DAOUD'S REPUBLIC, JULY 1973- APRIL 1978
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
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
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.
Data as of 1997