By: Dr.Rajkumar Singh
At the close of the seventies the overall situation in world politics went against the US interest, especially after the fall of Shah in January 1979 followed by the Soviet intervention in December that year. The collapse of Shah’s regime in Iran and the emergence of Khomeini in his place, marked a new revival of Islamic tenets. Further it caused a new surge of revivalism in Pakistan which was manifest in Bhutto’s latter years and was culminated in General Zia’s programmes of Islamic reforms.
The new rising tendency, at least in general, was the result of the failure of the secular ideologies. The increasing hegemony of the two world political and economic systems as represented by the military, technological and economic domination of the United States and the former Soviet Union had left little room for the autonomy of the liberal/nationalist or Marxist/nationalist movements.
They made the course of development a difficult one in Muslim countries. In addition the exodus of vast numbers of traditional Muslim peasants to the cities in search of identity alongside a demographic revolution whereby those below the age of 20 make up 50 per cent of the population, have combine to create conditions ripe for revolution.
Secular fabric and identity at stake
The secular ideologies of progress, however, could not compensate these transient, alienated and exploited segments of population for the decomposition of traditional religious ontological securities and social identity.
The Western academia and media, particularly after the Iranian Revolution of 1979, had developed the segments to demonise Islam as a faith, and to depict Muslim societies, with varying degree of candour and crudity. In real politik terms the West has always been selective in its dealings with Islam.
It has opposed Islamism in Egypt, Algeria and Saudi Arabia but has been supportive of it in Chechnya, Bosnia and Kashmir.
Singlling out Islam as a fundamentalist religion is clearly not a practical, long term proposition when it is the second largest religion in the world.
Thus, since 1979 the Soviet – Afghan war played a large role in reshaping ethnic identities towards larger identities.
It may, however, be said that this process did not start suddenly in 1979; its roots are to be found in the creeping politicisation of Afghan society. But the process was precipitated by the state policy and external factors mainly resulting from confrontation with the USSR as well as from both Pakistan and Iranian policies towards Afghanistan. In post-intervention period Pakistan adopted its so called ‘Islamic strategy’. By labelling the Afghan intervention as Islamic cause, Pakistan managed to receive financial support from Saudi Arabia and various other Muslim countries. Islamabad thought it to be an easy option as a means of promoting its strategic goals in the region, particularly in Afghanistan and India.
Pakistan called it Jihad obviously the intension was to mobilise and motivate the Pakistani army and irregular armed forces of all kinds in the name of Islam.
The Islamic strategy got support from the United States and China merely because it was directed against the Soviet Union, and they are now reaping its bitter consequences as now they are finding difficult to contain this Frankenstein monster.
Viewed in cold war perspectives the events in Afghanistan was an alarm for the countries of the region as a whole.
Dirty politics of US in Afghanistan
In fact the rivalry between America and Russia for world hegemony gave birth to the American Muslim coalition to liberate Afghanistan from the communist rule. In the light of the assessment of US policies in and around this part was seen as the culmination of a process of Soviet involvement which began almost 30 years ago, as a reaction, once again, to the US alliance with Pakistan and Iran. Like the every confrontation of the cold war period American policy – makers had defined the crisis in question as a ‘test case’ of American will and had responded accordingly. Washington concluded that a grave threat to peace existed and that Soviet action had given rise to the most fundamental question pertaining to international stability.
At the juncture US used Islamic fundamentalism to counter Soviet communism. To fight Soviet – style atheism, US policy – makers did not hesitate to use religion for political ends – the Catholic Church in Central America and Islam in Afghanistan.
In other words, Islam was employed to unite the Muslim world and spur the spirit of Jihad against the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan.
The US-led military campaign in Afghanistan was fuelled by succeeding American administration.
The Reagan Doctrine of arming anti – communist freedom fighters in places such as Afghanistan, Angola, Cambodia and Nicaragua sanctified the doctrine of low – intensity conflict.
This apart, the United States of America was also largely responsible for blocking peaceful transition of power in post-Soviet phase in Afghanistan. Rise of ethnicity and ethnic violence
The outbreak of war between the USSR and the Afghans helped the formation of the pattern of supraethnic alliance in the name of Islam, uniting Uzbeks and Tajiks against Russia. The alliance was led by the Jama’t-i-Islami. In 1981, a Pan-Turkic Islamic Movement was started by Azad Beg’s party with Pakistan’s support. In the same year he founded in Peshawar with the help of Pakistan government, the Islamic Union of the Northern Provinces of Afghanistan. Its aim was first to unite all the Turkic people of Turk origin in Afghanistan and then use it against both the Soviets and the Kabul regime. Although having initial success the organisation failed because the warlords, in general, did not support Azad Beg.
Upon his failure, the Pakistani Inter State Intelligence (ISI) selected the Talibans studying in Pakistani madrassas, gave them military training and sent them across the border into Afghanistan.
The Pakistani ISI service was eager to provide a framework to channel Turkic nationalism against Soviet Russia at the instance of USA.
The Soviet military intervention in 1979 was depicted as ‘Islam in danger’. In the circumstances the interest of the US and Pakistan converged as the former wanted to wage proxy war with Soviet Union via Pakistan. The US arms started flowing into the hands of the Mujahideens. Afghan conflict has militarised Pakistan society.
Soviet Union faced a combined force in Afghanistan
Terrorism in South Asia is a cocktail of Afghan Mujahideen, Pakistani ISI, Taliban and Al-Qaeda led by Osama bin Laden. They all fought jointly against the Soviet army in Afghanistan and later after Russian withdrawal turned their face to the Indian State of Jammu and Kashmir.
Afghan Mujahideens are Afghani refugees who sought sanctuary in Pakistan from Soviet air raids and participated actively in the holy war against the Soviets in Afghanistan.
Very soon some foreign aid began coming in officially and more was being surreptitiously pumped in by Saudi Arabia and the CIA agents into the hands of so called Mujahideens.
Apart from this there was a massive influx of arms, especially sub-machine guns and automatic rifles as weapons meant for Afghan guerillas. The new factor gave birth to a linkage between the Mujahideen groups and right-wing, religious parties within Pakistan made the whole Afghan issue part of the domestic political conflict.
The Soviet intervention in Afghanistan was followed by General Zia’s agreement with the US in 1981 for a strategic relationship.
Among the Islamic parties of Pakistan Jamiatul-Ulema-i-Islam (JUI) and Jamaat-i-Islami (JI), had been actively involved in Afghanistan, first in the anti Soviet Jihad and later in support of the Taliban.
The author Professor and Head P.G.Department of Political Science BNMU, West Campus .