THE TRAGEDY OF AFGHANISTAN: A First-Hand Account by Raja Anwar


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Mordant if not mournful, this meticulous account of the sanguinary fortunes of the Afghanistan Communist Party (PDPA) is informed by the author's intimate familiarity with the minds and machinations of the PDPA's rival factions. Confined in Kabul's Pulcharki Prison from 1980 to 1983, Anwar came to know many leaders of the 1978 Communist takeover. Not unsympathetic to the aims of the ""April Revolution,"" the Pakistani author, basing his narrative on what he learned at his prison listening-post, here depicts the Revolution as macabre farce. Slavish devotion to Soviet-style ideology, as well as a pit-bull fratricidal impulse, set in motion a ""tragedy"" as the Party decreed nationwide social reforms that challenged centuries of tribal autonomy and feudal custom. The result was a call-to-jihad, a Party engaged in devouring itself, and a rescue mission mounted by the Red Army that turned the countryside into a microcosm of superpower confrontation. Anwar puts these events in historical perspective, writing that it ""took the British a long time and much sacrifice and suffering to understand the fundamental difference between the Afghan rulers and Afghan people."" Afghanistan, he observes, is a tribal confederation, not a modern nation-state. In the debacle that ensued in the rush to modernize, the middle-class intellectuals comprising the Communist Party served only to introduce the Red Army in force. Concluding that the tragedy will continue, once the Red Army is withdrawn, the author sees the likelihood of a ""fratricidal civil war in which all scores would be settled."" First-rate, Anwar's book succeeds in exploding both the romantic myth of the Afghan freedom-fighter and the common perception that Afghanistan is merely an arena for superpower fisticuffs.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1988
Publisher: Verso--dist. by Routledge, Chapman & Hall