4. Islamic Resistance Organizations

Submitted by Mike Harman on December 4, 2018

The resistance to the Soviet invasion was nationwide. But in contrast with past resistance movements, which were headed by traditional leaders, in the present resistance leaders emerged from among the modern, educated members of Afghan society. They had been organized in political parties set up in the 1960s, a by-product of the transition from a traditional to a modern society. The process of modernization on a major scale started in 1956, when Premier Daoud launched the first five-year economic development plan. Thereafter, a state-controlled mixed economy based on five-year plans became the model for development. Among other things, modernization policy led to the expansion of education and an increase in the number of students. Their total number rose from 667,500 in 1970 to 888,800 in 1976. Among them were students of both sexes in institutions of higher education; these students numbered 7,400 in 1970 and 15,000 in 1976. In 1970 there were 910 teachers of higher education and 18,138 teachers in primary and high schools.[1] There were similar numbers of military students and students enrolled abroad. By 1975 there were 115,125 Afghans with at least twelve years of formal education.[2]

In the constitutional decade, when secularization was a main current, the morphology of Afghan politics began to change. A feature of this change was the emergence of educated Afghans in the forefront of politics. No longer were traditional leaders the only actors on the political stage. Political parties composed of the intelligentsia were set up. Since the parties were not legal, their leaders employed the free press as a vehicle for their views and chose students to be their activists. The 1960s was a decade of student unrest throughout the free world. In Kabul, too, higher educational institutes—particularly Kabul University—became politicized. In the 1960s it was closed for weeks, even months, because of such activities. Following the overthrow of the monarchy and during the Khalqi rule, the parties inside the country were suppressed. Some carried on activities from Pakistan. The Soviet invasion prompted the parties to become active once again. New resistance groups also mushroomed. Following the exodus in 1980 of Afghans to Pakistan, eighty-four small and large resistance groups were set up in Peshawar. Inside Afghanistan about twenty groups and regional unions were active by July 1981.[3] They fell within a spectrum including Islamic, nationalist, and leftist tendencies. Some groups were regional. Only the groups that opposed the invasion and had platforms for ruling the country are described here.

• • •

Islamic Radicalism

The Islamic groups constituted the backbone of the resistance movement. Among them, some were traditional and others novel in composition, ideology, or platform. The novel groups were fundamentalist and revolutionary. They aimed not only to oppose the invasion but also to reorganize the state and society. They intended to do so on the basis of Islamic ideology, which they had acquired from the radical thinkers of the modern Islamic world. That was why their story did not end with the repulsion of the invasion.

In Afghanistan as elsewhere in the Islamic world, Islamic fundamentalism (or Islamism or Islamic radicalism)[4] is the story of response to a society in transition from the traditional to the modern that sets the state on the road to secularization. The overriding concern of the Afghan Islamists was to defend Islam from the encroachment of atheism, which permeated the educated population after the country became dependent on the Soviet Union for schemes of modernization in the late 1950s. As a by-product of this dependence, there emerged a group of leftists influenced by the literature of the Tudeh Party of Iran, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, and the Communist Party of China. Supporting the Soviet-assisted schemes of modernization, the pro-Moscow leftists did not oppose the government as strongly as leftists usually do. They chose feudalism, capitalism, imperialism, and to some extent Islam as their targets to prepare the atmosphere for intellectual change.

To undermine Islam, the leftists questioned the existence of God. Because of these efforts to spread atheism, some Afghans saw official atheism as the leftists’ goal. Leftist students at the Kabul educational centers became active in this endeavor, which also touched provincial high schools. Gulbuddin Hekmatyar notes that, while a student in his hometown in the province of Qunduz, he felt the need to set up an Islamic organization to combat the atheists.[5] Students and professors of Kabul University started the Islamic movement in the 1960s and disseminated the views of Islamist thinkers through translations of their works. Since the Islamic groups were at the bottom of the resistance movement, and since the movement has deeply affected Afghan politics, it is necessary to describe first the views of the modern Islamic thinkers and then, in this and the following chapter, the Afghan resistance groups in general and their programs of resisting the invasion.

• • •

Features of Islamic Radicalism

The Islamic movement is composed of the views of three thinkers of Muslim India, Indo-Pakistan, and Egypt. They are Abul Hassan ’Ali Nadawi, Abul A’la Mawdudi (1903-79), and Sayyed Qutb (c. 1906-66), who wrote their main works in the mid-twentieth century. Based on the Quran, their views encompass aspects of society and the state. They have made the seizure of state power the main goal. The movement is political, and the Islamists are, like other revolutionaries, concerned with power. In their view, God is the source of sovereignty, and his commands are the laws of Islam. Secular concepts such as nationalism, liberalism, democracy, capitalism, socialism, communism, and the like are rejected. As Sayyed Qutb holds, Islam “has chosen its own unique and distinctive way and presented to humanity a complete cure for all its ills.” Their prescriptions for the ills of humanity are to be administered by professional revolutionaries without recourse to the masses of the people and with no room for accommodation with adversaries.[6]

The Islamists stress the need to introduce reform along Islamic fundamentalist lines. This is because, according to the thinkers, religious ignorance (jahiliyya) has prevailed in the world, as it had before the rise of Islam.[7] Like revolutionaries, the Islamists consider the state to be an instrument of reform. The state, Mawdudi has propounded, is universal to the extent that its “sphere of activity is coextensive with the whole of human life.” Also, the state is ideological: that is, its aim is to establish the ideology based on the fundamentals of Islam, which are the Quran and the Sunna (sayings of the Prophet Mohammad). In Mawdudi’s writings, this is called the Islamic state, whereas in Sayyed Qutb’s writings it is termed “an Islamic order.” Both are coextensive with the activities of humanity. In Sayyed Qutb’s view, “Religion in the Islamic understanding is synonymous with the term nizam [order] as found in modern usage, with the complete meaning of a creed in the heart, ethics in behavior, and law in society.”[8]

