On Monday night, Dashty, a well-known journalist and a close confidante of anti-Taliban commander Ahmad Shah Massoud, was killed in a fierce Taliban offensive in the Panjshir Valley, leaving many Afghans in shock and despair.

In October 2001, Kawa Aahangar was startled to read an article in Kabul Weekly - the most widely distributed newspaper in Afghanistan at the time.

The story was about Aahangar's friends having access to electricity in their apartment, while the rest of the country had plunged into severe electricity shortages, inflicting power failures for more than 16 hours daily.

When he read the name of the journalist who wrote that story, his heart was filled with respect for him. 

The article was written by his childhood friend, Fahim Dashty, a well-known journalist and a close confidante of veteran Tajik anti-Taliban commander from Afghanistan, Ahmad Shah Massoud.

READ MORE: The battle for Panjshir - Has the Taliban really won?

"How it is possible that you guys have electricity every night?" Aahangar recalls Dashty asking his friends over dinner. 

"They said the station manager was a friend," Aahangar said.

Dashty asked a few more questions, had dinner and left the apartment. 

"The next day, a story on my friends having access to electricity illegally was published in his newspaper, Kabul Weekly," Aahangar told TRT World.

Soon after the story was published, their electricity was cut.

"This was the kind of person Fahim was. He spent his life fighting for justice and freedom and died for the same."

'A hero for our nation'

Twenty years ago, two days before 9/11, a team of Al Qaeda agents posing as journalists carried out the assassination of Ahmad Shah Massoud in the north of Afghanistan - the first step in their plan leading to the September 11 attacks.

READ MORE: Explained - What is happening in Afghanistan's Panjshir valley?

Massoud was known for being a rebel fighter against the Soviet occupation in the 1980s. After the Soviets withdrew from the country in 1989, he led the resistance against the Taliban until his death.

Along with Massoud in the same room was Fahim Dashty, who was severely wounded but survived the attack.

Twenty years later, on Monday night, news of Dashty getting killed in a fierce Taliban offensive in the Panjshir Valley spread like a wildfire leaving many Afghans in shock and despair. 

Taliban denied Dashty died in a battle with its fighters and said he was instead killed in an “internal dispute among two commanders in Panjshir” without offering any evidence to support its claim.

Following the takeover of Afghanistan by Taliban on August 15, Dashty joined the National Resistance Front of Afghanistan, led by Ahmad Shah's son Ahmad Massoud, as a spokesperson for the group.

Panjshir, a mountainous terrain around 140 kilometers north of Kabul, is the only region among Afghanistan's 34 provinces to have remained out of the Taliban's control, after the US troop withdrawal from the country on August 31.

Speaking to India Today last month Dashti had said, “We are fighting for the whole of Afghanistan and not just for one province. We are concerned about the rights of Afghans, of women, of minorities. The Taliban has to assure equality and rights."

READ MORE: What are the limits of Russia’s Taliban engagement?

On Tuesday, the Taliban claimed to have taken the Panjshir Valley but anti-Taliban resistance members vowed to keep fighting.

"We have lost a man of dignity, an incredible journalist, and a patriot who stood against terrorism and injustice from early days of his adulthood till the day he sacrificed his life for his people and ideals," Sami Mahdi, director of Payk Investigative Journalism Center, who knew and worked with Dashty since 1999, told TRT World.

"His destiny was to become a hero for our nation."

'Elevating Afghan voices'

After the United States invaded Afghanistan in 2001 and toppled the Taliban government to dismantle al Qaeda, which had executed the September 11 attacks, Dashty found Kabul Weekly.

Soon after, he became known for elevating Afghan voices, questioning people in power and advocating freedom of speech in Afghanistan.

But he paid a price for it.

In 2011, the newspaper claimed it was put out of business after criticising the former president of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai.

Dashty told The Guardian that he had no choice but to shut down "after more than a year of losses in a media market".

"To preserve our independence we tried to rely on the normal revenue streams of newspapers around the world, advertising and subscriptions, but in Afghanistan everything is political," he said, as quoted by the UK-based newspaper.

Despite the closure of his newspaper, he continued to advocated for freedom of speech and fiercely supported Afghan journalists.

He remained the head of the Afghanistan National Journalist Union (ANJU) as well as a key figure in the Federation for Afghan Journalists and Media Entities, founded in 2012.

"Growing up under the communist government in Afghanistan (from 1978 to 1992), I was not used to journalists asking direct questions and challenge the authorities. Fahim was among the first in my generation who did it, challenging Ustad Rabbani, the former president and Ismail Khan, the former governor of Herat," Omar Sharifi, an assistant professor at the American University of Afghanistan and Dashty's close friend, told TRT World.

Dashty's love for Rumi

What sort of a man was Fahim Dashty? Born into a family of intellectuals in Dashtak village of Anaba district in 1972, Dashty studied law and politics during undergrad at Kabul university. 

His adoration of Ahmad Shah Massoud was obvious. As well as a man who spoke his mind, Dashty was also a lover of poetry, especially of Jalal ad-Din Rumi's, a 12th century Afghan mystic and one of the most beloved Sufi poets.

"We used to meet once a month for a Rumi poetry night where we sat together and read Masnavi and Diwan-e Shams (poems written in Persian by Rumi)," Omar Sharifi told TRT World.

He is also described by his friends as a devout Muslim, who did not miss praying even in the heat of battle. 

"He helped many of us see and understand Islam as a faith, based on history and culture and not as an ideology," Sharifi said.

Despite being the nephew of Abdullah Abdullah, an Afghan politician who led the High Council for National Reconciliation, Dashty also "refused all government position and all offers for high positions in the NGO community," Sharifi recalls. 

Abdullah Abdullah in a Facebook post expressed sadness over Dashty's death calling him "a believer, committed, valued and a sincere fan of the national hero (Ahmad Shah Massoud)."

Farhad Darya, a famous Afghan singer, also expressed in a Facebook post his disbelief over the news of Dashty's death.

"Thousands of other ′Dashti′ are stepping up to continue his path. His testimony will give more strength and will to the resistance front," he said. 

When asked what has Afghanistan lost, his friends, who are still grieving, said Dashty is "irreplaceable".

"I will remember him as dear friend and as hero who stood for his people as a patriot during the first resistance, as a beacon for free press during two decades of democracy, and again as a patriot during the second resistance," Sami Mahdi told TRT World.

His childhood friend Aahangar was not ready to answer the question, so he described the loss of his friend Dashty very briefly.

"I can only tell you that I have lost my other half. I was always seeing myself, my better self, my ideal self in him and now I have lost that."

Source: TRT World