[It is an English translation of a paper presented on 6th June 1997 at a seminar organized by Council of Islamic Revolutionaries of Bangladesh (CIRB-HEZBOLLAH). Dr. Khan did his Ph.D. from Tashkent University, former
. He is one of the leading
Bengali Scholars on Central Asian affairs. During Soviet occupation he visited USSR
many times. He is a Professor of Law of Dhaka University] Afghanistan
More than two decades Afghanistan occupies special place in international politics. The Russian forces have ruled greater land and people of Central Asia for more than a century. But they failed to keep Afghanistan under their rule even for a decade. In explanations, often Western military assistance is highlighted and victory of the Muslim People is belittled.
Defeat of the Russians in Afghanistan is definitely a victory of the Afghan people. The internecine fights among Afghan groups and sub-groups for control of Kabul was consistent with the interests of both Moscow and Washington, because both are equally worried about the rise of Islamic Fundamentalist authority in Afghanistan.
Afghanistan was an independent state between Russian and British Empires. Both the British and Lenin considered that occupation of Afghanistan would be expensive. In the Spring of 1920 there was a battle between the Russians and the Afghans in the Marv-Kushk region, which led to a truce between Badsha Amanullah and Lenin in 1921. Soviet border with Afghanistan was not much guarded - Muslims could travel across easily. In the December of 1925 the Russian soldiers crossed Afghan border near Oxus River in the Penjdeh region. Once again both sides signed a peace treaty in 1926. On 15th October 1929 Mohammad Nadir Khan became the new King of Afghanistan. In June 1930 the Russian soldiers penetrated 40 miles inside Afghan border. Afghanistan sought help of nearby Muslim states, and was frustrated as none responded. Thus Kabul gradually became dependent on Moscow, and from 1936 started procuring Russian arms.
After the Second World War, Moscow was dreaming possibilities of peaceful socialist revolutions in Muslim countries. With this aim groups of Soviet experts were sent to Afghanistan. In the 1952 Afghan Parliament Election, 50 members out of 120 were socialists. In December 1955 Russian Leader Nikita Krushchev visited Afghanistan. In 1960 Krushchev openly supported Kabul for Pakhtunistan issue.
In January 1955 Afghan socialists formed the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA), which due to internal conflicts was later on divided into 2 groups : "Parcham" and "Khalq". In 1973 Daud captured power in Afghanistan and later on in 1977 he declared Socialism as national ideology of Afghanistan. But neither Kremlin nor hardline socialists of Afghanistan were happy with Daud's slow progress towards socialism. So, on the 27th April of 1978, Noor Mohammad Taraki was brought to power in Afghanistan. Kremlin now was claiming that establishment of Socialism in Afghanistan was almost at final stage. Kremlin was also expecting victory of Tudeh Party in Iran. But the Iranian Islamic Revolution bewildered them all.
Kremlim was very much frustrated by the Iranian Islamic Revolution. Though the Iranian Islamic Revolution was harshly anti-American yet the Iranian socialists were the most hard-hit by it. All Soviet research were proved futile. At the end of 1979 Kremlin resorted to establish full control on Afghanistan by dispatching Soviet Military forces into Afghanistan. Russians were still expecting that the rise of Islamic Leadership in Iran was temporary, and ultimately socialists would capture state power in Iran.
On December 28th, 1979, the Soviet Army moved inside Afghanistan. Large numbers of Muslim civilian population of Central Asian Republics of Soviet Union were also dispatched to Afghanistan. At that time One Fifth of the Soviet population was Muslim. Russians were anxious to give the impression that Muslims in the Soviet Union were living in happiness and prosperity along with the Russians. Out of 15 Soviet Republics, 6 were Muslim Republics. Officially Afghanistan remained an independent state. But unofficially the Russians considered Afghanistan to the their 16th Republic.
From the beginning, the Soviet Army tried to give an impression that they were not occupation forces. But the Afghan masses were not convinced. So, in 1985, Gorbachev after becoming leader of the Soviet Union brought some strategic changes in Afghan policy. In 1986 Nazibullah was installed to power in Kabul. He carefully avoided enthusiasm about socialism, instead, started speaking in favor of Islam. In December 1997 a new Constitution for Afghanistan was approved. Islam was declared as the State-Religion in the new Constitution. Nazibullah tried compromise formula with the pro-Islamic forces. Moscow tried to keep their sphere of influence over Afghanistan via Nazibullah. Their strategy was to promote differences and internecine fights among various Afghan Mujahid groups & sub-groups. Soon after withdrawal of the Soviet troops from Afghanistan, inter-group fighting among Mujahids flared up, the differences over who will rule on what principles increased day by day. After complete withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan, there were little difference between the policies of American and Soviet Union regarding Afghanistan. Both Washington and Kremlin wanted continuation of tribal divisions and differences among various Mujahid groups. Meanwhile, it became impossible for the Soviet Union to survive. Gradually all the Republics of USSR became independent. The victory of the Afghan Mujahids is surely one of the various factors that led to the liquidation of the Soviet Union.