In Mawdudi’s view, the state “should be run only by those who believe in the ideology [of Islam] on which it is based and in the Divine Law which it is assigned to administer.” Mere belief in the ideology of Islam is not enough for a Muslim to run the state. “The administrators of the Islamic State,” Mawdudi avers, “must be those whose whole life is devoted to the observance and enforcement of this law, who not only agree with its reformatory program and fully believe in it but thoroughly comprehend its spirit and are acquainted with its details.” He further states that “whoever accepts this program, no matter to what race, nation or country he may belong, can join the community that runs the Islamic State. But those who do not accept it are not entitled to have any hand in shaping the fundamental policy of the State.”[9] The non-Muslim subjects of an Islamic state are thus excluded from running the Islamic state but are entitled to all the rights and benefits of second-class citizens.

The Islamic state is yet more exclusive, for women, too, would be prohibited from administering it. In Mawdudi’s view, nature has made women unfit to play an active role in society, outside the home where they belong.[10] He holds this view although Muslim women, like Muslim men, are counted as first-class citizens on whose will alone the Islamic state is to be based. Among men, too, by definition only a small group of pious professionals thoroughly versed in Islamic law and the fundamentals of Islam are entitled to run the state. Thus, the Islamic state, which is to be universal in function, becomes exclusive in composition. Mawdudi calls this state a theo-democracy. He calls it so not because it offers political pluralism and equality of all citizens before the law, irrespective of religious or political beliefs; indeed, he holds these principles to be contrary to the essence of Islam. He calls the Islamic state theo-democratic because, in his view, “the entire Muslim population runs the state in accordance with the Book of God and the practice of His Prophet.” In his view a theo-democracy is “a divine democratic government, because under it the Muslims have been given a limited popular sovereignty under the suzerainty of God.”[11]

This limited sovereignty entitles the Muslims to constitute the government and also to depose it when it is found to be working contrary to Shari’a (Islamic law). In Mawdudi’s view, “Every Muslim who is capable and qualified to give a sound opinion on matters of law is entitled to interpret the law of God when such interpretation becomes necessary.” This sovereignty is further reinforced by the principle that “all questions about which no explicit injunction is to be found in the Shari’a are settled by the principle of consensus among the Muslims.”[12] But in practical life only professionals are able to express sound judgment on matters of law. Since the majority cannot become professionals, the field becomes restricted to a small portion of society. Also, when it comes to the question of the head of the state, the limited sovereignty is limited still further, since only a male Muslim is considered qualified for the post of amir, who is to be assisted by a consultative council. Although Mawdudi allows women the right to vote, he demarcates a permanent division of labor in accord with the Islamic law, in which women are assigned indoor duties.[13] On this point Sayyed Qutb is more explicit, stating that a woman fulfills her function by being a wife and mother, while the function of a man is to be the authority, the breadwinner, and the active member in public life.[14] Thus, the Islamic state becomes a prerogative of professional Muslim men only.

On the question of state power, the Islamists are more serious than the traditional reformist religious thinkers were. This is one of the points of their departure from the reformist thinkers of the past. Since the state has now become more important, its seizure has been made a goal. Toward this end jehad, which traditionally is religious in the sense that it is extreme exertion of self and property in the cause of God, is looked on as a “continuation of God’s politics by other means” not only against infidels but also against tyrannical rulers when the tenets and rules of Islam are neglected or violated. In this sense, jehad is a form of permanent political struggle designed, as Qutb argues, to disarm the enemy so that Islam is allowed to apply its Shari’a unhindered by the oppressive power of idolatrous tyrannies.[15]

Both Mawdudi and Qutb place jehad at the forefront of religious obligations, arguing that it is a duty incumbent on all Muslim men, particularly when their religion is under attack by the spread of jahiliyya. Mawdudi rejects the view that jehad is either a “holy war” waged by religious zealots in order to convert infidels by force of arms or an instrument of self-defense. There is a connection between the use of force and the nature of Islam as a dynamic movement, or “a revolutionary ideology” as Mawdudi calls it. The missionary side of Islam is relegated to this ideology. Because it is “a revolutionary ideology,” Islam has adherents who are an “international revolutionary party” that has as its main aim a worldwide revolution that transcends boundaries and national territories. The seizure of political power is thus the consummation of jehad and its raison d’être.[16]

The process by which political power is acquired is central to the Islamists, as it is to all revolutionaries. Since to the Islamists Islam is a “revolutionary ideology” and its adherents “revolutionaries,” it is logical to assume that their immediate goal is to seize the state. They have discarded gradualist and reformist approaches, including the holding of elections and the rest of the democratic procedures for attaining state power. They have done so not only because these approaches are the contribution of the Western world, for which Islam has no need, but also because in Sayyed Qutb’s view the common people are unreliable, easily swayed by demagogues, particularly in the age of mass media. In his view the seizure of power is the work of the “chosen elite,” the vanguard of professional revolutionaries who dedicate their life to one purpose. Well-disciplined, highly organized, and imbued with the spirit of a new era in the long march of Islam, they cannot fail to win.[17]

To ensure victory for the vanguards, Sayyed Qutb has left them some guidelines in their “long march” toward an Islamic state. In their daily confrontations with the state, they must dissociate themselves from it. Except for a studied and purposeful interaction, neither penetration of the existing political establishment nor cooperation and accommodation with the state are to be allowed. In his own words, “the summoners to God must be distinct and a community unto themselves.” As Youssef M. Choueiri points out, this attitude results in a society of the believers, represented by God’s select group, that is in a perpetual conflict with the unbelievers, whose earthly concern spans both society and the state.[18] The more important point of Sayyed Qutb’s views on the subject of direct struggle of the vanguards with the state has been summed up as follows: “First a small group of people accept the creed until it is firmly rooted in the hearts of its members; then this group begins to organize its life on the basis of this creed and encounters persecution from the surrounding jahili [ignorant] society, then it splits off from the surrounding jahili society and confronts it in an open struggle. Then it succeeds completely, or partially, or is defeated, as God wills.”[19] As a devout Muslim, Sayyed Qutb, with the cooperation of a network of militant underground cells, intended to offer a model to his followers by trying to overthrow the socialistic government of President Jamal Abdul Nasser by a swift armed action. But before he was able to do so, he was seized and condemned to death in August 1966. His teachings and methods, however, soon invigorated Islamists throughout the Muslim world, encouraging them to set up political organizations for the same purpose.

