Relations with Frontier Tribes
Unable to overcome by force the frontier tribes bordering on Pakistan, the regime tried to penetrate them by negotiating with them on security matters and setting up militia posts in their territories, giving them weapons and money in return. Had the policy been successful, it would have made it difficult, if not impossible, for the Peshawar-based resistance groups to use these territories as conduits for mujahideen and weapons.
In the frontier province of Paktia the regime encountered a difficulty in connection with the military posts. Before September 1980 it had set up in the frontier areas a number of military posts garrisoned by men from different tribes but officered and supervised by the Khalqis of the same area. The Parchamis could not continue this system. Being opposed to the Parchami regime, the Khalqis acted independently, although the regime gave them money and weapons. Finding this intolerable, the regime stopped paying the posts and demanded that their weapons be returned. The militiamen, as well as the Khalqis, declined, arguing that by taking up arms against their own tribes, they had made them their enemies, and now they had to have the weapons to protect themselves.
The regime commissioned Fayz Mohammad, minister of tribal affairs, to implement the new policy with the frontier tribes of the province of Paktia. Well-versed in tribal customs, he was suited for the task. A Massed Pashtun from across the border in Pakistan and educated in Kabul and the Soviet Union, Mohammad had served the interests of the Paktia tribes when he was minister of interior in the government of President Daoud. Daoud had raised Fayz Mohammad to high state positions for his leading role in helping to overthrow the monarchy. Now, having achieved some success with the tribes of Sayyed Karam and Khost, Fayz Mohammad tried to negotiate a settlement with the tribe of Zadran, which had, since spring 1979, blocked the Sitta Kandow Pass between the garrisons of Khost and Gardez. Had the regime been successful in negotiating with this tribe, it might have achieved further successes in the region, but on one of the missions a tribal police force, the arobaki, killed Mohammad in the Mizzi territory after he had negotiated a settlement with elders of the Zadran tribe. The regime ignored the killing of its minister. However, it scattered leaflets over Paktia calling the act a disgrace, a direct contravention of Pashtunwali, the Pashtun code of behavior. But in the tribe’s view Fayz Mohammad had abandoned Pashtunwali when he sided with the invaders and distributed money. Also, Fayz Mohammad had neither been invited nor sought admittance or asylum (ninawatay) to the Mizzi section where he was killed. The code therefore did not apply.
As among other tribes of Paktia, so among the Zadrans the arobaki, made up of young men of important families (kahole), is authorized to undo a settlement that it believes its elders have negotiated against the interests of the tribe. As it maintains other service groups—mullas, shepherds, and millers—the tribe maintains the arobaki to enforce the decisions of jirgas and a host of other decisions affecting the community. Supported by the community, the arobaki is a force against disorder. Among these groups, membership in the arobaki is prestigious, and its members sometimes rise to higher positions; for instance, Babrak Zadran became elder of the whole tribe and military general in the reign of King Mohammad Nadir. In the present case, the “interest” of the tribe was to fight the invaders and their client regime, a decision reached by a tribal jirga after the Soviet invasion. It also had decided “to bury their differences” until the invaders had been pushed back. However, by offering money and weapons Fayz Mohammad had persuaded the heads of the tribe to maintain security in their region and to leave the Sitta Kandow Pass open. Had this agreement been implemented, the regime would probably have influenced the whole region. These terms were to be regarded as a model of negotiations with other tribes as well.
A similar deal had been made with a certain Haji Kandahari (Ahmadkhel), who had retained a large number of the militia of the Zazay tribe. Through him, the regime had distributed money among his tribe, as it had among the major Mangal tribe. By September 1981 the regime had made “peace” with the “tribes” of Paktia. It is not known which tribes these were. Presumably they were Zazays and Mangal, since they had provided the regime with a militia that had taken part in operations against the Wardak tribe. In addition, the regime was successful with these tribes in part because of their estrangement from the mawlawis of the Islamic Revolution, who had caused the execution of some of their kinsmen on the grounds that they had become renegade and had collaborated with the regime. The regime had paid them money in return for their remaining quiet, an arrangement that enabled the regime to send troops to other areas. The mujahideen and the people of Kabul grumbled about this point. But peace or no peace, as soon as military units of the Soviets or of the regime appeared in Paktia, the tribes turned against them. Haji Kandahari turned against the regime when such forces appeared in the region in November 1981. The Soviets and the regime undertook the expedition to control this area, through which passed the shortest route from the border to Kabul. This strategy clashed with the interests of the tribe—hence the estrangement of Haji Kandahari.
