`Kashmir jehad cannot break up India'

Print edition : July 16, 2004


Interview with Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.

Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the founding chief of Hizb-e-Islami, is the Federal Bureau of Investigation's most wanted Afghan warlord who carries $25 million on his head. He used to be the Central Intelligence Agency's `blue-eyed' boy during the United States' proxy war against the Soviet Union in the 1970s and 1980s.

Hekmatyar stayed in exile in Mashad (Iran) until Teheran, annoyed by his anti-U.S. statements, asked him to leave the country in March 2002. A Kharotay Ghilzai Pashtun, Hekmatyar was born in 1948 at district Imam Sahib in Kunduz province. His family migrated to the north in 1948 from village Goral Uluswali Qarabagh (Ghazni province). Like the rest of the Kharotays, the family had led a nomadic life.

Hekmatyar graduated from the Sher Khan High School; did a two-year course in Military High School, Mehtab Qala, Kabul; joined the College of Engineering, Kabul University, but could not complete his studies owing to his involvement in political and religious activities. He was accused of killing Saidal Sukhundan, a student of Shola-i-Javaid (a Maoist organisation), for which he was jailed. After his release, Hekmatyar left for Peshawar, Pakistan, along with several other Afghan Islamists where they became active with the support of Pakistan against the Afghanistan Republic of President Daud in the early 1970s.

In alliance with Pakistan's Jamat-e-Islami, Hekmatyar became the recipient of the largest amount of monetary and military hardware assistance compared to other parties and groups in the CIA-funded war against the Soviet forces in Afghanistan.

Mohammad Shehzad, a freelance journalist based in Islamabad, conducted this interview with Hekmatyar over the phone from Peshawar. Hekmatyar was talking through a sat-phone from an unknown place in Afghanistan. Excerpts:

Jehadist like Hafiz Saeed and Syed Salahuddin believe that the Kashmir jehad could break up India just like the Afghan jehad led to the disintegration of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). Being a veteran jehadi, do you think that is possible?

One has to be realistic in analysis. The USSR was a superpower. It was the number one enemy of the U.S. It is true that the USSR broke apart through the Afghan jehad. But the Afghan jehad was financed by a number of countries. Saudi Arabia and the U.S. spent money like water in the Afghan jehad. Other Western countries also joined them. Trillions of dollars were spent over a decade. It is also true that it was done by the mujahideens alone. But without a huge and generous financial support, it was not possible.

The dynamics of the Kashmir jehad are totally different. India is not a superpower. It is not the U.S.' enemy. It is not a potential threat to anyone in the region. The Kashmir jehad is not financed by foreign forces the way the Afghan jehad was financed. Moreover, the Kashmir issue is more of a political nature. In our case, the forces of `unbelief' had invaded Islam. That similarity does not exist in the case of Kashmir. So, I don't think India will break apart through the Kashmir jehad. According to my understanding, the Indian economy is improving. It is Pakistan that is heading towards disintegration. The Pakistan Army is committing state terrorism in South Waziristan. The MQM (Muttahida Quami Movement) is committing sectarian terrorism in Karachi. Baluchistan is also not at peace. It is also in the grip of sectarian violence. So, lawlessness and anarchy are writ large on Pakistan's face.

Are you saying that what is going on in Kashmir is not a jehad?

No, I am not saying that. Of course, it is jehad. You asked me whether the Kashmir jehad could break apart India or not. I am saying it cannot. I am not denying that the mujahideens' struggle is not jehad. It is 100 per cent jehad and I salute all the Kashmiri mujahideens - Hafiz Saeed, who is my leader, has fought jehad in Afghanistan; Syed Salahuddin, who is a great freedom fighter, as well as Maulana Masood Azhar who has given India a tough time.

You have just admitted that the U.S. and Saudi dollars had made the Afghan jehad successful. You are currently fighting a jehad against the U.S. - without the foreign support. How are you going to win it this time?

You are right that we don't have the U.S. or Saudi support this time. But if you have studied the history of Afghan jehad you would know that the foreign assistance came much later. The Afghans had waged a guerilla war of their own within their meagre resources and gave the Russians a tough time. It was the courage and determination of the Afghans that attracted the foreign support. Jehad is not fought with the money alone. Jehad requires passion.

Look at the Palestinian jehad. Do the people of Palestine have any weapons? Their weapons are stones and their own bodies. They would fight the armoured tanks of Israel by tying explosives around their body and blowing themselves up. We might not be able to break the U.S. apart but we are quite capable of making Afghanistan the U.S.' Waterloo. Moreover, we are not unarmed. We have arms in huge quantities. We snatch arms and ammunition from the Afghan Army as well as the coalition forces.

