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 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 most dynamic spy agencies of the world. Through his tireless and tacit efforts, ISI played an important part in the destruction of the Soviet Union.
He was the real architect of the Soviet defeat and worked as a mason, building day and night, to turn the tables on the enemies of Islam. 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.
The history of General Akhtar Abdul Rahman’s life, who was one of the finest generals of Pakistan army, is that as a child he would never have even dreamed that he would one day become the mastermind for the strategy for the devastation of a super power.
He was born on 11 June 1924 and his father, Dr. Abdul Rehman died when he was three and a half years old. He completed his high school education from the Ajnala High school and after that he entered the Islamia College Amritsar. Then he 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 1946. He plodded the journey of his life without his father, not knowing that, one day, he was going to settle old scores with a super power in the near future. He was brought up and educated by his mother.
In the Indian army that he joined in 1945, Akhtar was a very junior Artillery officer at the time of 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 the course. The traumatic experience left a deep scar 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 three wars (1948, 1965, and 1971) with India and defended the sacred homeland.
In 1979, General Akhtar was offered a very important and coveted position of Director General Inter Services Intelligence (DG ISI). He headed the intelligence agency and built it as a very effective military institution which impacted both national and international affairs. Within a span of seven years he, along with his competent and loyal team, infused a new life into ISI and made it a most vibrant and effective institution. He conceived and crafted the plans to deal with the Soviet Union through the Afghan Mujahideen and covert guerilla fighters from Pakistan.
In the wake of Soviet invasion on 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 of Afghanistan, the military leadership under General Zia decided to fight with Soviets and to teach them a lesson, even before the American assistance came through CIA. At that time US President Jimmy Carter was entangled in the internal problems and threats that 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” policy as they believed that Soviet troops would take over Afghanistan in a few weeks. So they did not offer any support as they thought of Afghanistan as a lost case; so why throw good money and provoke the Soviets by supporting the Mujahideen. The US also thought that Afghan resistance cannot go for more than six months, so they didn’t bother to assist, but once they witnessed the slaughter of soviet troops at the hands of Afghan Mujahideen, they changed their strategy and funneled the money inside. It should be very clear that when US sensed the victory in Afghanistan at the hands of Mujahideen, it hastened to load the fighters with huge 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 but Pakistan became a frontline state and Afghanistan a battle ground.
In making Afghanistan “the graveyard of a super power”, ISI in general and General Akhtar played a central role and made the Soviet pullout inevitable. To come face to face with a super power like Russia was not a joke nor was it that simple, but Gen Akhtar was determined to wipe them out, and he never looked back once he had come to this decision.
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 Mujahideen 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 centers and many competent army officials were deputed to train the Afghan Mujahideen, training them in warfare strategies and necessary skills so that they would be able to defend their homeland against the Soviet invasion. ISI trained the guerilla fighters and even a few army soldiers were trained to assist, guide and fight with the Mujahideens in Afghanistan in the covert operations.
Gen Akhtar established a very close relation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Pakistan, and with the US State Department, especially the branch that interacted constantly with the CIA. Gen Ziaul Haq managed diplomatic side and Gen Akhtar directed and led the troops in the battleground. The constant nine years of training, guidance and military assistance to guerilla fighters in Afghanistan by ISI, demolished the base of the Soviets and claimed around 13,000 lives of Soviet troops. The world watched in awe and surprise and shock as less trained, less equipped and sometimes illiterate guerilla 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 the personal threats hurled against him. He not only countered the communist threat but pushed them back to the wall. He was an inborn strategist, as the way he fought guerilla warfare against a well trained and highly equipped army has no parallel. He sharply handled not only the diplomatic front fought on at all fronts with intelligence and open mindedness. 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 17th August 1988 near Bahawalpur and was never able to see the dawn of the Afghan Mujahideen and fall of the Soviet Union.
General Akhtar Abdul Rahman 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, but Zia never reacted. He was very straightforward and never accepted corruption. On the other hand Zia seemed to accept corruption as a way of life in Pakistan, and would not sack individuals for this offence.
Gen Akhtar never encouraged nor was 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 General.