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Abdul Haq Was Fierce and Shrewd Opponent - 2001-10-27

The announcement by Afghanistan's ruling Taleban of the capture and execution of a key opposition figure came as a shock to those who follow events in that war torn country. Abdul Haq was a renowned fighter against the Soviet occupation of his homeland. VOA correspondent Gary Thomas, who knew Abdul Haq and interviewed him only two weeks ago, says he was trying to forge some kind of alliance for a post-Taleban Afghanistan.

Abdul Haq was a fighter, not a politician. As commander of the anti-Soviet resistance, or mujahedin, he was a fierce and shrewd opponent. But he had little time for the fractious politics of the squabbling seven-party alliance of resistance groups.

When the mujahedin finally took Kabul in 1992, Mr. Haq was appointed police chief, but walked away in disgust when the squabbling among the former resistance allies erupted into civil war, paving the way for the rise of the Taleban.

Mr. Haq was in exile in Dubai, but recently reappeared in the northern Pakistani city of Peshawar, once the hotbed of anti-Soviet intrigue and now the base for anti-Taleban activity.

In a phone interview with VOA two weeks ago, Mr. Haq said he had been trying to encourage lower level Taleban commanders to switch sides and join a new political setup that would replace the current government.

"The most important thing is what I was hoping and working on is to use that situation and tell some commanders in Taleban to say that this is the time for them to give up with this from their leadership and work on a national process," he said.

Mr. Haq was trying to pull together a coalition of former mujahedin comrades, disaffected Taleban, and tribal elders that could govern with the exiled king, Zahir Shah, as the figurehead. "The king made a statement that he wants to come back and bring the country, unite the country and bring peace to the country," he said. "And to use this opportunity, we would, the tribal elders, the former commanders, and the Taleban commanders together and change the Taleban system and bring a new system that would bring peace and security.

"Then we would tell the allied forces or the Americans, say now there's a new system is here, the old one is gone, don't bomb, don't shoot. Plus we make a program the Northern Alliance would not take over because it have a new system which would be for everybody. And then we can probably have peace after a very long time."

Mr. Haq was a Pashtun, the dominant ethnic group in Afghanistan. He said the Northern Alliance could militarily defeat the Taleban. But he was convinced that the alliance, made up primarily of minorities such as Uzbeks and Tajiks, could not rule Afghanistan on its own.

"There's no doubt after a certain amount of pressure, there's a possibility they can throw Taleban out," he said. "But whether they make a government or not, whether they can bring peace or not, whether there'll be stability or not, that's another issue."

In the end, it was the tangled web of Afghan politics that drew Abdul Haq back to his homeland, where he was killed by the Taleban forces he had hoped to defeat.