B. Selected Biographical Sketches
For additional biographical sketches, see J. B. Amstutz, Afghanistan, The First Five Years of Soviet Occupation (Washington, D.C.: National Defense University, 1986); A. Arnold, Afghanistan’s Two-Party Communism (Stanford: Hoover Institute, Stanford University, 1983); R. Klass, Afghanistan: The Great Game Revisited (New York: Freedom House, 1987).
Amin, Hafizullah (1929-79)
Hafizullah Amin received a B.Sc. from the Kabul University and an M.A. in education from Columbia University in New York. In the early 1960s he returned to Columbia to work for a Ph.D degree. After having passed the general examination, he was about to begin work on a dissertation when he was called home. He also failed in his efforts to enroll in England, where I tried to help him in his efforts. While in the United States, Amin had tried to politicize the Afghan student association after he was elected its president. Back home he joined the PDPA, concentrated on politics, and recruited his Pashtun students in the government-run boarding high schools of Teachers Training and Ibn-e-Sena, which he served as a teacher and principal respectively for several years.
A rural Pashtun himself, Amin succeeded in influencing the rural Pashtun students of the schools, many of whom became military officers after completing the military academy in Kabul. Amin was the only Khalqi member of the PDPA to be elected to parliament (1969). After the fall of the monarchy, when the PDPA had already split into the Parcham and Khalqi factions, the latter decided to recruit army officers, and Amin was commissioned to do the job. After the two factions reunited in 1977 Amin still went on with his job. His opponents, especially Babrak Karmal, unsuccessfully asked Taraki to relieve him of this work. On the eve of the communist coup Amin was a member of the central committee. The police did not single him out for immediate imprisonment, as it did politburo members of the PDPA on 25 April 1978. He was the last person to be arrested, and even then the police officer, who was a secret member of the Parcham faction of the PDPA, postponed his imprisonment for five and a half hours (3:00-8:30 a.m., 26 April 1978) during which time Amin, without having the authority and while the politburo members were in prison, instructed the Khalqi army officers to overthrow the government.
President Daoud was still in the besieged palace when Amin took command of the coup after he and his comrades were released from the prison. During the first night of the coup he alone remained in the radio station directing the coup. The other leaders of the PDPA, uncertain about their success, spent the night at the Kabul airfield ready to fly to safety if the situation warranted it. In the first week or so of the coup, Amin worked twenty-three hours a day to make the coup a success. Mainly because of the army support and the support of his associates in the party, Amin overcame both his Parchami and Khalqi opponents and reached the highest position in the party and the state, after the government had suppressed major civilian and military rebellions. During the 104 days of his own rule, except for one failed military rebellion, no major uprising took place. The Soviets killed him during their invasion of Afghanistan after Amin had effected the suffocation of pro-Soviet Taraki and had tried to govern as an independent ruler.
A native of Fayzabad in the province of Badakhshan and the son of an Uzbek father, Tahir Badakhshi graduated from the Habibiyya High School in Kabul and entered the College of Law and Political Sciences of Kabul University. He joined the PDPA at its inception in 1865, but quit it in 1968 to set up an organization of his own, the Sitam-e-Milli (Against National Oppression). The main emphases of his organization were “a Maoist-type revolution, in which the peasants would be given local power in the countryside, and on countrywide mobilization of minority population to combat internal colonialism by the Pashtuns.…Badakhshi considered that the Soviets were aiding Pashtun dominance and exploitation of the non-Pashtuns; hence his dislike of the Soviets” (Shahrani, “Saur Revolution,” 157). Badakhshi also attempted to unite Tajiks, Uzbeks, and others in an autonomous region against the Pashtun “domination.” In the late 1950s Badakhshi, who then lived in Kabul, expressed his ethnic and regional identity by wearing clothing made only in Badakhshan. But he lost credit and followers after he divorced his Badakhshani wife and married a Kabuli girl, a sister of Kishtmand. He was moderate and cooperated with the Khalqi government by joining it as the head of the Publications Department in the Ministry of Education. Badakhshi was imprisoned in 1978 and eliminated by prison authorities during Amin’s rule. In 1979 his faction was named the Organization of the Toilers of Afghanistan (SAZA), and its few leaders cooperated with the Soviets and the Kabul regime, forming some militia contingents and serving in various administrative capacities.
An eccentric younger full-brother of Karmal, Mahmud Baryalay received a B.A. from the University of Kabul and an M.A. in political economy from Moscow State University in 1977. In the same year he became a full member of the Parcham central committee. After the communist coup he was appointed Afghan ambassador to Pakistan and then dismissed and deprived of Afghan citizenship after the conspiracy of the Parchamis against the Khalqi government. Following the Soviet invasion, he became a member of the central committee of the PDPA, president of its International Relations Commission, and editor of its daily, Haqiqat-e-Inqilab-e-Saur. In 1981 he became an alternate member of the politburo. He is married to the daughter of Anahita Ratebzad.
