Pakistan's Support of Afghan Islamists, 1975-79

Pakistan's Support of Afghan Islamists, 1975-79

Afghanistan's political relationship with Pakistan had been aggravated byDaud's revival of the Pushtunistan issue in 1973. Islamist fugitives weregreeted as an opportunity by the government of Prime Minister Zulfikar AliBhutto. They might counter Daud's anticipated meddling with Pakistan's Pushtuns.

Among the leaders of the Islamist escapees were Burhanuddin Rabbani andGulbuddin Hekmatyar. Rabbani had been among the founders of the Islamic ideologymovement at Kabul University. Hekmatyar was a former engineering student who hadbecome a full-time political activist and charismatic student leader. ThePakistan government provided them facilities and training at Peshawar. The SaudiArabian government also found them interesting enough to provide funding.Would-be mujahidin leaders were groomed to make trouble for the Afghangovernment three years before the Saur coup.

Much happened in between. While he was purging the Parchamis, Daud waslooking for allies among Afghanistan's neighbors. His overtures led toreconciliation with Bhutto in 1976-77. Meanwhile, Hekmatyar and Rabbani splitover strategy for overthrowing the Afghan government. This led to a deep dividewithin the mujahidin movement.

At the root of their dispute were sharp differences in social origins and inpolitical strategies. Neither man was born to social prominence. Rabbani was aTajik from the northeastern province of Badakshan who became a member of thereligious elite through his achievements as a scholar. He saw the transformationof Afghan government as a long-term project. Only after mobilizing the peasantsand winning over key elements in the armed forces could Islamic leaders takeover the government. He therefore argued for the building of a widely basedmovement that would create popular support.

Hekmatyar came from Baghlan Province, also in northeast Afghanistan, but wasa Pushtun Kharruti, a Ghilzai tribe uprooted from the Ghazni region early in thecentury. Hekmatyar's Islamism was outspokenly radical; his ability as a leaderoffset his lack of formal Islamic education. He disagreed with Rabbani on theneed for a mass movement to bring an Islamic government to power. He argued fora sudden seizure of government by a highly disciplined elitist party. In orderto hone and preserve such a vanguard, he took care to shield it from risks.Their differences are indicated in the names of their parties. Hekmatyar's isthe Hezb-i-Islami (Party of Islam), Rabbani's is Jamiat-i-Islami (IslamicSociety). Their rivalry would become the pivot on which the politics of theresistance would turn.

In sociological terms the contest between Hekmatyar and Rabbani has been anear mirror image of that between Khalq and Parcham. This rivalry pitted Darispeakers against Pushtuns, especially the Ghilzais. It juxtaposed an educatedelite against newly educated arrivals to Kabul. In both rivalries gradualistmilitants confronted radicals who insisted on abrupt, immediate change. Societyand ideology mixed to produce an ominous political confrontation.

Pakistan was to play a crucial role in the expatriate politics that followed.Zia ul Haq, who had assumed the presidency after removing Bhutto, was stillconsolidating his military government when the Marxists seized power in Kabul.He continued Bhutto's support of the Afghan emigres. Hekmatyar and Rabbanireceived funding, training, and equipment from Pakistan's InterserviceIntelligence Directorate (ISI).

Both leaders were also on good terms with their Pakistani counterpart, theJa'amat-i-Islami. The Ja'amat connection was especially valuable to the moremilitant mujahidin. Its organization and ideology closely resembled Hekmatyar'sHezb. In the 1980s it was to develop strong political ties with Zia and hismilitary establishment.

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