In 1982 M. H. Anwar traveled to Afghanistan. Upon his return he wrote the following account, which was published in the New World Review, March-April 1983.
I was bom in 1914, in the city of Kabul, Afghanistan, one of the poorest countries in the world. I was one of the few lucky urchins who survived the hunger, disease and deprivation. At the age of 19, I graduated from high school and was sent to America for further study. I finished my B.A. and M.A. in education at Columbia University and a doctorate at Johns Hopkins University in biochemistry. In the summer of 1940, my wife (an American) and I entered Afghanistan to serve. The country was ruled by the Musahiban dynasty, a surrogate of British India. I was appointed the director of the Teachers' Training Schools and my wife taught in the girls' school. During the next few years, it became evident to me that I had either to submit to the dictates of a tyrannical monarchy or to leave my homeland. I chose voluntary exile. We built a new life in America for our family.
About thirty-five years later, believing that I would never see the country of my birth again, I wrote a book, Memories of Afghanistan, which was finished in the winter of 1977.
While I was searching for a publisher, a revolution spearheaded by the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA), put an end to the 240 years of the rule of lawlessness and tyranny by successive kings. I immediately applied for an entry visa to Afghanistan, for which I eventually had to wait more than four years. Meanwhile, political disunity between the two elements of the PDPA, the Khalq and the Percham, surfaced within the year, which culminated in exiling the top leadership of the latter as ambassadors to foreign countries less than three months after the April 1978 revolution. Some of the other members of the Percham group were actually arrested and charged with subversion. The evil spirit behind these machinations turned out to be Hafizullah Amin, the vice premier and foreign minister.
I met Hafizullah Amin in New York when he attended the opening session of the United Nations in the fall of 1978. He was openly critical of Taraki's cautious approach in solving "the basic problems facing us in Afghanistan today." Then he showed me a bullet-proof vest that he was wearing. At the time, I wondered who in America provided him with the vest and what sinister design lurked behind it. I asked his help for a visa to go for a short visit to Kabul. He promised to expedite it as soon as he got back home.
Early in 1979, he extended his influence within the armed forces and the newly-formed secret service. There are many versions of how he assassinated Taraki and declared himself president, but there was no let-up in killing not only the prominent members of the Percham group, but of the Khalq as well.
By the end of 1979, Amin's reign of terror and the consequences of hasty reforms contributed to bring the dynamics of the revolution almost to a standstill. As far as I could find out from non-government sources in Afghanistan--including people not supportive of the present government--members of the PDPA's Central Committee asked the Soviet Union for military help. Amin was forced from the capital by Afghan troops and killed, and the Percham group headed by Babrak Karmal took over leadership of the PDPA. Repercussions of the Soviet troop entry into Afghanistan were so great that detente between the US and USSR stood at a standstill. The feudal oligarchies of the Middle East joined hands with the imperialists of the West to put a stop to this adventure that seemed to threaten their prerogatives.
I again applied for a visa to my native land. Shah Mohamrnad Dost, the new foreign minister of Afghanistan, kindly issued me a month's visa. I was very excited when I boarded a DC-10, Ariana Afghan Airline in London on August 29, 1982, and landed the next morning at the Kabul airport. I spent my entire first week with relatives and friends. Besides consuming huge quantities of delicious Afghan food, I was taken to see points of interest such as old bazaars, new housing developments, holy shrines and public gardens. A curfew was in force between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. I was told that there were sporadic attacks by the Mojahideens (anti-government rebels) at night.They usually came singly and in darkness, setting fire to a small schoolhouse, abducting a child for ransom or killing at random. I asked my driver to take me to a school that had been burned by the rebels. He drove me just outside the city on the road to Paghman and stopped by a cluster of mud houses. A few steps in the back, a charred shell of a three-room primary grade school was gaping at us in the light of the morning sun. I asked an old man who had just emerged from one of the nearby houses about the burning of the school. He looked me up and down quizzically, shook his head and said that it was not his business.
I visited Habibia High School, where I once studied before coming to America. When I attended the school, the number of students in that institution was about 350; now it had increased to 7,000 students who study in two shifts of 3,500 each. During my visit, the two upper classes were excused from study to welcome me and have a free-for-all discussion in the school library. It was a rewarding experience for me to take the role of the devil's advocate in opposition to the new Afghan social system, while a picture of Karl Marx looked sternly at me from the top shelf of a bookcase. A few students sided with me, but the great majority vociferously defended their new system. One student summed up the situation this way: "What do we really want? Back to monarchy again, back to 240 years of the mismanagement and stupidity that left our country one of the poorest in the world? Or do we want the Islamic rule headed by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, Burhanuddin Rabbani or Pir Syed Ahmad Gilani, the so-called freedom fighters in Pakistan?"