A Tajik from the Darwaz district in the province of Badakhshan, Abharuddin Baw’ess studied for three years in the College of Theology of the University of Kabul without completing his studies. Like Tahir Badakhshi, Baw’ess believed in national struggle instead of class struggle. By “national struggle” he meant a struggle of the ethnic minorities against Pashtun “domination.” Baw’ess advocated violence in attaining this goal. With the help of his followers he occupied the district of Darwaz for a while in 1975. Afterward he lived in hiding until the Khalqis eliminated him in 1978. Later in the year his followers kidnapped the U.S. ambassador Adolph Dubs. Under the instruction of Soviet advisers, the police killed all in storming the hotel where they had been. In 1979 Baw’ess’s radical faction was called SARFA. Pressured by the mujahideen, this small faction, known as Sitam-e-Milli or “national oppression,” cooperated with the Karmal regime by serving it with contingents of militias in the provinces of Badakhshan and Takhar. Its leaders also entered the regime.
Daoud (Da’ud), Mohammad (1910-78)
No other Afghan in the twentieth century has influenced Afghan politics as much as Daoud. Except for the constitutional decade—when, as a prince, he was constitutionally barred from conducting politics—he was involved in the government from an early age, often exerting virtually unrestricted authority. An ambitious person, Daoud was first cousin and brother-in-law of the former King Zahir as well as the eldest son of Mohammad Aziz, the eldest brother of the ruling Musahiban family (the late king Mohammad Nadir, the late premiers Mohammad Hashim and Shah Mahmud, and the late ambassador Shah Wali). Daoud held a number of high military posts before he ruled as prime minister for a decade (1953-63), when he introduced reforms and established closer ties with Russia. In the constitutional decade he stayed home but proved an irreconcilable dissident. Finally, with the cooperation of communists, he overthrew the monarchy and set up a republic in 1973. He had established ties with Karmal and other Parchami leaders but had declined to do so with Taraki, although Abdur Raof Benawa had asked him to. When along with Habibullah Tegy I met him in 1976 I found him overweight and unlively, but he showed interest in conversation. In 1978 Khalqi officers overthrew him in a coup that resulted in his death and the death of eighteen members of his and his brother’s families.
Gailani, Pir Sayyed Ahmad (1932-)
Sayyed Ahmad Gailani is leader of the moderate Islamic resistance organization, the National Islamic Front of Afghanistan. As pir or leader of the Islamic mystic order Qadiriyya with a significant number of followers among the Pashtuns, and with a modern view of life, the soft-spoken Gailani made his organization a sanctuary for liberal, nationalist, and democrat intellectuals as well as tribal and community elders and commanders. His organization favors “a basically secular government incorporating Islamic law and Afghan tradition, preferably with a parliament based on free elections” (Klass, Afghanistan, 394).
Gulabzoy, Sayyed Mohammad (1951-)
A Zadran Pashtun from Paktia, Sayyed Mohammad Gulabzoy graduated from the Air Force College. A recruit of Amin to the PDPA, Gulabzoy was his close associate and his liaison member in the army. During the communist coup he was wounded and could not perform his assignment. Gulabzoy served as minister of communication in the Khalqi period, siding with Taraki when relations between Taraki and Amin became strained. After the failure of the anti-Amin conspiracy, Gulabzoy and others took refuge in the Soviet embassy. He served as a guide with the invading forces. Afterward he was appointed the minister of interior and a member of the central committee. With Soviet support and his own Sarindoy (the police force), this enterprising pro-Taraki Khalqi made the ministry more a stronghold of his own than a coordinated department of the Parchami government. Many disgruntled Khalqis joined him in various capacities. He aspired to leadership of the Khalqis, with an eye to the top state position, but Amin’s followers thought little of him. Gulabzoy is barely literate.
Hekmatyar, Gulbuddin (1948-)
A Kharotay Ghilzay Pashtun from the district of Imam Sahib in the Qunduz province, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar graduated from the Sher Khan high school. His family had migrated there in 1948 from Ghazni, where, like the rest of the Kharotays, they had lived as nomads. Before graduating from high school, Hekmatyar studied for two years in the military high school in Kabul. He entered the College of Engineering of the University of Kabul but left it before completing his studies. In the late 1960s he became active in the campus Islamic Movement, in particular its Muslim Youth branch. He was among its twelve student founders. He made his reputation opposing the communists; in particular, he allegedly killed a Maoist opponent, for which he was jailed. After release from prison in the early 1970s, he fled to Peshawar, where, along with other Afghan Islamists, he became active with the support of Pakistan against the Afghan Republic. In 1975, after the Islamist-instigated uprising against the republic failed, Hekmatyar broke off from the Afghan Islamic Association and formed a separate organization of his own, the Islamic Party. Hekmatyar has made this centralized organization a vehicle for realizing the views of the radical Islamist thinkers in a bid to acquire power and set up an Islamic state. After the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the support of Pakistan, of the Islamist Jama’at-e-Islami of Pakistan, and of other distant patrons helped Hekmatyar’s party become a major resistance organization. It holds an uncompromising attitude toward internal and external opponents of different shades of opinion, in particular the communists and their Soviet supporters during the jehad.
