By Ammar Aziz
In 1978, the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan had completely overthrown the monarchy of the Shahs, leading towards a democratic change. The Soviet Union started helping the newly formed people’s republic by modernising the economy and in the construction of schools, hospitals and roads
The ongoing terrorist attacks in Pakistan reflect the dark consequences of our Islamic republic’s official support for imperialist causes in the 1980s. Every person who condemns this bloodshed is supposed to know and oppose its very roots. Ironically, all ‘Islamists’ and ‘liberals’, here and abroad, who oppose these fanatics now, keep ignoring the historical fact that they themselves had played a vital role in shaping and raising these terrorists who were then known as mujahideen.
Our people are burning in the flames of that jihad — a feat that fanatics and their brainwashed followers are still proud of — which was started against the ‘kafir’ Soviet Union. The world faced a dramatic change at the end of the Cold War, after the dissolution of the USSR. Amidst much celebration by the imperialists, the Islamists and their massive supporters were left totally unaware of the consequences of that destruction for their future generations because of supporting imperialist agendas in the name of religion.
Things are not as abstract as they seem. It is a known fact that the mujahideen were completely funded, supported and trained by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Billions of dollars had been invested in supporting them against the Soviet Union. Saudi Arabia and Pakistan were the closest allies of these mujahideen along with the US. One wonders what those imperialist interests were that had united all the western capitalist powers, Middle Eastern elites and religious clerics of the world against a single state. What was the Afghanistan of the 1980s that ended on a tragic note, whose fallout keeps affecting the lives of the common people today? Which was the party that began to change the destiny of common Afghans before those US-sponsored barbarians destroyed everything?
In 1978, the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) — formed in 1965 — had completely overthrown the monarchy of the Shahs, leading towards a democratic change known as the ‘Saur Revolution’. It was seen as a bright change and the Soviet Union started helping the newly formed people’s republic by modernising the economy and in the construction of schools, hospitals and roads. From land reforms to the promulgation of new laws, the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan completely followed a socialist model. The PDPA banned many traditional feudal practices and introduced new laws to protect women’s rights, including the ban on ‘bride price’ and child marriages. Literacy programmes, for both men and women, were being set up, resulting in the involvement of Afghan women for the first time in all mainstream fields including politics. Anahita Ratebzad, one of the few Afghan women to become a medical doctor and a politician, wrote in a New Kabul Times editorial in May 1978: “Privileges which women, by right, mst have are equal education, job security, health services and free time to rear a healthy generation for building the future of the country. Educating and enlightening women is now the subject of close government attention.” Anahita, an active Marxist, was a member of the PDPA.
According to a research study, in 1988, 40 percent of doctors and 60 percent of teachers consisted of women in Afghanistan. In the same year, 440,000 female students were enrolled in educational institutions. These reforms, however, were not seen as a positive change but as an ‘atheistic agenda’ by a large number of conservative groups in Afghanistan and the rest of the Muslim world who started to organise militants against the socialist government. In 1979, the newly formed government repeatedly requested the neighbouring socialist Soviet Union to help them. It was supposed to be a peaceful involvement of the Soviets with a mere intention to provide security to the newly formed democratic state and to help them build socialism, but something else had been scripted by the imperialist powers and their Islamist puppets. Their direct involvement and support to religious militants created unrest, bloodshed and civil war for many years — and it still continues.
The US exploited the Soviet involvement in Afghanistan to give the Cold War a climax. The CIA started a programme, known as Operation Cyclone, to arm the mujahideen in every possible way. Here comes the most interesting and tragic part. Pakistan, under Zia’s regime, played the role of a protagonist in making that mission successful and started accepting aid in millions of dollars. The ISI continuously served imperialist powers and trained the militants and supplied them the weapons and funds. This imperialist-Islamist alliance led to countless deaths and destruction in Afghanistan. Brzezinski, the National Security Adviser of former US President Jimmy Carter, said in an interview: “That secret operation was an excellent idea. It had the effect of drawing the Soviets into the Afghan trap. The day that the Soviets officially crossed the border, I wrote to President Carter, ‘We now have the opportunity of giving to the Soviet Union its Vietnam War’.”
The western media kept romanticising the religious militants as ‘heroes fighting for humanity’. After fulfilling the imperialist interest of the defeat of the Soviet Union, the same ‘heroes’ became antagonists. One of those people and their closest ally — an Arab elitist — who later became a ‘celebrity’ terrorist named Osama bin Laden, said, “The credit for the collapse of the Soviet Union goes to God and the mujahideen in Afghanistan.”
What Pakistan faces today is the outcome of its pro-American policies from the very beginning in 1947 — when Pakistani officials decided to have ‘good terms’ with the US instead of the USSR — to its worst episode in the 1980s that started an era of never ending bloodshed. Sadly, a majority of Pakistanis, who are unaware of backstage imperialistic agendas oppose terrorism but still have some sympathy for the mujahideen. Meanwhile, there is another thinking, prevailing mostly amongst urban elitists, who oppose terrorism but see the US form of ‘democracy’ and the ‘free market’ as the solutions of these problems. It is the need of the time, for every sensible mind, to understand that only class struggle can bring us a peaceful future.
The writer is a Lahore-based filmmaker and left-wing activist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Source: The Daily Times, Pakistan