READER DISCRETION ADVISED: Please DO NOT read this article if you are easily offended. The content of this article and opinions expressed here are solely my personal views on matters pertaining to Afghanistan and do not represent views of any other person or entity related directly or indirectly to me in any shape or form.
When I initially heard the news of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s Hizb-e-Islami Afghanistan (HIA) joining the peace process a few months ago, I thought to myself that hell would have to freeze over before someone like him thinks of peace. His appearance from an unknown location via Skype last week signing the peace agreement with the Afghan Government proved me wrong – or perhaps, hell has indeed frozen! With Hekmatyar’s violent past, it’s too early to tell whether this peace agreement will result in anything tangible.
While examining Afghanistan’s history of violence, Hekmatyar’s legacy is unmatched. As university students starting the rebellion against the former Soviet Union’s expansionist strategy in Afghanistan in 1970s, Afghans from my parents’ generation recall Hekmatyar and his circle of rogue supporters for their violence against women. Hekmatyar’s violent nature continued on even as he moved out to neighboring Pakistan in the 1980s when the crackdown on Muslim students and intellectuals was reaching its height by the then Communist puppet regime of Dr. Najibullah Ahmadzai. Like millions of Afghans who grew up in Pakistan in the 1980s as children of refugees, the stories of Hekmatyar’s violence still remain in my memory. It was not uncommon to hear tales of girls and boys getting kidnapped, violence against people sending their girls to schools and random killing of male members of Afghan refugee families by HIA.
If the measure of someone qualifying as a ‘warlord’ has to do with their involvement in wars and the numbers of civilians killed as a result thereof, then shouldn’t the western journalists take a look at the resume’s of their own leaders?
The Making of a Warlord
After the news of Hekmatyar’s peace deal and return to Afghanistan (which is yet to be confirmed) was made public, the western media and journalists spared no effort in making sure that he is known by the same label as everyone else who was part of the ‘American Jihad’ against the Soviet Union. While I no doubt consider Hekmatyar the undisputed war criminal of the Afghan civil war, western media and journalist fail to mention that the warlord they know as Gulbuddin Hekmatyar is also the favorite warlord of the west. During the 1980s, Hekmatyar became the Reagan administration’s favorite leading figure in the fight against Communism in Central Asia who reportedly received the highest funding, highest military, and highest political support by the United States and Pakistan’s intelligence, the ISI.
As much as I am against the violent legacy of Hekmatyar, I only find it fair to challenge the western media and journalists who, on a blink-of-an-eye since the September 11 attacks in New York, have slapped all leading anti-Soviet resistance figures with the label of ‘warlords’. If the measure of someone qualifying as a ‘warlord’ has to do with their involvement in wars and the numbers of civilians killed as a result thereof, then shouldn’t the western journalists take a look at the resume’s of their own leaders? Why is it that Afghan resistance leaders are called ‘warlords’ when currently, as I type this blog, there are many western leaders who have been engaged in wars more violent and bloody than Afghanistan’s entire history of wars? One only need to look at the Syrian situation right now to be able to compare what the western strategy of war in Afghanistan was like and how the freedom fighters of yesterday are labeled as ‘war criminals’ and ‘warlords’ of today.
Again, I remind my readers to pull out the CVs of the current western leaders and make a comparison to even the most violent of Afghan leaders like Hekmatyar and make a fair judgment by themselves – you’ll be in for some surprising discoveries!
Afghans have yet to get some transparency on the contents of the peace agreement with Hekmatyar. Some reports suggest that part of the deal includes Hekmatyar getting paid USD $100,000 per month along with other concessions for his family and political party. It would be naïve of anyone to think that such a deal with Hekmatyar has taken place without a clear consent of the United States – if anything, the United States as well as other countries with political interest in Afghanistan must have endorsed the deal for it to come to fruition.
Afghanistan’s Legacy of Racism
When sharing my opposition to this peace plan engineered by the Ghani administration, I found it appalling that anonymous twitter accounts (most of which belong to only a handful of President Ashraf Ghani’s die-hard digital propagandists) would rebut my tweets in Hekmatyar’s favor. Mind you, these are the very same people who just a few weeks ago were calling the former Afghan King Habibullah Kalakani a violent bandit and even went as far as comparing him to the Taliban leader and the self-declared caliph Mullah Omar. Such hypocrisy from Afghan nationalists is a stark reminder of Afghanistan’s legacy of racism.
Back in 1990s, it was Pakistan’s leadership, military, and intelligence services (the ISI) that unconditionally supported Hekmatyar in trying to position him as the default leader of Afghanistan. The Hekmatyar that was once a favorite of Pakistan is probably not the same today, but the level of trust and disgust that both Hekmatyar and the Pakistan’s foreign policy towards Afghanistan bring is the same for the Afghan public.
Whether Hekmatyar’s return to Afghanistan is a win for the Afghan government for its endless quest for peace or for the Pakistani government that has been trying to keep a stranglehold proxy power in Afghanistan for decades is yet to be determined. If one thing is sure at this point in time, at least on the onset, it is that Afghanistan continues to take one step forward and a few more steps backward.
My hope for the next President of the United States, be it Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, is that they continue to honor the conditions of the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA).
As a sign of my artistic protest, here’s a track titled ‘Butcher of Kabul’ – you can download this track FREE on my website:
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