Citation for Hekmatyar, Gulbuddin

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Hussain, Rizwan . "Hekmatyar, Gulbuddin." In The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic World. Oxford Islamic Studies Online. May 22, 2022. <>.


Hussain, Rizwan . "Hekmatyar, Gulbuddin." In The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic World. Oxford Islamic Studies Online, (accessed May 22, 2022).

Hekmatyar, Gulbuddin

Gulbuddin Hekmatyar (b. 1947), was the principal leader of the largest faction of the Afghan Islamic party known as the Ḥizb-i Islāmī. Hekmatyar, a Sunnī Muslim belonging to the Kharoti subtribe of the Pashtun Ghilzai tribal grouping of Kunduz province in northern Afghanistan, started his political career as a radical Islamist student in the College of Engineering at Kabul University in the late 1960s. His Islamist political orientation was greatly influenced by the writings of the Egyptian Sayyid Quṭb and other Islamic political theorists affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood (Ikhwān-al-Muslimūn). He became one of the founders of the Organization of Muslim Youth (Sāzmān-i Javānān-i Musulmān) on campus. Hekmatyar 's violent opposition to Marxist factions at University led to his imprisonment in 1972 and 1973. The overthrow of the Afghan monarchy by Sardār Muḥammad Dāʿūd in July 1973 increased the repression of the nascent Afghan Islamist movement, and as a result, Hekmatyar fled with other Afghan Islamists to Peshawar in Pakistan. Later on, he took part in an Islamist uprising in Afghanistan in 1975. This insurrection, sponsored by the Pakistani government of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto (1971–1977), was intended as a riposte to Afghanistan 's assistance to ethnic Pashtun separatists in Pakistan but the rebellion collapsed because of a lack of popular support. Following this failure, Hekmatyar separated from the Tajik-dominated Jamʿīyat-i Islāmī group, an offshoot of the Muslim Youth Organization, led by Burhanuddin Rabbani and Ahmed Shah Massoud, to form the Ḥizb-i Islāmī Afghānistān.

Hekmatyar gained international prominence after pro-Soviet Marxist–Leninist groups seized power in Kabul in April 1978. He was able to gain the trust of the Islamist-oriented Pakistani military regime of General Muhammad Zia ul-Haq (1977–1988) to wage jihād against the Soviet-backed Afghan regime. Hekmatyar remained a key ally of the Pakistani military and Islamist groups such as the Jamāʿat-i Islāmī during the nearly fourteen-year guerrilla war (1978–1992) against the Soviet sponsored government in Afghanistan. He also forged links with Arab Islamist radicals who participated in the anti-Soviet jihād with the cooperation of the Pakistani authorities. He received a large portion of the covert funds and armaments supplied by the U.S., Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan to the Afghan Islamic resistance. However, Hekmatyar proved a controversial figure during this period for his radical anti-Western Islamist views that advocated the establishment of a revolutionary Islamic order in Afghanistan. He was also one of the few leading Sunnī Afghan Islamists that maintained links with the Shīʿī clerical regime of Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran.

Hekmatyar 's charismatic personality and association with Pakistan enabled him to gain a prominent role as a leading Afghan politician by the late 1980s. He nevertheless also gained notoriety for his authoritarian tendencies, political opportunism, extreme Pashtun nationalism, and religious zealotry. Ruthless in his suppression of dissent within his party, he has frequently been accused of undermining the unity of Afghan resistance and routinely changing sides in the Byzantine tribal politics of Afghanistan to advance his personal interests. By 1990, Hekmatyar had gained the public ire of the U.S. for supporting the invasion of Kuwait by then Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

The collapse of the pro-Soviet Afghan regime in April 1992 in the wake of the dissolution of the Soviet Union motivated Hekmatyar to seek power in Kabul. He was unable to achieve this objective because of internecine warfare among Islamic groups that were vying for power in the political vacuum generated by the disintegration of the Afghan state. He accused the Jamʿīyat-i Islāmī of conspiring with other ethnic groups to undermine the historical political dominance of the Pashtuns in Afghanistan. He stayed out of Kabul and opposed his main rival Ahmad Shah Massoud militarily for the control of the Afghan capital despite being nominated Prime Minister in a faction-ridden Islamist regime created with the support of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia in 1992 and 1993. In 1994, Hekmatyar suffered a serious political setback when Pakistan withdrew its backing from him to assist the Pashtun-dominated ultraorthodox Sunnī Taliban movement. Hekmatyar 's opportunistic character came to the forefront in this period when he switched sides and allied himself with Rabbani and Massoud in June 1996 to stem the Taliban 's advances.

Hekmatyar  's Ḥizb-i Islāmī faction broke up as a result of the emergence of the Taliban which many of his associates joined. Disheartened by this development and by the betrayal of his erstwhile Pakistani sponsors, Hekmatyar fled to Iran. He remained in Iran until early 2002 when he returned to Afghanistan. The post-9/11 U.S. attack on Afghanistan that resulted in the removal of the Taliban regime from power led Hekmatyar to support the ousted Taliban 's armed opposition to the new U.S.-installed regime of President Hamid Karzai and the U.S. and NATO military presence there. In May 2002, Hekmatyar evaded a U.S. assassination attempt in Konar province in eastern Afghanistan where he was believed to be hiding. He was declared a wanted terrorist by the U.S. in February 2003. Contradictory reports circulated about Hekmatyar throughout 2006 and 2007. Some claimed that he was ready to fight alongside Osama Bin Laden to “liberate  ” Afghanistan from “foreign occupation” while others believed that he was seeking a rapprochement with the Karzai regime.

Hekmatyar remains an enigmatic and controversial personality in Afghan politics after more than three decades. Despite his latest attempt to bolster his political standing by associating with the Taliban, Hekmatyar appears to have become an increasingly marginalized figure in post-9/11 Afghan politics.



  • Coll, Steve. Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, From the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001. New York: Penguin Books, 2005. One of the best studies of U.S. policy toward Afghanistan based partly on official declassified sources and interviews that are not found in other publications on this subject.
  • Edwards, David B.“Summoning Muslims: Print, Politics, and Religious Ideology in Afghanistan.”Journal of Asian Studies52, no. 3 (1993): 609–28. Examines the role of Islam in the evolution of Afghan Islamism.
  • Hussain, Rizwan. Pakistan and the Emergence of Islamic Militancy in Afghanistan. Aldershot, U.K.: Ashgate, 2005. Provides a detailed analysis of Pakistani policy toward Afghanistan from 1947 to 2001.
  • Olesen, Asta. Islam and Politics in Afghanistan. Richmond, U.K.: Curzon, 1995. A perceptive and detailed study of the role of Islam in Afghan politics with emphasis on religious, intellectual, and ideological currents.
  • Yousaf, Muhammad, and Mark Adkin. The Bear Trap: Afghanistan  's Untold Story. London: Leo Cooper, 1992. Gives a detailed account from the perspective of the Pakistani military of how Pakistan created and trained the Afghan Islamists including Hekmatyar.

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