The next day, I met some high officials of the previous governments of Zahir Shah and Daud. Abdul Kareem (all names in italics are fictitious), now retired, was trained in Europe as an engineer. He answered the doorbell himself in his castle. Ghulam Kadir. a neighbor landlord, joined us. Two servants hastily arranged a table and chairs near an unused swimming pool. Kareem told us about his notable engineering feats as a government employee during Zahir's monarchy and Daud's rule. Kadir took off on a tirade about the present socialist government. "They are young and inexperienced. They believe in a Utopia in a country that can't even feed its population. I wrote a 24-page critique of the present constitution and sent it to Babrak Karmal himself. I told him that the most damaging edict is the Article 7."
Kareem interrupted. "Yes, Article 7 pertains to the land expropriation. In our country, to take someone's land is like taking away his wife." That afternoon. I met a friend who had served under Daud as a high official. While Ali Mirza and I ate delicious Afghan melon together, I asked if he could tell me the details of the last days of Daud.
"In early 1978, Daud was determined to put an end to the irritating problem of PDPA. To bring the matter to a head, Daud masterminded the death of Mir Akber Khyber, probably the most popular personality in Kabul and a leading member of PDPA," Ali Mirza related. "The idea was to surface all the leaders on the day of public mourning, arrest them and deal with them later. Mir Akber Khyber was killed on the 18th of April, 1978. On April 26, early in the morning, Taraki, Karmal and other important leaders of PDPA were arrested and sent to jail. This sparked the revolution that in one day put an end to the Mohammadzai dynasty."
"But . . . didn't they take precautionary steps against such an eventuality?" I asked.
"Well, we had all underestimated the role of the PDPA's friends among the key military officers," continued Ali Mirza. "In fact, we were all at a cabinet meeting with Daud on the very day of the revolution. We were discussing various possible contingencies. Then, while we were taking a little break, a soldier walked into the room and gave Daud a piece of paper. Daud read it, put it in his trouser pocket and walked out of the room. We thought he had gone to the bathroom. We learned later that he was peeking outside to see what was happening near the huge door of the royal castle. After he came back into the room, an officer entered and passed another sheet of paper to a minister. This paper that passed from hand to hand contained a terse message: 'There are a number of tanks outside the main gate.'
"Daud went to the phone, but soon found out that he was talking to the commander who had sent the tanks in the first place. The royal guardsmen took positions in the upper part of the castle and pretty soon fighting started. The guardsmen scattered in disarray when airplanes joined the fray. We were not particularly surprised when an officer and a dozen soldiers entered the room where we, the ministers and most of Daud's and his brother Naim's families had gathered. The officer told us to surrender. We told him we are surrendered; what are we supposed to do? He ordered us to raise our hands and separate into two groups, one to be only members of the royal household. Then, all the family members of the two brothers, Daud and Naim, were lined up against the wall and shot."
During the last week of rny stay, I met and had short talks with some of the important leaders of the government, such as Shah Mohammad Dost, the foreign minister, Nur Ahmad Nur, Secretary of the Central Committee, Dr. Anahita Ratebzad and others. My impression was that, for the first time in Afghan history, dedicated, intelligent and hard-working leaders are serving the people and not themselves. They are determined to procure equal rights for women and various ethnic groups in the country. They are putting enormous effort into educating the youth. They are determined never to allow the country to slide back to the kingdoms of the barbaric past, the rule of mullahs, as in Iran or as the one-man dictatorship in Pakistan.
Will the Soviet soldiers leave Afghanistan peacefully? I have been asked this question more often than any other. My impression is that the present leadership in Afghanistan wants to live in peace with all the countries of the world. However, as long as some countries interfere in their domestic affairs, they feel that there is no alternative but to ask for help from friendly nations. When and if the integrity of their country is respected and some nations, particularly Pakistan, the United States of America, Iran and China cease interfering in the internal affairs of their nation, then there will be no need for the Russian troops to stay in Afghanistan.
The day before my departure from Afghanistan, I had a chat for the second time with Dr. Anahita Ratebzad, political bureau member and president of the Afghan Peace, Solidarity and Friendship Organization. She summed up the present situation in human terms. "We want our brothers and sisters across the border to come back to serve their land. It is a cruel hoax played by unscrupulous enemies to destroy the one decent experiment in the long saga of the stupidities of the past."