The Parchamis during the Khalq Rule
Twice during their rule the Khalqis suppressed the Parchamis. Why the Khalqis suppressed the Parchamis the first time, after a short-lived honeymoon between them following the coup, is unknown. The outer signs of the rift were obvious. For a few weeks following the coup, the Parchamis served in the government, apparently on an equal basis with the Khalqis but actually as their junior partners. Then Amin and Watanjar, in a meeting at the Institute of Polytechnic, gave out that the revolution was the work of Khalqis and that the Parchamis had no part in it. In an official pamphlet detailing this statement, it was further alleged that on the day of the coup Karmal, not knowing what was happening, did not want to be released from prison. He had asked whether or not it was safe to be out.
The Parchamis, in particular Karmal, were active on another level, establishing a special relationship with the Soviet ambassador, Alexander Puzanov. Puzanov was so fond of Karmal that he believed the revolution was due to his statesmanship. In June 1978 Amin told the Soviet leaders that the Khalqis, not the Parchamis, had made the revolution. At the time Amin had stopped in Moscow on the way home from a trip to Havana. It was said that Soviet Foreign Minister Gromyko, deeply impressed by Amin, told him that if he wished he might remove Puzanov from Kabul. But Amin replied that he could get along with him.
The issue that revealed the difference between Amin and Karmal was that of military officers, as noted before. After the coup Amin introduced some military officers to the membership of the central committee. Sensing danger to his faction, Karmal opposed this movement on the ground that the army officers were unable to absorb Marxism-Leninism. This opposition was unacceptable to Amin, since the officers were his bastion of support.
At some point Amin decided to send the Parchami leaders abroad as ambassadors. In one of the politburo meetings he put forward this suggestion. Karmal at first said that he wished to give up politics. Already he had complained in vain to Taraki that “since no one seemed to accept his authority as the nation’s second in command” he wished to resign and “devote himself to development of modifications of the PDPA’s strategy and tactics to suit the present condition.” Amin’s response was prompt. Addressing Karmal, he said, “Dear Babrak, you have got a number of followers. When you stay at home they might make some trouble, and the trouble might be traced to your door in which case you will find it difficult to exonerate yourself.” Karmal accepted the proposal, which was passed by a majority of the votes cast. Indeed, Karmal had no choice. As already noted, he had spent a night at the villa of the TASS correspondent to meet with the Soviet ambassador, but the latter had declined. On this point Amin had even ignored the advice of the International Affairs Department of the Soviet Central Committee, which had counseled that “Lenin emphasized that a revolution could be worth anything [only] if it knew how to protect itself.” According to the advice, “This great mission can be fulfilled only if the PDPA acts as a united and closely-knit political organization held together by one will and a common goal.” In the aforementioned document, entitled “Preliminary Proposals Concerning Changes in the Organizational Structure of the PDPA,” Amin told his Soviet comrades that the Parchamis had made themselves “notorious for their participation in the work of the Daoud administration.” But Amin did not know that the Parchamis had done so on instruction from the Soviets. In any case, six Parchami leaders, including Karmal, soon left for their ambassadorial posts. This marked the beginning of the second split of the PDPA into Parcham and Khalq factions. The scene was now set for events with serious consequences.
In early September the government announced that it had foiled a Parchami plot to overthrow it. The government either arrested or dismissed the remaining Parchami ministers in the cabinet, accusing them of holding rallies to promote a coup. The rallies were alleged to have been scheduled in collaboration with the Sitam-e-Milli, who were to disturb Badakhshan. According to the plan, when the government dispatched forces to that remote province, Kabul’s defenses would have been weakened and the way paved for the success of the plotters. Handwritten “confessions” made by Sultan Ali Kishtmand, minister of planning, and Mohammad Rafi, minister of public works, appeared in the press along with their photos; although the confessions confirmed these allegations, they were useless, having been obtained under torture.
The Parchami ambassadors were dismissed from their posts and deprived of Afghan citizenship. Except for Mahmud Baryalay, the rest, including Karmal, took with them the cash assets of the embassies. At home the crackdown on the Parchamis began. Since Amin had earlier obtained a list of Parchami military officers through Sayyed Daoud Tarun, the suppression of the Parchami officers might have been complete. Their known officers were imprisoned, and overzealous Khalqi interrogators in the provinces eliminated a considerable number of them. In Kabul only a few were eliminated, among them the junior university professors Khanabad, Amier Mohammad, and Abdur Razaq. Soviet advisers were against their elimination. None of the leading Parchamis was executed. Of the “conspirators,” only the military chief of staff, Shahpur Ahmadzay, and the physician Mier Akbar were executed. The former was executed on the advice of Soviet advisers not because he had plotted but because he was an influential person in his locality. The remaining Parchamis “began to form underground organizations to resist the regime.”
The authorities meanwhile started an anti-Parchami campaign in the mass media. For the anti-Parchami Afghans, it was a golden chance. Even unsuspected Parchamis and their sympathizers, out of fear of losing jobs, took part in the crusade. Opportunistic Parchamis and those who had been associated with them also joined the chorus. They made Karmal the special target of attack. In a televised meeting of party and government officials, an eloquent member of the politburo denounced Karmal as a traitor who had abandoned his fatherland in return for life under the “dark umbrella of imperialism.” For an impartial spectator, all this was amusing and distressing. It was amusing because skill in oratory, writing, drama, and art was demonstrated. It was depressing because the whole episode was a reflection of opportunism and lack of integrity. Anyone for whom politics was a profession of decent people was a misfit.
A second wave of arrests engulfed the Parchamis following the Karmal-Taraki meeting in Moscow, as already noted. The Parchamis had been suppressed but not eliminated. As a faction they were still organized. Since Kabul was their stronghold, it was impossible for the rural Khalqis to trace them, despite their wide networks of intelligence. From October onward the Parchamis became active once again, but their distribution of propaganda leaflets helped the government to trace and arrest them. Around six hundred Parchamis were arrested. By the time of the invasion the Parchamis had been impoverished as never before. I myself saw clear evidence of their impoverishment. On the second day of the invasion, I toured Kabul in the company of my university colleagues Sayd Bahauddin Majruh, Rasul Amin, and Hakeem Taniwal and a friend, Farouq Safay. As revolutionary guards the Parchamis were patrolling the streets as lean figures in shabby garb with rifles behind their backs. Karmal was now destined to rule the country with their help.