Karmal, Babrak (1929-)
Although born into a wealthy Tajikized family of Kashmir origin in the village of Kamari east of Kabul, Babrak Karmal lived in hardship following the death of his mother. After graduation from the Nejat High School, Karmal enrolled at the College of Law and Political Sciences in 1951. The next year he was arrested for holding rallies in support of Abdul Rahman Mahmudi, the well-known revolutionary figure of the 1950s. In prison Karmal was befriended by a fellow inmate, Mier Akbar Khybar. A third inmate, Mier Mohammad Siddiq Farhang, initiated both to pro-Moscow leftist views. Karmal then broke off relations with the imprisoned Mahmudi because the latter had turned pro-Beijing. Following his release in 1955, Karmal resumed his studies at the university. After graduation he entered the Ministry of Planning, keeping in close touch with those who had special knowledge on communism, among them Mier Mohammad Siddiq Farhang and Ali Mohammad Zahma, a professor at Kabul University; in the 1960s Karmal addressed Farhang as ustad (master). Farhang then introduced him to the royal court. Both played a leading role in influencing the youth in adhering to communism (Sharq, Memoirs, 234). After he was raised to power, Karmal appointed Farhang as his adviser, promising him that the Soviet troops would leave Afghanistan within months and that “as economic adviser Farhang would have real power” (Hyman, Afghanistan under Soviet Domination, 194).
On 1 January 1965 the PDPA was founded in Kabul, with Karmal serving as one of its twenty-eight founding members in its founding congress. Karmal was appointed its secretary. In 1967, when the PDPA split into the rival Parcham and Khalq factions, Karmal headed the smaller, and more cosmopolitan, Parcham faction. When Daoud overthrew the monarchy and instituted a republic, Karmal’s faction shared power with him, although Karmal himself did not hold an official position. But the honeymoon did not last long. After he felt secure in his position, President Daoud dismissed Parchamis from the presidential cabinet and tried to distance Afghanistan from the Soviet Union. Under pressure from Moscow the Parcham and Khalq factions reunited in 1977, but the alliance was superficial. After the PDPA usurped power, Karmal held the posts of vice president of the Revolutionary Council and deputy premier, but he had no real power. Soon he was demoted to the post of ambassador to Czechoslovakia. Afterward the Khalqi government implicated him in a conspiracy, expelling him and his associates (who were at the time abroad as ambassadors from the PDPA) and depriving them of Afghan citizenship. The outcasts took refuge in Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union. The Soviets resurrected them after the invasion of Afghanistan and promoted Karmal to the posts of president of the Revolutionary Council, prime minister, supreme commander of the armed forces of Afghanistan, and general secretary of the PDPA. The Soviets let him assume the lofty titles but denied him the power that went with them. They let him serve only as a figurehead.
Khalis, Mawlawi Mohammad Yunus (1919-)
A Khugianay Pashtun from Ningrahar Province, Mawlawi Mohammad Yunus Khalis is a traditional scholar in Islamic studies and a specialist in formal logic. He served the precommunist governments as an official in the departments connected with the promotion of Islamic studies. He was the editor of Payam-e-Haqq, a journal of the Ministry of Justice. When he joined the Islamic Movement is unknown, but from an early date he argued with those whom he considered to be holding un-Islamic views. Tolerant of opposing arguments, he holds that “you should continue your jehad with the available means without hoping to become a state ruler. Obey anyone whom the Council for Resolution and Settlement chooses on the basis of qualification and competence.” After the failure of the Islamists in 1975, Khalis, Hekmatyar, and others set up the Islamic Party. Khalis was chosen to lead it, perhaps because of his status as an elder. The unity did not last long. Differences arose over whether the jehad was for the conquest of state power or the liberation of Afghanistan. Khalis stood for the latter view and set up a party of his own under the same name. Although over sixty years of age, he personally took part in jehad; famous commanders emerged in his organization, which soon became a major resistance party of the Islamist type.
Khybar, Mier Akbar (1925-78)
A Hussaynkhel Ghilzay Pashtun from the province of Logar, Mier Akbar Khybar along with two others was arrested after he graduated from the Military Academy in 1951. According to one source, he was arrested for having turned communist; according to another, he was arrested for having plotted to assassinate the prime minister. Neither story seems convincing. In prison Khybar met leftist inmates, including Babrak Karmal. After release from the prison in 1953, he and Karmal were stated to have found “the common faith and the only way toward the leadership of the people of Afghanistan” (Sharq, Memoirs, 234). Khybar could not trace his wife and children after he was released from the prison; the Intelligence Department was said to have kidnapped them. Khybar then married a sister of Sulaiman Laweq and taught at the Police Academy. Afterward he held other posts as a police officer in the Ministry of Interior. Reading Marxist literature in the English language, he also contributed articles to journals. Among the growing circle of his educated followers from different ethnic and linguistic groups, he came to be known as master (ustad) for his knowledge of Marxism as well as his unpretentious and guileless personality.
