Negative impacts of Soviet-Afghan war on Pakistan

saddam hussain samo
Saddam hussain Samo on negative impacts of Soviet-Afghan war on Pakistan

When the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, Pakistan had no option, but to assist the US in preventing the spread of communism. For its cooperation, the US showered Pakistan with its economic and military aid. Consequently, Islamabad received money, weapons, tanks, F-16 fighter jets and so on. Owing to economic support, Pakistan’s GDP growth rate improved and its Foreign Debt remained static.  However, because of poor governance, Pakistan completely failed to stop the negative consequences of the war that engulfed the country afterwards.

The following are the negative impacts of Soviet-Afghan war on Pakistan:

  • Demographic imbalance:

When the war broke out, around 3 million Afghan’s residents migrated to Pakistani territories of FATA, erstwhile NWFP and upper Baluchistan included its capital Quetta. The issue was not the influx of huge migrants from Afghanistan, but the failure of our government to register and send them back after the Soviet’s withdrawal from their country. Most of them settled down in Pakistan resulting in creating demographic imbalance. For example, Pashtun’s population turned Baloch into minority in Quetta- the capital of Baluchistan. Even today, more Pashtun live in Quetta than Baloch.1 It raised hatred among them towards Pashtun and fuelled the sentiments of nationalism. To make the issue worse, Pashtun created their monopoly in the business activities and completely sidelined small local traders. Thus, the immediate negative impact of the war was the creation of demographic imbalance in some territories and rise in ethnic violence.

  • Kalashnikov culture:

As already discussed, the US supplied modern and lethal weapons to Afghan Mujahedin in a huge quantity through Pakistan. On the other hand, the Soviet Union also sent military equipment to Afghanistan worth billion of dollars. For instances, by 1992, there were more personal weapons in Afghanistan than in India and Pakistan combined. The Soviet Union had sent between $36 billion and $48 billion worth of military equipment from the time of the Afghan communist revolution; equivalent to the US, Saudi and Chinese aid combined totaled between $6 billion and $12billion.2 when Soviet finally left Afghanistan, the same weapons proliferated to Pakistan and acquired by local dacoits and sectarian extremist groups giving rise to the Kalashnikov culture. This was the time when indigenous criminals got better and advance weapons than Pakistani police.

  • Rise of extremism and militancy in Pakistan:

Before 1979, there was a religious harmony in Pakistan. It was the time when Shia community held processions in Muharram to commemorate the death of Imam Husain (R.A) and Sunni distributed water in the participants. However, in 1979, two events took place that completely altered this balance__ Soviet-Afghan war and Iranian revolution. During Soviet’s invasion, radicalism was deliberately created among local people living in Pakistan-Afghanistan’s border by establishing Madrassas to encourage them to fight the Soviets, an enemy of Islam. Friendly Muslim countries, having fear of an increasing Iranian influence in Pakistan, after the revolution, also funded the construction new Madrassas where the literature aimed at promoting sectarian hatred was taught. At the height of Afghan jihad, 1982,1988, more than 1,000 new madrassas were opened in Pakistan, mostly along the borders with Afghanistan in NWFP and Baluchistan. Almost all belonged to hardline religious parties.3 The government of Pakistan failed to realize that the ideology they were producing in these madrassas and supporting in Afghanistan, during the war, would, one day, turn against it. This happened when Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) was formed in 2007, comprised of some local people of the same territory where the madrassas were constructed. TTP targeted Pak-army and government to install its so-called Islamic rule. Not all madrassas are problematic. According to government’s estimation, only 15 percent of Madrassas are promoting extremism.

Besides, it also fuelled militancy in Pakistan. For instances, the first Pakistani Jihadist group emerged in 1980 when thousands of volunteer, mainly students from religious seminaries joined the anti-Afghan resistance in Afghanistan. By 2002, Pakistan became home to 24 militants groups.4 The competition between Saudi Arabia and Iran during this period and Kalashnikov culture further exacerbated the sectarian violence and religious disharmony.

  • ISI__ a state within a state:

The Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Pakistan’s spy agency, in collaboration with CIA carried out the biggest clandestine operation in Afghanistan to defeat the Soviets. Owing to direct cooperation, CIA also developed the proper structure of the agency and provided it with the latest equipment to carry out the operation successfully. The funds, weapons, training and the direct assistance of the CIA turned the ISI as the strongest institution of Pakistan, even stronger than Pakistan’s army. Afterwards, it became a state within a state and also acted as the determinant of Pakistan’s foreign and internal policy. It framed the rules and also implemented it. The ISI also intervened in democracy to elect the civilian government of its choice. For instance, during 1988 Pakistan’s general elections, the ISI formed and funded a coalition of Islamist parties named Islami Jamhoori Ittehad (IJI) to prevent Benazir to form a government.5 However, the result turned out to be in her favor. General Aslam Beg and Lt. Gen. Asad Durrani, the ISI head, at the time, later admitted the agency’s funding of the IJI before the Supreme Court of Pakistan. They claimed that they acted in national interest.6

  • Narcotics proliferation in Pakistan:

The Soviets invasion gave rise to the use of drugs in Pakistan. Afghan’s refugees brought with them some narcotics and created a proper channel for its trade in Pakistan and across the world. Drugs addiction suddenly rose to the alarming level and Pakistan’s administration failed to monitor or stop it. According to CIA covert operation, Afghanistan was ranked as the world’s largest illicit supplier of heroin. Ahmed Rashid writes in his book “Taliban”, “Pakistan, which had no heroin addicts in 1979, had 650,000 addicts in 1986, three million by 1992 and an estimated five million by 1999.” The Narcotics production in Afghanistan increased when the US funded Afghan Mujahedin. At present, the Hashish obtained from cannabis is widely used by the young generation in Pakistan. It directly comes from Afghanistan. As such, the Soviet-Afghan war introduced narcotics in Pakistan that have destroyed many stable families.


The Soviet-Afghan war created demographic imbalance, Kalashnikov culture, enhanced extremism and militancy, turned ISI as a state within a state and proliferated narcotics. The policy makers, at that time, did not consider these issues while drifting the country as frontline state. They are responsible for present mess.

List of References:

  1. Quetta population is comprised of 40 per cent Pashtun and 30 per cent Baloch.
  2. Personal weapons: Rubin, Fragmentation of Afghanistan, p.196. Estimate of total outside aid: Larry P. Goodson. Afghanistan’s endless war. P.99.
  3. ICG report, Pakistan: Madrassas, military and Extremism, July 2002.
  4. Zahid Husain, Frontline Pakistan, p.52.
  5. Husain Haqqani, Pakistan between mosque and military, 2016 edition, p.222.
  6.  Beg says he is not answerable to the court, Dawn, 25 February 1997.


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