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3. Under the Soviet Shadow

When the Soviet forces started operations in Kabul, Babrak Karmal, the outcast leader of the Parcham faction of the PDPA, was in Doshanbay, the capital city of the Soviet republic of Tajikistan bordering Afghanistan. Afterward Karmal broadcast over radio a statement on a frequency close to that of Radio Afghanistan in which he said, “Today the torture machine of Amin has been broken.” In the name of the Revolutionary Council of the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan, he asked Afghans, especially the security and army officers, to remain vigilant and maintain security and order.

At three o’clock in the morning the news of the formation of a new government was broadcast over the radio. A statement to this effect was made in the name of Karmal, but at the time he was not in Kabul. Instead, a tape recording of his voice was used. Karmal was later brought “in a tank or armored personnel carrier from Bagram to Kabul by the airborne troops.”[1] He took residence in the old palace in the city. Between eight and nine o’clock on 28 December 1979, a helicopter landed in the Soviet embassy compound and after a pause of fifteen minutes or so flew back. It is believed that the helicopter brought Marshal Sergei Sokolov, who had organized the operation from Termez (the border town of Soviet Uzbekistan) and who was now the supreme commander of Soviet forces in Afghanistan. The marshal took up his residence in the Chilsitun Palace to the southeast of the city; a reception was held there, attended by Karmal and other leading members of the PDPA and the new government. The warm messages of the Soviet government and party leaders addressed to Karmal, now called president of the Revolutionary Council of Afghanistan, president of the Council of Ministers of the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan, and general secretary of the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan, were read by General Abdul Qadir, who had just been released from a term of life imprisonment along with other members of the Parcham faction. Sokolov stayed in Chilsitun until early 1982, when he was forced to abandon it for a residence in Wazir Akbar Khan Maina, near the old palace, because the mujahideen’s rocket attacks had made it unsafe for him.

The morning announcement of the formation of the new government was brief. It included, besides Karmal, the names of Asadullah Sarwari, as vice president and deputy premier, and of Sultan Ali Kishtmand as deputy prime minister. The appointments were strange: Sarwari, when chief of AGSA, had tortured Kishtmand in the prison so much that he had to be sent to Moscow for medical treatment.

The second official announcement was also brief but stunning. It read in part, “The Democratic Republic of Afghanistan earnestly demands that the USSR render urgent political, moral, and economic assistance, including military aid, to Afghanistan. The government of the USSR has accepted the proposal of the Afghan side.” The reason for the request was described thus: “Because of the continuation and expansion of aggression, intervention, and provocations by foreign enemies of Afghanistan.”[2]

At this time the new government existed only on paper. Its head, Karmal, was still in the Soviet Union, not in Afghanistan. The year before, the Khalqi government, which the Soviet Union had recognized, had deprived him of Afghan citizenship. Now that the Soviet forces had overthrown the Khalqi government, only they were in power in Kabul. The statement admitted this also when it said the Soviet Union had “accepted the proposal.” More important, the Soviet Union had already given the “military aid” now requested in the name of the nonexistent government. Indeed, this “military aid” had made the declaration possible in the first place.

On 10 January 1980 the names of ministers of the new government were announced. The new government was composed of Parchamis, Khalqis, and a few pro-Parcham individuals. Amin’s senior ministers, with the exception of two, were imprisoned. The Taraki faction, now led by Sarwari and Gulabzoy, called itself “the principled Khalqis.” Before the major policies of the new government are described, it is necessary to discuss the Peoples Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) and dwell on the relationship between its Parcham faction and Moscow.

Rule by surrogates

Rule by surrogates has become more common in modern times than at any time before. So long as the Soviet Union had not found surrogates in Afghanistan, it showed due respect to that country’s independence, territorial integrity, and nonaligned foreign policy. Before the invasion the Soviets declared time and again that they wished to grant disinterested assistance to Afghanistan, but they wanted nothing to do with its politics. They cited Afghanistan as a model of cooperation between two countries with different social and political systems. Some Soviet leaders went even further. During an official tour of Afghanistan in December 1955, while visiting cadets in Kabul, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev advised Afghan Premier Mohammad Daoud to eliminate any cadet found to be a communist.[3] Such assurances were credible to the Afghans, perhaps because they lacked experience in dealing with the outside world, owing to their short period of diplomatic history, and perhaps also because of their national and Islamic values, which require them to accept the words of others, and especially high dignitaries.

The Afghans had yet to learn the saying about the Russians: they think one thing, say something else, and do yet another. After Khrushchev’s visit, the Soviet Union encouraged receptive educated Afghans to organize a party of their own. In particular, it encouraged a group of Afghan leftists for such a purpose after 1960, when Karmal performed a service to the Soviet Union as well as to Premier Mohammad Daoud. In that year Karmal informed Premier Daoud that Sibgatullah Mojaddidi had plotted to blow up the bridge of Pul-e-Artan in Kabul when the motorcade of a Soviet delegation was to cross it. Rahmatullah Mojaddidi, a leftist brother of Sibgatullah Mojaddidi, had passed on the information to Karmal through some Parchami leaders, Sulaiman Laweq and Mier Akbar Khybar. While the incident resulted in the imprisonment of Sibgatullah Mojaddidi, it made Karmal and his circle of leftists a serviceable group to Premier Daoud and the Soviet Union.[4] In general, the leftists became active after the Soviets extended economic assistance to Afghanistan in 1956, and the government, though harsh toward others, tolerated them. In the constitutional period they as well as others emerged in the open.

On 1 January 1965 twenty-eight educated Afghans assembled secretly in the residence of Nur Mohammad Taraki in Karta-e-Char in the city of Kabul, and there they founded the PDPA along the lines of the pro-Moscow communist parties. In this first party congress they named Nur Mohammad Taraki as general secretary and Babrak Karmal as secretary of the PDPA. The charter reads, “The PDPA, whose ideology is the practical experience of Marxism-Leninism, is founded on the voluntary union of the progressive and informed people of Afghanistan: the workers, peasants, artisans, and intellectuals.” In real life, unable to win the tradition-bound Muslim peasants and workers to its cause, the PDPA tried to win over the Afghan elite and to “maintain control [influence] over the state apparatus and to eliminate any Western presence.”[5] It followed the Soviet’s policy toward the Afghan governments. After 1956, when the Soviet Union extended financial assistance to Afghanistan, Soviet policy called for closer cooperation with the Afghan governments. Party activists worked within the existing framework of government rather than outside it, agitating only against those governments that tried to distance Afghanistan from the Soviet Union and to bring it closer to the Western and Arab worlds. The PDPA showed respect to the monarchy. Taraki, for instance, kissed the hands of the Afghan king, and Karmal, in a parliamentary session, called the king the most progressive monarch in Asia.[6] In his compliments, Karmal used words that Lenin had first employed toward the “revolutionary” King Amanullah.