• • •

The Islamic Movement in Afghanistan

The story of the emergence of the Islamic movement in Afghanistan, as elsewhere in the Muslim world, is a story of reaction to modernization schemes that led to an increase in state activities from a minimum, as in traditional society, to a maximum in the period of transition to a modern society. As such, the movement is recent, a by-product of the modernization schemes that began in the late 1950s. It is also more dynamic since it was at the same time a response to the rise of communism associated with the modernization schemes financed mainly by the Soviet Union. In the process of modernization, people were drawn into greater participation in the modern sector through schools, courts, economic activity, communications, the army, and urban immigration. As Professor M. E. Yapp explains in the context of the Muslim societies in general, in Afghanistan this process also led to the politicization of religion when the state took over the functions formerly the domain of the religious classes and other institutions.[20]

In the process of modernization, the Afghan middle class, composed of the educated elements, increased in numbers from a few hundred to nearly a hundred thousand.[21] These educated persons were mainly from rural areas. The state-run free educational system had made it possible for industrious students of the rural areas to have access to institutions of higher education in Kabul, where they had been concentrated. The founding members of the Islamic movement were from rural areas associated with modern educational institutes, not traditional madrases. They were neither part of the political ruling circles nor dependent on the state, a point that may account for their militancy.

Professor Ghulam Mohammad Niazi and others were the founders of the Islamic movement in Afghanistan.[22] Hekmatyar, though, states that the founders were twelve university students, including himself.[23] He also states that the founding students invited the professors to join the movement, but most declined the invitation. He speaks specifically of the invitation to Professor Niazi, but he adds that all along, even from his prison cell, Niazi replied that while he supported the movement, he did not wish to take part in it as an official member.[24] Hekmatyar concludes that “as state employees they [the professors] did not wish to become members of a movement which opposed it.”[25]

The movement began in 1957, when Ghulam Mohammad Niazi established a small cell at the Abu Haneefa seminary in Paghman. He had just returned from Egypt, where, at University of al-Azhar, he had obtained a master’s degree in Islamic studies. On arriving in Paghman, he initiated a group of devout teachers to the cell and its numbers increased, especially after the fall of Premier Mohammad Daoud in 1963, when they regularly held clandestine meetings in Kabul.[26] By 1969 the Islamists had set up a political action group with Professor Niazi as its nominal leader (amir).[27] Hekmatyar’s comments above probably concern the students’ branch of this movement, which was founded in 1969 under the name of the Muslim Youth (jawanan-e-Musulman). He writes, “When Daoud staged a coup [in 1973] our party was very young. Only four years had passed of its founding.”[28] Others called them the Islamic Brethren (ikhwan al-Muslimin). Hekmatyar probably did not know of the secret association of the professors, described by Barnet Rubin:

At the beginning of 1973, the movement, which also included a more secret association of professors, began to register its members and formed a leadership shura (council). Burhanuddin Rabbani, a lecturer at the shar’ia faculty of Kabul University, was chosen as chairman of the council. Ghulam Mohammad Niazi, the dean of the faculty, was recognized as the ultimate leader, but, because of the sensitivity of his position, he did not formally join or attend the meetings. The council later selected the name Jam’iyyat-e-Islami [Islamic Association]…for the movement.[29]

In a pamphlet published by the Jam’iyyat, Who Are We and What Do We Want? it was stated that the movement was nothing but an attempt to liberate the people of Afghanistan from the clutches of tyranny and to bring about a renaissance in religion. In elaboration, Hekmatyar stated that the aim of the movement was “the overthrow of the ruling order, its replacement by the Islamic order [nizam], and the application of Islam in political, economic, and social spheres.”[30] Similarly, Rabbani states, “For us Islam is a driving force, which concerns every aspect of our life.”[31] In the view of an Islamist author, Gulzarak Zadran, the Islamic order is “the implementation by the Muslims of the laws of God on the creatures [human beings].”[32] While castigating liberal democracy and socialist democracy in line with the views of Sayyed Qutb, Zadran adds, “Every other kind of law, custom, tradition, procedure, and concept has no place in Islam, because Islam is a complete religion, and the introduction in the Islamic society of the above-mentioned democracies and other similar concepts is against the Islamic injunctions and fundamentals, and a contrariety and a rebellion.”[33] Reflecting Sayyed Qutb’s views in an even more negative form, Mohammad Yunus Khalis rejects not only “a republican form of government” but even “general elections.” In his view, the Council for Resolution and Settlement (shura-e-ahl-e-hal wa ’aqd), composed of pious and just Muslims, is to elect a Muslim as the leader of the community on the basis of competence and Islamic learning.[34] The Islamists had as their aim to set up the Islamic order, or “Islamic revolution,” not only in each separate country but also “in the Muslim world.”[35]