Khybar did not participate in the founding congress of the PDPA in 1965: because he was a police officer, the future Khalqis did not trust him. Afterward he resigned his official post to work full-time in promoting party activities and editing its newspaper, Parcham. Among his major contribution was the recruitment of police officers, who became an asset to the Parcham faction. In the second half of the 1960s, when the university campus was in turmoil and the probability of confrontation between the police and students was always there, Khybar—mainly through Najibullah, a student of the College of Medicine skillful in oratory—forestalled clashes without at the same time discouraging Parchami activists. Opposed to violence, he once told me that he wanted to prove that educated Afghan youth were capable of conducting politics without resort to force.
What role Khybar played during the coalition of the Parchamis with President Daoud is unclear, but he was one of those who urged Karmal to fuse with the Khalq faction in 1977. Karmal was reluctant to do so, insisting that the Khalqis accept Khybar in the joint politburo; Khybar considered Karmal’s insistence on this point to be insincere. By this time differences had crystallized between them. On the one hand, Khybar considered Karmal’s licentious behavior harmful, and once he even slapped him for seducing the unwilling wife of a party comrade, as noted in chapter 3. On the other hand, Karmal considered Khybar a threat to his leadership. More important, Khybar did not think the reunited PDPA would be able to rule the country even if it took power. At this time he confided in one of his friends that he was “first and foremost an Afghan, and then what you may think.” In this atmosphere, in the late afternoon of 17 April 1978, he was shot dead from a passing jeep while strolling along the street near the Printing Press in Kabul.
Some Muslim fundamentalists claimed responsibility for the incident. The PDPA leaders accused certain “circles” of the government, while some Parchami leaders claimed that Hafizullah Amin had engineered the killing. The first Parchami minister of the interior, Nur Ahmad Nur, has been quoted as saying that Khybar’s assassins were members of the Islamic Party of Hekmatyar, who were executed. From circumstantial and other evidence, I have concluded that the KGB directed the killing, which was carried out through agents of Karmal and Nur. (See also Sharq, Memoirs, 161.) The incident provoked the PDPA to stage a rally that led ultimately to the overthrow of the government and the coming to power of the PDPA.
Kishtmand, Sultan Ali (1936-)
A Gadee Isma’ili Shi’a from Chardi, Sultan Ali Kishtmand graduated from the College of Economics and worked in the Ministry of Planning from 1960 to 1972. In 1965 he ran for parliament but was defeated. He was a founding member of the PDPA and sided with Karmal when it split in 1967. When the PDPA reunited in 1977, Kishtmand entered the politburo. After the communist coup Kishtmand headed the Ministry of Planning but was soon arrested for his alleged part in a plot against the government. In prison the head of AGSA, Asadullah Sarwari, tortured him. After the invasion, Kishtmand was appointed deputy premier and minister of planning. In June 1981 he was appointed president of the Council of Ministers. The Soviets found him a willing figure in aligning the minorities against the Pashtun majority in an effort to weaken national solidarity against the invaders and the regime. He had composed a booklet, Fruit of Friendship (Samara-e-Dosti) on the subject for the benefit of party comrades (Sharq, Memoirs, 215).
A Sulaimankhel Ghilzay Pashtun, Sulaiman Laweq, initially a student of the College of Theology, graduated from the College of Literature in 1957. His father was a representative (khalifa) of the Mojaddidi family; hence, Ghulam Mojaddidi (Slave of Mojaddidi) was Laweq’s original name. His family was also related to the Mojaddidi family by marriage. An excellent poet and a writer in Pashto and Dari, Laweq held various posts in the government-controlled mass media from the time he graduated until 1968, when he began editing Parcham. By this time he had become a member of the central committee of the Parcham faction of the PDPA and a close associate of Khybar, his brother-in-law. After the communist coup he became the minister of radio and television and for a time was admitted to membership of the politburo after the government had expelled the Parchamis. Then he was imprisoned for being pro-Karmal, but the authorities treated him mildly. Following the invasion, Laweq held some unimportant posts until 1981, when he was promoted to membership in the central committee and appointed president of the Academy of Sciences and minister of tribes and nationalities.
A Jaghuri Hazara, Karim Meesaq has no formal education, but he is a writer and a man of wide knowledge. Under Taraki and Amin, Meesaq served as the minister of finance and a member of the central committee and politburo. Meesaq was one of the few Khalqi ministers to stay at home after a few days of imprisonment following the invasion. Although guarded closely, Meesaq received his Khalqi followers and visitors in his apartment.