The PDPA was, however, unable to make progress in society. Its original name was the Association of National Democrats,[7] and its leaders associated themselves with national issues such as Pashtunistan. Karmal had been first a member of the Union for the Independence of Pashtunistan; Taraki had been a founding member of the Awakened Youth (Weekh Zalmyan), a group of national democrats. After adopting its present name with its leftist connotation, the PDPA was subjected to pressure from within and without. The pressure from society on it was strong. In the constitutional period, when the free press mushroomed, the PDPA began to disseminate its views in its periodical Khalq, first published in April 1966. The public reacted against it. The House of Elders of parliament considered the periodical against the public interest and asked the government to ban it. The government did so in May 1966, after six issues had come out.[8] In November of the same year Karmal expressed pro-Soviet sentiments in the House of Representatives; some of its members beat him. In 1970 a member of the PDPA praised Lenin in the commemoration of his centenary in words that custom had preserved for the Prophet Mohammad; in response, the ’ulama (religious scholars) from all over the country held protest rallies lasting over a month in Kabul against the communists.

To pressure the communists, the government of Premier Nur Ahmad E’temadi initially encouraged these rallies. But the rallies turned into a two-edged sword, denouncing both the PDPA and the government. In a twenty-two-clause proposal, the ’ulama asked the government not only to suppress the communists but also to forego social reforms, including coeducation and the unveiling of women. The proposal also demanded that women not be permitted to hold public office. When the government rejected the proposal, the ’ulama—led by such persons as Mawlana Fayzani—denounced the government as well and dropped the name of the king from Friday sermons, a sign of rebellion. The government repressed the rallies, and the communists were thus spared.[9] Had the premier (probably at the advice of the former premier, Mohammad Daoud) not suppressed the rallies, the PDPA would probably have been dissolved.[10]

Pressures from within the PDPA were disruptive. The leftist implications of the new name alerted the public to the danger of communism. The national elements of the party broke off with it. Among them was the historian Mier Ghulam Mohammad Ghobar. As a founding member of the Fatherland Party, Ghobar had played a leading role in parliament and national politics in the 1950s; now he too turned against the PDPA. More disruptive was its split in 1967 into four groups: the Khalq faction, led by Taraki; the Parcham faction, led by Karmal; the Sitam-e-Milli faction, led by Tahir Badakhshi; and the Goroh-e-Kar faction, led by Dastagir Panjsheri. Dastagir later joined the Khalq faction, but then the Khalq faction lost two of its leading members, who formed factions of their own: Jawanan-e-Zahmatkash (Industrious Youth), led by Zahir Ofuq, and another, which had no specific name but was more radical, led by Abdul Karim Zarghun.[11]

The Sitam-e-Milli

The PDPA groups were Marxist-Leninist proponents of the Moscow line. The Sitam-e-Milli, however, placed more emphasis on the problem of ethnicity than class struggle. Its leader, Tahir Badakhshi, held that the emancipation of the “oppressed nationalities” from Pashtun “domination” was the main problem and thus needed to be addressed first. Toward this end, he worked for Uzbek-Tajik unity, identifying himself with the Tajik although he was the son of an Uzbek father. A founder of the PDPA, Badakhshi broke off with it to promote his own view. The educated sectarian elements of some ethnic groups rallied behind him, but Sitam-e-Milli remained insignificant, although in the beginning it had attracted some followers in Badakhshan.

Like most opposition groups, the Sitam-e-Milli failed to remain solid for long, soon splitting into two subgroups. Its radical wing, led by Abharuddin Baw’ess, followed a revolutionary line, while Badakhshi stood for moderation. A talented and dynamic man, Baw’ess trained his followers in a militant spirit; with their help, for a short time he occupied the frontier district of Darwaz in the abortive uprisings in 1975. A Tajik from the same locality, Baw’ess afterward lived in hiding until the Khalqis did away with him when he escaped from the Ali Abad hospital, where he had been transferred from prison for medical treatment, and was arrested again.

On 14 February 1979 four followers of Baw’ess kidnapped U.S. Ambassador Adolph Dubs and took him hostage in a hotel to pressure the government to release their leader. Directed by Soviet advisers, the Khalqi police stormed the hotel, where all perished. The incident brought the Sitam-e-Milli to the front line of national and international attention for the first time; it also worsened relations between Afghanistan and the United States. The Carter administration first announced the withdrawal of most of its diplomats from Kabul; later President Carter signed a law that prohibited any further aid to Afghanistan until the government apologized and assumed responsibility for Dubs’s death.[12] This action drew the Khalqi government closer to the Soviet Union. Sitam-e-Milli also declined in strength, which may account for the change of its name to the Organization of the Toilers ofAfghanistan, or SAZA (Sazman-e-Zahmatkashan-e-Afghanistan), for the followers of Badakhshi, and the Commando Organization of the Liberation of Afghanistan, or SARFA (Sazman-e-Rehaeebakhsh-e-Fedayee-e-Afghanistan), for the followers of Baw’ess. Encouraged by a few Tajikized Russian interpreters and the Parchami Premier Kishtmand, they subsequently entered the Parchami government and formed some militia units.[13]

Internal pressure on the Sitam-e-Milli proved crucial. In the Khalqi period the government imprisoned or executed many officers in the army uprisings on suspicion of being Sitamis. During the resistance period after the invasion, the Islamic organizations hunted the Sitamis down for their leftist views, although the Islamic Association sympathized with their notion of “national oppression.”

The suppression of Sitamis did not create a stir. Common Afghans did not sympathize with them. One reason for this lack of sympathy was the linguistic and social integration that the society had undergone with improvements in the system of transportation, particularly after the opening of the Salang tunnel in 1965, when the northern and southern regions were brought closer. Until then the northeastern region, the most distant from Kabul, had been isolated by the deterioration of relations with Pakistan over the problem of Pashtunistan, cutting it off from Chitral, with which it had trade and other ties. Before that the Bolshevik revolution had done much the same to its ties with the regions beyond the Oxus, where people of the same stock lived. This isolation, and the fact that in this poor region no major development project had been undertaken, accounted for the discontent among its educated elements.