The Mujahid groups that grew through the fights against the Russians were mainly organized on regional and tribal affiliations. The Tajik forces were led by Masud. The Pashtu-Speaking Mujahids were led by Gulbuddin Hekmatian. The Uzbek forces were left to Rashid Dostum. No major group came forward to resolve the differences and animosity among the various Afghan groups, nationalities and tribes - as Muslims could not stop the Iran-Iraq and Iraq-Kuwait conflicts. The West was enjoying the internecine fights in Afghanistan. The "TALEBAN" have risen out of this situation.
"TALEBAN" is not a political party. Nor there was any Mujahid group in this name. A drop has grown into an ocean unimaginably. Such is impossible without Divine Blessings. The inception was with the resistance against some anti-Islamic activities in Kandahar. This resistance movement grew into a mass uprising against the criminal activities of other Mujahid groups and commanders. This mass uprising was led by Mullah Omar. Mollah Omar was a young teacher and majority of his followers were students, i.e. "TALEBANS". One after another region fell before the Taleban. Finally they succeeded in occupying Kabul.
Many observers thought the "Taleban Victory" would not last long. They thought Rabbani or Hekmatiar would soon recapture Kabul. Reasons for such apprehensions are probably : -
(a) There were no stable government in Afghanistan since it was freed from Soviet occupation ;
(b) Whoever formed government in Kabul tried to rule the country by arms.
The Taleban was with the masses and they advanced with the masses from the very beginning. There was no scarcity of fighters in Afghanistan. There was no scarcity of skilled operators of arms in Afghanistan. The only scarcity was of appropriate and organized leadership. Taleban has fulfilled that need. They led the masses to defeat the deviated warlords. The military units of Taleban are not composed of members of any one tribe. Islam-loving committed fighters of all tribes came together to form the "Taleban" military units. The battle field decided who would lead. On the other hand new forces came to prove their efficiency in administration. In this way the Talebans succeeded in establishing their authority over Afghanistan including Kabul. After military victory in any area, the Talebans were successful in establishing peace and discipline in the area. They successfully put an end to extortion and criminal violence. It may be mentioned that since the days of Soviet occupation, various non-government groups and sub-groups were collecting tolls and taxes parallel to government collectors. Taleban has brought an end to such dual collection system.
The West have aimed their propaganda machinery against the "Talebans". They are blaming that "Talebans" are "fundamentalists", "Talebans" are disregarding "human rights" ; "Talebans" have locked women inside their homes, etc.
After occupying Kabul, the TALEBANS for some days maintained intensive watching on movement of people. Maintaining control on movement of women is not easy. So, some novel measures were adopted. Irreligious women might work for the enemies. So, women were asked not to attend working places. The West immediately raised such a hew and cry over this issue as if TALEBANS are peculiar creatures who have no mother, no sister, no wife. TALEBANS have been criticized for putting end to co-education. The West is orchestrating ANTI-TALEBAN propaganda as if TALEBANS are enemies of Afghan people, and worse than the Russians.
After the TALEBANS acquired control of Kabul, they attracted the attention of the Muslim world. The anti-Taleban propaganda in Muslim countries sponsored by government machinery is rare incident. The criticism faced by the Talebans is much lighter than the criticism faced by the Iranian Islamic Revolutionaries in their early days after the Revolution. Afghanistan is largely inhabited by Sunni Muslims. There is a small Shia population in Bamian region. The rise of the Taleban is consistent with the awakening in the Muslim World. Therefore, few Muslim rulers raised voice against Talebans. The intellectuals, of course, are divided. Iran openly criticized the Talebans. Iran argued that hard line attitude of the Talebans might make others afraid of Islam itself. Conceding to this argument would mean to accept that Talebans are driving the Afghans away from Islam. But this is not true.
For about 2 decades Iran has been branded as an Islamic fundamentalist country. So, Iran had to face big odds to maintain external relationship. By criticizing the Talebans Iran may have been able to raise her acceptability to the West. On the other hand Talebans have showed appreciable cautiousness. While the Iranian Islamic Revolutionaries kept their Universities shut for several years, the Talebans opened Kabul University within few months after Kabul had fallen to the Talebans. After victory of the Talebans it has become impossible to keep in currency any particular brand of "Islamic Fundamentalism". It is a great achievement for the Muslim World. Doors of new opportunities have ushered for Islamic reforms in the Islamic World in different methods and ways.