Toward the east of the Zazay tribal territory is the territory of the Khugianay tribe in the province of Ningrahar, divided among the three main divisions of Wazir, Kharbun, and Sherzad. The latter group (the most important division of the tribe) suffered from internal conflict between the two principal families, that of Malik Qays (who died at the age of 120 before 1978) and Mohammad Jan; this conflict had resulted in the killing of more than 150 persons from both sides. The Kabul regime tried to capitalize on this difference by resorting to the same tactics as it had with the Zadrans. It succeeded in persuading the Malik Qays faction to rule over the district as district governor (uluswal) in return for money and weapons, but the ploy did not work. The Malik Qays faction was interested in weapons and money with a view to opposing the regime later. Realizing this, the regime declined to meet the terms of the bargain. This move of the Malik Qays faction, led at the time by Aman Beg, was tactical: during a meeting in Peshawar, the two rival factions had already agreed to leave their enmity aside and fight the invaders. The opposition of Malik Mohammad Jan to the communists was a known fact. The Khalqi regime had imprisoned some of his sons and nephews who were serving the government as military officers and had bombed his locality; he then took refuge in the mountains and threatened retaliation unless the prisoners were released and compensation (nagha) paid for the damage wrought by the bombing. Unwilling to provoke the Khugianays further, Hafizullah Amin acquiesced to his demands. He also paid 50,000 afghanis as a compensation for Mohammad Jan’s dog, which had been killed in the bombing—an exorbitant sum for a dog, especially since the government’s hands were stained with the blood of thousands of human beings.
The relationship of the regime with the Khugianays is further explained by a story concerning Malik Khair Mohammad and others, who had conspired in the killing of seventy-two KhAD personnel from the provincial capital of Jalalabad. Apparently the KhAD personnel had been invited for the purpose of winning over the recalcitrant tribe, but when they arrived in the Khugianay territory, the Khugianays killed them. Only their chief managed to escape alive. The date is not known, but it falls within the scope of this study. In 1985 certain men posing as representatives of the Khugianay tribe attended the jirgas that the regime held in Kabul, but they carried no influence with the tribe and could not even live with their own tribesmen. They lived in the city of Jalalabad, as did many others like them. The Khugianays were also under the influence of Afghan Millat and of the Islamic Hizb, led by Mawlawi Mohammad Yunus Khalis, himself a Khugianay.
The significance of the Shinwar tribe can be understood from the fact that one of its four main divisions, Ali Sher Khan Khel, lives across the border in Pakistan. For the Shinwar tribesmen the border is not a border, because many routes pass through their territory to Pakistan. Among the Shinwars almost the whole Sangokhel (also Sunkhel) section had turned Khalqi. The man responsible for this conversion was Hafizullah Amin, who, as principal of the boarding schools of Teachers’ Training and Ibn-e-Sena in Kabul, had influenced the students who had come from that valley. Throughout the district (uluswali) of Shinwar, Nazyan alone had a high school, which the government had opened in the 1950s to influence the major Afriday tribe beyond the border in Pakistan. The Nazyan Valley stretches over to the Afriday land in Pakistan. During the Khalqi period, the educated elements of Nazyan, whether in the military or civilian departments, were given high government positions. Any educated and skilled person from among the inhabitants of Nazyan could benefit from the regime. Most inhabitants of the infertile valley of Nazyan became well off. They pretended to be more communist than the communists themselves. This their tribesmen could not tolerate.
After the invasion the tribe held consultations. The mujahideen also participated, but they were obliged to act within the tribal code. The gathering passed a resolution condemning the Sangokhel section to death. Led by the noncommunist Sangokhel, the Shinwar tribesmen massacred the communists, looted their property, and burned their houses. Although the mob could not massacre all, no communist remained in Nazyan. A considerable number fled to Jalalabad and informed Shamladar, the Khalqi governor, of the incident. The governor—who was from Nazyan and who was at one time a teacher of the school and responsible for the spread of communism there—retaliated. For days many villages in Shinwar were bombed and many people killed. The Nazyan communists became refugees in their own land. Those among them who were fit for duty were enlisted in the militia to maintain the security of Jalalabad. Others settled in Ghani Khel or were employed in the Ningrahar Valley project. From time to time some of them acted as if they were the representatives of the tribe, giving proregime interviews, especially on television.
Among the major Mohmand tribe the institution of eldership (khani) has developed to a high degree, partly because of the issue of Pashtunistan, which brought the elders subsidies, and also because of the large tracts of land certain families possessed. The growing of opium poppies there had also enriched some of the tribespeople. This is not to suggest that all in the tribe were well off or that the tribe had retained its traditional significance. The bulk of the tribespeople lying on both sides of the Durand Line were poor. In the period under discussion, three groups of elders were important among the Mohmands: the khans of Ghoshta, the khans of Atamarkhel, and the descendants of the late Haji Mohammad Hassan Khan of Kama. The khans of Girdab and of Lalpura were no longer significant. To block the routes that pass through Mohmand to Peshawar, military units of the invading army as well as of the Kabul regime descended on their territory and, after some setbacks, established military posts there. The khans crossed the border and, living either with their kin in the border area or in Peshawar itself, took up the cause of resistance. Among them, particularly among the descendants of Haji Hassan Khan, many are educated, and Kama had been a town with a number of public libraries confiscated by the Khalqis. One khan, Pir Dost Atamarkhel, finding life in Peshawar difficult because of the association of his rival peers (turboors) with the resistance groups, went over to the side of the regime and in 1985 attended the jirgas in Kabul. But he could not organize either a militia or live with his kinsmen in Afghanistan. In the past Afghan rulers exploited the traditional rivalry (turboori) that existed (and still exists) among elders of the Pashtun tribes to their advantage. Even the British exploited this situation with some success after they invaded Afghanistan twice in the last century. But the Kabul regime could not make headway among the Mohmand or other tribes, although Karmal gave one of his daughters in marriage to an Afriday tribesman apparently for that purpose.