Serious also was the exploitation of the locals by government officials. But they were not the only people who had been exploited, nor was theirs the only region that had remained undeveloped. Besides, the exploiters were not only Pashtun officials but all officials, since the bureaucracy—particularly after the spread of modern free education—was open to all ethnic groups. Also, since Afghan Dari (Persian) was the medium of bureaucracy, Persian-speaking Afghans dominated it. With the extension of the government’s direct control over the country since the days of Amir Abdur Rahman, Afghan Persian has made steady progress. This fact is significant because the Pashtun Mohammadzay ruling dynasty had become linguistically Persianized and thus more at home with the Persian-speaking Afghans than the Pashto-speaking Afghans, that is, Pashtuns. This linguistic preference, coupled with the fact that the ruling dynasty preferred that clients run the government, may account for the fact that it gave a disproportionately high number of cabinet posts to Persian-speaking Afghans. This was the case since the days of Ahmad Shah Durrani, who founded modern Afghanistan in the middle of the eighteenth century. Persian-speaking Afghans have at times served as alter egos to kings, as Mohammad Wali did in the reign of King Amanullah and Ali Mohammad in the reign of King Mohammad Zahir. Both were Tajiks from Badakhshan. The “sitam-e-milli” or “national oppression” becomes relevant when it is understood as a reflection of the tyranny of the illiberal state. To view it as an oppression of the ethnic Pashtuns is to misread it. This was one of the reasons why, like the Maoist groups, the Sitam-e-Milli, after its initial upsurge, declined even in Badakhshan, and its leaders had to rely for survival on the Soviets.

In conclusion, the Sitamis aroused an awareness to a problem that needed to be tackled constitutionally, but they also sensationalized divisiveness and hatred.

The Khalq and Parcham Factions

The main factions of the PDPA were the Khalq and the Parcham, each of which claimed to represent the “true” PDPA.[14] Their composition, too, was influenced by ethnic, regional, and social considerations. The Parcham faction was distinct from the Khalq faction in its composition, the social background of its members, and their views on national policies and matters of morality and general behavior.

The Parchamis were mainly from cities, with some from the countryside. The Khalqis were almost all from rural areas, with a significant number from ethnic and client minorities integrated among the Pashtuns. Most Khalqis belonged to poor rural groups, and most Parchamis to well-off groups. A number of the latter arose from the landowning, bureaucratic, and wealthy families. Also, some Parchamis were from urban ethnic minorities. Unlike the Khalqis, most Parchamis were non-Pashtuns (the Pashtuns being the main ethnic group, as already noted). Thus, the Parchamis were—again unlike the Khalqis—less rooted in society, more internationalist and less nationalist in outlook. They also had many women in their ranks. In the upper echelons they were indifferent to the moral dictates of society, where such norms had been the code of conduct for thousands of years. Believing in a good relationship with the establishment, the Parchamis preferred to work within it rather than to oppose it from the outside, whereas the Khalqis opposed it. Both Khalqis and Parchamis were educated, and through education the Marxist ideology bound them loosely, but they had acquired their dogmatic Marxism from the literature of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and the Tudeh Party of Iran, mainly in Russian, Pashto, and Persian. Daoud Malikyar has described the Parchamis as “characters”—that is, as marionettes who have no independence of their own but are directed by others behind the scene. The characterization is a reference to the uprooted and opportunistic urban Parchamis, who adopted the Leninist tactics of achieving the end by any possible means.

As a socially baseless political group, the Parchamis could not be expected to be influential in society, but they did influence the state framework in the city of Kabul. There, too, they could exercise influence only in times of stability; in times of disturbance they could not play a decisive role. The significance of this statement can be appreciated when it is borne in mind that so far in Afghan history the rural Afghans have been, in times of disturbance, more decisive than the urban Afghans in shaping events. In such times the urban Afghans have been at the mercy of the rural people, except when foreign powers protected the urban centers. The urban-rural dynamic has always been a distinctive feature of Afghan society.

Relations between the Khalqi and Parcham factions were inharmonious and ill disposed. In their short history they were more disunited than united, and even when they were united, they were distinct from each other. They never integrated. The Parcham faction was smaller, particularly in the army, than the Khalqi faction.

In 1967, eighteen months after its founding, the PDPA split into the Khalq (people) and Parcham (banner) factions. The split continued until 1977, when the Kremlin masters pressured them to reunite. But the decade-long split hardened the attitude of their members toward each other, since during its course they were more acrimonious and less than comradely. In documents that leaders of both factions addressed to their Kremlin comrades, they accused each other on points of theory. The Parchamis charged the Khalqis with adhering to the cult of individualism; with promoting the notion of alliance of the revolutionaries with only two classes of workers and peasants; and with calling for the dictatorship of the proletariat. The Parchamis described themselves as revolutionaries opposed to the cult of individualism and in favor of alliance not only with workers and peasants but also with national patriotic forces. During the initial stage of the revolution they claimed they stood for democratic change, not the dictatorship of the proletariat. The Khalqis, by contrast, denounced the Parchamis as collaborators and conciliators with the wealthy, the upper crust of the ruling regimes, and described themselves as opposed to the “suppressing regimes of Zahir Shah and Daoud.” Referring to themselves as communists imbued with the spirit of class struggle and close to the poor people, the Khalqis elsewhere called the Parchamis “royalist pseudocommunists.” In the same document addressed to the Soviets, the Khalqis also announced themselves “devoted to everything associated with the Soviet Union” and doubted the sincerity of the Parchami leaders toward the Soviet leaders.[15]

After the split, both the Khalqis and the Parchamis found themselves unable to make headway in society. Thus, Parchami leaders tried to court a closer relationship with the former premier Mohammad Daoud and, during the constitutional decade, with Premier Nur Ahmad E’temadi, who, of the five prime ministers of the decade, served longest (1967-71). In this period the Parcham made noteworthy progress, particularly through its periodical, Parcham (1968-70), whereas the Khalq faction was barred from publishing another periodical.[16] The purpose of this political marriage was to disrupt the nascent democratic system that helped Mohammad Daoud to overthrow the monarchy.