The views of Sayyed Qutb and other revolutionary thinkers of the Muslim world, especially leaders of the Muslim Brethren, influenced students of the colleges of law and theology of Kabul University as well as of the Madrasa of Abu Haneefa through foreign professors employed there. Also, the Afghan professors of the College of Theology who had studied at the University of al-Azhar in Cairo had disseminated these views through local journals, especially the weekly paper Gaheez, founded in 1968. Its editor, Minhajuddin Gaheez, had made it an anticommunist paper, but he was assassinated by a radical leftist in 1972. The Islamists also translated some works of Sayyed Qutb in vernacular languages. While most colleges of the university were affiliated with Western universities, the College of Theology was affiliated with the University of al-Azhar in Cairo.[36]

Outside the Islamist circles some traditional ’ulama and religious leaders had already founded associations such as Khuddam al-Furqan (Servants of the Quran), Jam’iyyat-e-’Ulama-e-Mohammadi (the Association of Mohammad’s ’Ulama), and Qiyam-e-Islami (the Islamic Uprising) to combat atheism, wage Jehad-e-Akbar (great jehad), and oppose the pro-Soviet stand of the government. Among their founders were Sibgatullah Mojaddidi, the pir (religious leader) of Tagao; the pir ofQala-e-Biland, Hafizji Sahib of Kapisa; and Mawlawi Fayzani.[37] On the strength of the support of such dignitaries, the ’ulama held demonstrations for over a month in Kabul until the government dispersed them, as already noted. When Daoud ruled as prime minister from 1953 to 1963, he did not tolerate opposition. Nevertheless, these associations did not achieve much.

The Islamists became active after they spread a clandestine leaflet, Tract of the Jehad, challenged the communists to debates, and held rallies on the campus. But their rallies were smaller than any of the rallies held by their opponents. This was evident to this author, who attended the rallies and was once beaten by the police when they attacked the university. Some Islamists called for “armed jehad,” but this call produced no response. Being latecomers in politics, the Islamists did not have many members until the end of the decade. Hekmatyar even states that until the Daoud coup in 1973 the Muslim Youth were engaged in cultural activities and that they became active as an organized group only afterward.[38]

The progress that leaders of the movement had made was unknown to Hekmatyar. The progress consisted of recruitments on a big scale and the preaching of the cause in the countryside as well as the city of Kabul. Premier Moosa Shafiq encouraged the Islamists to be more active.[39] During his short rule, Premier Shafiq also released Hekmatyar, who had been imprisoned for his alleged killing of a Maoist, Saidal Sukhandan. On the campus, too, the position of the Muslim Youth had improved. Hekmatyar states that “in the last years of the reign of Mohammad Zahir Shah we gained a majority of two-thirds of the seats of the Student Union.”[40] By then the balance in the forces of university students had changed in favor of the Muslim Youth. “At the beginning of the 1970s the Islamic movement was stronger than the Maoists among the students, but its penetration of the army remained weak.”[41] Because of the headway the Islamists had made, the leftist groups had gone on the defensive. The decline of the leftists was also evident in the results of the 1969 parliamentary election, in which only two of them were elected. The Islamic movement appeared to be on the way to becoming a party of the masses. Among other things, this threat prompted the communists to help Daoud to topple the monarchy in 1973.

• • •

Unsuccessful Uprising and Split

The Parchamis, as already noted, dominated the security forces of the new republic. When the constitution was suspended and President Daoud was dependent on the Parchamis, they began a reign of terror with a view to eliminating their opponents. They fabricated reports accusing their opponents of destroying the republic. Since President Daoud had usurped power in a coup and since his government was far from established, he accepted such reports. Suspicion led to official actions in this period. The first victims were former Prime Minister Mohammad Hashem Maiwandwal and about forty senior colleagues of his Progressive Democratic Party who served in the military and civilian departments of government. The Islamists were the next on the agenda. After President Daoud declined to accept Niazi and Rabbani’s offer of cooperation in return for his break with the communists, the suppression of the Islamists began.[42] Some were killed; others, including Niazi, were arrested. The rest, including Rabbani and Hekmatyar, fled to Pakistan, the traditional land of refuge for Afghan dissidents.

Afghan Islamists in Peshawar lived in hardship, financed by the Jama’at-e-Islami of Pakistan under the leadership of Mawlana Abul A’la Mawdudi. But after Afghanistan’s relations with Pakistan deteriorated over the issue of Pashtunistan, both countries financed and incited each other’s dissidents. While Afghanistan harbored the Pashtun and Baluch dissidents of Pakistan, the latter incited Afghan Islamists. Olivier Roy states that Afghan Islamists decided to wage an armed struggle against the government of Daoud, but on this they were divided, and while the younger members stood for it with the support of Pakistan, Rabbani was against it. Roy further states that “the radicals, led by Hekmatyar, carried the day.”[43] He cites no source for his statement, which is contradicted by Rabbani’s account. According to Rabbani, “Among ourselves we decided that Daoud personally was not a communist, but a Muslim, surrounded by communists, who should be eliminated. For that purpose we prepared a list of eighty military and civilian communists and instructed our companions to carry it out.…Surprisingly news of the failure of the uprising in Laghman and other regions reached us in Peshawar.” Rabbani is further quoted as having said that “leaders of the operation groups, in response to our investigation, told us that they did so on a second instruction, which they received from Hekmatyar. But the latter denied having issued such an instruction.”[44] By waging the uprising, Afghan Islamists were now entangled in international politics, which affected their movement. Also, they had neither infiltrated the army nor enjoyed public support, and Pakistan had not given them a large quantity of weapons; instead, Prime Minister Bhutto of Pakistan intended simply to frighten President Daoud to change his policy toward Pakistan.

