Emergence of The Student Warriors
‘So Establish Weight and Justice and Fall Not Short in the Balance’ (Verse 9, Surah Rahman, Al-Quran.)
The Verse from the Holy Quran is explained as; Balance and Justice, Goodness and Care are the laws of Allah’s World. Justice is a heavenly virtue. Heavens themselves are sustained by mathematical balance, and the Constellation Libra, the Balance, is entered by the Sun in the middle of the Zodiac year.
“Washington was barely aware that a War was continuing in Afghanistan. The Soviet Union was dissolving, and Germany was reuniting. These were the important issues of the day. Afghanistan was a Third Tier Foreign Policy issue in the early 1990s”. (Steve Coll, Ghost Wars). The US had gone into hibernation, was masterly inactivity at play, taking a leaf from British experiences with Afghanistan? Were they evaluating or evolving a future enemy? Is Islam the next threat to their world order? Clash of Civilizations? One need not look too far; statements of eminent Americans make it clear the course Washington had unequivocally taken.
“If we have to use force, it is because we are America. We are the ‘Indispensable Nation. We stand tall. We see further into the future”, US Secretary of State Madeline Albright mid-1990’s.
“US Grand Strategy for the Middle East and Islamic World is to keep it in constant chaos and fragmented, regardless of the cost and consequences”, George Friedman ‘Next 100 Years’.
The Chanakyan Dictum seems to be followed in true spirit, “Repeating a lie so often that it appears to be the truth”. Perceptions play a major role in policy formulation. There is no doubt that powerful nations seek continuity in their status and look deeper as they have resources to stay. Being a sole superpower has many advantages; it can trigger events to change the environment and then wait. Domination and a New World Order is often the result.
A complete breakdown of law and order was witnessed after the fall of Najibullah in 1992. Local warlords created fiefdoms and were loyal to those having political strength. Ex-Mujahideen Commanders imposed their own rule in the areas they controlled. This depressive atmosphere prevailed all over Afghanistan, this state of helplessness had to change, and it only needed a spark. The populace, war-weary and defenceless, waited for some saviour. Every Afghan wanted peace, order and justice, however harsh it may be. This was the period where policy framing at Kabul was devoid of all ethics and logic. Policies were not framed by what was right or wrong but by swollen egos and vanities. It was the reaction to this persistent anarchy that the Taliban movement emerged. Taliban effort to bring a return, a semblance of a single nation, required them to follow a policy that first had to eradicate the evil gripping it. The Sharia was the universally accepted Islamic system that they saw could achieve the results they wanted. The Taliban knew no other.
Kidnapping, random killings, rape and molestation, vehicle snatching, looting and drug-related incidents were common. No one was safe. There was a massive disillusionment amongst the public as they found that most of the Mujahideen Commanders of the Jihad were deep into immoral and illegal acts. They were now brigands. It was in this environment that an incident occurred that triggered the emergence of the Taliban. The tragic episode of kidnapping, molestation and the subsequent killing of three young boys in Kandahar Province by Commander Saleh’s drunken men in October 1994 ignited that flame. They were on their way to Herat when they were stopped at a solitary check post manned by his men. It was late in the evening. It has been narrated that the dead bodies of these unfortunate boys were thrown at night outside the Madrassa run by Mullah Omar in Maiwand, creating an impression that the killing of these boys was the handiwork of the Mullahs. It was to malign Omar and his students.
Mullah Omar sent teams of three Taliban each to the various Afghan run religious schools in Pakistan’s Balochistan Province to seek physical help. The message conveyed was to stop and eliminate these vile activities in Kandahar and surrounding areas. It is believed that nearly 90 young Afghan students (Talibs) reached Maiwand and met Mullah Omar and Mullah Sadiq. Wasting no time, it was decided to immediately start operations by removing the check posts closest to Maiwand on the main Kandahar–Herat Road. This was Saleh’s post which came under Ustad Sarkatib of Hikmatyar’s Hizbe Islami. Mullah Omar by now had gathered over 100 men. This large number would not remain unnoticed in a small place like Maiwand. He asked his close associate and friend Haji Bashar Nurzai (Drug Lord), son of Haji Musa Jan ex Younis Khalis group. Bashar managed 60 AK-47’s in the shortest possible time. Mullah Omar mustered eight pieces and Mullah Sadiq another 18. The Sun had set, and darkness favoured them. Now armed, they approached Saleh’s post and demanded that they remove the barrier forthwith. He refused. The Taliban attacked the post and killed Saleh and 48 of his men. The roads were open. This was the birth, the start, the beginning of the Taliban Movement. Bashar became a member of the Kandahar Shura. Little would Mullah Omar realise that this movement would catch the Afghans’ imagination and the region and the world. In just over five years since the Russian withdrawal in 1989, Afghanistan was being pulled into another pulse, stopping reign of a different kind, but one that was spawned indigenously. In later years Haji Bashar would become notorious as a leading narcotics baron and Haji Jumma Khan an Afghan Baluch. US Marshalls would eventually arrest Bashar in Dubai to face Drug-related charges in the US. He is still in their custody as per reports of early 2020. Jumma Khan was kidnapped but released by the Americans through an understanding; he would continue to support the CIA operatives in Southern Afghanistan against Al Qaeda. On 29 June 2020, at Doha Peace Talks, Mullah Ghani Abdul Baradar demanded during a virtual meeting with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to release the same Haji Bashar Noorzai. Michael Kugelman, in his tweet, writes that the US is also seeking the release of an American in Taliban custody Marc Frerichs, abcnews.go.com.
Jubilant and fresh from the fight, Mullah Omar and his band of Taliban expected some retaliation, none came. By morning, after a sleepless night, the people came out of their houses to see dead soldiers and a destroyed post. The long line of traffic on the road passed cautiously, unsure what to make of it. To their amazement, there were no checks, no halts, no bribes, nothing—just a few armed young Taliban, waving them through.
The story of the attack on the post spread quick, ‘Taliban who chut sho’, ‘Taliban Amadan’ – ‘Taliban have arisen’. ‘Taliban have come’ in Pashtu and Persian, some ex Jihadi of Nabi Muhammadi Party Mullah Muhammad Omar was their leader. These fresh madrassa boys, too young to have participated in the Jihad, were now no longer gun shy. They had killed the bad people for Islam, and they were comfortable with it.
A call went out for reinforcements. Students rushed to the Border from the refugee camps around Quetta, Chaman and Zhob. Within days a large force of ‘Taliban’ started moving north from Chaman towards Kandahar. They brushed aside Hikmatyar’s Commanders and dismantled all chains and checkposts from Vesh Mandi, the Afghan border outpost between Pakistan’s Western town of Chaman and Afghanistan’s Spin Boldak.
It is important to record that Professor Rabbani himself perceived the Taliban initially as a means of eliminating his rivals and quelling the unrest caused by his reneging on the clauses of the Islamabad Accord. He offered assistance. A channel opened between the Taliban and Kabul, with Rabbani sending his emissaries to Kandahar several times, offering financial and material support to the Taliban. In an interview with the Afghan News of May 1995, published by Professor Rabbani’s Jamiat-i-Islami party, Professor Rabbani said, “The Taliban and some Mujahideen from Kandahar came to us and asked us for help in opening roads and improving law and order in their province. We supported them.”
The Taliban did not need external support, as it turned out. With the surrendering of local Commanders, who forfeited their large and well-stocked arms and ammunition depots to the Taliban, they had no reason to do so