The Parcham faction became a partner in the new republic. Half of the cabinet ministers were Parchamis, and hundreds more entered the government as junior officials and rural district officers. In this euphoria Karmal went so far as to dissolve his faction, hoping that by forging an alliance with the aged President Daoud (1910-78) he would succeed in raising his faction to power.[17] In the names of the republic and the president, the Parchami officials, through the police forces that they controlled, instituted a reign of terror, imprisoning and torturing hundreds of their Islamist and other opponents. President Daoud was either unwilling or unable to curb his Parchami partners. This failure led him to be associated with the Parchami communists. However, once Daoud felt secure in his position, he removed the Parchamis one by one from their cabinet posts and declared that he was opposed to any party that served the interest of “foreigners.” But by then the Parchamis had succeeded in alienating President Daoud from the Islamic movement. They had also endeared themselves to the Soviets by passing on official secrets. Colonel Alexander Morozov, a KGB officer in Kabul at the time, writes, “Almost all Parchamis mentioned in Amin’s document as members of Daoud’s Central Committee shared information with Soviet secret agencies.” And he adds that their “participation in the Daoud’s administration…had been sanctioned by Soviet intelligence.”[18]

Because of their pro-Soviet activities, and their institution of the reign of terror, the Parchamis made themselves unpopular. Their junior officials in the rural areas became corrupt. In losing the patronage of Mohammad Daoud, the Parchamis lost one of their two sources of support, the other being the Soviet Union. While the Khalqi leaders supported the republic and while their military officers took part in instituting it, they themselves did not join it. By allying himself with the Parchamis, President Daoud alienated the Khalqis. In addition to underestimating the Khalqis, President Daoud, like Karmal, suspected Taraki of being “a spy of the United States of America.”[19] Having gotten rid of the Parchamis, President Daoud thought he would also suppress the Khalqis. But having concentrated on the army, the Khalqis instead toppled him. When the Khalqis usurped power, the discredited Parchamis were no match for them.

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.[20]

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.”[21] 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.”[22] 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.”[23] 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.[24] 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.”[25]

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.

Babrak Karmal

Babrak Karmal was popular with his followers, particularly the urbanized Parchamis, some of whom were emotionally attached to him. To them he was the symbol of defiance to social injustice and absolutism as well as a comrade of the downtrodden and the impoverished. His followers looked on him as the leader of the new-style pioneers who felt they had liberated themselves from the shackles of religion, tribe, region, and social customs, which restricted individuals in every corner of life. Karmal’s career of political struggle, his years of imprisonment, his perseverance in the hard profession of politics, his polished manners and convincing reasoning—all these endeared him still further to his followers. It was the force of their attachment that twice won for him seats in parliament in the constitutional decade. But all this is an incomplete picture of his personality and his social standing.

Karmal’s loyalty to the Soviet Union was well known. He would say even in the presence of non-Parchamis that he wished to make Afghanistan the sixteenth republic of the Soviet Union.[26] He was in the pay of the Soviet Union. He had been accused of this by Soraya Baha, a Parchami woman activist who had become disillusioned and who was therefore under investigation by some members of the central committee, including Karmal. She told him to his face that he was paid 35,000 rubles a month in the name of the party.[27]

Karmal was widely believed to be a man without scruples. Following the death of his mother, he left home and lived with his widowed maternal aunt. He was said to be living in disregard of the society’s moral values. Karmal’s father, a general in the Afghan army, had disowned him, apparently for his leftist views.[28] In his mature life, too, there was talk about Karmal’s debauchery. To his critics Karmal would say, “Among us these issues have been resolved.” Karmal resembled Mulla Zakki, whose licentious views permeated the court of Shah Mahmud Sadozay in the early years of the nineteenth century. Zakki’s actions led to a commotion that resulted in the overthrow of the monarch. Afghan society was no longer as rigid as it had been during the previous century, but it was not so liberal as to accept as its ruler a commoner with such a record.

Karmal’s behavior created a problem for his faction, despite the fact that some urban Parchamis were “loose.” Karmal’s behavior intensified a rift between himself and Mier Akbar Khybar, the number two man in the faction. Khybar once slapped Karmal in his face because Karmal had tried to seduce the unwilling wife of their host comrade. Khybar said to him, “You aspire for Afghan rulership, but do such base things.”[29] The incident had wider—and, for Khybar, fatal—implications. All this lowered the status of the Parchamis in the public eye.

The incident had wider consequences for Karmal as well. All peoples want to know the identity of their rulers, and that desire is particularly strong among the genealogy-conscious Afghans. When Karmal was raised to power, his background became a subject of inquiry. Karmal was born in 1929 in the village of Kamari to the east of the city of Kabul. He had graduated from the College of Law and Political Sciences of Kabul University. Karmal’s family was believed to be Tajik, the second main ethnic group after the Pashtuns, because linguistically and culturally the family was Tajik and was integrated into the urban community of Kabul. But Karmal’s father did not say so and “would skillfully conceal his Tajik identity.”[30] In 1986 Karmal announced that he and his full brother, Mahmud Baryalay, were Pashtuns. He said so because they were the sons of a linguistically Persianized Pashtun mother of the Mullakhel section of the Ghilzays. But in the patriarchal society of Afghanistan, descent is traced only through the patriarchal line. Karmal should have stated that he was a Tajik if he was a Tajik. Karmal’s announcement was political in that he wanted to attach himself to the Pashtuns, but it confounded the issue of his identity. Karmal’s forefathers had immigrated from Kashmir to Kabul, as many Kashmiris had settled there over a long period of time. Kashmir was a part of the Afghan Durrani empire until its dissolution in 1818. This descent is reinforced by the fact that Karmal and his brother’s original names resemble the names of Indian Muslims. Karmal’s first full name was Sultan Hussayn, and his brother’s name was Sultan Mahmud; their father was named Mohammad Hussayn. The brothers changed their names to sound more like Afghan names.

The fact that Karmal’s ancestors had immigrated to Kabul, Karmal’s statement that he was a Pashtun, the fact that his father was not a Pashtun, and his father’s reluctance to admit that he was a Tajik—all these make it doubtful that the family was Tajik originally, although they were integrated into that group. It is a custom in Afghanistan for a person of no ethnic significance to relate himself to the ethnic group into which he has been integrated. Not all Pashto-speaking Afghans are Pashtuns, and not all Persian-speaking Afghans are Tajiks. Karmal went against the custom. This means that, ethnically speaking, the family was insignificant. Among the educated Afghans this was not so damaging to the social standing of Karmal and Baryalay. More damaging was the view that they were the descendants of Hindu ancestors.

