Afghan jirga system. Wajdi is particularly commendable on the jehad jirgas held in Peshawar, where he worked as chief of the Publication Department of the Islamic and National Revolutionary Councils. I am grateful to Masood Majruh for lending me his copy of the book. See also Hyman, “Afghan Politics of Exile.”

2. Wajdi, Traditional Jirgas, 220.

3. Zamani, “Jirga in Peshawar,” 17, 22, 23.

4. Wajdi, Traditional Jirgas, 225.

5. Ibid., 229-37.

6. Ibid., 226.

7. Ibid., 236.

8. Ibid., 237.

9. Ibid., 243.

10. Ibid., 249.

11. Ibid., 241.

12. Ibid., 246.

13. Ibid., 247.

14. Ibid., 248.

15. Ibid., 251.

16. Alam, “Memoirs of Jehad,” 110.

17. Zamani, “Jirga in Peshawar,” 31, 35.

18. Ibid., 14. The Consultative Board had the following as its members: three senior military officers, Shahnawaz Khan of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the leader of the Jama’at-e-Islami of Pakistan. The latter was not a government official.

19. Ibid., 14.

20. Alam, “Memoirs of Jehad,” 111; Wajdi, Traditional Jirgas, 251.

21. Wajdi, Traditional Jirgas, 264-67.

22. Ibid., 268.

23. A. Wasifi, personal communication, Los Angeles, May 1991.

24. Wajdi, Traditional Jirgas, 269.

25. Ibid., 270-71.

26. For details, see Mohammad Zahir, Messages, 21. I am grateful to Ibrahim Majid Seraj and Sultan Mahmud Ghazi for providing me with this rare book.

27. Adamec, Afghanistan’s Foreign Affairs, 81.

28. Mohammad Zahir, Messages, 47, 22, 34.

29. Ibid., 46, 47.

30. Amin, “Future of Afghan Society,” 13. The authoritative biography of the former king states that “it was due to his statesmanship that on several critical occasions collisions between the two Muslim countries were averted” (Mohammad Zahir, Messages, 3).

31. Mohammad Zahir, Messages, 142.

32. A. Wasifi, personal communication, Los Angeles, May 1991.

33. S. M. Ghazi, personal communication, Orange County, Calif., January 1991.

34. Roy, Islam and Resistance, 124.

35. Mohammad Zahir, Messages, 151.

36. S. M. Ghazi, personal communication, January 1991.

37. Mohammad Zahir, Messages, 151.

38. Emadi, State, Society, and Superpowers, 104.

39. Ibid.

40. Surkha: Sazman-e-Rihayeebakhsh-e-Khalq-e-Afghanistan, (Organization for Liberation of the People of Afghanistan).

41. Duran, “Setback for Peace,” 15.

42. Kalakani’s father and grandfather also lost their lives for social causes. For details, see Anonymous, “Two Martyred and the Same Fate.”