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People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan

People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan
Leader Last leader: Dr. Mohammad Najibullah
Founded 1 January 1965
Dissolved March 1992[1]
Succeeded by Watan Party
Headquarters Kabul, Afghanistan
Newspaper Khalq (1966)
Parcham (1969)
Youth wing Democratic Youth Organization of Afghanistan
Membership 50,000 (December 1978 – January 1979)[2]
70,000–100,000 (April–June 1982)[2]
160,000 (Late 1980s)[3]
Ideology Left-wing nationalism[4]
Colors      Red      Yellow
Party flag
Politics of Afghanistan
Political parties

The People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) (Persian: حزب دموکراتيک خلق افغانستان‎‎, Hezb-e dimūkrātĩk-e khalq-e Afghānistān, Pashto: د افغانستان د خلق دموکراټیک ګوند‎, Da Afghanistān da khalq dimukrātīk gund) was a socialist party established on 1 January 1965. While a minority, the party helped former prime minister of Afghanistan, Mohammed Daoud Khan, to overthrow his cousin, Mohammed Zahir Shah, and established the Republic of Afghanistan. Daoud would eventually become a strong opponent of the party, firing PDPA politicians from high-ranking jobs in the government. This would lead to uneasy relations with the Soviet Union.

In 1978 the PDPA, with help from the Afghan National Army, seized power from Daoud in what is known as the Saur Revolution. Before the civilian government was established, Afghan National Army Air Corps colonel Abdul Qadir was the official ruler of Afghanistan for three days, starting from 27 April 1978. Qadir was eventually replaced by Nur Muhammad Taraki. After the Saur Revolution, the PDPA established the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan which would last until 1987. After National Reconciliation talks in 1987 the official name of the country was reverted to Republic of Afghanistan (as it was known prior to the PDPA coup of 1978). The republic lasted until 1992 under the leadership of Najibullah and acting president for the last twelve days, Abdul Rahim Hatef.


  • Formation and early political activities 1
    • The Khalqs and the Parchams 1.1
    • Reconciliation 1.2
  • Khalq rule 2
    • The Saur Revolution 2.1
    • New reforms 2.2
  • Parcham rule 3
    • National reconciliation 3.1
    • Homeland Front 3.2
  • Leadership 4
    • Leaders of the PDPA 4.1
  • References 5
  • External links 6

Formation and early political activities

Nur Mohammad Taraki started his political career as an Afghan journalist. On 1 January 1965, Taraki with Babrak Karmal[5] established the Democratic People's Party of Afghanistan, while at the beginning the party was running under the name People's Democratic Tendency, since at the time secularist and anti-monarchist parties were illegal.[6] The People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) was officially formed at the unity congress of the different factions of the Socialist Party of Afghanistan on January 1, 1965.[7] Twenty-seven men gathered at Taraki's house in Kabul, elected Taraki as the first party Secretary General and Karmal as Deputy Secretary General, and chose a five-member Central Committee (also called a Politburo).[8] Taraki was later invited to Moscow by the Communist Party of the Soviet Union's International Department later that year.[9]

The PDPA was known in Afghan society at that time as having strong ties with the Soviet Union. Eventually the PDPA was able to get three of its members into parliament, in the first free elections in Afghan history; these three parliamentarians were Karmal, Anahita Ratebzad, Nur Ahmad Nur.[8] Later on, Taraki established the first radical newspaper in Afghan history under the name The Khalq, the newspaper was eventually forced to stop publishing by the government in 1966.[10]

The Khalqs and the Parchams

In 1967 the party had divided into several political sects, the biggest being the Khalqs and the Parchams,[11] as well as the Setami Milli[12] and Grohi Kar.[13] These new divisions started because of ideological and economic reasons. Most of Khalqs supporters came from ethnic Pashtuns from the rural areas in the country. The Parchams supporters mostly came from urban citizens who supported social-economic reforms in the country. The Khalqs accused the Parchams to be under the allegiance of King Mohammed Zahir Shah because the Parcham newspaper the Parcham was tolerated by the king himself and therefore published from March, 1968-July, 1969.[10][14]

Karmal sought, unsuccessfully, to persuade the PDPA Central Committee to censure Taraki's excessive extreme radicalism. The vote, however, was close, and Taraki in turn tried to neutralize Karmal by appointing new members to the committee who were his own supporters. After this incident, Karmal offered his resignation, which was accepted by the Politburo. Although the split of the PDPA in 1967 into two groups was never publicly announced, Karmal brought with him less than half the members of the Central Committee.[15]