Mohammadi, Mawlawi Mohammad Nabi (1920-)
An Andar Ghilzay Pashtun from the Sherkhel village of the province of Logar, Mawlawi Mohammad Nabi Mohammadi is the leader of the centrist traditionalist Islamic resistance organization, the Islamic Revolutionary Movement. Mohammadi studied in the Mulla Lawang madrasa in Ghazni and after graduation served as a mulla in various villages, including villages in northern Afghanistan. Mullas and mawlawis (religious scholars), among them Mawlawi Mughalkhel, formed the widest circle of his acquaintances. He also served as a representative (khalifa) of the Mojaddidi family. Mainly because of the support of the family, he won a seat in the National Assembly in the constitutional period. There he once physically beat Babrak Karmal for making pro-Soviet remarks. Mullas and mawlawis mainly from the Logar, Ghazni, and Helmand provinces, as distinct from the educated Islamists, form the bulk of support for Mohammadi’s organization, which is one of the major resistance organizations. Its original rapid progress was curbed by the Islamist organizations of Islamic Association and the Islamic Party of Hekmatyar (Z.G. Alam, personal communication, San Diego, 1993).
Mojaddidi, Sibgatullah (1929-)
Sibgatullah Mojaddidi is a member of the well-established religious family of the Mojaddidis, known also as the Hazrats of Shorebazaar or the Hazrats of Qala-e-Jawad. As pirs (leaders of religious order) of the Naqshbandiyya mystic order, the Mojaddidis are respected and have followers mainly among the Pashtuns. The Khalqi government executed more than thirty Mojaddidis. Because of their conservative role in politics, the Mojaddidis had been at odds with the liberal intelligentsia and nationalists since the 1950s. Sibgatullah Mojaddidi taught at Habibiyya High school after he graduated from the University of al-Azhar in Cairo. In the early 1960s he spent three years in prison for his opposition to the government’s pro-Soviet stand. In 1979 he founded the National Front for the Rescue of Afghanistan, a small and moderate traditionalist resistance organization.
Muhsini, Ayatullah Shaykh Mohammad Asif (1935-)
Born in Kandahar, Mohammad Asif Muhsini studied in Najaf in Iraq and was accorded the highest position of the religious hierarchy (ayatullah) of the Shi’ite denomination of Islam. He is the author of twenty books on moral, social, and religious subjects, particularly the Shi’a jurisprudence (Ja’fari) of Islam in the Dari language. Muhsini set up his resistance group, the Islamic Revolutionary Movement, in 1978 and has followers among the Shi’as in Kandahar as well as Kabul. His followers played a conspicuous role in the uprising in Kabul in 1980. Unlike many Shi’as, Muhsini follows the Iran-based ayatullah of the Shi’a denomination only in religious affairs, not in secular affairs: hence the expulsion of his organization from Iran and his willingness to cooperate with the Afghan Sunni resistance organizations in Peshawar (N. Shahabzada, personal communication, San Diego, 1993).
An Ahmadzay Ghilzay Pashtun from Paktia, Najibullah graduated from the College of Medicine in 1975. It took him ten years to complete his studies because of political activity and imprisonment as a party activist. He was known on the campus for his skill in oratory, in particular for reciting poetry that enchanted the audience. For his athletic activity he was known as Najib the Bull (Najib-e-Gao). He was under the spell of Khybar at the same time that he was loyal to Karmal. In 1977 he joined the central committee and in 1978 the Revolutionary Council. After the Khalqis pressured the Parchamis, the former banished him to Iran as ambassador. Soon it dismissed him and deprived him of Afghan citizenship. Najibullah took away “about $300,000 of the embassy cash in addition to other valuables” (Sharq, Memoirs, 165). After the invasion he was made the head of KhAD; in 1981 he was promoted to membership in the politburo. At the same time that KhAD brutalized inmates, Najibullah, its director, embraced youngsters in kindergartens or gave sermons to elders summoned to his presence.
Niazi, Ghulam Mohammad (1932-1978)
Niazi was the founder of the Islamic Movement of Afghanistan. The son of Abdul Nabi, Niazi came from the village of Raheem Khel in the district of Andar in Ghazni Province. He received his early education at the local Hajwiri school and later joined Madrasa-e-Abu Haneefa at Kabul; in 1957 he earned a master’s degree from the University of al-Azhar in Cairo. There Niazi was influenced by the teachings of Sayyed Qutb and the organizational structure and underground activities of the Islamic Brethren, founded by Hassan-al-Bannan in 1929. “Niazi returned to Afghanistan a firm believer in reorganizing the Afghan society in conformity with the requirement of Islam.” In 1957 he established cells first at Abu Haneefa and then at Paghman, enlisting a group of devout teachers. The meetings continued uninterrupted and the number of participants increased, especially after the fall of Premier Mohammad Daoud in 1963.
