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Ḥizb-i Islāmī Afghānistān

By:
Rizwan Hussain
Source:
The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic World What is This? Provides comprehensive scholarly coverage of the full geographical and historical extent of Islam

Ḥizb-i Islāmī Afghānistān

Ḥizb-i Islāmī Afghānistān is a militant Sunnī Islamist political party of Afghanistan. The Ḥizb-i Islāmī split into two separate political parties in the late 1970s. Both fought against the Soviet-sponsored government of Afghanistan from 1978 to 1992 under the name Ḥizb-i Islāmī Afghānistān. The better known and more influential of these two parties is headed by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar while the other was led by the late Mawlawi Yunis Khalis. Both leaders belonged to the Pashtun ethnic group (Hekmatyar from northern Kunduz Province, and Khalis from eastern Nangarhar Province), and their parties have historically their strongest bases of support in Pashtun regions of the country.

Ḥizb-i Islāmī had splintered in late 1978 when Mawlawi Yunis Khalis broke away from Hekmatyar 's party and formed his own group. The split primarily occurred due to Yunis Khalis 's displeasure over Hekmatyar 's authoritarian personality. Nevertheless, ideological differences also played a part in this separation. Hekmatyar 's party was an Islamist party patterned on Pakistan 's Jamāʿat-i Islāmī, where a tightly controlled party hierarchy formulated the policies. In contrast, Yunis Khalis and his followers were traditionalist village clergy for whom modern political ideas and notions of democracy held little appeal. Their main goal was the establishment of an Islamic state based upon the sharīʿah, as implemented during the time of the prophet Muhammad, without the entrapping of Western concepts. However, both Hekmatyar and Yunis Khalis equated the United States with the defunct Soviet Union in its hostility toward Islam. In the post-Soviet era, Ḥizb-i Islāmī 's Khalis faction members were to become closely aligned with the Taliban militia, which was considered the epitome of the Pashtun “traditionalist” movements associated with ʿulamāʿ networks scattered across the Pakistan–Afghanistan border regions while Hekmatyar 's party opposed the Taliban throughout the 1990s.

The origins of Ḥizb-i Islāmī can be traced to the efforts of a group of students at Kabul University who formed the Organization of Muslim Youth (Sāzmān-i Javānān-i Musulmān) in 1969. Initially an informal study group that was introduced to modern Islamic political ideology (particularly that of Sayyid Quṭb and the Ikhwān al-Muslimūn, or Muslim Brotherhood) by professors who had studied in Egypt, the Muslim Youth began active political organizing and recruitment in response to the increasingly strident efforts of Marxist parties to expand their base within the student population during the early 1970s. The Muslim Youth was also concerned with the rapid secularization of Afghan society and the pro-Soviet direction of government policy, and its leaders railed against perceived corruption within the royal family and the traditional ʿulamāʿ. In its first years the Muslim Youth Organization was primarily involved in campus politics, but a series of violent confrontations between Muslim and Marxist students led to the first arrests of Muslim Youth leaders in 1972.

In response to the July 1973 coup d ’état of Muḥammad Dāʿūd, an avowed leftist, the Muslim Youth joined forces with other covert Muslim political parties to overthrow the new government. These efforts were unsuccessful, however, and led to further arrests and the flight of many of the top Muslim Youth leaders to Pakistan, where they continued their efforts to overthrow the Afghan government. In July 1975, guerrillas associated with the Organization of Muslim Youth initiated an operation intended to combine a military coup d ’état in Kabul with rural insurrections in various provinces. The military coup never materialized, however, and the uprisings were unsuccessful, in large part because of the absence of popular support.

The failure of this plan was a major blow to the party; several hundred of its most enterprising members were captured and executed. It also created an enduring rift between the two principal leaders who survived the attack—Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who advocated the planned uprisings but did not personally participate, and Burhānuddīn Rabbānī, a former professor at Kabul University, who opposed the plan as premature. From this time on, Hekmatyar 's faction of the movement, which became known as Hizb-i Islāmī, and Rabbānī 's group, known as Jamāʿat-i Islāmī, had been engaged in often-violent competition for leadership of the Islamic resistance against leftist domination in Afghanistan. Following the April Revolution of 1978, other Muslim parties also set up headquarters in Pakistan.

