General Akhtar Abdul Rahman, the architect of the Afghan war against Soviet Union, is one of the true heroes of this land who defeated a world super power in the Afghan jihad. He was a silent soldier who crafted the destruction plan of the Soviet Union at the hands of the Mujahedeen. He showed passion, commitment, intelligence and the warrior spirit of the great Islamic conquerors. He gave a spark to and ignited the lifeless intelligence agency of Pakistan and made it one of the finest and dynamic spy agencies of the world. Through his tireless 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 was born on 11 June 1924. His father, Dr. Abdul Rehman died when he was four years old. He completed his high school education from Ajnala High school and after that joined Mao College Amritsar. He then joined Government College Lahore and did his masters in economics in 1945. Soon after completing his education he joined the Army and was commissioned in 1947.
Akhtar was a junior artillery officer at the time of the partition of India. He witnessed the unspeakable horrors of partition and was dismayed by the brutalities committed by Hindus and Sikhs against Muslims. The whole traumatic episode left a deep mark inside him which was never forgotten nor forgiven by him. He fought in all three wars (1948, 1965, and 1971) with India.
In 1979, General Akhtar was offered a very important and coveted position of Director General Inter Services Intelligence. He headed the intelligence agency and built it into an effective military institution which impacted both national and international affairs. Within the span of a few years he gave life to ISI and made it one of the most vibrant and effective intelligence agencies of the world. He conceived the plans to defeat the Soviet Union through the Afghan Mujahedeen by uniting them and training them into a potent fighting machine.
In the wake of Soviet invasion in Afghanistan there were apprehensions that they might attack Pakistan too. The military leadership under General Zia decided to fight with soviets even before the American assistance initiated through CIA. At that time US President Jimmy Carter was entangled in the 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 reliving that the Soviet forces may be forced out of Afghanistan. He was of the view that Pakistan should support the Jihad covertly.
America followed the “wait and see” policy initially. They did not offer any support as they considered of Afghanistan a lost cause. The US also thought that Afghan resistance would not last for more than a few months. But once they witnessed the slaughter of soviet troops at the hands of Afghan Mujahedeen, they changed their mind. It should be very clear that when USA sensed the victory in Afghanistan at the hands of Mujahedeen they then initiated the aid and assistance. When Reagan came in the White House he announced an aid package for Pakistan which Gen Zia accepted. In making Afghanistan a “graveyard of a super power”, ISI and General Akhtar played a central role and made the Soviet pullout inevitable. Gen Akhtar was solely responsible for devising and executing plans and organizing covert military operations against the Soviets. He established training centers to train the Afghan Mujahedeen, equipping them with warfare strategies and necessary skills.
Gen Zia managed the diplomatic affairs and Gen Akhtar directed and led the troops in the ground. The nine years of training, guidance and military assistance to guerrilla fighters in Afghanistan by ISI demolished the Soviets. 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 with a huge prize-money put on his head but he fearlessly involved himself in the planning and execution of the jihad and never bothered about the personal threats. He was born a strategist which was demonstrated in the way he organized the guerrilla warfare against the soviet army. He was sharp on the diplomatic front as well and dealt at all fronts intelligently and with an open mind. He died in a fatal plane crash on 17th August 1988 near Bahawalpur and was never able to see the dawn of the freedom of 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 honest and upright. He never encouraged nor sought favorsor popularity. He was very crucial for the Afghan Jihad and he worked closely with Gen Zia on national and international matters. Due to his competence, integrity, and loyalty Zia developed great trust and confidence in Gen Akhtar and promoted him to the rank of a four star general.
What ISI is today can be greatly attributed to the efforts and commitment shown by General Akhtar Abdul Rahman. He very tactfully manoeuvred the annihilation of the Soviet Union which demolished communism. This role of Pakistan was acknowledged by the Germans when the ISI was presented with a piece of Berlin Wall marked with the inscription “those who struck the first blow”.
One year before the Bahawalpur air crash, a young Pakistani man met an American journalist carrying photographs of injured Afghan children with pictures of General Akhtar Abdul Rahman. The Pakistani asked the journalist the reason for keeping these photographs and he answered that whenever he gets down in life he looks at the photographs of the general and the children, to get courage. Today, the US and Western analysts and experts admit General Akhtar Abdul Rehman was the man who tore the superpower ‘Soviet Union’ to pieces.
The writer is a freelance columnist.
What ISI is today can be greatly attributed to the efforts and commitment shown by General Akhtar Abdul Rahman.