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   Mohammad Daud Khan
President Daud KhanAfghanland.com:

Mohammad Daud Khan
born July 18, 1909, Kabul, Afghanistan
died April 27, 1978, Kabul

The welcome Daud Khan 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. Daud Khan's comeback was a return to traditional strongman rule and he was a particularly appealing figure to military officers. As prime minister, Daud Khan 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.

Daud Khan 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 Daud Khan 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 Daud Khan and Karmal had been in touch for many years and that Daud Khan 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 Daud Khan. 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 Daud Khan, 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 Daud Khan'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 Daud Khan had purged the leftist officers by the end of 1975.

The next year, Daud Khan established his own political party, the National Revolutionary Party, which became the focus of all political activity. In January 1977, a loyal jirgah approved Daud Khan'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 Daud Khan 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 Daud Khan before the 1973 coup, Parcham used its advantage to recruit on an unprecedented scale immediately following the coup. Daud Khan, 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 , Daud Khan 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 Daud Khan that "honest" Khalqis replace corrupt Parchamis. Daud Khan, wary of ideologues, ignored this offer.

Daud Khan'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. Daud Khan's shift to the right and realignment made the Soviets anxious but western observers noted that Daud Khan 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 .

Daud Khan Speaking at Congress of United States 1957Daud Khan 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, Daud Khan 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. Daud Khan 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 Daud Khan'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 Daud Khan withdrawing support for these groups and expelling Pashtun and Baloch militants taking refuge in Afghanistan .

Daud Khan's initial visit to the Soviet Union in 1974 was friendly, despite disagreement on the Pashtunistan issue. By the time of Daud Khan'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 Daud Khan's new cabinet, of his failure to cooperate with the PDPA, and of his criticism of Cuba 's role in the nonaligned movement. Furthermore, Daud Khan was friendly with Iran and Saudi Arabia , and he had scheduled a visit to Washington for the spring of 1978.

President Daoud met Brezhnev on a state visit to Moscow from April 12 to 15, 1977.

Pres. Daoud had asked for a private meeting with Brezhnev, to discuss with him the increased pattern of Soviet subversive actions in Afghanistan. In particular the intensified Soviet attempt to unite the two Afghan communist parties, Parcham and Khalq.

Mr. Samad Ghaus, who at the time was the Afghan deputy foreign minister and was accompanying Pres. Daoud, recalls the story of the second meeting of the leaders of the two nations in his book "The Fall of Afghanistan". It is a telling tale of the nature of the relationship between the two nations. But more importantly it gives us a glimpse of the character and nature of the Afghan leader. President Daoud may have had many faults, but he was a true Afghan, and a true patriot, who give his life for his country. His disciplinary presence is missed dearly in today's chaotic Afghanistan.

The next day it was the host country's turn to make its presentation. Brezhnev, as the head of the Soviet delegation, took the floor. Although seemingly less tired than the previous day, he still spoke with difficulty and perspired profusely. Brezhnev repeated a few words of welcome to President Daoud. He expressed his happiness that the Helsinki Accords on security and cooperation in Europe had been signed. He characterized that as a great step in the process of detente, which, in his view, was making progress in spite of difficulties. He cited the "militarist circles" in the US and Europe and the "hegemonists" in the People's Republic of China as the main obstacles to the relaxation of international tensions and the consolidation of peace. He said that the Soviet Union wished to improve its relations with China, but it was the latter's fault if this had not yet been realized. He expressed his country's desire to see Afghanistan prosper and, to that end, promised increased economic and technical help. Brezhnev described Afghanistan's non-alignment as important to the Soviet Union and essential to the promotion of peace in Asia and hoped that the nonaligned movement would not fall victim to imperialist machinations and intrigue.

At this point, Brezhnev looked straight at Daoud and said something that seemingly made Gavrilov, the interpreter, quite uncomfortable. But, after a brief pause, he hesitantly translated Brezhnev's words, and what we heard was both crude and unexpected: Brezhnev complained that the number of experts from NATO countries working in Afghanistan in bilateral ventures, as well as in the UN and other multilateral aid projects, had considerably increased. In the past, he said, the Afghan government at least did not allow experts from NATO countries to be stationed in the northern parts of the country, but this practice was no longer strictly followed. The Soviet Union, he continued, took a grim view of these developments and wanted the Afghan government to get rid of those experts, who were nothing more than spies bent on promoting the cause of imperialism.

President Daud with USSR Leader Brezhnev June 1973A chill fell on the room. Some of the Russians seemed visibly embarrassed, and the Afghans appeared greatly displeased. I looked at Daoud, whose face had grown hard and dark. Brezhnev had stoppd talking, as if he were waiting for an answer from the Afghan president. In a cold, unemotional voice Daoud gave Brezhnev his reply, which apparantely was as unexpected to the Russians as Brezhnev's words had been to us. He told Brezhnev that what was just said by the Russians leader could never be accepted by the Afghans, who viewed his statement as a flagrant interference in the internal affairs of Afghanistan. He went on to say that Afghanistan greatly appreciated its ties with the Soviet Union, but this partnership must remain the partnership of equals. Daoud added, and I remember clearly his exact words,

we will never allow you to dictate to us how to run our country and whom to employ in Afghanistan. How and where we employ the foreign experts will remain the exclusive prerogative of the Afghan state. Afghanistan shall remain poor, if necessary, but free in its acts and decisions.

After saying this, Daoud abruptly stood up. All the Afghans did the same. Daoud nodded slightly to the Russians and staretd walking toward the exit of the huge conference room. At this point, Brezhnev, as if emrging from a state of shock, rose from his chair with some difficulty. Accompanied by his two colleagues, Podgorny and Kosygin, and followed by the Russian interpreter, he took hurried steps toward Daoud. it was clear that he intended to repair the damage done. Waheed Abdullah and I, who were walking close to the president, saw the Russians coming. Waheed Abdullah whispreed to Daoud that, for the sake of diplomatic niceties, it was advisable to take leave of the Russians properly, otherwise the visit to Moscow would be a total fiasco. He advanced towards the Russians and shook Brezhnev's extended hand. Sporting a big smile, Brezhnev said "I am told that Your Excellecy wishes to have a private meeting with me; I am at your disposal. We shall meet whenever it is convenient for you." Daoud replied in a clear, loud voice for all to hear, "I wish to inform Your Excellency that there is no longer any need for that meeting." Having said that, he shook Podgorny's and Kosygin's hands and quickly walked out of the room. That was the last time that Daoud met Brezhnev. The interruped meeting between the two delegations was never resumed, and the Russians' presentation remained unfinished.

Daud Khan with grandson Akbar and grandaughter HeelahBy 1978 Daud Khan 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 Daud Khan'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 Daud Khan 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 Daud Khan 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, Daud Khan 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 Daud Khan's repressive and suspicious mood, officers known to have differed with Daud Khan, 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 Daud Khan in and around the capital. Daud Khan 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.

On June 28, 2008, the body of President Daud and those of his family were found in two separate mass graves in the Pul-e-Charkhi prison compound, District 12 of Kabul city. Initial reports indicate that sixteen corpses were in one grave and twelve others were in the second. On December 4, 2008, the Afghan Health Ministry announced that the body of Daud Khan had been identified on the basis of teeth moulds and a small golden Quran found near the body. The Quran was a present Khan had received from the king of Saudi Arabia. On March 17, 2009 Daud was given a state funeral.

Bodies of Daud and his family in a mass grave

 

 

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