Sibghatullah Mujadidi, Afghanistan’s first president following the withdrawal of Soviet troops from the country and the collapse in 1992 of Kabul’s pro-communist government, has died at 93.
President Ashraf Ghani declared a day of mourning to commemorate Mr. Mujadidi. All government institutions, banks, offices and schools would be closed. No other details about the death were provided. His former spokesman Sharif Yusufi said Mr. Mujadidi died overnight, early on Feb. 12, in the Afghan capital.
The white-turbaned and soft-spoken Mr. Mujadidi was a mentor to former president Hamid Karzai, who had belonged to his anti-communist resistance group during the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and subsequent war throughout the 1980s.
Mr. Mujadidi’s guerrilla group — the U.S.-backed Afghan National Liberation Front — was among the smallest and most moderate of guerrilla groups fighting to oust the former Red Army from Afghanistan.
The Soviet invasion came at the height of the Cold War between America and the former Soviet Union. The last Soviet soldier withdrew from Afghanistan on Feb. 15, 1989, ending a 10-year invasion that had failed to defeat the U.S.-backed, anti-communist guerrillas who were known at the time as mujahideen, or holy warriors.
President Ronald Reagan called the mujahideen freedom fighters. Some later became the Taliban while others were known as warlords who later became political leaders in Afghanistan. Some rights activists have accused the warlords of fomenting Afghanistan’s post-2001 decline, contributing to the nation’s insecurity and widespread corruption.
Following the collapse of the communist government, Mr. Mujadidi in 1992 served for two months as Afghanistan’s president in line with an agreement signed in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, by the leaders of all the mujahideen groups who had fought the former Soviet Union.
Mr. Mujadidi stepped down as he said he would, according to the agreement; his successor, Burhanuddin Rabbani, who was to serve for four months, instead hung on to power for four years. The agreement broke down and a brutal war between rival mujahideen groups engulfed the Afghan capital, killing tens of thousands of mostly civilians until the Taliban took power in 1996.
During the Taliban rule, Mr. Mujadidi lived outside of Afghanistan and returned to the country following the U.S.-led invasion in 2001 that drove the Taliban from power. He served as head of the first post-Taliban loya jirga, the 2,500-member council of elders or “grand gathering” that eventually crafted Afghanistan’s current constitution.
He also briefly served as head of the government High Peace Council tasked with trying to find a peaceful end to Afghanistan’s war.
An ethnic Pashtun from Kabul, Mr. Mujadidi came from a deeply respected religious family, who often advised former Afghan kings on matters of religion.
“He was always seeking peace and stability for Afghanistan, but he died before he could see his wish fulfilled,” said Attaulrahman Salim, deputy head of the peace council. “We are still a country at war.”