On 22 July 1975 armed Islamists attacked government headquarters in Badakhshan, Laghman, Logar, and Panjsher. Only in the districts of Panjsher were they able to occupy government headquarters for a short while. Elsewhere they were either defeated or arrested on arrival. Nowhere did the locals or the army support them. The failure became a disaster for the Islamists. Conversely, it provided an opportunity for the Parchamis in the security forces to arrest anyone who was suspected of being an Islamist. An unknown number of Islamists were arrested. Of the ninety-three brought to trial, three were executed and sixteen acquitted. The rest received sentences ranging from life imprisonment to a year in jail.[45] Serious also was the dissension that appeared among the Islamists who escaped to Pakistan. Recrimination became common and splits unavoidable. The establishment of relationships with “some authorities” of the government of Pakistan, the acquisition of financial assistance and other concessions, personal ambitions, and scores of other points all played a role in this split.[46] Among these other points was a split along sectarian lines between the Sunni and Shi’ite activists, “who suspected one another of the subversions that led to the uncovering of their various plots.”[47] Until then the two sects had been united.

Serious also was the division among the Sunni leaders. The Jam’iyyat split. Hekmatyar and Qazi Mohammad Amin Wiqad formed a new party, the Islamic Party (Hizb-e-Islami), but Rabbani stuck to the old name. In 1978 they reunited under a new name, the Movement of Islamic Revolution, with Qazi Wiqad as its leader, but it did not last. The failed attempt made leaders of both parties wary. While it influenced Rabbani to move toward moderation, it induced Hekmatyar to adopt a long-term strategy, organizing his party on rigid lines. The Aims of the Hizb states, “The reformation of government is the pre-requisite to the reformation of society as well as that of the individual.” The Aims also states that the Hizb “stands for the Islamic reorganization of the state [through] its program.”[48] Of all the parties, the Hizb is the most radical and Islamist. Some argue that from the onset Hekmatyar’s goal was to acquire power rather than to liberate Afghanistan. Over this issue Mohammad Yunus Khalis parted company with him and formed a party of his own under the same name, because in his view the liberation of Afghanistan was more important than the conquest of power.[49] Khalis considers lack of trust among leaders a factor for the multiplicity of resistance organizations.[50]

The split also revealed ethnic and regional tendencies. At the leadership level Pashtuns dominated the Hizb and Tajiks the Jam’iyyat, although both groups could be called mixed. In the latter group regional tendencies such as Panjsheri, Badakhshi, and Herati crystallized. The passage of time made the tendencies sharper. Regionalism and ethnicity thus made inroads at the expense of Islamic ideology, which disregards such parochial proclivities.

Another weakening factor was the Islamists’ loss of credit in the eyes of their patrons whose goodwill was essential for them, since they had to act from abroad inside Afghanistan. This point became serious when, following his victory over the Islamists, President Daoud took measures to distance Afghanistan from the Soviet bloc countries and to bring it closer to the Islamic world, in particular Pakistan and Iran.[51] The policy was detrimental to the Islamists, so much so that by the end of President Daoud’s reign they had “run out of money, because Saudi Arabia and Iran, who were pursuing a policy of support for Daoud, did not help them, and Pakistan did not wish for an open confrontation with Kabul.”[52] Until the invasion the Islamic parties were “more or less dormant.” Against the Khalqis, too, they did not receive any substantial support from outside. Only the Soviet invasion enabled them to come to the forefront of politics.

Part of the Islamic movement consisted of certain groups that took into account the actual situation of society. Loosely structured, they can hardly be called political parties in the modern sense, since they generally lacked sociopolitical platforms. Based on common traditional religious and secular notions, the organizations were open to persons with different shades of opinion. The ’ulama, community elders, the intelligentsia, army officers, and former government employees joined them in the spirit of jehad to expel the invaders. Their leaders were either members of religious families or religious scholars. A degree of tolerance, compromise, and democracy was also a feature of these organizations. Islamic, national, and to a certain extent democratic, they came to be known as traditionalist or moderate as distinct from Islamist. The emergence of the traditionalists weakened the hold of the Islamists over the Afghan refugees since the fold of the former was open to those whom the Islamists suspected.

The Islamic moderate organizations were set up in various times in 1979. They included the Front for National Liberation (Jabha-e-Nejat-e-Milli), the Revolutionary Islamic Movement (Harakat-e-Inqilab-e-Islami), and the National Islamic Front (Mahaz-e-Milli-e-Islami), led respectively by Sibgatullah Mojaddidi, Mawlawi Mohammad Nabi Mohammadi, and Pir Sayyed Ahmad Gailani. Mojaddidi and Gailani are heads of religious families as well as leaders of the Islamic mystic orders of Naqshbandiyya and Qadiriyya, respectively. They have many followers, particularly among Pashtuns. Whereas the Mojaddidi family in the past played a role in politics, it is the first time for the Gailani family to emerge in the forefront. Both families have a modern outlook on life. While the Mojaddidis are, as a mark of respect, known as Hazrats, the Gailanis are known as pirha or pirān (spiritual leaders; singular, pir). The Khalqis executed many Mojaddidis, some of whom were more influential than the present Mojaddidi. The religious scholar Mawlawi Mohammadi served as a member of parliament in the constitutional decade. For this as well as for his assault on Babrak Karmal in the House of Representatives in 1966, he became popular, particularly among the mullas in his own province, Logar.

