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Wednesday, 14 November, 2001, 13:26 GMT
Rabbani's Afghan comeback
Burhanuddin Rabbani
Mr Rabbani is an academic with strict views on Islam
The return to Afghanistan of Burhanuddin Rabbani, nominal leader of the Northern Alliance, has triggered very mixed reactions among people who remember the situation when he left.

Mr Rabbani is still recognised by the UN as Afghanistan's president, even though he was ousted from power when the Taleban took Kabul in 1996.

He had hung onto power for four years after a group of mujahideen factions overthrew the Russian-backed government and agreed to nominate him president for a single year, in 1992.

The presidency was supposed to rotate among the factions, but when it came time for Rabbani to give up office, he refused.

His Jamiat-e-Islami party held Kabul despite heavy, ongoing shelling by forces under Mr Rabbani's rival, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.

Northern Alliance troops in Kabul
Northern Alliance: may fracture in victory

The warring parties were responsible for the killing of 25,000 people in attacks on civilians during this period, which was marked by murders, disappearances, torture and rapes, according to Amnesty International.

After the Taleban emerged from among the Pashtun former mujahideen and overthrew him, Mr Rabbani, an ethnic Tajik, retreated to his birthplace, Faisabad in the opium-growing area of Badakhshan in northern Afghanistan.

Fractious coalition

He has since run the area controlled by the Northern Alliance in line with his Islamic principles, allowing women to work and girls to enter higher education, in contrast to the Taleban.

Mr Rabbani has remained the figurehead for the Northern Alliance group of anti-Taleban factions, many of whom are previous enemies united under the recently-assassinated General Ahmed Shah Massood.

Mr Rabbani fought secularisation

Now he faces the difficult task of maintaining unity between his mainly Tajik Jamiat-e-Islami party, the predominantly Uzbek Junbish-i-Milli-yi Islami led by General Abdul Rashid Dostum, and the Hizb-i Wahdat party, primarily Hazara.

Mr Rabbani was schooled in his native province and an Islamic school in Kabul. He then studied Islamic Law and Theology at Kabul University, where he was subsequently employed as a professor at the age of 23.

Scholar and politician

In 1968 he completed a masters degree in Islamic Philosophy at the prestigious Al-Azhar university in Cairo.

On his return to Afghanistan he took on the task of organising students in the Jamiat-e-Islami party's campaign to resist the secularisation policies of the government at the time.

He was appointed leader of the party in 1972, but was forced to flee to exile in Pakistan in 1974 under increasing opposition.

Then, when the Soviet Union sent troops into Afghanistan the following year, Mr Rabbani's forces, commanded from Pakistan, became a key mujahideen group in the war against them.

See also:

13 Nov 01 | South Asia
Pakistan concern at Kabul's fall
12 Nov 01 | Americas
Powers search for Afghan settlement
13 Nov 01 | South Asia
Analysis: The Taleban collapse
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