Some claimed that Karmal was descended from Hindu ancestors, but no evidence has substantiated the claim. However, it was said that Karmal and his two younger brothers looked like Hindus. Another supportive point can be traced in Karmal’s relationship with the government of India. Before the coup the Indian embassy in Kabul used to invite Karmal to its receptions, whereas it did not invite Taraki, although he, unlike Karmal, had spent some time in India. When Karmal was raised to power, India was, of all the nonaligned countries, the only one to establish full diplomatic relations with the Kabul regime. This is not to suggest that India did so for personal reasons. In maintaining a relationship with Kabul, India intended to promote its own regional interests. But in these relationships Karmal’s personal role was striking.

For the first time in Kabul, the small Hindu and Sikh communities were officially encouraged to hold religious ceremonies openly. Senior officials participated in televised ceremonies. It might have been in line with their communist creed to encourage religious minorities. The Soviet advisers might also have instructed them to please India, their ally in the region. But the fanfare that they made on these occasions irritated the Afghans. In addition to being known as a self-indulgent communist, Karmal was said to be a promoter of Hinduism. Even if nothing else counted against Karmal, these labels were enough for the Afghans to distrust him.

Karmal as a Ruler

Karmal’s immediate problems were within the party. He was the chosen man of the Kremlin, and no one within the party could openly oppose him. However, scheming men devise ways to oppose even under the strictest of circumstances. Within the closed frame of government, the opposition, in order to seize power, may resort to whatever means available to it. After the fall of Amin and the suppression of his faction, Karmal had new rivals in the persons of Sarwari and Gulabzoy, the heads of the Taraki faction that called itself the “principled Khalqis.” Sarwari and Gulabzoy had endeared themselves to the Soviets by helping them in the invasion. They had done so not for the sake of Karmal but for their own agenda, which was to get rid of Karmal and his faction.[31]

The scheme was to dispose of the Parchami leaders in their offices by a synchronized action. Since the Parchamis were few in number, since they were not as bold as the Khalqis were, and since the Khalqis had battered them twice before, they did not think much of them. This was what Sarwari thought. He was, however, so naive as to disregard the Soviet factor. In June 1980, before Sarwari was able to put his scheme into operation, he was sent as ambassador to Mongolia. This still did not mean that Karmal became the general secretary of a unified party, as he claimed.

The Soviet Union, by overthrowing the Khalq government and raising the Parcham faction to its place, had split the PDPA into irreconcilable factions. The KGB’s view that the removal of Amin would ensure unity in the PDPA remained dominant in Moscow. But as minister of interior and a leader of the Taraki faction, Gulabzoy acted as if he were the head of a state within a state. He acted on the view that both he and Karmal had gotten their posts from Moscow, thus claiming himself Karmal’s equal.

Because of all these problems, Karmal was raised to the position of head of state without ceremony to legitimize his rule. But in Afghanistan the head of state must gain legitimacy either directly from the constituencies or through their representatives, in accord with social conventions. This approach becomes a necessity when a dynasty is replaced. In the case of Karmal, though, such legitimation was impossible. No attempt was made to convene an assembly of the notables to bestow on him the position of the head of state. Instead, the government in its mass media reported that people from various walks of life had expressed their allegiance to their leader, Karmal. Except for some messages from party cadres and some government employees, these messages were fabrications. No attempt was made to televise the process by which, even within the official party and the Revolutionary Council, Karmal was elected head of the party and of the state. Only official communiqués were issued to the effect that the central committee of the party and the Revolutionary Council “almost unanimously” agreed to elect Karmal as head of the party and the state.[32]

After the Afghans demonstrated in opposition to Karmal, and when other governments, except for those of the Soviet bloc countries, declined to recognize the regime, Karmal invented stories that he hoped would legitimize his rule. According to one of these stories, he entered Afghanistan “through revolutionary pathways” and along with the true members of the party organized opposition with whose help he overthrew the government of Amin. By the phrase “through revolutionary pathways,” Karmal meant his two secret flights aboard Soviet military aircraft to the Bagram military airport. The Soviets first flew him in on 13 December 1979, when they expected opponents would topple Amin by a coup. “But when the operation to kill Amin failed, Babrak [Karmal] was hurriedly brought back…to the Soviet Union.”[33] The Soviets again flew him in after the invasion. So to Karmal the Soviet interference in Afghan affairs, its invasion of Afghanistan, and his becoming a tool of its policy were a “revolution”—but this view could not help him legitimize his rule.

Karmal’s poor performance in interviews with foreign journalists also failed to help his public image. In the first and last televised interview of his life, held before a large number of foreign and Afghan journalists after he was raised to power, Karmal divided the journalists on the basis of the cold war line distinguishing between “the imperialist bloc of the West” and the “socialist bloc countries.” In this interview his answer to a question put by a BBC correspondent showed that he lived in the past. Instead of answering the question he was asked, he adopted a confrontational attitude, lecturing the BBC reporter, “We know each other in history because our forefathers had defeated your forefathers in numerous battlefields in Afghanistan.” People expected that since Karmal had served twice in parliament and since he had been abroad for over a year, he would now act as a statesman. Instead, he proved himself to be an exhibitionist. It was one thing for him to recite composed statements as an actor; it was quite another for him to answer questions that touched the lives of millions of men and women. He almost never spoke extemporaneously. After this interview the impression became widespread that Karmal, in addition to being a stooge, had no qualities of a statesman.

From the moment Karmal was raised to power, he faced tremendous problems. Whatever weight he had he lost after the invasion. An Afghan author has summed up Afghan feelings about Karmal by stating, “His presence alongside the Red Army is so small that it attracts no attention. People don’t think of him, but evaluate the long-range consequences of this political move [the invasion].”[34] Karmal’s Soviet supporters reduced him as a person and a ruler. Thus, “by the close of 1979 the PDPA no longer ruled Afghanistan; the CPSU [the Communist Party of the Soviet Union] did.”[35]