Because of the internal strife within the party, the party lost most of its incumbent seats in the Afghan parliamentary election in 1969.[10] In 1973 the PDPA assisted Mohammed Daoud Khan to seize power from Zahir Shah in a nearly bloodless military coup.[16] After Daoud had seized power he established the Daoud's Republic of Afghanistan. After the coup, the Loya jirga approved Daoud's new constitution establishing a presidential one-party system of government in January, 1977.[17] The new constitution alienated Daoud from many of his political allies.[18]


The Soviet Union set in Moscow played a major role in the reconciliation of the Khalq faction led by Taraki and the Parcham faction led by Karmal. In March 1977, a formal agreement on unity was achieved, and in July the two factions held their first joint conclave in a decade. Since the parties division in 1967 both sides had held contact with Soviet government.[19]

Both parties were consistently pro-Soviet. There are allegations that they accepted financial and other forms of aid from the Soviet embassy and intelligence organs. However, the Soviets were close to King Zahir Shah and his cousin Daoud Khan—the first Afghan President—and it could have damaged their relations.[20] There are no facts proving that the Soviets provided financial help to either Khalqis or Parchamis.

Taraki and Karmal maintained close contact with the Soviet Embassy and its personnel in Kabul, and it appears that Soviet Military Intelligence (Glavnoye Razvedyvatel'noye Upravleniye – GRU) assisted Khalq's recruitment of military officers.[21]

Khalq rule

The Saur Revolution

Outside the gate of Afghan Defense Ministry in Kabul, the day after Saur revolution on April 28, 1978.

In 1978 a prominent member of the PDPA on the military coup, the PDPA leadership got out of jail. Nur Mohammad Taraki, Babrak Karmal, and Hafizullah Amin overthrew the regime of Daoud, and renamed the country the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan (DRA).[15]

The day after the Saur revolution in Kabul.

On the eve of the coup, the Afghan police did not send Amin to immediate imprisonment, as it did with the three Politburo members and Taraki on April 25, 1978. His imprisonment was postponed for five hours, during this time he was under house arrest. He gave instructions to the Khalqi military officers thanks to his family who gave the instructions to the officers. Amin was sent to jail on 26 April 1978.[15]

The regime of President Daoud came to a violent end in the early morning hours of April 28, 1978, when military units from the Kabul military base loyal to the Khalq faction of the party stormed the Presidential Palace in Kabul.[23] The coup was also strategically planned for this date because it was the day before Friday, the Muslim day of worship, and most military commanders and government workers were off duty. Tanks were even utilized in the coup d'état, with Major Aslam Watanjar commanding the tank units.[24] With the help of the Afghan air force led by Colonel Abdul Qadir, the insurgent troops overcame the stubborn resistance of the Presidential Guard and killed Daoud and most members of his family.[18][25] Qadir assumed the control of the country from April 27–30, 1978 as the Head of the Military Revolutionary Council[26]

New reforms

The divided PDPA succeeded the Daoud regime with a new government under the leadership of Nur Muhammad Taraki of the Khalq faction. In Kabul, the initial cabinet appeared to be carefully constructed to alternate ranking positions between Khalqis and Parchamis. Taraki was Prime Minister, Babrak Karmal was senior Deputy Prime Minister, and Hafizullah Amin was foreign minister.[27][28]

Once in power, the party implemented a new socialist agenda, including the promotion of state atheism.[29] It changed the national flag from traditional Islamic green color to a near-copy of the red flag of the Soviet Union, a provocative affront to the people of this conservative Islamic country.[30] The regime abolished Muslim laws and encouraged men to cut off their beards; these sort of laws were considered to contravene Islam by many of the nation's conservatives.[31] Most of the mosques were placed off limits at the start of the regime though re-opened in the 80s, because the party tried to win more supporters. The government also carried out a new land reform among others but was met by widespread resistance.[32] The new government also launched a campaign of violent repression, killing some 10,000 to 27,000 people and imprisoning 14,000 to 20,000 more, mostly at Pul-e-Charkhi prison.[33][34][35]

When the PDPA rose to power in Afghanistan they moved to prohibit traditional practices which were deemed feudal by the party. They banned bride price and forced marriage among others and the minimum age for marriage was raised among other advances in both matrimonial and women's rights.[36] They also stressed the importance of education in Afghanistan. The government stressed education for both women and men, they also set up literacy programmes in the country.[37] These new reforms were not well received by the majority of the Afghan population, particularly in rural areas. Many Afghans saw them as un-Islamic and as a forced approach to Western culture in Afghan society, as many tribal societies in Afghanistan tend to be conservative.[37] Most of the government's new policies clashed directly with the traditional Afghan understanding of Islam, making religion one of the only forces capable of unifying the tribally and ethnically divided population against the unpopular new government, and ushering in the advent of Islamist participation in Afghan politics.

