by Abdullah Qazi on April 5, 2005 / updated by S. Ghilzai on October 21, 2015
Mohammad Qasim Fahim was was born in Immerse, a village in the Panjshir Valley, in 1957. He attended primary school in Panjshir and high school in Kabul. After the Communist coup of 1978 and Soviet invasion, he became a refugee in Peshawar, Pakistan. One year later, he returned to Panjshir and began to work under Commander Ahmad Shah Massoud.
Fahim worked as Massoud’s deputy in military affairs and commanded the Mujahideen in the northern parts of the country. He worked with the Mujahideen until he became the leader of Afghanistan’s intelligence agency, KHAD (Khadamat-e Aetela’at-e Dawlati) after the ousting of the communists. Fahim rose to prominence in the international arena after taking over Ahmad Shah Massoud’s army when Massoud was assassinated by suicide bombers on September 9th, 2001, just days before September 11 attacks in the United States.
Fahim was Defense Minister and Vice President in Hamid Karzai’s transitional government. Even though he was not re-appointed as Defense Minister or given any other cabinet position after Hamid Karzai won the presidential elections in October 2004, he was still considered to be a powerful and influential figure in Afghanistan. Many believe Karzai dropped Fahim from his cabinet as a result of intense pressure from various foreign organizations which viewed Fahim as a major bottleneck in the disarmament process. Also, Fahim has no higher education, and Article 72 of Afghanistan’s constitution states that an appointed Minister to the President’s cabinet should have a higher education.
In late December 2004, President Karzai issued a decree granting Fahim special lifetime privileges. In this decree, Karzai indicated that since Marshall is the highest military rank in the country, and Fahim earned this title during his time with the Mujahideen, Fahim would carry this title throughout his life and would have all the military rights and privileges that go along with it. Fahim would be able to sit in the first row of official ceremonies of the government and his vehicle’s license plate would have five stars on it. He would also be protected by state-given security guards.
Despite Fahim’s higher education status, in 2009, Karzai brought Fahim back on his ballot for Vice President, a position he maintained until his death in 2014. Fahim suffered some medical complications (had diabetes) and died of a heart attack. He is survived by his wife Nahid and their twelve children.