When Afghanistan’s national hero Ahmad Shah Massoud led the fight first against Russian forces and later against the Afghan Taliban, Lieutenant General Mohammad Zahir Aghbar, was one of his most trusted aides and the only commander who was allowed to pursue a sport in the middle of a raging conflict.
As an intelligence chief, Aghbar headed operations which eliminated and captured Taliban militants, and now he is watching over the Afghan contingent of the South Asian Games in Guwahati, after years of service under Massoud, who was known for his love for chess and football, The Indian Express reported. While Aghbar saw decades of conflict alongside Massoud also known as the “Lion of Panjshir”, his fight is not over although he is not on the front-lines against the Taliban anymore.
The former spy chief to a key figure of the Northern Alliance, Aghbar lives in a country where the government has to spend heavily on the security of a nation constantly under attack from terrorists, and sports stadiums are also prime targets. The Afghan contingent would have missed the games, if the Indian government had not funded their trip.
A former centre forward in hand ball, Aghbar says that things would have been better for sports in Afghanistan, had Massoud been alive, as he proudly points out pictures of himself with Massoud in the battlefield.
He said, “We want sport to turn into a platform for unity, and for moving ahead. But there are many barriers. Our athletes don’t have the kind of facilities which most countries have. But the fact that we have a two-time Olympic medalist in taekwondo (Rohullah Nikpai) proves that we have the mettle to win against the best in the world.”
Aghbar is accompanied by former Olympian Robina Jalali who said, “Afghanistan women are as strong as men. Years of war has made them fearless. They just need the opportunity to play and compete with freedom.”
Aghbar, who was with Massoud on the dark day when he was assassinated by the Taliban, also pointed out the Afghan women’s basketball team and a cycling squad, although the cycling squad didn’t make it due to visa related issues, as reported by The New Indian Express.
He said he is doing what Massoud would have done had he been alive, “that is fighting without fear of failure.”