The Unsuccessful Drive from City to Village
Since rural areas were lost to the regime, it adopted new methods to extend control over them from the provincial capitals in a drive called “From City to Village.” In early 1982 Karmal declared that the time had come to “take the revolutionary struggle to the provinces, districts and villages.” In this scheme provincial governors continued to function, but their traditionally strong role was reduced. In line with the new centralized political structure, provincial governors as well as heads of departments acted as heads of administration with limited authority. This was particularly so when they were not at the same time secretaries of their party units. In the new system political and security problems in the various provinces became the concern of party functionaries and KhAD agents, whom the Soviet advisers directed.
The provincial party secretaries (munshi-e-wilayati), although only the heads of their provincial committees, were supreme. Their relationship to government departments was similar to the relationship of the general secretary of the party to the government in Kabul. Because of the pressures of the continuing war, the absence of administrative statutes delimiting functions, and the long distance between Kabul and many provincial capitals, the new party bosses suddenly found themselves in positions of unlimited authority; they were thus tempted to act like little pharaohs, imposing their power over both the people and their own colleagues. For example, Ahad Rahnaward, provincial secretary of Mazar and a member of the central committee of the party, was intolerant of criticism; in collaboration with three other members of the committee, he killed Aziem Gowhari and then reported to Kabul that Gowhari had defected to the rebels. However, before his death Gowhari had kept the Soviet adviser informed of the intentions of his rivals; in addition, Gowhari had been a prominent member of a faction of the party known as the Group of Labor (Goroh-e-Kar). Thus, his disappearance was examined, and Rahnaward and his associates were tried and found guilty. In prison Rahnaward continued to act as if he were still in power, advising prison authorities on how to deal with prisoners. Confident that he would not be harmed, Rahnaward admitted to the crime he had committed. He and his accomplices were executed in December 1983.
Less prominent cases were the concern of provincial KhAD agents, who, in the name of security and revolution, felt free to commit excesses. To accomplish their jobs, they had at their disposal money, spies, and the power to arrest, with or without warrants, and to inflict tortures and punishments to the point of killing prisoners by their death squads. To clear the cities of the mujahideen and extend control over the surrounding areas, they behaved as if they had been given unlimited authority. Many people were imprisoned on the basis of mere suspicion. In the game of survival, such excesses were understandable, though deplorable. What was almost entirely incomprehensible was the intensity of the power struggle that went on among provincial officials. Abdul Basir, a KhAD official of Mazar, shot and killed his rival after he persuaded him to accompany him on a pleasure trip to a nearby spot. Abdul Basir was tried and transferred as a prisoner to Pul-e-Charkhi concentration camp, where he was often heard saying that he was “a son of the party.” He was sentenced to twenty years of imprisonment.
More serious was the policy of the regime toward “counterrevolutionaries.” General Ghulam Sadiq Mirakai, a former deputy director of KhAD in charge of the three western provinces headquartered in Kandahar, says: “Every night they brought 10 to 15 trucks to the firing range. Each truck would have 50 people. I know the names. I know the people. They are arrested and they are no longer alive.” The statement seems unbelievable, and Mirakai is aware of it. He continues, “The Western world can not comprehend what has taken place [in Afghanistan].” He also states that while performing his duty, “I had the Afghan party people on one side and the KGB advisers on the other.”
Notwithstanding the new administrative measures and the joint military operations, the drive “From City to Village” failed. But it did bring about a result of a different kind. Because of the unlimited authority that the new party and KhAD officials enjoyed, house searches, imprisonment, torture, embezzlement, licentiousness, and a lifestyle of arrogance became common among them. The known plebeians of yesterday became the hated patricians of the day, and a class of party members emerged from a new power base.