TALEBANS AND THE CENTRAL ASIAN COUNTRIES
Talebans are still to consolidate their authority over adjacent areas near the border with former Soviet republics. Lackeys of Rabbani and Dostam are getting arms and ammunition supplies from across those borders. Russians are convincing the Central Asian Muslim governments that powerful Islamic Government in Afghanistan could inspire Muslims of newly born Muslim countries of Central Asia to topple the existing governments. Popularity of Islam is rising day by day in Central Asia. Russians are afraid of another Islamic Revolution in Central Asia. They know what revolution means. They know that socialists could not survive in Afghanistan because there was no socialist revolution in Afghanistan. Because the Russians succeeded in having a Socialist Revolution, the Russian Empire survived for another 70 years after the First World War. Central Asian countries and people have already rejected socialism. Russians are being condemned and criticized for their past role in Central Asia. The Russians have not yet been benefited by capitalist economy. So, the Central Asian Muslim States do not consider capitalist system beneficial. Thus in those states half-socialist systems are still practiced. So, the rulers of those states are very much afraid of Taleban Victory. From the reactions of the Central Asian rulers it may appear that the Central Asian Muslims consider the Talebans to be extremists. About a decade back, Iran was also treated in the same way. But now-a-days there is no question about Iran's acceptability in Central Asia, though the people are conscious about Shia-Sunni differences. Iranian practice of "Hijab" or "Purdah" is appreciated by Muslims of Central Asia. But they are critical about "Taleban" policy towards women. The reality is that the female population of Afghanistan are not educationally as Western as the female population of Iran and Central Asia. The previous pro-Russian rulers of Afghanistan reared up a minority of female population of Kabul for extreme non-Islamic lifestyle. They also introduced for females out-door work culture in towns. But did not become mass culture of Afghanistan. So the policies adopted by the Talebans are not unrealistic in view of their own socio-politico perspective. Rather to protect the Taleban Revolution they need to check the doors through which the bad elements may acquire power to disrupt the revolution. Fortunately, common Afghans are free from anti-Islamic ideologies. There is a mass consensus in favor of Islamic system of life. Therefore, if the Talebans can attain peace and uninterrupted authority over whole of Afghanistan, they will definitely lead Afghanistan towards a great future. People of Central Asia understands Afghanistan, her great prospects.
Talebans introduced very simple administrative system. They did not try to re-build the broken down previous system. They simply appointed new administrators for towns and regions. Lifestyle of the leaders and administrators is very simple - and to run an office they mean to directly conduct the workforce. The Taleban administration is meaningfully inexpensive and close to mass life. Islamic spirit and enthusiasm is visible in every sphere of Afghan life. Government employees are trying to serve the people.
The people of Afghanistan overwhelmingly welcomed Taleban authority. Within Afghanistan Taleban authority received necessary recognition. There have been problem regarding external recognition. In the absence of any powerful government in Afghanistan UNO and the West have seen how Afghanistan turned into heaven for the traders of drugs and illegal arms. None of the previous Kabul Governments were able to effectively control illegal trafficking of drugs, arms and women. The law and order situation in the regions controlled by Talebans has been excellent. Scope for committing major vices & crimes have been effectively shut. The situation is likely to improve further as soon as the whole of Afghanistan comes under Taleban control. Peaceful Islamic Afghanistan will lay positive impact on all the Central Asian Muslim states. It should be remembered that the capitalist world has joined hand with the Russians to destroy the Islamic character of the Central Asian Muslim states. Because the Iranians are Shiiaites and the Central Asian Muslims are Sunni, Iran has been able to play only a limited role in that region.
The West should understand and concede to the realities in Afghanistan. The West may try to isolate Afghanistan by imposing blockade and barriers. But we know, blockade and barriers against Iran, Iraq and Libya have not been fruitful. Instead, these Muslim states learned to be self-reliant. Afghans are accustomed to very simple living. They were never for long in indignity or subjugation. Afghanistan does not have any big luxurious consumer class. There is hardly any class of Westernized intellectuals of consumerist character. All are equally busy for survival. It has created an unusual harmony in Afghanistan. They are steadily attainting sound national unity. And because Islam is the foundation and the Talebans are simple and committed, all tribal and communal differences are likely to be resolved quickly. In fact, Talebans may become example for the remaining Muslim world.