From the moment Karmal was flown in to Kabul, he was no longer his own master, still less the Afghan ruler. His Soviet cooks, waiters, and waitresses, the Soviet driver of his black limousine, and his Soviet advisers took care of him around the clock. Behind the curtain in his office were a Soviet adviser and an interpreter; his conversations were taped.[36] Contingents of Soviet guards patrolled the palace in the city where Karmal lived. Afghan guards surrounded him, but their weapons were without ammunition. The Karmal of the old days, when he roamed freely, suddenly became a pearl. The Soviets were so kind to him that he had no need to meet with members of his family, or at least to meet them without their presence. Karmal’s wife, Mahbuba—a courteous woman who was once one of my students—spent most of her time in the Soviet Union. Karmal no longer needed his mistress, Anahita Ratebzad, since young Russian women gave him, as well as a select number of the politburo members, intimate company. Everything that the Soviets could provide for Karmal’s personal comfort was made available to him. Under Soviet supervision Karmal found himself in surroundings he had never been in before. But then he had to live the life of an unfree ruler, and this is clear from his own words to a friend and the words of one of his friends about him. To an old leftist friend, Asif Ahang, who met him under strictly supervised conditions, the embarrassed Karmal said, “The Soviet comrades love me boundlessly, and for the sake of my personal safety, they don’t obey even my own orders.”[37] Another friend, Zia Majid, said of Karmal after meeting with him, “The hands, feet and tongue of the poor Sultan had been tied, and he had no right to speak [without permission] with his personal friends.”[38]

The Invisible Ruling Circle

Like Karmal, others in the politburo, the central committee, and the Revolutionary Council did not have to trouble to formulate policies or make decisions. These matters were handled for them. Whatever the guidelines of the Kremlin rulers, they were handed over to the regime’s appropriate agencies. This was done through an invisible body or council, composed of the Soviet ambassador, the local head of the KGB, and the commander of the Soviet army, and headed by the Soviet supreme commander, Marshall Sergei Sokolov. The council met regularly. As the actual ruler behind the scene, Sokolov issued directives to agents of the party and the government. He received Karmal in his presence in his own headquarters. Through his own agents Sokolov likewise supervised how the directives were implemented. In particular, policies on security matters emanated from this body, and they were handed over through its advisers to the regime’s intelligence department (KhAD) for implementation.

The number of Soviet advisers was on the increase. In the first month after the invasion their numbers more than doubled, surpassing total PDPA members at the time.[39] By early 1984 they were believed to total over ten thousand.[40] They worked not only as advisers but also as executives in all the military and civilian departments to which they were assigned. Bureaucrats of the regime found that even routine orders had to be approved and countersigned by the Soviets. In fact, “no minister [could] make a single decision, even a minor one, without consulting his omnipresent shadow.”[41] As noted, even Karmal was not permitted to make decisions. “Slowly his power was confined to approving dismissals or appointments which, under instructions from Soviet advisers, the Intelligence Department or his comrades in the politburo would propose. He would neither postpone nor reject such proposals.”[42] But as a Persian saying has it, “Alive, the hero is happy.” To comrades who complained of the domineering attitude of Soviet advisers, Karmal said, “The Soviets have enough experience in implementing socialism and social justice in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and Europe. They will never make mistakes in their accomplishments. Be patient. They have come here to develop our country as a model in the region.”[43] During his stay in Czechoslovakia, Karmal’s belief in the Soviet Union had become total. The Czechoslovak leaders had impressed on him that the world’s progress was due to the invincible Red Army. That was why “he did not think he had made a mistake to have come [to Afghanistan] along with the Soviet army.”[44]

Promotions became a source of profit for corrupt advisers. An adviser in Herat, in return for a golden necklace for his wife, released a member of the Afghan Millat Party who had been sentenced to death. A few Parchami officers were said to have obtained promotion by offering women to their Soviet comrades. Similarly, a Soviet adviser who wished to remain longer in his post sent his own wife to the arms of a senior Afghan official to obtain his recommendation. Not all advisers were qualified. When a non-PDPA official informed Karmal that the advisers attached to his ministry were unqualified, Karmal ignored him and, holding to the party line, told him that “the Soviet advisers were most qualified in their fields, and…Afghanistan should take advantage of their expertise.”[45]

Soviet advisers composed statements in the Russian and Tajiki languages for party members and government officials to read on official occasions. Party and government experts paraphrased the Tajiki texts into Afghan Persian (Dari). Under Soviet supervision government officials also composed statements. Soviet advisers did not allow government and party officials—even Karmal or his brother Baryalay—to make statements of their own, particularly on issues relating to foreign affairs. Karmal and Baryalay were admonished after making unauthorized statements. However, within the framework of the guidelines, party members and government officials had a wide range in which to demonstrate their talents and to win over the public.

Empty Promises

In his first radio broadcasts Karmal gave hopeful promises. He said that henceforth there would be no executions and that a new constitution would be drawn up providing for the democratic election of national and local assemblies. He also promised that political parties would function freely and that both personal property and individual freedom would be safeguarded. In particular, he stressed that soon a government representing a united national front would be set up and that it would not pursue socialism. He also promised a general amnesty for prisoners. In normal circumstances these promises would have aroused expectations, but now they sounded dreadful. As noted before, Karmal announced at the same time that his government had asked the Soviet Union to give economic, political, and military assistance, a request that, he said, had been accepted and rendered. Since he had become an agent for inflicting the calamity of Soviet troops on the Afghans, Karmal had no choice but to give the promises of a democratic government. But in this he went so far as to give promises that he could not fulfill even if he wished to.

These promises were nothing but the Leninist tactical move of two steps backward and one step forward. For a Brezhnevian protégé such as Karmal, it was impossible to go ahead with a platform that his masters saw as bourgeois. Also, the Afghans had seen that the same Karmal following the communist coup had, with others, promised that private as well as personal property would remain safe, a promise that they violated. The fact was that he could not become a ruler without the military might of the Soviet Union. Karmal, with a view to taking revenge on Amin and making himself the ruler of Afghanistan, had let himself become an instrument in the hands of foreign masters with no regard for the rights of his compatriots to sovereignty, their dignity as free men and, above all, their lives. To reach his goal, this most slavish of puppet rulers let himself be entangled in a dilemma that was beyond his powers to solve and that brought untold suffering to millions of men, women, and children.

Among the measures promised by Karmal, the most important were the release of prisoners; the promulgation of the Fundamental Principles of the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan; the change of the red, Soviet-style banner of the Khalq period to the more orthodox one of black, red, and green; the granting of concessions to religious leaders; and the conditional restoration of confiscated property. Some concessions were also granted to landowners whose lands had been confiscated in the land reform program implemented by Karmal’s predecessors. Except for the release of prisoners, all these measures were taken gradually. What lessened the bitterness of the people was the release of prisoners on 6 January 1980. The Parchami prisoners, numbering about 600, had been released in the early hours of the invasion; the bulk of the prisoners, released on 6 January, numbered 2,000; and about 100 prisoners were not released. Thus, the total number of prisoners before the invasion was around 2,700. Much fanfare was made of the occasion of the release of prisoners. People from the outside were brought in to mingle with the prisoners to make their number appear higher. But the day turned into a day of wailing for thousands of families who were now convinced that they would never again see their imprisoned relatives. After Amin came to power, he had made public a list of those already executed; according to this list, 12,000 prisoners had been executed, but people still hoped that since the actual number of prisoners was higher, their imprisoned relatives might be alive. They were disappointed. (Amin had released 850 prisoners after he became the ruler and intended to release the rest by 1 January to coincide with the sixteenth anniversary of the party.)

