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Demystifying Hekmatyar’s Pashtunism


By Habiba Ashna

Dec 11 2017

On November 4th, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar held a press conference on parliamentary elections of Afghanistan which will be held in July next year. The press conference was covered heavily by the media only to show Hekmatyar’s leadership as a Pashtun leader. Hekmatyar, a known warlord who earned fame during the Civil War, with undisputed loyalty to Pakistan, has misrepresented Pashtuns for decades. Hekmatyar’s imposed leadership as a Pashtun by domestic and foreign media has created many ethnic issues among Afghans in Afghanistan. Hekmatyar, the leader of Hizb-e-Islami, influenced by Sayyed Qutb, was never a legitimate Pashtun leader.

A Brief Review of Groups and Their Leaders 

The Afghan Civil War was devastating and it divided the nation, but it also raised many questions on the legitimacy of the leadership that had emerged during the war. Multiple groups were involved in the Afghan civil war supported by its own ethnicity. Major groups were, Jamiat -e- Islami, a group led by a Tajiks (some Tajiks were also pro-Sitam-e-Milli); Junbishi-e-Milli was mainly an Uzbek group led by Dostum (the current estranged Vice President of Afghanistan); Hizb-e-Wahdat was led by Khalili, and was mainly Hazara. Pir Sayyed Ahmad Gillani where most of his followers were Pashtuns (Some claimed that Pir was leading the Turkmans, as well) Pir Gillani was more pro-Tajik than he was pro-Pashtuns. Among these groups, Uzbeks were also pro-Jamiat-e-Islami. Each and every group was somehow connected to another. The only ethnicity that lacked legitimate leadership and turned into fractions was the Pashtun leadership. The vacuum left in the Pashtun leadership was filled by different individuals without the nationalistic ideology.

Each leader promoted their ethnicity and spread the nationalistic ideology; however, Pashtun nationalism never played a huge role in the Afghan civil war.

Pashtuns,, the majority in Afghanistan, have had leadership positions that have changed the course of history in the South and the Southeast Asia

Apart from each Pashtun tribe having their own leader, for centuries, it was assumed that the leader of Pashtuns, as a nation, is the one who rules the country. This specific notion was challenged when each ethnicity rallied behind their leaders.

Pashtuns have suffered a great deal in the Civil war. Each and every Pashtun leader at the Civil War joined because of their Islamic beliefs. Although, they identified themselves as Pashtuns, but the idea behind their struggle was Islamic and not the promotion of Pashtun nationalism. Islamic ideology and leadership was the main reason that brought Pashtuns together to support leaders.

Hekmatyar, His Non-Pashtun Allies, and Islamic Ideology

Hekmatyar’s stronghold in non-Pashtun areas are worth consideration. Hizb-e-Islami has supporters in Parwan, Kapisa, Panjshir, Kunduz, and in other Northern and Northeast provinces. Humayun Jarir, the son-in-law of Hekmatyar (a Panjshiri) has played a huge role in gathering support for Hekmatyar. Adding to the list, other prominent figures who have been active members are, Almas Zahid (whom with many followers is known for his loyalty to Hekmatyar, and also serves as the senior advisor to President Ashraf Ghani.) The presence of other ethnic groups in every major party and the representation of Pashtuns by other ethnic groups is a vivid example of the lack of Pashtun nationalistic ideology.

Another example of Hekmatyar’s pro-Islamic ideology is the provincial elections of former NWFP (North Western Frontier Province) of Pakistan. Hekmatyar endorsed Maulana Hassan Jan against  Khan Mohammad Wali Khan, the leader of Awami National Party and the son of Khan Ghaffar Khan known as Bacha Khan. Maulana Hassan Jan ideologically leaned more towards Pakistani establishment and Islamists. His endorsement for Maulana Hassan Jan was perceived as a move that put Islam above any Pashtun nationalism. It also brought Hekmatyar’s deep ties with the Pakistani establishment on surface.

