Demystifying Gulbuddin

By Zafar Sultan.

The UN act of lifting sanctions on Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, snake eyed has raged a media debate as regards his future, political scene of Afghanistan and the implications this reconciliations Vis a Vis Pakistan, and other parts of the world where various armed struggles are going on. While there is no doubt that Hekmatyar was a fearless fighter whose Hizb e Islami played a significant rule against the Russians. Till fall of Najeebullah, and rise of Taliban, Hekmat, had sizeable number of fighters. But would his recent reconciliation with the government make any marked difference?

Without a doubt, Gulbuddin Hikmatyar was a mighty commander of his group amongst eight prominent groups who fought heroically against Russia, his past vigour and relevance seems to have receded a great deal. Hailing from a Akhroti Tribe, Gulbuddin is a hardliner Deobandi orientation and leaning, an erstwhile student of Moulana Tahir, elder brother of Major Amir, the self-styled hero of operation midnight jackal. He was well known for being snake eyed and cautious articulator in his circles.

After the Taliban’s ran through Kabul, Hekmatyar retreated to Iran and then came to Pakistan before announcing a jihad against the Americans in 2002. During all these years his own militia suffered many losses: financial and chain of command as well. It is pretty hard to keep all warriors under one umbrella in the absence of direct leadership and monetary interests. Moreover, he doesn’t seem to have numerical strength and force to challenge the Taliban.

It seems as though GB has evolved over these thirty five some years being in the battlefield. Hekmatyar’s latest announcement is likely to end his resistance against the US, as he has agreed to join the political set up which maybe was important for his survival, for no longer has the physical strength to carry on his struggle in mountains and mules. Many members of his organization and relatives are a part of the present political set up.

In Pakistan, though Jamat e Islami has been very close to Hizb e Islami, ideologically speaking, and both had very close contacts during Afghan Jihad, nevertheless, in the current national and international scenario, JI would not take any step to earn the ire of the national and international establishment to be a supporter of armed wings. Pakistan military would also not be in a position to support him physically owing the international commitments and compulsions. Now the international blamers would not be able to hold Pakistan responsible for any action, overt or covert by Hekmat, for now he would be in the protection and prisms of the Ghani government.

Many argue that Gulbuddin has sizeable a support amongst refugees in Pakistan. But the circumstances in Afghanistan aren’t that favourable to fascinate the refugees back to their homeland and vote Gulbuddin to form a government or cobble a coalition, so the refugee factor doesn’t seem to be so much promising.

It seems plausible that the Americans, the Russians, and Chinese have done well to bring Hekmat back to open from bankers; it might serve as a check any future alliance with the IS maybe thwarted. However, the move might isolate him from his supporter warrior who would never want to be exposed and vulnerable. Even there is a strong likelihood that the disgruntled would join the Taliban which would further compound the problems of Afghanistan.

What is the option then Hekmatyar is left with? There are  many who are of the view that Hekmat would not  be able to enter  Kabul in open; which would make him acutely vulnerable to be targeted by local or foreign adversaries. Even during his  premiership  of Afghanistan, he barely visited Kabul, so the circumstances do not seem to be  in his favour.

Also, there are speculations that Hekmatyar and Haqqanis are close to each other, and Hekmat is going to be the softer face of Haqqanis. Though, their past record of them does not support this theory. Even during Afghan jihad, these two groups did not have trust and coordination.

Has Hekmat hit the right cord to stay relevant to present day Afghanistan or due to his age and unfavourable circumstances he is going to become an open prisoner? The coming few months would demystify it.

The writer is an academics

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