As we have all seen, the press has been  solemnly covering Burhanuddin Rabbani’s assassination in Kabul on September 20th. To quote just the Guardian: “Afghanistan Peace Process in Tatters”. It won’t take much to view him as a martyr who could have saved Afghanistan, much on the lines of Ahmad Shah Massoud, canonized by the French media, as we know.

Already in the late 60s and 70s, Rabbani was active in Muslim youth movements opposed to progressive Prime Minister Daoud, organizing along with Ahmad Shah Massoud, who was to become his closest ally and  Gulbeddin Hekmatyar demonstrations orchestrated by the Sharia Faculty on the campus of Kabul University. In one of these, Hekmattyar famously threw acid against girls’ legs.

Rabbani was the leader of the Afghan branch of the Jamiat-e-Islami, a political party of strong Fundamentalist leanings, not known for its open-mindedness. His party was one of the seven recognized by Pakistan at the time of the fight against the Soviet Intervention, all competing for American aid and resources and Rabbani positioned himself as the leading Tajik warlord with an agenda of his own.
Massoud, his military leader, and his men were the first to enter Kabul at the fall of the Communist government in 1992 and civil war ensued, one of the bloodiest periods of Afghan history. Rabbani at the time was made president, Massoud remained his military commander. They fought over Kabul against the coalition of Dostum and Hekmatyar. Amongst the more sinister- and little known events during his reign, was the massacre of Hazara residents of Kabul which included the rape of countless girls. It is said that Massoud acted on direct orders from Rabbani

The Guardian’s reporters forgot  to consult their own archives whilst bemoaning the passing of Rabbani.  On Nov. 16th 2001, they ran this story:

On February 11, 1993, Massoud and Sayyaf’s forces entered the Hazara suburb of Afshar, killing – by local accounts – “up to 1,000 civilians”, beheading old men, women, children and even their dogs, stuffing their bodies down the wells

Need one be surprised that the Kabuli population actually greeted the arrival of the Taliban in 1994 with relief and gratitude. Anything was better than this senseless chaos. None of the politicians responsible for this reign of terror – Rabbani included – was ever brought to trial although the Tribunal of the Hague would have been appropriate. Unaccountability, as usual in Afghanistan, triumphed which contributes to the lack of confidence in politics and politicians in this country.

Rabbani, as we know, was to revamp himself as  a peace-broker, as the headof Afghanistan’s high peace Council which up till now does not seem to have achieved very much. Some of the appeal of that position may have grounded in the $200m trust fund for reintegration that he was handling.

So what was the point of this killing? The Jamiat  is a typical offshoot of Political Islam  movements and the distance between them and the Taliban cannot be said to be very great, especially when it comes to human rights and especially women’s rights. In fact all the competing factions in Afghanistan seem to have this attitude in common. So once again, we are back to tribal issues and especially territorial power brokerage in a country where the term ‘nation’ still does not have any meaning. Especially for the old generation of Mudjhadeen in power : the younger generation in cities has begun to think beyond stereotypes, but this, sadly, has hardly been encouraged by the powers in place. One of the major failures of the US and the coalition (and there are many) has been the inability to instil this notion by backing up competing groups, many led by notorious war criminals, in a continuous race for resources and privilege and a government bent on dividing to rule.

 

 

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