• • •

Attempts at Unity

To make the jehad a success, a coalition of the resistance forces was necessary. This was what the public demanded, as the urban uprisings showed. The demand was raised by Afghan refugees who held meetings in Peshawar in 1980, at which they demanded a united front to coordinate military activities. (These meetings will be detailed in the next chapter.) The pressure these meetings produced persuaded leaders of the Islamic groups to form a coalition.[53] A coalition of the three Islamist and three moderate organizations, the Islamic Union for the Liberation of Afghanistan, was formed. Abd al-Rasool Sayyaf, a founder of the Islamic movement who had arrived in Peshawar after he had been released from prison in Kabul, was chosen to lead the coalition. But it was not destined to last. First Hekmatyar and later the three moderate groups seceded from it. These three set up the Union of the Three. In 1981 the Islamist groups formed a broader alliance, the Union of the Seven, made up of the three Islamist groups, the newly formed organization led by Sayyaf, and three splinter groups. In 1985, under pressure from the king of Saudi Arabia, a broad coalition, the Islamic Unity of Afghan Mujahideen, was set up, comprising the four main Islamist and three moderate groups.[54] This group was in existence until 1989, when, under the patronage of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, the Afghan Interim Government (Dawlat-e-Islami-e-Afghanistan) was set up in Rawalpindi to coincide with the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan.

Not all resistance groups were included in the coalitions. The Tehran-based Shi’ite groups, nationalists, tribal unions, and the anti-Soviet leftists (including the pro-Chinese leftists) were excluded. The coalition was composed only of the Sunni Muslim groups approved by Pakistan. Pakistan’s support was crucial since, through its military Inter-Service Intelligence and Afghan Commissionerate, it distributed weapons, cash, and materiel received from donor countries. Pakistan supported the Afghan jehad, but it manipulated it to serve its own interests. An ardent supporter of the jehad, President General Zia al-Haq of Pakistan overruled the view of the majority of his inner council to come to a modus vivendi with the Soviet presence in Afghanistan.[55] But he manipulated the jehad with a view to raising a client government to power in Afghanistan after the Soviets withdrew. For this purpose Pakistan opposed the emergence of a strong united leadership. “On the political level, the Pakistanis were obsessed with the fear that the resistance might develop in the same way as the Palestinians had done, enjoying the support of millions of refugees. It seemed to them that the best protection against this risk was a divided resistance. The Pakistanis granted the same facilities to each of the six groups and closed their eyes to the activities of minor groups, which they did not recognize. It was thus the Pakistanis who ensured the continuance of the major split in the movement, at least until 1984.”[56]

The patronized coalition did not prove effective in coordinating military activities. There were no coordinated military activities, nor did they make use of the expertise of the military officers of the Kabul regime who defected. Community and tribal elders and members of the intelligentsia were hindered from working for the jehad. The Islamist groups did this in the hope of monopolizing power and Islamizing the society. The host government left them free to deal with Afghan refugees even on its own soil. Having tighter organization and discipline, the Islamist parties treated the refugees as if they were their rulers. Some groups even had courts and prisons and opposed national identity, stating that “if in both countries [Pakistan and Afghanistan] there prevailed an Islamic order we prefer that the common boundaries between us be discarded and both countries united.”[57] Others wished to substitute the name Islamistan (land of Islam) for Afghanistan. In past resistance movements, the combination of such groups constituted a national force that met the emergency although they were not as widespread as they were in the present movement. Had the resistance not been strong at the grass-roots level, one wonders whether it would have made any headway. A specialist on guerrilla warfare wrote, “A visit with the rebels in Afghanistan suggests two broad conclusions about the resistance there. The first is that it is an extremely popular movement that has arisen spontaneously among many different kinds of people with varying motives. The second is that in its leadership, organization, coordination, and strategy, the Afghan movement is one of the weakest liberation struggles in the world today.”[58]

• • •

Shi’ite Resistance Groups

The Afghan Shi’ite minority of Hazaras and Qizilbashes were for the first time as active as the Sunnis against an invasion. Among their educated, however, a considerable number sided with the Kabul regime. The Shi’ite leaders were more divided than the Sunnis. As Shi’as, their loyalty to Iran was a major reason for disunity. Some followed the Ayatullah Khomeini of Iran as a political as well as a religious leader, while others followed him only as a religious leader. With the rise of Khomeini the Afghan Shi’as became more militant. The Shi’ite faith obliges every Shi’a to follow a mujtahid (an authority in the interpretation of the faith), wherever he may be, an injunction not in line with principles on which a nation-state is based.

The Ayatullah Sayyed Ali Bihishti had in 1979 set up in Waras in Hazarajat the United Islamic Council (Shura-e-Ittifaq-e-Islami), comprising traditional, secular, and religious Hazaras. Through the efforts of its commander, Sayyed Mohammad Jagran, the council liberated Hazarajat from the regime following the invasion. The Islamic Movement (Harakat-e-Islami) led by Ayatullah Shaykh Mohammad Asif Muhsini was another significant organization set up in 1978. It centered around followers in Kandahar and Kabul. From the outset Muhsini’s relations with Iran were strained. In 1980 Iran expelled Muhsini’s followers because he followed Khomeini only in religious affairs. By contrast, the first pro-Iranian organization, the Organization of Islamic Victory (Sazman-e-Nasr-e-Islami), was set up in 1979 and received financial and military assistance from Iran. Nasr was the continuation of the New Mughal group, founded as early as 1966, which was subsequently renamed the Youth of the Hazaras (Shabab al-Hazara). Nasr has served as a mother organization from which smaller groups have sprung. Under the leadership of Karim Khalili, Mier Sadiqi Turkmani, and Abdul Ali Mazari, it was composed of ideologically committed fundamentalists. Khalili says of himself, “I do not know what part of Afghanistan I am from; my father and grandfather would tell us we are from Ghazni. I was born in Iran.”[59]

Another organization set up in late 1979 was Strength (Nairo), with Qazi Safa Karimi as its leader. They all were “very successful,”[60] but the Iranians did not think so. According to one observer,