Hizb-e-Islami’s Hekmatyar had rapport with the Islamic world. Hekmatyar’s association with other nations was based on their mutual belief of internationalism of Islamic Ideology.

In the Civil War, Ahmad Shah Masood, Burhanuddin Rabbani, and other important Jihadi figures established a new ethnic joint group known as the Northern Alliance. The purpose behind the creation of this group was to oppose Hekmatyar and other powerful Pashtuns for ethnic and political aims; but Hekmatyar did not form or established a Pashtun based opposition party.

A year ago, some Tajik-Afghans gathered to build a new shrine for a late Tajik King Habibullah Kalakani known as Bach-e-Saqao (ruled from 17 January 1929 – 16 October 1929). Kalakani came to power after overthrowing a legitimate and modern king, King Amanullah Khan. The topic, and later the event itself, had many ethnic tensions; many the logic behind all was to prove that the Tajiks had a leadership role in the Afghan history. While most Pashtuns and Uzbeks were against the reburial and shrine of Kalakaani, Kabul based Hizb-e-Islami’s leaders (Waheedullah Sabawoon, Qazi Amin Weqad …) attended Fateha, Islamic funeral, of Habibullah Kalakani.

Habiburahman Hekmatyar, son of Gulbadeen Hekmatyar, called on government to erase all those topics from history books and school curriculum that describes Kalakani as a thief. The reason behind Hizb-e-Islami’s support for Kalakani was that, Kalakani is an Islamic figure who overthrew a “Westernized’ king.

Hizb-e-Islami, and especially Hekmatyar, had good relations with Islamic countries such as Turkey, Kuwait, UAE, and Saudi Arabia. All Islamic countries that had sent monetary or other types of support to Hekmatyar to help Pashtuns have been misplaced in most cases. The requirements for colleges, schools, and Madrasas that had been built by Hekmatyar were solely for the members of Hizb-e-Islami. The requirement evidently, benefitted other ethnicities more than the Pashtuns. The institutions were built for the promotion of Islamic ideology and politicizing Islam. Not for the promotion of Pashtunism or Pashtun ideology.

Hemkatyar: A Leader By Default

Pashtuns are victims of the new wave of Islamism embedded with Pashtunism that is being promoted in Afghanistan, by Hekmatyar and Hekmatyar a likes. While seeking refuge in Pakistan, many known Pashtun scholars who opposed Hekmatyar, such as Sayyed Bahauddin Majrooh and Aziz Ul Rahman Ulfat, were assassinated by Hekmatyar’s group. Keeping the history of Afghanistan and the Civil War in mind, one could argue that Hekmatyar is a leader by default. He was not chosen by Pashtuns nor does his leadership have any legitimacy. His presence in Afghanistan does not give him Pashtun leadership, rather shows the lack of a unilateral leadership for Pashtuns in Afghanistan. Since Pashtuns have always embraced their Afghan identity, the need for Pashtun unilateral leadership was never felt in Afghanistan prior to the Civil War. Pashtuns have always used the word “Afghan” as a synonym with the word, “Pakhtun.” (the definition of Afghan has evolved throughout years. It is used for the people of Afghanistan and not for a specific ethnicity or tribe, anymore.)

Recently, Pashtuns have been rallying behind two Afghan leaders; Hamid Karzai, the former Afghan president, and Ashraf Ghani, the current Afghan president. But none of the leaders promote Pashtunism, but rather, Afghan identity. Hence, their Pashtun background with promoting Afghan identity was enough for Pashtuns to rally behind these two leaders.

Moreover, the international media has been giving Hekmatyar the image of a leader who has been accepted by the majority for his nationalism. Pashtuns, who had held their rich and secular ideologies for centuries are amidst a never ending conflict.

For decades, Hekmatyar has been using the Pashtun identity and nationalism to promote his Islamic ideology. He has been using Pashto language as a tool to  promote his own agenda and spread hatred among Pashtuns, and other minorities.

One historical fact about the Civil War is that, all Afghans suffered. But our suffering will not end unless we end following the leaders who had started the Civil War.