Parcham rule

In the 1979 Soviet operation, Operation Storm-333, the Soviet special force, Spetnaz, stormed the Tajbeg Palace and killed then President Hafizullah Amin.[38][39] The death of Amin led to Babrak Karmal becoming president the new Afghan president and General Secretary of the PDPA. After the death of Amin the Soviet invasion begun in 1979.[25] At the time of the assassination of Amin, Karmal was exiled and was the Afghan ambassador to Czechoslovakia, stationed in Prague.[40]

Moscow came to regard Karmal as a failure and blamed him for the problems. Years later, when Karmal’s inability to consolidate his government had become obvious, Mikhail Gorbachev, then General Secretary of the Soviet Communist Party, said:[41]

Additionally, some Afghan soldiers who had fought for the Socialist government began to defect or leave the army. In May, 1986 Karmal was replaced as party leader by Mohammad Najibullah, and six months later he was relieved of the presidency. His successor as president was Haji Mohammad Chamkani. Karmal then moved (or, allegedly, was exiled) to Moscow.[42]

National reconciliation

After the Soviet Union had leveled most of the villages south and east of Kabul, creating a massive humanitarian disaster, the demise of the PDPA continued with the rise of the Mujahideen guerrillas, who were trained in Pakistani camps with US support. Between 1982 and 1992, the number of people recruited by Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency to join the insurgency topped 100,000.

The Soviet Union withdrew in 1989, but continued to provide military assistance worth billions of dollars to the PDPA regime until the USSR's collapse in 1991.

Homeland Front

The Soviet troop withdrawal in late 1989 changed the political structure that had enabled the PDPA to stay in power all those years. Inner collapse of the government started when Hekmatyar withdrew his support for the government. Later in March 1990 Defense Minister and Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces Shahnawaz Tanai tried to seize power in a military coup.[43] The coup failed and Tanai was forced to flee the country. Najibullah still hung on to the presidency, so in June 1990 he renamed the party the Homeland Party.[44] The party dropped the Marxist-Leninist ideology that had been held previously by the PDPA.[1]

In 1991, the Soviet Union dissolved. All support for the Afghan regime stopped. In March 1992, the Socialist regime in Afghanistan collapsed after the sudden change of allegiance of Afghan General Abdul Rashid Dostum.[1]


