Shamsul Huda Shams

Shamsul Huda Shams, the late president of Afghan Social Democratic Party well known as Afghan Mellat Party, who passed away last year in October, was one of the great Afghan leaders, who had devoted a lifetime for achieving his cherished goals. He might not have achieved in his lifetime all what he stood for, but his courage, steadfastness and constant struggle are indicators of his greatness and the strength of his character. He did provide an ideological base for his followers to pursue his mission. Those who knew him from close were quite aware of his charisma and over-arching personality. While Shams had every opportunity to become a celebrity, he opted to die a hero.

Shams belonged to a respectable and well-known family of Qazikhel associated with Khalil Momand Pashtun tribe. He was born in 1938, in Noorgal village of Eastern Kunar province of Afghanistan. Shams got his primary education in his village before leaving for Kabul, where he attended a military high school. As per family tradition and his father Brigadier Noorul Huda’s insistence, he graduated from military college in 1965 and joined Afghan national army. After serving in the military for about seven years, Shams joined the ministry of Interior in the rank of Major and was appointed as head of the logistic unit. He continued to serve in this capacity until the communist takeover in 1978.

Shams was very young when he started to develop a nationalistic thinking. He was greatly inspired by the nationalist movement of Bacha Khan, which was then in its full swing. When the 1964 constitution legalized the formation of political parties in the country, this freedom soon resulted into founding of three main political movements which could be broadly classified as Islamist, Marxist and Nationalist respectively. The nationalist movement appeared in the form of Wekh Zalmyan (Awakened Youth), and Afghan Mellat Party founded by Engineer Ghulam Mohammad Farhad, a former mayor and ex-parliamentarian from Kabul. Farhad was a well-respected personality of the country and had to his credit several achievements which had been recognized even by those who were on the opposite side of the ideological divide. Shams was soon attracted towards this newly-founded nationalist party. Thus he joined Afghan Mellat only a year after it was founded in 1966. Shams actively involved himself in the party affairs and very soon rose to prominence. His home in Kabul acted as unofficial office for Afghan Mellat Party where regular meetings were held and for the party members from all over the country it was a focal point. Shams had already established himself very well in civil society and local community and his popularity grew day by day due to his extra-ordinary capability of dealing with social issues and his leadership skills. He played a significant role in spreading the nationalist ideology of Afghan Mellat, particularly in the East. Great political parties are the result of continuous sacrifices of great personalities who possess the attributes of commitment, honesty and integrity with a shrewd political vision, and devote their lives for their cause; from this criteria, Shams may be cited as an example.

When the communists took power in 1978, Afghan Mellat Party came under tremendous pressure from the authoritarian regime due to its nationalist agenda. However, the party continued its activities with a renewed pledge to struggle for the protection of national interests of Afghanistan by strongly opposing the communist regime. It was then that Shamsul Huda Shams was unanimously elected as party secretary-general in a big gathering held in Kabul. Revolutionary as he was, he was considered the most suitable personality for this challenging task. Such developments were proving to be a major threat to the incumbent regime and hence key members of the party were arrested. Shams narrowly escaped such an attempt and managed to enter the neighboring Pakistan.

It was here in Peshawar where Shams spent almost 27 years of his life and this makes up the most important part of his political career. He established a well-functioning base for his party in exile by opening an office and started the party publication by the name of ‘Isteqlal’ i.e. Independence. While the party president Ghulam Mohammad Farhad was still in Kabul, the party was led in exile by Shamsul Huda Shams. In spite of strong opposition and constant threats from religious fundamentalist parties, Shams steadfastly stood by his principles and never deviated from his manifesto of Afghan nationalism and social democracy. While the seven recognized parties were highly divided among themselves, in their opposition with nationalist Afghan Mellat they were all united. Being Nationalist and Social Democrat was equated with being secular and un-Islamic in spite of Shams’s insistence that Afghan nationalism had Islam as an integral element.

In 1984, Afghan Mellat founding president Eng. Ghulam Mohammad Farhad passed away in Kabul and the party managed to hold election for the new president in April 1987. The three candidates for the party presidency were Shamsul Huda Shams, Qudratullah Haddad and Mohammad Amin Wakman. Shams won with an overwhelming majority, but supporters of Wakman refused to accept the electoral results and hence the party was split up into three factions. It is Wakman’s faction that is currently led by Anwarul Haq Ahady. While Qudratullah Haddad, after a few years, announced his support for Shams.

During the communist rule, several offers were made to Shams to support the regime and the then Afghan President Dr. Najibullah personally wrote to him several times to get his support. He was also offered a cabinet position to join the communist regime, but Shams remained adamant and turned down all such offers. He believed joining or supporting the regime would be treason against the national interests of Afghanistan and a negation of the very manifesto Afghan Mellat. He thought this would be a grave mistake which could never be compensated.

When Dr. Najibullah was overthrown in April 1992 by an unholy alliance between his own commanders and some Mujahideen groups, the results were disastrous for the country. On one hand the UN peace plan was sabotaged and on the other hand the power vacuum created complete anarchy in the country. This was one of the worst periods in Afghanistan history in terms of lawlessness, insecurity and violation of human rights. This situation was very disturbing for Shams, who was hopeful of a peaceful transfer of power from Najibullah to a 15-member council proposed by UN and agreed upon by all parties to the Afghan conflict. However, Shams continued his peaceful struggle to highlight the real causes of Afghanistan conflict and urged upon the international community to play more effective role to help end the hostilities and restore stability. From the very beginning Shams was in favor of a broad-based government to be elected under the auspices of the United Nations and he also considered the deployment of the UN peacekeeping forces essential until stability has been restored in the war-ravaged country. Against this backdrop of chaos, lawlessness, complete anarchy and internecine fightings the Taliban mysteriously emerged on the scene as religious reformers in 1994. In an astonishingly short span of time, the religious students were able to extend their writ to large parts of the country eventually taking control of the capital Kabul in 1996. In the beginning Shams, like many nationalist leaders, was optimistic about the Taliban hoping that they might ultimately pave the way for transition to a national government. However, understanding their long-term intentions and the way the Taliban pursued their governance that did not fit into the norms of the civilized world frustrated Shams. The demolition of Bamyan Statue, one of Afghanistan most precious historical assets, was another abominable action by the Taliban that was highly condemned by Shams.

Shams looked with optimism at the new developments in the country after the Taliban Regime was overthrown. However, being a true democrat he had some reservations regarding the ethnic composition of the administration. He believed that a more proportionate representation of all ethnic groups in the government would bring more stability and a sense of deprivation might well result into disharmony and tension, which he thought would be disastrous for the unity of the country.

The legendary Shamsul Huda Shams breathed his last on October 9, 2005 at the age of 67 in his hometown Noorgal in Kunar Province. While Shams did not live to see his dreams come true, his followers will continue his legacy. May God bless his soul!

مونږ سره اړیکې

دافغان ملت ملي مترقي ګوند

 Afghanistan Social Democratic Party

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