Afghan intellectuals in Pakistan wage a holy war `by the pen'
Peshawar, Pakistan — While the Afghan guerrillas wage their jihad (holy war) against the Soviet occupation forces on the battlefield, a small group of Afghan 'emigr'es across the border in Pakistan is conducting another type of warfare. ``We are doing jihad by the pen,'' says Prof. Rasul Amin, former dean of social sciences at Kabul University. ``The Soviets are conducting a strenuous propaganda campaign to convert Afghan civilians to Soviet-style communism, and the mujahideen [Afghan resistance fighters] are not equipped to counter it effectively.''
Efforts are being made to publicize the Afghan predicament abroad. A group of Afghan exiles has banded together in Peshawar to establish the Writers Union of Free Afghanistan. Members include the former president and several professors of Kabul University and a specialist on Soviet military tactics who trained at the elite Frunze Military Academy in Moscow.
A former Kabul University professor, Sayd Majrooh, heads the Afghan Information Center, an independent resistance news service well-known to Western journalists. Two other news services have sprung up recently.
Another former Kabul University professor, Yusuf Elmi, plans to start a monthly magazine for Afghans.
Articles appearing in the Western news media will be translated into Farsi and Pashto and distributed in Afghanistan and to refugees in Pakistan. This is likely to raise the morale of guerrillas in Afghanistan by countering Soviet propaganda that the West has deserted the Afghan resistance. But the magazine lacks funding -- the general problem with many such projects envisaged by the intellectuals.
``Foreign governments give allowances to Afghan refugees living in their countries,'' Professor Amin says. ``If the same amount could be allocated to productive ones working here in Pakistan, it would be a tremendous help in our `war of the brains.' After all, as Lenin himself pointed out, `The pen is mightier than the sword.' ''
Amin explains that the educated elite in Afghanistan who could normally have responded to the Soviet threat have largely been eliminated. (Afghanistan has a functional literacy rate of less than 10 percent.)
The educated Afghans -- as the group least likely to be deceived by Soviet promises and also able to generate a competing political ideology -- were the first target of the Afghan communist regime after it came to power in a 1978 coup. By the admission of the succeeding government, 12,000 anticommunist intellectuals and professionals were executed. Amin claims that these executions were instigated by agents of the KGB, the Soviet secret police, operating under the guise of diplomats and advisers to the Afghan government.
Dr. Majrooh estimates that 20,000 more Afghans have been killed since the Soviet invasion in December 1979. ``We have lost the cream of our society,'' he says.
Large numbers of the remaining educated Afghans have either been imprisoned or have fled the country.
Educated Afghans fear that with their ranks severely depleted, the outside world will believe the Soviets when they say that Afghans are illiterate barbarians being introduced to the modern world by Soviet beneficence.
Supporters of the mujahideen feel that if the intellectuals are more active, the international community will realize that there already exist Afghan scholars, diplomats, and professionals who are articulate spokesmen for their people. Bringing together these Afghan intellectuals could help the disorganized resistance.
Higher quality military, political, and economic programs would be produced, these supporters say. More important, such an organization would facilitate the creation of a unified platform -- needed both internally and in order to make a persuasive case to the outside world.
Many Afghan intellectuals and professionals intended to lend their skills to the Afghan resistance, but most of them have not found the atmosphere in Peshawar conducive to their involvement.
Financial pressures and the lack of facilities for independent work force most refugee intellectuals to take jobs as advisers to one of the resistance parties based in Peshawar. This involves espousing the party's line and style. Many professionals complain that the leadership -- in many cases not well educated -- is not generally receptive to new ideas.
Discouraged by their inability to play an influential role in the resistance, the vast majority of educated Afghans have started new lives in the West. The result has been a ``brain drain'' for the resistance.
``I defected because I didn't like the government and thought I had a lot to offer the mujahideen,'' says a former Afghan Army colonel. ``But it took me months to find a job as a military adviser to one of the parties. I revamped their antiquated training system and military tactics, but my recommendations were all brushed aside because the military chiefs think they know everything already. I'm really sorry I came now. In Kabul, I had a good position and all the luxuries, but here I can barely feed my family on the small salary I get.''
Worse some educated Afghans relate that jealous members of their parties denounced them as communist sympathizers to the Pakistani police to get rid of them. Interrogation and sometimes prison followed. Trying to present their view of the situation can even be dangerous. Last year, Azizur Rahman was murdered shortly after the publication of his book, ``The Invisible Hand Behind Jihad,'' which described the shady dealings of the resistance parties.
Afghans living in the United States who went back to help the cause of their country's liberation have also encountered obstacles.
``I wanted to help,'' said one Afghan, ``but there was just no place for me there, so I finally went back to the States''