After expansion, the organization was divided into five levels: cell (hasta), circle (halqa), precinct (houza), provincial shura (shura-e-vilayati), and central shura (shura-e-markazi). Meanwhile, Niazi had attained the status of professor and headed the Faculty of Islamic Studies at Kabul University. Until 1972 the organization still had no specific title; it was probably then that it was named the Islamic Association of Afghanistan (Jam’iyyat-e-Islame-e-Afghanistan). By then Niazi had succeeded in developing three distinct cells: (1) a thinker’s cell through which religious scholars were to plan the future course of action; (2) a worker’s cell to carry its messages to the public; (3) a link cell to establish contacts in the government with a view to influence policymakers.
In 1972 Professor Niazi was arrested and later released; he was arrested again in April 1974 and killed in 1978. (For details, see M. A. Khan, “Emergence of Religious Parties.”)
Panjsheri, Dastagir (1933-)
An eccentric Tajik from the district of Panjsher, Panjsheri obtained a B.A. from the College of Literature of Kabul University. He worked as a minor official in various capacities in the Ministry of Information and Culture. In 1965 he participated in the first congress of the PDPA and became a member of its central committee. After the PDPA split in 1967, he went first with Karmal and then with Taraki. He agreed with neither, though, and led a subgroup of his own, the Labor Group (Goroh-e-Kar). His belief in the notion of class struggle was total. From 1969 to 1972 he was in prison. Under the Khalqi government he served first as the minister of education and then as the minister of public works. In August 1979 he went for medical treatment to the Soviet Union, where he stayed for a long time. On his return he participated in the poisoned luncheon in the presidential palace on 27 December 1979, but he was the only one who was not poisoned. Also, he was one of the few ministers of the Khalqi government not imprisoned, and he served the Karmal regime in various capacities of the second rank.
Rabbani, Burhanuddin (1940-)
A Tajikized ethnic Yaftal from the Yaftal district of the province of Badakhshan, Burhanuddin Rabbani received a B.A. from the College of Theology in Kabul in 1963 and an M.A. in Islamic philosophy (1966-68) from the University of al-Azhar in Cairo. In Cairo he was influenced by the teachings of the Ikhwan al-Muslimin. There he undertook to translate some works of Sayyed Qutb. On returning to Kabul, he resumed teaching at the university. He worked with Ghulam Mohammad Niazi and others in founding the Islamic Association, a mother organization of the Islamic Movement of the Islamist type. In 1972 he succeeded Ghulam M. Niazi as its amir. The following year he fled Kabul after the government began a crackdown of the Islamists. At the time he was an associate professor (Pohanwal). After the failed uprising of the Islamists against the government in 1975, the more radical Islamists seceded from the association; Rabbani, though, stuck to it and remained its amir. Afterward the Tajiks dominated the association. Following the Soviet invasion and the intensification of resistance, the association became a major resistance organization throughout the country, in particular the Tajik-dominated regions.
Rafi, Mohammad (1946-)
Major General Mohammad Rafi became known after the communist coup in 1978. After the coup he held the post of minister of public works. Shortly afterward the government imprisoned him for his alleged part in the attempted coup. After the Soviet invasion he was named minister of defense and was sent to Moscow for special training, 1981-82.
Ratebzad, Anahita (1931-)
A graduate of the Medical College of the University of Kabul, Anahita Ratebzad, known by her given name, entered politics by working among the educated and professional Afghan women. Connected to the Mohammadzay and other families with a liberal outlook, Anahita set an example of liberation by organizing her female followers around leftist ideas and a promiscuous lifestyle. Cultural activities and literacy courses also formed part of her program. She dissociated herself from her husband after she had a daughter and a son by him. In 1965 she participated in the founding congress of the PDPA; at the same time she also set up the Democratic Organization of the Women of Afghanistan, the first leftist woman organization of its kind in the patriarchal Afghan society. But the organization’s association with the pro-Moscow PDPA made it suspect from the start. Anahita’s association with Karmal as his mistress helped her to win a seat in parliament in 1965. She cemented this alliance by marrying her daughter to Baryalay, Karmal’s brother. In 1976 she entered the central committee. After the communist coup Anahita was appointed minister of social affairs, an insignificant post. Afterward the government sent her as ambassador to Yugoslavia, and soon it dismissed her as it dismissed other Parchami ambassadors. After Karmal was raised to power, Anahita became a member of the politburo, a member of the Revolutionary Council, and minister of education. But Anahita was unable to match her work as a stateswoman with her work as an organization woman. By making the women’s organization a political tool in the service of the Parcham faction and ultimately of the Soviet Union, Anahita dealt the Afghan women’s movement a setback from which it is unlikely to recover in the near future.