After the Khalqis came to power, they ran the country by issuing a series of eight edicts. They suspended all laws except those on civil matters. Another exception was the criminal law of the Daoud period, which the Parchamis, like the Khalqis, retained as a repressive instrument.

In April 1980 the Karmal regime adopted a temporary constitution, the Fundamental Principles of the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan, which had been drafted while Amin was in power. The new constitution guaranteed certain democratic rights of individuals, including the right to “security and life,” the right of “free expression,” and the right “to form peaceful associations and demonstrations.” It also declared that “no one would be accused of crime but in accord with the provisions of law,” that the “accused is innocent unless the court declares him guilty,” and that “crime was a personal affair, and no one else would be punished for it.” It likewise declared that “torture, persecution, and punishment, contrary to human dignity, are not permissible.”

Envisaged for the country was “a new-style state of the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan,” guided by the PDPA. It was the only legal party, and the Revolutionary Council, as the supreme state power, was to convene twice a year to approve measures already taken by the Presidium, which was composed mostly of the politburo members of the PDPA. The state was to safeguard three forms of property: state property, cooperative property, and private property. The constitution declared that the state had the right to exploit all underground property and other resources considered state property. The constitution also declared that the state had the power to develop the economy toward the creation of a society free of the exploitation of man by man. The state was likewise empowered to take families, both parents and children, under its supervision.[46]

The constitution was inherently contradictory. On paper it was a perfectly democratic constitution, at least as far as the rights of the individuals were concerned; in reality it was a document granting a monopoly of power, since the state that it envisaged was to be steered only by the official party. More important, the way it was implemented was arbitrary. It relied on clauses in favor of the state while ignoring those in favor of individuals. The guaranteed rights of individuals were meaningless words. It was, in brief, a legal instrument of suppression in the hands of the regime. But its impact was limited. By the time it was promulgated, the mujahideen had confined the regime to cities.

Among the palliative measures that Karmal was to take, the most important was the one intended to have an immediate effect on the current situation. This was the question of forming a government representing a united national front, which Karmal had promised. By definition, such a government would be composed of those groups or individuals having the power to influence national politics. Karmal had neither the desire nor the power to form such a government. The government he did form was composed of the Parchamis, Khalqis (Taraki group), and three persons of no national significance. A number of well-known noncommunist Afghans were also appointed to various ministries.[47] But these collaborators, who set the precedent of cooperation with the regime, found that they had been given posts without authority. Besides, by then it had become a fact of Afghan politics that any one who collaborated with the regime was no longer socially significant.

The next step toward the formation of the government of national front was the appointment of a large number of junior bureaucrats in various ministries. The regime made a big fanfare of this, but these officials were ordinary civil employees, not politicians. This was what Karmal and his Soviet advisers meant when they spoke of a government representing a united national front. As has been pointed out, “no totalitarian regime can afford to share real power with any group outside its own immediate control.”[48] Karmal had failed to unite the party, although calling it a unified democratic party. He had also failed to form a truly national government. Yet he and his associates called their regime “a new evolutionary phase of the glorious April Revolution.”

All this time armed opposition was mounting. Within weeks of the invasion the mujahideen had wrested the rural areas from the control of the regime. The regime ruled the city of Kabul, the provincial capitals, and those strategic areas where the Soviets and the regime had stationed military contingents and militia units. Even cities were unsafe for PDPA members. Worse still, the mujahideen killed Soviet soldiers in large numbers. All this was a spectacular feat for the mujahideen. (The situation remained the same until the Soviets withdrew their army in 1989.) Opponents of the regime spread rumors to the effect that the Kremlin rulers had decided to replace Karmal. But luckily for him, no one else within the party had even his meager standing.

Years later, when Karmal’s inability to consolidate his government had become obvious, Mikhail Gorbachev, then general secretary of the Soviet Communist Party, said, “The main reason that there has been no national consolidation so far is that Comrade Karmal is hoping to continue sitting in Kabul with our help.”[49] Colonel Nikolai Ivanov, a Soviet military writer, even wrote that “he [Karmal] was a nobody.”[50] Both statements reflect the failure of Soviet foreign policy. It was because of this policy that Karmal was unable to achieve “national consolidation,” that he had become “a nobody.” Prior to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Karmal not only was not “a nobody” but was an important somebody. Twice the people had elected him to parliament. When his Kremlin comrades used Karmal as a tool of their policy, they turned him into a nobody. Then this “nobody” was unable to achieve “national consolidation.” He even had to plead with his Soviet comrades: “You brought me here [to Afghanistan], you protect me.”[51] The Soviet invasion had generated forces of resistance beyond the control of even the strongest ruler with the best mind—let alone a puppet such as Karmal. In addition, Karmal was inexperienced in running the country, a particularly severe weakness at a time when the nation had turned against him. The truth of this statement Gorbachev accepted when in a politburo meeting he told his peers, “If we don’t change approaches [to evacuate Afghanistan], we will be fighting there for another 20 or 30 years.”[52] To make Karmal a scapegoat for the Soviet failure is wrong, but doing so was standard practice for the Soviet leaders. At any rate, the Soviet leaders stuck with him for six years. Hoping to prop him up, they received him and his delegation with pomp in October 1980 in the Kremlin, where they lectured him on how to run the country.[53] What was needed was a lecture to the Kremlin leaders themselves on why they had blundered in invading Afghanistan and raising to power a person whom their own historian called “a nobody.”


