Afghanistan Table of Contents
The welcome Daoud received on returning to power on July 17, 1973 reflected the citizenry's disappointment with the lackluster politics of the preceding decade. King Zahir's "New Democracy" had promised much but had delivered little. Daoud's comeback was a return to traditional strongman rule and he was a particularly appealing figure to military officers. As prime minister, Daoud had obtained large supplies of modern arms from the Soviet Union and he had been a former army officer himself. Also, his strong position on the Pashtunistan issue had not been forgotten by conservative Pashtun officers.
Daoud discussed rebellion for more than a year with various opposition elements--both moderates and leftists, including military officers who were members of both the Khalqi and Parchami factions of the PDPA. Certainly the communists had worked vigorously to undermine Zahir Shah's experiment in constitutional democracy. Their inflammatory speeches in parliament and organized street riots were tactics which alarmed the king to the degree that he refused to sign the law legalizing political parties. Karmal's Parcham faction became integrally involved in planning the coup. There is general agreement that Daoud had been meeting with what he called various "friends" for more than a year. The coup itself was carried out by junior officers trained in the Soviet Union. Some Afghans suspected that Daoud and Karmal had been in touch for many years and that Daoud had used him as an informant on the leftist movement. No strong link can be cited to support this, however, other than the closeness between Karmal's father, an army general, and Daoud. At the time of the July 1973 coup, which took place when the king was in Italy receiving eye treatment at the medicinal mud baths at Ischia, Italy, it was sometimes difficult to assess the factional and party affiliation of the officers who took place. Despite a number of conversions of Parchamis to the Khalqi faction by the time of the communist coup of April 1978 which overthrew Daoud, both party and factional loyalties became obvious after the PDPA took power.
Although leftists had played a central role in the coup, and despite the appointment of two leftists as ministers, evidence suggests that the coup was Daoud's alone. Officers personally loyal to him were placed in key positions while young Parchamis were sent to the provinces, probably to get them out of Kabul, until Daoud had purged the leftist officers by the end of 1975.
The next year, Daoud established his own political party, the National Revolutionary Party, which became the focus of all political activity. In January 1977, a loyal jirgah approved Daoud's constitution establishing a presidential, one party system of government.
Any resistance to the new regime was suppressed. A coup attempt by Maiwandwal, which may have been planned before Daoud took power, was subdued shortly after his coup. In October 1973, Maiwandwal, a former prime minister and a highly respected former diplomat, died in prison at a time when Parchamis controlled the Ministry of Interior under circumstances corroborating the widespread belief that he had been tortured to death.
While both of the PDPA's factions had attempted to collaborate with Daoud before the 1973 coup, Parcham used its advantage to recruit on an unprecedented scale immediately following the coup. Daoud, however, soon made it clear that he was no front man and that he had not adopted the claims of any ideological faction. He began in the first months of his regime to ease Parcharmis out of his cabinet. Perhaps not to alienate the Soviet Union, Daoud was careful to cite inefficiency and not ideological reasons for the dismissals. Khalq, seeing an opportunity to make some short-term gains at Parcham's expense, suggested to Daoud that "honest" Khalqis replace corrupt Parchamis. Daoud, wary of ideologues, ignored this offer.
Daoud's ties with the Soviet Union, like his relations with Afghan communists, deteriorated during his five year presidency. This loosening of ties with the Soviet Union was gradual. Daoud's shift to the right and realignment made the Soviets anxious but western observers noted that Daoud remained solicitous of Soviet interests and Afghanistan's representative in the United Nations voted regularly with the Soviet Bloc or with the group of nonaligned countries. The Soviets remained by far Afghanistan's largest aid donor and were influential enough to insist that no Western activity, economic or otherwise, be permitted in northern Afghanistan.
Daoud still favored a state-centered economy, and, three years after coming to power, he drew up an ambitious seven-year economic plan (1976-83) that included major projects and required a substantial influx of foreign aid. As early as 1974, Daoud began distancing himself from over-reliance on the Soviet Union for military and economic support. That same year, he formed a military training program with India, and opened talks with Iran on economic development aid. Daoud also turned to other oil-rich Muslim nations, such as Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Kuwait, for financial assistance.
Pashtunistan zealots confidently expected the new president to raise this issue with Pakistan, and in the first few months of the new regime, bilateral relations were poor. Efforts by Iran and the United States to cool a tense situation succeeded after a time, and by 1977 relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan had notably improved. During Daoud's March 1978 visit to Islamabad, an agreement was reached whereby President Mohammad Zia ul-Haq of Pakistan released Pashtun and Baloch militants from prison in exchange for Daoud withdrawing support for these groups and expelling Pashtun and Baloch militants taking refuge in Afghanistan.
Daoud's initial visit to the Soviet Union in 1974 was friendly, despite disagreement on the Pashtunistan issue. By the time of Daoud's second visit in April 1977, the Soviets knew of his purge of the left begun in 1975, his removal of Soviet advisers from some Afghan military units, and his changes in military training whereby other nations, especially India and Egypt, trained Afghans with Soviet weapons. Despite official goodwill, unofficial reports circulated of sharp Soviet criticism of anticommunists in Daoud's new cabinet, of his failure to cooperate with the PDPA, and of his criticism of Cuba's role in the nonaligned movement. Furthermore, Daoud was friendly with Iran and Saudi Arabia, and he had scheduled a visit to Washington for the spring of 1978.
By 1978 Daoud had achieved little of what he had set out to accomplish. Despite good harvests in 1973 and subsequent years, no real economic progress had been made, and the Afghan standard of living had not improved. By the spring of 1978, he had alienated most key political groups by gathering power into his own hands and refusing to tolerate dissent. Although Muslim fundamentalists had been the object of repression as early as 1974, their numbers had nonetheless increased. Diehard Pashtunistan supporters were disillusioned with Daoud's rapprochement with Pakistan, especially by what they regarded as his commitment in the 1977 agreement not to aid Pashtun militants in Pakistan.
Most ominous for Daoud were developments among Afghan communists. In March 1977, despite reaching a fragile agreement on reunification, Parcham and Khalq remained mutually suspicious. The military arms of each faction were not coordinated because, by this time, Khalqi military officers vastly outnumbered Parchami officers and feared the latter might inform Daoud of this, raising his suspicion that a coup was imminent. Although plans for a coup had long been discussed, according to a statement by Hafizullah Amin, the April 1978 coup was implemented about two years ahead of time.
The April 19, 1978, funeral for Mir Akbar Khyber, a prominent Parchami ideologue who had been murdered, served as a rallying point for Afghan communists. An estimated 10,000 to 30,000 persons gathered to hear stirring speeches by Taraki and Karmal. Shocked by this demonstration of communist unity, Daoud ordered the arrest of PDPA leaders, but he reacted too slowly. It took him a week to arrest Taraki, and Amin was merely placed under house arrest. According to later PDPA writings, Amin sent complete orders for the coup from his home while it was under armed guard using his family as messengers. The army had been put on alert on April 26 because of a presumed "anti-Islamic" coup. Given Daoud's repressive and suspicious mood, officers known to have differed with Daoud, even those without PDPA ties or with only tenuous connections to the communists, moved hastily to prevent their own downfall.
On April 27, 1978, a coup d'état beginning with troop movements at the military base at Kabul International Airport, gained ground slowly over the next twenty-four hours as rebels battled units loyal to Daoud in and around the capital. Daoud and most of his family were shot in the presidential palace the following day. Two hundred and thirty-one years of royal rule by Ahmad Shah and his descendants had ended, but it was less clear what kind of regime had succeeded them.
Source: U.S. Library of Congress