A Tajik from the city of Ghazni, Asadullah Sarwari had been trained as a helicopter pilot in the Soviet Union. As a radical Khalqi, Sarwari was for action against the government of President Daoud even before it was overthrown. After the coup he headed the Intelligence Department, AGSA. For him, AGSA was an agency meant to suppress any person or any group that he considered to be antigovernment. He himself used to torture the accused. The Afghans dreaded no other Khalqi official as much as they dreaded Sarwari. Siding with President Taraki, he turned against First Minister Amin and hatched plots to do away with him. After his last plot failed on 14 September 1979, Sarwari, along with Gulabzoy and Watanjar, took refuge in the Soviet embassy. Later they served as guides for the invading Soviet army. Sarwari was afterward appointed vice president of the Revolutionary Council and deputy premier. Sarwari intended to overthrow the Parchami regime by a coup, but in June 1980, before his plan could reach fruition, he was sent to Mongolia as Afghan ambassador.
Sayyaf, Abd Al-rab Rasul (1947-)
A Kharotay Ghilzay Pashtun from the district of Paghman, Abd al-Rab Rasul Sayyaf obtained a B.A. from the College of Theology in Kabul and an M.A. from the University of al-Azhar in Cairo. There he joined the Islamic Brethren. After graduation from al-Azhar he taught at the College of Theology of Kabul University until the government of President Daoud arrested him in 1975. While the Khalqi government executed other Islamist inmates, it spared him, since he was a cousin of Hafizullah Amin. After release from prison he fled to Peshawar, where he was chosen as “a non-partisan independent to help unify the alliance formed in 1980” under the name the Islamic Union for the Liberation of Afghanistan (Klass, Afghanistan, 401). Soon the constituent members seceded from the Islamic Union, but Sayyaf used the name as an organization under his own leadership. An eloquent speaker in Arabic, Sayyaf invoked the name of jehad to obtain contributions from rich individuals, particularly Wahhabis, in the Arab world. The contributions helped him consolidate his organization as a resistance group, albeit a small one. To please his Wahhabi donors, Sayyaf also changed his name from Abd al-Rasul Sayyaf to Abd al-Rub Rasul Sayyaf. He is even said to have become a Wahhabi.
Taraki, Nur Mohammad (1917-79)
Nur Mohammad Taraki was a Shabikhel Taraki Ghilzay Pashtun from the Sur Kelay village in the Nawa Valley in the Muqur District of Ghazni Province. In 1965, Taraki was elected general secretary of the PDPA in its founding congress. Thirteen years later, in 1978, he became the president and prime minister of Afghanistan after a coup that toppled the centuries-old Durrani rule. It is therefore necessary to describe his biography in detail, particularly because of incorrect but widely reported information about him.
Taraki had no formal education except for a few classes he attended in a school in Quetta in British India, where he learned English. It was customary for members of his family to go there for work. When he returned home, his knowledge of English brought him a job as clerk with the Pashtun Trading Company of Musa Jan (Tokhay), first in Kandahar and later in its Bombay branch. On arrival in Kabul in 1937 Taraki was appointed a member of the editorial board of a periodical of the Ministry of Finance, a post that helped him learn the art of writing. An influential patron, Mohammad Zaman Taraki, helped him get the job (A.M. Karzay, personal communication, March 1993). During World War II Abdul Majid Zabuli (Taraki), an influential businessman and president of the National Bank, appointed him director general in the State Monopoly Department. Zabuli also commissioned Taraki to supervise the construction of his house. But Taraki misappropriated construction material as well as money to build a house for himself; for this he was tried and dismissed (Zabuli, personal communication, Boston, 1975).
Afterward Abdur Raof Benawa, director general of the Pashto Academy, helped Taraki find a job in the Press Department, where in 1952 he became assistant director of the Bakhtar News Agency. This was during the democratic interlude, when a free press and political parties had emerged and the government had become impatient with them. Among the parties was the Awakened Youth (Weesh Zalmyan), founded in 1945 in Kabul by known nationalist contitutionalists—Qazi Bahram, Abdul Hadi Tokhay, Mohammad Rasul Pashtun, Fayz Mohammad Angar, Gul Pacha Ulfat, Qiamuddin Khadem, Ghulam Hassan Safay, Ghulam Mohayuddin Zurmulwal, Abur Raof Benawa, Nur Mohammad Taraki, and others. This was the major political party of the time (Zurmulwal, “Weesh Zalmyan,” 17).