The Iranians consider the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan the most favorable situation for the consolidation and extension of their influence in the country. In the beginning they decided to help all the Hazara groups without discrimination. When it did not work according to their wishes, they changed their policy and decided to federate the groups under their umbrella of one organization, Nasr. But last year [1982] the Iranians sent a delegation to Hazarajat to investigate the activities of Nasr and to see how their military and financial help was being used. The Iranians were deeply disappointed and convinced that it was impossible to accomplish anything with the Afghan parties. Then they decided to operate through their own Iranian party inside Afghanistan, and [in 1983] created the Sipah-e-Pasdaran [under Shaykh Akbari]; it has the same structure and the same organization as the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Party, only the members are Afghans.[61]

Smaller and more rigid groups emerged from Nasr in Iran, among them Thunder, the New Generation of Hazaras, Organization of the Toiling People, and the Party of God (Hizb Allah), which was set up in Mashhad in 1981 under Qari Yakdist. Some of these attracted educated persons with conflicting extremist views, such as Maoism, racism, and religious fundamentalism. Another group, Mujahideen-e-Khalq, was founded under the influence of Iran’s Mujahideen-e-Khalq. Afterward infighting became common, resulting in the death of about 26,000 Hazaras, a number higher than that the Hazaras lost in clashes with the Soviets. Hazarajat was not the scene of many clashes with the Soviets and the regime, which did not carry out major expeditions there. In the infighting the United Council was ousted from many areas, including its headquarters in Waras. Also, the Hazaras became disillusioned with Iran. Among the disillusioned ones, those who were forced to seek refuge chose Pakistan, not Iran.[62] Any hope of forging a united front among them became more unrealistic than among the Sunni organizations. However, in 1985, under the supervision of Iran, the Islamic Movement, the Islamic Victory Organization, the Revolutionary United Front, and Guards of the Islamic Jehad declared a cease-fire among themselves.[63]


1. Ministry of Planning, General Statistics, 113-22. I am grateful to Amanullah Mansury, a minister of the interior during the constitutional decade, for giving me his only copy of the book. Farhang, Afghanistan 2:41. Barnet Rubin writes about the expansion of modern education in Afghanistan: “In the last eight years of Daoud’s premiership…the number of primary and secondary school students nearly tripled, and the number of post-secondary students…increased more than fourfold; and in the period of political liberalization known as New Democracy (1963-73), the number of primary school students doubled, and secondary students increased more than sixfold, growing an average of one-fifth per year. University enrollment was 3.4 times larger at the end of the decade than it had been at the beginning; there were 11,000 students in Afghanistan and 1,500 per year sent abroad by 1974” (“Political Elites,” 80). On the eve of the communist coup in 1978 Kabul University and Polytechnic had a total of more than 13,000 mixed students, and 1,000 professors. Polytechnic had about 1,000 students and a small number of Afghan junior professors. The Soviet professors outnumbered the latter. Kabul University had more than 800 professors. A. S. Aziemi, personal communication, Peshawar, February 1989. Mr. Aziemi was chancellor of Kabul University before the communists took over.

2. Newell and Newell, Struggle for Afghanistan, 45.

3. The Front of Afghanistan’s Militant Mujahideen, Watan; M. N. Majruh, personal communication, Los Angeles, January 1991. About the resistance groups which the Afghans set up in Peshawar in 1980, an observer writes, “Anyone who entertained the idea of becoming the Afghan amir or king would rent a garage, a shop, or a house, and would distribute membership cards with his party’s name and his photo boldly engraved on them. In this way over 60 small and big Afghan parties were set up” (Zadran, History of Afghanistan, 795).

4. Fundamentalism, in the words of Professor Bernard Lewis, refers to the maintenance, in opposition to modernism, of traditional orthodox beliefs, such as the inerrancy of Scripture and literal acceptance of the creeds as fundamentals of Protestant Christianity. It is thus essentially a Christian term. The term fundamentalist is now also applied to a number of Islamic radical and militant groups. Muslim fundamentalists, however, base themselves not only on the Quran but also on the Traditions of the Prophet and on the corpus of transmitted theological and legal learning. Their aim is nothing less than the abrogation of all the imported and modernized legal codes and social norms and the installation in their place of the full panoply of the Shari’a—its rules and penalties, its jurisdiction, and its prescribed form of government. For details, see Lewis, Political Language of Islam, 118.

5. Hekmatyar, Interview, 10; Haqshinas, Russia’s Intrigues and Crimes, 330.

6. For details see, Choueirei, Islamic Fundamentalism, 94; Shepard, “Islam as a System,” 37.

7. Choueiri, Islamic Fundamentalism, 94, 123.

8. Shepard, “Islam as a System,” 32.

9. Mawdudi, Political Theory of Islam, 31. I am grateful to Rahmat Zirakyar for giving me this and another book.

10. Hyman, Muslim Fundamentalism, 20.

11. Choueiri, Muslim Fundamentlism, 110.

12. Mawdudi, Political Theory of Islam, 22.

13. Choueiri, Muslim Fundamentalism, 111.

14. Ibid., 127.

15. Kakar, Government and Society, 177. Choueiri, Muslim Fundamentalism, 137.

16. Choueiri, Muslim Fundamentalism, 138.

17. Ibid., 135.

18. Ibid., 136.

19. Shepard, “Islam as a System,” 33.

20. Professor M. E. Yapp has described the terms modernization,traditional society, and modern society as follows: “The attributes of a traditional society are: politically, a minimal role for government; economically, the predominance of agriculture or pastoralism, with little industry and the great bulk of the population living in the countryside; and socially, a system of organization based on birth, compartmentalized rather than hierarchic, with low mobility and little literacy, and in which the family, tribe, village, guild and religious community form the the principal units of social life, providing educational, legal and social services for their members and, frequently, economic organization and defence as well. The attributes of a modern society are the opposite of these: politically, there is a large role for the state; economically, it is predominantly industrial and urban; and socially, it is based upon contract, arranged horizontally with a high degree of mobility, and the older units of social life play a much reduced role, their major functions having been usurped by the state or other public organizations. Modernization denotes the passage from the first to the second” (Yapp, “Contemporary Islamic Revivalism,” 180).