1. Ivanov, “Revelations,” 18. [BACK]

2. Bradsher, Afghanistan, 181. [BACK]

3. An Afghan cabinet minister, personal communication, Kabul, August 1968. [BACK]

4. Kakar, Afghans in the Spring of 1987, 91. [BACK]

5. Roy, “Origin,” 41. [BACK]

6. Zaki-Ullah, Russo-Afghan Friendship, 44. Haqshinas, Russia’s Intrigues and Crimes, 311. [BACK]

7. Zurmulwal, “Khalqi and Parchami Factions,” 3. [BACK]

8. Zaki-Ullah Khan, Russo-Afghan Friendship, 40. [BACK]

9. A. R. Safay (former member of parliament), personal communication, Los Angeles, April 1991. [BACK]

10. Farhang, Afghanistan 1:514. [BACK]

11. Zurmulwal, “Khalqi and Parchami Factions,” 3. [BACK]

12. Bradsher, Afghanistan, 99. [BACK]

13. Sharq, Memoirs, 216. [BACK]

14. For details about the PDPA, see Arnold, Afghanistan’s Two-Party Communism; Arnold and Klass, “Afghanistan’s Divided Communist Party”; Kushkaki, Constitutional Decade; Haqshinas, Russia’s Intrigues and Crimes; Roy, “Origin”; Rubin, “Political Elites.” [BACK]

15. Kushkaki, Constitutional Decade, 147; Morozov, “Between Amin and Karmal,” 36-38. [BACK]

16. Kushkaki, Constitutional Decade, 58, 141, 149; Farhang, Afghanistan 1:514. [BACK]

17. Zurmulwal, “Khalqi and Parchami Factions,” 4; Farhang, Afghanistan 2:8. [BACK]

18. Morozov, “Between Amin and Karmal,” 39. [BACK]

19. Kushkaki, Constitutional Decade, 149. [BACK]

20. Mansur Hashemi, the former Khalqi minister of water and power, personal communication, Sadarat prison, July 1982. [BACK]

21. Morozov, “Night Visit,” 32. [BACK]

22. Morozov, “Betweeen Amin and Karmal,” 39. [BACK]

23. Ibid. [BACK]

24. A former Khalqi cabinet minister, personal communication, Pul-e-Charkhi prison, July 1986; Sharq, Memoirs, 164. [BACK]

25. Morozov, “Night Visit,” 33. [BACK]

26. Zahir Ghazi Alam, personal communication, San Diego, 1991. [BACK]

27. Baha, “Cruel Executions,” 79, 81. Baha’s source of information wasN. Dooryankov, a Soviet specialist on Afghanistan whom she met in Moscow when she was sent there by the party for medical treatment. [BACK]

28. Gharzay, Memoirs, 89. [BACK]

29. A former senior government official, personal communication, Kabul, August 1987. [BACK]

30. Farhang, Afghanistan 1:498. [BACK]

31. A. Tufan, a former Khalqi governor, personal communication, Sadarat prison, Kabul, August 1982. [BACK]

32. Arnold, Afghanistan’s Two-Party Communism, 101. [BACK]

33. Ivanov, “Revelations,” 19. [BACK]

34. Fazili, Days as Dark as Nights, 72. [BACK]

35. Arnold, Afghanistan’s Two-Party Communism, 99. [BACK]

36. Zadran, History of Afghanistan, 808. [BACK]

37. Quoted in Sharq, Memoirs, 239. [BACK]

38. Ibid., 240. [BACK]

39. Arnold, Afghanistan’s Two-Party Communism, 99; Anwar, Tragedy, 223. [BACK]

40. Girardet, Afghanistan, 136. [BACK]

41. Ibid., 138. [BACK]

42. Sharq, Memoirs, 236. [BACK]

43. Ibid., 236. [BACK]

44. Ibid., 235, 237. [BACK]

45. A former cabinet minister, personal communication, Kabul, July, 1987. [BACK]

46. Arnold, Afghanistan’s Two-Party Communism, 108. [BACK]

47. The appointment of these well-known Afghans—Abd al-Hay Habibi; a prolific author, writer, poet, and former member of parliament; Abdur Raof Benawa, a poet, former cabinet minister, and former member of parliament; Mier Mohammad Siddiq Farhang, an author, former member of parliament, and cofounder of the Fatherland Party; and Rawan Farhadi, a scholar and diplomat—was a shock to many. They had good reputations, particularly among the intellectuals who expected them at least to stay away from the client regime. But they entered its service without being able to influence its policy. They cooperated with it at a time when the Soviets had occupied their homeland and were killing Afghans by the thousands.

Except for Habibi, who died later in Kabul, I met the others and raised the subject of their accepting the posts. Abdur Raof Benawa said that he was in the hospital when he heard the news of his appointment. When I suggested to him that he had then an excuse to decline the offer, he cautioned me to be careful in these critical times. Subsequently, the efforts of his more intimate friends to achieve the same end also failed. In 1980 the regime appointed him ambassador to Libya. Later he developed bone cancer and went to the United States for treatment; he died there in 1985.

Mier Mohammad Siddiq Farhang had accepted the post as a matter of policy. Karmal had, he said, assured him that he wanted to honor the promises that he had made, while serving in parliament, to set up a national democratic government. Farhang argued that since politics is the art of the possible, he accepted the post to pave the way for the return home of the Soviet troops. Apparently he was sympathetic to the regime. Over the years, together with Mohammad Omar the Pilot, Karim Nazihi, and Asif Ahang he had worked to promote the leftist views of the Moscow line. While in prison in the 1950s he introduced Karmal and Khybar, who were also in prison at the time, to these views. (A., personal communication, United States, 1990.)

When Farhang served as an adviser in the Ministry of Mines and Industry, he also introduced Karmal to the royal court. Encouraged by it, Farhang, along with Karmal, played a role in spreading communism among the youth (Sharq, Memoirs, 234). I told Farhang that the Soviets had introduced their troops into Afghanistan not for the sake of Karmal or against Amin but for their own purposes, and that the introduction of the troops was likely to result in disasters; he remained silent. Disillusioned, Farhang later left for the United States, where he became mildly critical of Karmal. Nevertheless, Karmal arranged that Farhang’s valuable antiques, which he had left in his home in Kabul, be safeguarded. He gave instructions in this regard to the Parchami who was then residing in Farhang’s home; later, though, after Najibullah replaced Karmal, another Parchami who lived in Farhang’s home took possession of the artifacts. (A., personal communication, United States, 1990) Farhang died of a heart attack in 1990. [BACK]

48. Arnold, Afghanistan’s Two-Party Communism, 106. [BACK]

49. Dobbs, “Dramatic Politburo Meeting.” [BACK]

50. Ivanov, “Revelations,” 19. [BACK]

51. Ibid., 18. [BACK]

52. Dobbs, “Dramatic Politburo Meeting.” [BACK]

53. Bradsher, Afghanistan, 227. [BACK]

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