In this milieu of competing factions, the claim of Hekmatyar 's Hizb-i Islāmī party to authority was always somewhat uncertain; its principal leaders were students before the war, mostly in secular disciplines such as engineering, and consequently had no traditional religious authority or status to legitimate their claim to leadership. Hekmatyar 's party has responded to this situation by emphasizing its early involvement in efforts to overthrow the government and the many student members it sacrificed to the cause during the 1970s, when the majority of traditional religious leaders remained apolitical. Because it was the first to declare jihād, Ḥizb-i Islāmī claimed the right to lead the Islamic movement against the Marxist government; in pursuit of that right, it has gained a reputation as the most authoritarian of the parties in terms of its organization and party discipline. It is also considered particularly ruthless in its suppression of dissent, and it has been the focus of criticism for its frequent conflicts with other parties and the attacks made by local Ḥizb-i Islāmī commanders against other fronts.

In ideological terms, Ḥizb-i Islāmī stands apart from other parties because of its combination of scriptural fundamentalism and revolutionary practice. While the party does not disavow the Ḥanafī school of jurisprudence that has long held sway in Afghanistan, it advocates adherence to the Qurʿān and sunnah as the principal foundations of law, over and above the Ḥanafī traditions that traditional ʿulamāʿ have long monopolized. Another ideological pillar of Ḥizb-i Islāmī concerns the role of the party itself. According to party doctrine, it is the only authentic Islamic party and the one vehicle through which a truly Islamic society can be realized in Afghanistan. As such, it is the obligation of every Muslim to join Ḥizb-i Islāmī and to summon others to the proper practice of the faith.

Hekmatyar 's party tended to be somewhat isolated from other parties during the thirteen years of the anti-Soviet resistance, but it was more successful than its rivals in gaining international backing from a variety of countries. Pakistan, Iran, and other Islamic states tendered financial, logistical, and military support to Ḥizb-i Islāmī. The party had also been the major beneficiary of American aid, despite the fact that Hekmatyar remained a frequent critic of the United States and tended to back the Baʿthist regime of President Saddam Hussein of Iraq against American policies and interests in the 1990s.

Following the collapse of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, Hizb-i-Islāmī 's foreign assistance declined, and the party has been increasingly isolated both domestically and internationally. This isolation culminated in May 1992 when an Islamically oriented coalition government was established in Afghanistan from which Ḥizb-i Islāmī of Hekmatyar was initially excluded. Although overtures were made between Ḥizb-i Islāmī and the other parties, it was uncertain whether it would ultimately be welcomed by other Islamic leaders, given its radical ideology. In the early 1990s Ḥizb-i Islāmī faction led by Younis Khalis virtually disintegrated with many of its members aligning with the Taliban. In fact, Mullah Omar, the leader of the Taliban, was a commander in the Khalis faction of Ḥizb-i Islāmī in the 1980s. However, Gulbaddin Hekmatyar 's Ḥizb-i Islāmī opposed the rise of the Taliban in the mid 1990s and as a result lost the support of its former mentor, the Pakistani military intelligence. Its offices in Pakistan were closed. Hekmatyar fled to Iran and opened Hizb 's offices in Tehran and Mashhad.

In the post 9/11 period, Hekmatyar returned from Iran to Afghanistan in 2002 to wage a jihād along with his former opponents the Taliban against the U.S. and NATO forces. Ḥizb-i Islāmī 's offices in Iran were closed by the Shīʿī regime in Tehran as it recognized the U.S.-installed regime of President Hamid Karzai. Currently, the Ḥizb-i Islāmī is regarded as a terrorist organization by the Karzai regime and it is also not allowed to function openly in neighboring Iran and Pakistan. In addition, Hekmatyar 's Ḥizb-i Islāmī faction has fragmented and several of its former members have joined the Karzai regime. However, Hekmatyar and some hardcore members are still believed to associated with this much-weakened political grouping in post-Taliban Afghanistan. Keeping in view Ḥizb-i Islāmī 's history of intolerance toward other groups in Afghanistan, it remains to be seen whether this party can reform itself in view of the new realities of Afghan politics.

See also AFGHANISTAN and HEKMATYAR, GULBUDDIN.

Bibliography

  • Edwards, David B.“Summoning Muslims: Print, Politics, and Religious Ideology in Afghanistan.”Journal of Asian Studies52.3 (1993): 609–628.
  • Griffin, Michael. Reaping the Whirlwind: Afghanistan, Al Qaʿida and the Holy War. 2nd ed., London, 2003. A general study of post-Soviet Afghan politics and foreign intervention in Afghan affairs.
  • Olesen, Asta. Islam and Politics in Afghanistan. London, 1995. A perceptive and detailed study of the role of Islam and Islamic groups in Afghan politics.
  • Yousaf, Muhammad, and Mark Adkin. The Bear Trap: Afghanistan 's Untold Story. London, 1992. Gives a detailed account of how the U.S. and Pakistan created and trained the Afghan Islamists including Hekmatyar from the perspective of the Pakistani military.
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