21. Newell and Newell, Struggle for Afghanistan, 45.

22. Nangyal, Political Parties, 10; Haqshinas, Russia’s Intrigues and Crimes, 332-39; Naeem, Russian Program, 71; Khan, “Emergence of Religious Parties.”

23. The founding students of the Islamic Movement, besides Hekmatyar, were Mawlawi Abdur Rahman, Engineer Habibur Rahman, Abdur Rahim Niazi, Engineer Sayfuddin Nasratyar, Abd al-Qadir Tawana, Ghulam Rabbani ’Ateesh, Sayyed Abdur Rahman, Abdul Habib, and Gul Mohammad. Except for Hekmatyar, all are now dead (Hekmatyar, Interview, 20).

24. Ibid., 23.

25. Ibid.

26. Shahrani, “Saur Revolution,” 158.

27. Ibid.

28. Khan, “Emergence of Religious Parties,”; Hekmatyar, Interview, 24.

29. Rubin, “Political Elites,” 81.

30. Hekmatyar, Interview, 21

31. Quoted in Hyman, Muslim Fundamentalism, 4.

32. Zadran, History of Afghanistan, 610.

33. Ibid., 510.

34. On rejecting general elections, the foundation of democracy, Khalis is categorical and uncompromising. He states: “General elections are the outcome of the ignorance of the East and West. That is why, as they are contrary to the Islamic justice, they are rejected and are unacceptable to us. The advocates of this voice can’t go with us along the same road.” Khalis, Message to the Mujahid Nation, 5, 12, 26; Khalis, Two Articles, 12, 13.

35. The fundamentalists are not only opposed to those who have exercised political domination in the past in Afghanistan but are equally vehement in their denunciations of the traditional elite, who are, in their view, to be blamed for the moral degeneration that led to the present tragedy. See Ghani, “Afghanistan,” 92.

36. Haqshinas, Russia’s Intrigues and Crimes, 331.

37. Before his arrest in 1973, Mawlawi Habib al-Rahman Fayzani (Kakar), known as Mawlana Fayzani, dominated the soul and body of his followers, first as a schoolteacher and principal in Herat and later as a reformer, pir, and political leader. He gave up teaching to combat communism and create an Islamic movement. For this purpose he composed a number of books and traveled in the country before taking up residence in Kabul, where he opened a library and set up Madrasa-e-Quran, a seminary for the teaching of Quran; this program took on an active political dimension among his followers of traditional mullas and artisans. His teachings transcended the communal line of Sunni and Shi’a. To his followers of both sects he appeared as a messianic personality. He played a leading role in the anticommunist agitations of the traditional mullas in 1970. By the time of the Daoud coup in 1973 he had united a number of secret Islamic associations under the name of the School of Monotheism (Maktab-e-Tawheed), of which he was elected amir. Shortly after the coup he was arrested on a charge of plotting to overthrow the regime. During the Khalqi rule Fayzani along with more than one hundred Ikhwanis, including Professor Niazi, were executed. For details, see Edwards, “Shi’i Political Dissent,” 217-20; Haqshinas, Russia’s Intrigues and Crimes, 336; Gharzay, Memoirs, 49.

38. Hekmatyar, Interview, 25.

39. For details on organizational structure of the Islamic Association, see Roy, Islam and Resistance, 73.

40. Hekmatyar, Interview, 20.

41. Brigot and Roy, War in Afghanistan, 27.

42. Roy, Islam and Resistance, 75.

43. Ibid.

44. Wolasmal, “Foreign Interference,” 3.

45. Dupree, Afghanistan, 762; Haqshinas, Political Changes, 26-32; Roy, Islam and Resistance, 74-76.

46. Haqshinas, Political Changes, 30.

47. Edwards, “Shi’i Political Dissent,” 221.

48. For details, see Jamiat-e-Islami, Aims and Goals; Hezb-e-Islami, Aims. I am grateful to Dr. Nazif Shahrani for providing me with both texts.

49. Brigot and Roy, War in Afghanistan, 109.

50. Khalis, Message, 2.

51. For details, see Ghaus, Fall of Afghanistan.

52. Roy, Islam and Resistance, 77.

53. Alam, “Memoirs of Jehad,” 108-11.

54. Nangyal, Political Parties, 30-36. The first coalition, the Covenant of the Islamic Unity, comprising Jam’iyyat, Harakat, Nejat, Mahaz, and Hizb (Khalis), was set up in August 1979, but it was no more than a name. Na’eem, Russian Program, 93-103; Roy, Islam and Resistance, 122-24.

55. A senior official of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, personal communication, Islamabad, December 1988.

56. Roy, Islam and Resistance, 122. Bradsher may have been the first to observe Pakistan’s concern about a strong Afghan leadership. He states that Pakistan “had reason to be concerned that a strong single organization based on its territory might become the voice of a new form of Pashtunistan movement or comparable to the Palestine Liberation Organization in periods when the P.L.O. had defiantly extraterritorial power in Jordan and later Lebanon” (Afghanistan, 295).

57. Hekmatyar, Interview, 59.

58. Charliand, Report from Afghanistan, 47.

59. Quoted in Wassil, “Opinion,” 26.

60. Haqshinas, Political Changes, 36.

61. Quoted in Emadi, State, Society, and Superpowers, 102.

62. Shah Mohammad Nadir Alami, leader of the Islamic Unity of Central Afghanistan, personal communication, 1991.

63. Edwards, “Shi’i Political Dissent,” 201-29; Haqshinas, Political Changes, 35-36; Roy, Islam and Resistance, 139-48.