Fearful of being arrested, Taraki and Benawa resigned from the party and followed the government line; for this service, in 1953 Premier Shah Mahmud appointed them press attachés to Washington and Delhi, respectively. Taraki remained at his new Washington post only a short time, however. Mohammad Na’eem, foreign minister in the new government of Premier Mohammad Daoud, recalled Taraki because of his poor knowledge of English (G. M. Zurmulwal, personal communication, 1993). Taraki declined to obey the order, and instead tried to claim political asylum in the United States. When this was denied him, he held a press conference in which he declared his opposition to Daoud.…Five weeks later, in Karachi, he disavowed his press conference and said he was returning to Afghanistan (A. Arnold, Afghanistan’s Two-Party Communism, 17). His return was made possible by the intercession of Benawa and Mohammad Akbar Parwani with Premier Daoud. The former was then a press attaché in the Afghan embassy in New Delhi (Karzay, personal communication, March 1993). In Kabul, Taraki was unemployed, and toward the end of the premiership of Mohammad Daoud, he made a trip to the Soviet Union, where the KGB is believed to have recruited him. In the early 1960s he applied to the American embassy in Kabul to work as a translator but failed to get the job. When asked why he was not there, Taraki replied, “I was not employed because I have eyes as green as those of Khruschev” (Haroun, “Daoud Khan,” 183). He then opened the Noor Translation House, apparently to make a living but, in fact, to organize like-minded Afghans into a political organization. His command of English did not enable him to do the difficult translation work. His clients were few, but the house served as an avenue of contact, especially with the Soviet agents (Karzay, personal communication, March 1993). Later Taraki gave up the translation work to devote his full time to organizational activities. On 1 January 1965 he was able to assemble twenty-eight young, educated Afghans in a secret meeting in his residence in Karta-e-Char in the city of Kabul. There they founded the PDPA.
On returning from the United States, Taraki read Marxist literature in both English and Persian, the latter the work of the writers of the Tudeh communist party of Iran. Before his departure to the United States, Taraki showed no sign of being a Marxist (Karzay, personal communication, March 1993). In 1957, though, he published his first novel, The Journey of Bang, an imitation in Pashto of the works of the Soviet novelist Maxim Gorky (Zurmulwal, personal communication, May 1993). Though a mediocre piece of literary work, The Journey of Bang is the first novel of its kind in Pashto that paints issues in rural society in terms of the Marxist notion of the exploitation of agrarian laborers by landlords, spiritual leaders, and government officials. This means that some time before 1957 Taraki had turned communist. A year or two earlier, when Taraki and I held a discusssion, he did not give me the impression of being a communist. Rather, he sounded like a discontented leftist. When in power, Taraki published two more novels similar to The Journey of Bang, but the book published under his new surname, Nazarzad, is a standard Marxist sociological and philosophical treatise that his comrades in the Soviet Union wrote for him.
Although Taraki took part with others in compiling the first English-Pashto Dictionary, which the Pashto Academy published in 1975, he was neither a historian nor a sociologist but an orthodox Marxist-Leninist. He was also unsophisticated, and friends used to make fun of him. The more he believed in communism, the more dogmatic he became. In 1968 I returned home from higher studies in England and told Taraki of my research thesis; he replied, “Any work based on the sources of imperialism we reject.” Yet this Taraki organized hundreds of educated men around socialism, and after the April coup he allayed the fears of his countrymen with the simple words of the country folk, lecturing group after group of their elders that those who had overthrown the rule of the Mohammadzay tyrants were their sons, determined to do them good by providing them “home, clothes, and food,” the epitome of Bang’s dreams. But the ephemeral allaying of fear was the only service of note he rendered his “revolution.” When he was rejected by the peasants for whose emancipation he claimed he was toiling, Taraki did not hesitate to ask the then unwilling Soviet Union to suppress them by the army. When in the game of power politics his own “loyal disciple,” Hafizullah Amin, asserted himself, Taraki did not hesitate to suppress him either. On 9 October 1979 Amin managed to suffocate Taraki after removing him from power on 14 September. His other opponents then blew up his grave with dynamite. All this prompted the Kremlin decision makers to order their army to invade Afghanistan. So ended the life of “the genius of the East” and “the soul and body of the party” who was without issue and often drunk, but affable with a good sence of humor. During his short rule Taraki, in imitation of the Mughal emperors of India, watched dancing girls and enjoyed a good life (Haroun, “Daoud Khan,” 186).
Watanjar, Aslam (1946-)
An Andar Ghilzay Pashtun from Zurmula in Paktia, Aslam Watanjar was trained as a tank officer in the Soviet Union after he had graduated from the Military Academy in Kabul. He was almost illiterate. He took part in the overthrow of the monarchy in 1973, but his role in the communist coup of 1978 was more conspicuous. Instructed by Amin, he initiated the march of tank forces from the motorized forces of numbers 4 and 15 near Pul-e-Charkhi against the government. He was in charge of the operation until Amin took over from him in the evening. Following the coup, Watanjar was appointed deputy prime minister and minister of communications. Later he served successively as minister of the interior, of defense, and again of the interior until he joined others in a plot against Amin. When the plot failed, he took refuge in the Soviet embassy along with Sarwari and Gulabzoy. Along with them, he served as a guide for the invading army. After the invasion he was promoted to membership in the central committee and the Revolutionary Council and was appointed minister of communications. In June 1981 he was added to the politburo.