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Ex Afghanistan president Najibullah's daughter recounts night Taliban executed him

27 Sep, 2021
Former Afghan president Najibullah with his daughter, Muska. Photograph: Muska Najibullah
Former Afghan president Najibullah with his daughter, Muska. Photograph: Muska Najibullah

On Sept. 27, 1996, the Taliban drove the government of President Burhanuddin Rabbani out of Kabul, captured the capital and executed former president of Afghanistan, Muhammad Najibullah. Now his daughter Muska recounts the night in an article for The Guardian.

Muska, who fled to India where she now lives with her mother Fatana Najib and two sisters, wrote in an article, published in The Guardian, that the night of 27 September 1996 was always going to be a long one.

Her father Mohammed Najibullah, who had started as a member of the communist People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan and was named by the Soviets as the President in 1987, stayed on when the Taliban took power.

He and his brother Shahpur Ahmadzai were brutally killed by the Taliban in 1996.

"I was awake studying for midterm exams when my mother, calm but uneasy, heard the news that my father had been taken out of the United Nations compound in Kabul," she said.

He, along with her uncle, had been living in the UN compound since 16 April 1992, when forces within his government had defected.

She claimed that the resignation and departure of her father was part of a UN plan to end the civil war and clear the way for a peaceful coalition government.

She said that in the 1990s, when there was no internet connecting the world, little was known about the Taliban. Radio reports describing the militia group as fighting for “peace, security and stability”, an appeal that was popular with war-weary Afghans.

"That night, I thought we would meet my father soon. We spoke to him hours before the Taliban entered Kabul. There was nothing unusual in his voice. It was a normal exchange of words, one that I vaguely remember. The conversation was meant to be one of many, yet fate had different plans."

The Taliban went knocking on the gates of the UN compound to visit their “special guest”, she said, adding that hours later, a breaking news flashed: “Former Afghan leader, President Najibullah executed.”

"I didn’t know what the word meant. I turned to my sister but her expressionless face made me panic. Rushing to grab a dictionary, I flipped to the letter E."

In 1996, when the Taliban marched into Kabul, there was no one to keep him safe.

"The image has haunted me since the day of Aba’s brutal passing. Take a moment to look, or don’t, but it was the last I saw of him: hanging from a traffic pole, he and his brother mutilated for the whole world to see. As I watched the Taliban display them like some spectacle, I felt helpless and humiliated. At 13, I became an adult overnight. I lost my father, my home and any hope of returning to Afghanistan."

She said that in 1992, her father appealed to the US to help Afghanistan become a bulwark against the spread of Islamic fundamentalism. “If fundamentalism comes to Afghanistan, war will continue for many more years. Afghanistan will turn into a centre of world smuggling for narcotic drugs. Afghanistan will be turned into a centre for terrorism,” she quoted her father as saying.

But his warnings were ignored. With the withdrawal of Soviet forces from Afghanistan in February 1989, "virtually all western nations abandoned their embassies and ostracised my father’s regime."