Leaders of the PDPA


  1. ^ a b c Vogelsang, Willem (2001-11-28). The Afghans. Wiley. p. 1.  
  2. ^ a b Anthony Arnold. Afghanistan's Two-Party Communism: Parcham and Khalq. Google Books.  
  3. ^ "Internal Refugees: Flight to the Cities". Library of Congress Country Studies. Retrieved 2009-03-20. 
  4. ^ After the April revolution, the new government under President Noor Mohammed Taraki declared a commitment to Islam within a secular state, and to non-alignment in foreign affairs. It maintained that the coup had not been foreign inspired, that it was not a “Communist takeover”, and that they were not “Communists” but rather nationalists and revolutionaries. (No official or traditional Communist Party had ever existed in Afghanistan.) But because of its radical reform program, its class-struggle and anti-imperialist-type rhetoric, its support of all the usual suspects (Cuba, North Korea, etc.), its signing of a friendship treaty and other cooperative agreements with the Soviet Union, and an increased presence in the country of Soviet civilian and military advisers (though probably less than the US had in Iran at the time), it was labeled “communist” by the world’s media and by its domestic opponents.
  5. ^ "Babrak Karmal Biography". 2000. Retrieved 2013-12-22. 
  6. ^ Thomas Ruttig. "Islamists, Leftists – and a Void in the Center. Afghanistan's Political Parties and where they come from (1902-2006)" (PDF). Konrad Adenauer Siftung. Retrieved 2009-03-20. 
  7. ^ First Congress of the PDPA
  8. ^ a b Amstutz, J. Bruce (1994-07-01). Afghanistan: The First Five Years of Soviet Occupation. DIANE Publishing. p. 65.  
  9. ^ Marchevsky, Alejandra; Theoharis, Jeanne (2006). Not Working: Latina Immigrants, Low-wage Jobs, and the Failure of Welfare Reform. New York University Press. p. 386.  
  10. ^ a b c Runion, Meredith L. (2007). The History of Afghanistan. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 106.  
  11. ^ Arnold, Anthony (1983-01-01). Afghanistan's Two-party Communism: Parcham and Khalq. Hoover Press.  
  12. ^ "The Setami Milli Faction" (in Russian). Retrieved 2013-12-22. 
  13. ^ Thursday, 19 April 2012 (2012-04-19). "The Splinter of Afghanistan's Communists". Retrieved 2013-12-22. 
  14. ^ John Kifner (1987-12-02). "Man in the News; A Tough Ox For Afghans: Najibullah". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-03-20. 
  15. ^ a b c Anthony Arnold. Afghanistan, the Soviet invasion in perspective. Google Books.  
  16. ^ "Daoud's Republic". Retrieved 2013-12-22. 
  17. ^ Saikal, Amin; Farhadi, Ravan; Nourzhanov, Kirill (2006-11-28). Modern Afghanistan: A History of Struggle and Survival. I. B. Tauris. p. 181.  
  18. ^ a b "Daoud's Republic, July 1973 - April 1978". Country Studies. Retrieved 2009-03-20. 
  19. ^ Arnold, Anthony (1985). Afghanistan, the Soviet Invasion in Perspective. Hoover Press. p. 51.  
  20. ^ "King Mohammed Zahir Shah and the Soviet Union". Retrieved 2013-12-22. 
  21. ^ Agwan, A. R.; Singh, N. K. A - E. Global Vision Publishing Ho. p. 109.  
  22. ^ Yury V. Bosin (2009). "Afghanistan, 1978 Revolution and Islamic Civil War". In Immanuel Ness. International Encyclopedia of Revolution and Protest (PDF). Blackwell Publishing. pp. 13–15. Retrieved 2013-12-22. 
  23. ^ Tomsen, Peter (2011). The Wars of Afghanistan: Messianic Terrorism, Tribal Conflicts, and the Failures of Great Powers. PublicAffairs. p. 119.  
  24. ^ "Storming the Presidential Palace". 2011. Retrieved 2013-12-22. 
  25. ^ a b "World: Analysis Afghanistan: 20 years of bloodshed". BBC. 1998-04-26. Retrieved 2009-03-15. 
  26. ^ Bradsher, Henry St. Amant; Zeckhauser, Richard F.; Leebaert, Derek (1983). Afghanistan and the Soviet Union. Duke University Press.  
  27. ^ Bradsher, Henry S. Afghanistan and the Soviet Union. Durham: Duke Press Policy Studies, 1983. p. 72-73
  28. ^ Amstutz, J. Bruce (1994-07-01). Afghanistan: The First Five Years of Soviet Occupation. DIANE Publishing. p. 226.  
  29. ^ John Andrews. "The Soviet-Afghan War: Breaking the Hammer & Sickle" (PDF). Retrieved 2009-03-21. 
  30. ^ Arnold, p. 77
  31. ^ "Secular PDPA". Retrieved 2013-12-22. 
  32. ^ John Ishiyama (March 2, 2005). "The Sickle and the Minaret: Communist Successor Parties in Yemen and Afghanistan after the Cold War". The Middle East Review of International Affairs (IDC Herzliya). Retrieved 2009-03-21. 
  33. ^ Benjamin A. Valentino. Final Solutions: Mass Killing and Genocide in the Twentieth Century Cornell University Press, 2004. p. 219. ISBN 0-8014-3965-5
  34. ^ Kaplan, Robert D., Soldiers of God: With Islamic Warriors in Afghanistan and Pakistan, New York, Vintage Departures, (2001), p. 115
  35. ^ Kabul's prison of death BBC, February 27, 2006
  36. ^ "Women's Rights in the PDPA". 1978-11-04. Retrieved 2013-12-22. 
  37. ^ a b "Women in Afghanistan: Pawns in men's power struggles". Amnesty International. Retrieved 2009-03-21. 
  38. ^ "Article on Storm-333" (in Russian). VPK News. Archived from the original on February 21, 2009. Retrieved 2009-03-21. 
  39. ^ A. Lyakhovskiy. "Baikal-79" (in Russian). Retrieved 2009-03-21. 
  40. ^ "Babrak Karmal". Retrieved 2009-03-21. 
  41. ^ Kakar, Mohammad. Afghanistan. University of California Press, 1997.
  42. ^ "Interviews with Babrak Karmal" (in Persian). BBC News Persia. Retrieved 2009-03-21. 
  43. ^ Coll, Steve (November 29, 2012). "Tanai Coup Attempt". Retrieved 2013-12-22. 
  44. ^ "Homeland Party-Current". 2006-10-01. Retrieved 2013-12-22. 

External links

  • The PDPA and the Soviet invasion
  • The future and legacy of PDPA members
  • The Constitution of the People's Democratic Party
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