General Akhtar Abdul Rahman, the architect of the Afghan war against the Soviet Union, is one of the true heroes of this land, who defeated a world super power in the Afghan jihad. He gave a spark to and ignited the lifeless intelligence agency of Pakistan and made it one of the finest and dynamic in the world. Through his tireless and tacit efforts, ISI played an important part in the destruction of the Soviet Union. With his foresight, commitment and dedication, he increased the power and effect of the ISI as an intelligence agency. He was a background player and executed his plans from behind the curtain.

General Akhtar Abdul Rahman joined the Indian army in 1945 and was commissioned in 1946. Akhtar was a very junior artillery officer at the time of the partition of India and the birth of Pakistan. He witnessed the unspeakable horrors of the partition and was dismayed by the brutalities committed by Hindus and Sikhs against Muslims during partition. The whole traumatic episode left a deep mark inside him and it was never forgotten nor forgiven by him. After this, for the rest of his life, he considered India as a relentless enemy both for his country and his religion. He fought in three wars (1948, 1965, and 1971).

In 1979, General Akhtar was offered the position of Director General Inter Services Intelligence. He headed the intelligence agency and built it as a very effective military institution which impacted both national and international affairs. Within the span of seven years alongside his loyal team, he gave life to ISI and made it one of the most vibrant and effective institution. He conceived and crafted the plans to deal with the Soviet Union through the Afghan Mujahedeen and covert guerrilla fighters from Pakistan.

In the wake of the Soviet invasion in Afghanistan, there were apprehensions that they might attack Pakistan too, so there were many potential threats to the security of Pakistan at that time. After the initial years of Soviet invasion in Afghanistan, the military leadership under General Zia decided to fight against the Soviets, even before the American assistance initiated through CIA. At that time, US President Jimmy Carter was entangled in internal dilemmas and threats which emerged after the hostage crisis in Iran, so no considerable assistance was provided. In the beginning Gen Akhtar was alone in considering that he can force the Soviet forces out of Afghanistan, he was way too optimistic. He was of the view that Pakistan should support the Jihad covertly.

America followed the “wait and see” approach as it believed that Soviet troops would take over Afghanistan in few weeks. They did not offer any support as they thought of Afghanistan as a lost case; why throw good money and provoke the Soviets by supporting the Mujahedeen. Once they witnessed the slaughter of Soviet troops at the hands of Afghan Mujahedeen, they changed their plan and injected the money. It should be very clear that when USA sensed the victory in Afghanistan at the hands of Mujahedeen, they initiated aid and assistance. When Reagan came in the White House, he announced an aid package for Pakistan, which Gen Zia accepted. Although the covert operations by ISI were funded by CIA, Pakistan became a frontline state and Afghanistan a battleground. In making Afghanistan a “graveyard of a super power”, ISI in general and General Akhtar played a central role and made the Soviet pull-out inevitable.

When Gen Akhtar took the command of ISI as DG, he started each and every task from the scratch. It was a very major task to provide assistance to Afghan Mujahedeen at every front. But there was no such strategy and plan to deal with all the emerging scenes, never dealt with by the Pak forces before. Gen Akhtar was solely responsible for devising and executing plans and organising massive covert military operations against the Soviets. He established training centres and many army officials were made responsible to train the Afghan Mujahedeen, equipping them with warfare strategies and necessity skills so that they would be able to defend their homeland against the Soviet invasion.

Gen Akhtar established a very close relation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Pakistan, and with the State Department, especially the branch that interacted constantly with the CIA. The nine years of training, guidance and military assistance to guerrilla fighters in Afghanistan by ISI demolished the base of the Soviets and claimed around 13000 lives of soviet troops. The world stood in surprise and shock as less-trained, less-equipped and sometimes illiterate guerrilla fighters defeated the well-trained and highly equipped army of thousands.

Gen Akhtar was on the hit list of KGB and huge prize-money was put on his head, but he fearlessly involved himself in the planning and execution of the jihad, and never bothered about personal threats which emerged against him. Both Pakistan and Afghanistan owe a lot to him, as he fought for the cause of the Ummah. He died in a fatal plane crash on August 17, 1988 near Bahawalpur and was never able to see the dawn of the Afghan Mujahedeen and fall of the Soviet Union.

He had a complex personality, as he never showed his emotions nor ever revealed himself outside his family. As an individual, he was too honest and upright as he always reported what was going on, never overlooking anybody including his own staff. He never encouraged nor was he an admirer of favours and popularity. He was very crucial for the Afghan Jihad and he worked closely with Gen Zia on national and international matters. Based on his competence, integrity, and loyalty Zia developed a great trust and confidence in Gen Akhtar and at last promoted him to the rank of a general.

One year before the Bahawalpur incident, a young Pakistani man met an American journalist carrying photographs of injured Afghan children with General Akhtar Abdul Rehman. The Pakistani asked the journalist the reason for keeping these photographs and he answered that whenever he was disappointed he looked at the photographs of the general and the children, to get courage. Today, US and Western analysts and experts admit that the DG ISI, CJCOSC and right hand of General Zia ul Haq, General Akhtar Abdul Rehman was the man who forced the superpower ‘Soviet Union’ to be torn into pieces. For the first time in history, the mason of a great victory was known by the world after his death.