Afghanistan remembers Ahmad Shah Massoud, “Lion of Panjshir”

New Delhi (NVI): As Taliban and Afghan government negotiators are set to hold peace talks in the Qatari city of Doha soon, Afghanistan remembers Ahmad Shah Masood, an anti-Taliban resistance leader who sacrificed his life for the liberty and freedom of his country.

Described as one of the greatest guerilla leaders of the 20th century, Massoud has been compared to Josip Broz Tito, Ho Chi Minh, and Che Guevara. He was assassinated at the instigation of Al-Qaeda and the Taliban in a suicide bombing on September 9, 2001, just two days before the attacks against the United States.

He was nicknamed as “Lion of Panjshir” as he successfully managed to repeatedly defend his local Panjshir Valley from being taken by the Soviets and thereafter by the Taliban.

It is because of Massoud’s charismatic character and bravery that Panjshir province, the home of the late Afghan leader is considered one of the two safest provinces in the country.

Afghan envoy to India Tahir Qadiry paid tribute to the Afghan freedom fighter in a tweet: “19 years ago today, #Afghanistan lost a charismatic freedom fighter, Ahmad Shah Massoud. As we commemorate the martyrs’ week, remembering Afghanistan’s National Hero & all other martyrs & heroes who have made ultimate sacrifices for the liberty & freedom of AfghanistanFlag of Afghanistan.”

Massoud was posthumously named “National Hero” by the order of President Hamid Karzai after the Taliban were ousted from power.

He was a powerful guerilla commander during the resistance against the Soviet occupation between 1979 and 1989. In the 1990s, he led the government’s military wing against rival militias and, after the Taliban takeover, was the leading opposition commander against their regime, which he fought against until his assassination in 2001.

Following the rise of the Taliban in 1996, Massoud, who rejected the Taliban’s fundamentalist interpretation of Islam, returned to armed opposition until he eventually fled to Kulob, Tajikistan, strategically destroying the Salang Tunnel on his way north.

He became the military and political leader of the United Islamic Front for the Salvation of Afghanistan or Northern Alliance, which by 2000 controlled only between 5 and 10 percent of the country.

However, on a day when Afghanistan remembers the great leader, Taliban launched an attack on the Shahr-e-Ghulghula area of Abshar district of Panjshir province, considered one of the safe provinces in the country.

The Taliban have taken hostages, local officials were quoted as saying by TOLO news, and security forces from the center of Panjshir have been sent to the area.

Taliban’s spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid on Twitter said that Taliban fighters in the Abshar area of Panjshir damaged a fortification and detained “3 troopers,” saying: “Clearance operation still ongoing.”

“The Taliban have taken 10 local people hostage and have transferred them to a mosque,” Mohammad Sahrab Sahrabi, the district governor of Abshar was quoted as saying by the Afghan news website.

There has been an increase in Taliban attacks in the past few days even as the stage is all set for intra-Afghan peace talks. The process of prisoner swap with the Taliban, a major obstacle in intra-Afghan talks, has largely been completed by Thursday, as per reports.

-ARK