Internecine Violence

Internecine Violence

Confronted in mid-1989 by evidence that the Kabul government was capable ofdefending itself and showed no sign of immediate internal collapse, the Peshawarparties turned on each other. The most serious dispute brought the enmitybetween Hekmatyar and Rabbani to the surface. Throughout the war theircommanders had jockeyed for turf and supply routes, especially in the strategicShomali region with its control over the northern highway between Kabul and theSoviet Union. Hekmatyar, with some Pakistani connivance, had also waged a minorreign of terror among the refugee community. It included intimidation,kidnaping, disappearances, imprisonment and execution of critics and rivalsamong educated Afghans and of rival mujahidin commanders and their followers. Hewas widely feared and disliked.

Most of Hekmatyar's ire was focused on the Jamiat, which had developed themost extensive network of commanders and was especially identified with theminority communities. He did not avoid clashes with rival Pushtuns, havingattempted to dominate the tribal fronts around Qandahar, without success.

In late July, 1989, Hekmatyar's forces in Takhar Province ambushed andslaughtered more than thirty members of the army of Ahmad Shah Massoud,Rabbani's most celebrated and successful commander. Seven senior commanders wereamong those slain. Assaults and killings had become common between commanders ofthese two parties, but this instance was the most blatant. It also disruptedMassoud's plans for an assault on Kabul. Massoud retaliated, over-runningseveral Hezb positions in the northeast. The perpetrators of the massacre werecaptured and later executed by an Islamic court at Taloqan, Massoud's regionalheadquarters.

Hekmatyar was condemned for his complicity in the massacre by leaders otherthan Rabbani. For a while he withdrew from the AIG claiming that his party wouldstake its fate on a popular elections inside Afghanistan--a bemusing statementfrom a leader who prided himself on his party's closed vanguard style.

Hekmatyar further alienated his colleagues by his involvement in an attemptat a coup against Najibullah's government in March of 1990. It was led byDefense Minister Shah Nawaz Tanai, a Khalqi. Hekmatyar's forces were to attackKabul simultaneously. The plot misfired because of faulty communications.Najibullah quickly rounded up the Khalqi conspirators. Tanai escaped byhelicopter to Pakistan where he was greeted and publicly accepted as an ally byHekmatyar.

The Pakistan government's involvement in this abortive affair wastransparently obvious. Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto's plea to the other sixparty leaders to aid Tanai and Hekmatyar was rebuked as a disgrace to the jihad.The episode was a crucial turning point in the struggle against Kabul. Itdemonstrated that clandestine connections between mujahidin and elements in theKabul government could determine the outcome of the civil war. It also furtherdemonstrated the ISI's partiality toward Hekmatyar: it had been involved inplanning the military follow-up to the coup attempt.

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