Former Afghanistan Prime Minister and Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin (HIG) party chief Gulbuddin Hekmatyar have always remained a prominent face in the politics of the country. Referred by some as the ‘Butcher of Kabul’, Hekmatyar continues to be a key figure, ahead of the government formation of Taliban.
Having fought alongside the United States and later against it, the former Prime Minister remained a powerful figure throghout the decades of conflict. Here’s a brief timeline of the prominent leader:
Gulbuddin Hekmatyar was born in 1949 in the Afghan city of Ghazni. He was sent to the military academy in 1968, but he was later expelled for being too much Islamist. He joined Kabul University where he studied engineering while remaining an active Islamist.
At the university, Hekmatyar met Ahmad Shah Massoud, who would go on to be a rival for a long time. In the mid-1970s, Hekmatyar along with others, including Massoud, fled to Pakistan because the President Mohammed Daud Khan government began a crackdown on Islamists, a report in The Print said.
Role in war against Soviet Union
The 1970s was a time when Afghanistan was beginning to be site of proxy war between the Soviet Union and the United States. The Islamist uprising had started during that time against the pro-Soviet regime in Afghanistan. The US saw this as an opportunity to settle scores with the Soviets for the Vietnam war and started funding the Mujahedeen.
Hekmatyar had joined an Islamic group- Hezb-e-Islami, which he then broke away from, to form the Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin. The Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin was able to garner influence in three Afghan refugee camps in Pakistan. By that time, Hekmatyar had become US and Pakistan’s favourite because of his efficiency and cleverness.
Hekmatyar therefore, got military and financial support from the United States and Pakistan’s ISI as he was considered to be ‘a minor intellectual among the illiterates.’ He was also given support from Saudi Arabia and Britain.
Killed thousands during civil war
Hekmatyar was accused of killing thousands during the civil war in Afghanistan in the 1990s. Reports say that he lacked mercy for both his friends or foe and earned the title, ‘Butcher of Kabul’.
He was said to be a bitter rival of another prominent military commander Ahmad Shah Massoud and led a fight against his group. Massoud was arrested in Pakistan for espionage earlier in 1976 with Hekmatyar’s cooperation. Hekmatyar also launched a failed coup attempt in March 1990 against President Najibullah.
Between 1992 to 1996, when the warring factions destroyed most of Kabul and killed thousands, many of them civilians, Hekmatyar’s group was responsible for most of the damage.
Prime Minister of Afghanistan
In the 1990s, Hekmatyar had also served as the prime minister of Afghanistan twice for short spells of time. He formed the government and became the Prime Minister in May 1996. But the Taliban took control of Kabul in September 1996.
But after the Taliban took over, he fled to Panjshir province and later to Iran. He then fled later to Pakistan following 9/11. But he kept running the Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin.
It is said that following the 9/11 attacks, he again put together a group and began fighting. He is also said to have helped Osama bin Laden and Ayan al-Zawahiri escape from Tora Bora mountains, which was being attacked by the US to clear of terrorists operating from the region.
He grew by 2010 and became a prominent face in fight against the US. He also established tie-ups with the Taliban and Al-Qaeda.
Ties with Afghan govt
Hekmatyar and his group signed a peace deal with the Afghanistan government in 2016 and all his sins were pardoned.
However, in the fight between the Afghan government and the Taliban, he survived between the warring forces remaining on the right side. He has been a part of the establishment since then was hopeful of keeping some top posts once a new government comes to power.