In a nutshell, we have sufficient wherewithal to carry out jehad for years. And we are quite confident to throw the U.S. out of Afghanistan. In fact, the sense that Afghanistan has become a quagmire for the U.S. has prevailed upon [George] Bush. That is why the U.S. is trying to find an `honourable' exit from Afghanistan as a face-saving measure.

This statement contradicts the one you made last year in the course of an interview you gave me for The Sunday Times. You had predicted the U.S.' disintegration through your jehad...

It must be in a different context. But one thing is for sure. The U.S. cannot stay in Afghanistan for a long time. It will have to pack up and leave. Otherwise, Afghanistan will become its graveyard and that would be the first nail in the U.S.' coffin.

Your aides - Commander Khalid Farooqi, Maulvi Sarfraz Janbaz and Abdul Hadi - have recently met Karzai, General Fahim and Zalmay Khalilzad. Karzai and Khalilzad have promised not to issue any statement against you. Karzai has allowed you to participate fully in the country's political activities and re-organise your party. When are you going to accept his offer?

These are just rumours spread by the U.S. through its media to demoralise the mujahideens. We could join hands with Karzai if he could ask the U.S. and the coalition forces to vacate Afghanistan and leave the future of Afghanistan to the Afghans. It is obvious that Karzai cannot accept such demands because he is an American stooge. It is true that Karzai these days is wooing some former mujahideens to muster support for the forthcoming presidential election. This is not his act. He is doing it at the U.S.' behest. But this is not going to make life easy for the U.S. or Karzai because the so-called mujahideens Karzai is talking to are `paper-tigers'. The real mujahideens are the Taliban and people like us. We matter, not them. We will continue to fight Karzai and his master - the U.S. By the way, Karzai's days are numbered. Very soon, our mujahideens will get him.

How could peace be restored in Afghanistan?

Afghanistan used to be peaceful. Unfortunately, it became a centre for the big powers' intervention. First of all, the Russians interfered in its affairs and destroyed its peace. Then Pakistan tried to make it its fifth province. The notorious ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence) installed the Taliban and tried to remote-control Afghanistan from Islamabad. Now, the Americans are doing the same experiment. When the foreign interference ends, peace will return to Afghanistan.

Do you know about the whereabouts of Mullah Omar and Osama bin Laden?

Mullah Omar is sick these days. The Taliban are being led by Mullah Jalaluddin Haqqani. I am not sheltering Osama. To the best of my information, he is in Kandahar.

Are you behind the recent killing of the Chinese?

I have no idea about it. The Taliban have split now. The other faction is led by Mullah Soban. It could be his brainchild. I have expelled some miscreants from my party. It could be their handiwork. I really have no idea.

But the Afghan government strongly suspects that you have masterminded it. They have good reasons to believe this. In fact, you have admitted it `off-the-record' while talking to some journalists...

It is not true. I cannot accept the responsibility if some miscreants have masterminded it at the U.S.' behest. I believe it is the handiwork of the Americans. They have used some greedy mujahideens for this inhuman act to defame the true mujahideens. I suspect that the Americans have also masterminded the killing of Chinese in Gwador, Baluchistan. The U.S. agenda is to malign jehad and jehadis.

Afghan Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah said in an interview that you cannot be offered amnesty under the DDR (Disarmament, Demobilisation of Militia, and Reintegration of Combatants) Programme because you have committed heinous crimes against humanity...

Abdullah Abdullah conveniently forgets the heinous crimes that the Northern Alliance has committed against the innocent people of Afghanistan. Ahmad Shah Masood was a callous murderer. He massacred thousands of innocent Pushtuns. It is really ironic that the Karzai administration has given a war criminal like Masood the status of a national hero.

A letter from the Editor

Dear reader,

The COVID-19-induced lockdown and the absolute necessity for human beings to maintain a physical distance from one another in order to contain the pandemic has changed our lives in unimaginable ways. The print medium all over the world is no exception.

As the distribution of printed copies is unlikely to resume any time soon, Frontline will come to you only through the digital platform until the return of normality. The resources needed to keep up the good work that Frontline has been doing for the past 35 years and more are immense. It is a long journey indeed. Readers who have been part of this journey are our source of strength.

Subscribing to the online edition, I am confident, will make it mutually beneficial.


R. Vijaya Sankar

Editor, Frontline

Support Quality Journalism
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor