Mohammad Daud Khan was born in July 18, 1909 in Kabul, Afghanistan and died April 27, 1978, Kabul. Mohammad Daud Khan was an Afghan politician who overthrew the monarchy of Mohammad Zahir Shah in 1973 to establish Afghanistan as a republic. He served as the country’s president from 1973 to 1978.
No other Afghan in the twentieth century has influenced Afghan politics as much as Mohammad Daud Khan. Except for the constitutional decade—when, as a prince, he was constitutionally barred from conducting politics—he was involved in the government from an early age, often exerting virtually unrestricted authority. An ambitious person, Mohammad Daud Khan was first cousin and brother-in-law of the former King Zahir as well as the eldest son of Mohammad Aziz, the eldest brother of the ruling Musahiban family (the late king Mohammad Nadir, the late premiers Mohammad Hashim and Shah Mahmud, and the late ambassador Shah Wali). Mohammad Daud Khan held a number of high military posts before he ruled as prime minister for a decade (1953-63), when he introduced reforms and established closer ties with Russia. In the constitutional decade he stayed home but proved an irreconcilable dissident. Finally, with the cooperation of communists, he overthrew the monarchy and set up a republic in 1973. He had established ties with Karmal and other Parchami leaders but had declined to do so with Taraki, although Abdur Rauf Benawa had asked him to. When along with Habibullah Tegy I met him in 1976 I found him overweight and unlively, but he showed interest in conversation. In 1978 Khalqi officers overthrew him in a coup that resulted in his death and the death of eighteen members of his and his brother’s families.
Mohammad Daud Khan as Prime Minister 1953-63
In the wake of the failed political reforms of the 1949-52 period came a major shakeup within the royal family. FraserTytler notes that since the advent of Nadir Shah to the throne in 1929, Afghanistan had been ruled by the royal family as a united group. By mid-1953, however, the younger members of the royal family (including perhaps the king himself) had challenged the dominance of the king's uncles, and in September 1953 the rift became public when the king's first cousin and brother-in-law, Mohammad Daud Khan (son of the third Musahiban brother, Muhammad Aziz, who had been assassinated in Berlin in 1933), became prime minister. The king's uncle, Shah Mahmud, left his post, but he continued to proffer his support and advice to the new leaders. The change occurred peacefully, entirely within-and apparently with the consent of-the royal family.
Prime Minister Mohammad Daud Khan was the first of the young, Westerneducated generation of the royal family to wield power in Kabul. If the proponents of the liberal experiment hoped that he would move toward a more open political system, they were disappointed. Mohammad Daud Khan was, as Fraser-Tytler puts it, "by temperament and training ...of an authoritarian habit of mind." By all accounts, however, he was a dynamic leader whose accession to power marked major changes in Afghanistan's policies, both domestic and foreign.
Although Mohammad Daud Khan was concerned to correct what he perceived as the pro-Western bias of previous governments, his keen interest in modernization manifested itself in continued support of the Helmand Valley project, which was designed to transform life in southwestern Afghanistan. Another area of domestic policy initiative by Mohammad Daud Khan included his cautious steps toward emancipation of women. At the fortieth celebration of national independence in 1959, Mohammad Daud Khan had the wives of his ministers appear in public unveiled. When religious leaders protested, he challenged them to cite a single verse of the Quran that specifically mandated veiling. When they continued to resist, he jailed them for a week. Mohammad Daud Khan also increased control over the tribes, starting with the repression of a tribal war in the contentious Khost area adjacent to Pakistan in September 1959 and the forcible collection of land taxes in Qandahar in December 1959 in the face of antigovernment demonstrations promoted by local religious leaders.
Mohammad Daud Khan's social and economic policies within Afghanistan, reformist but cautious, were relatively successful; his foreign policy-which was carried out by his brother, Mohammad Naim-although fruitful in some respects, resulted in severe economic dislocation and, ultimately, his own political eclipse. Two principles guided Mohammad Daud Khan's foreign policy: to balance what he regarded as the excessively pro-Western orientation of previous governments by improving relations with the Soviet Union but without sacrificing economic aid from the United States, and to pursue the Pashtunistan issue by every possible means. The two goals were to some extent mutually reinforcing because hostilities with Pakistan caused the Kabul government to fall back on the Soviet Union as its trade and transit link with the rest of the world. Mohammad Daud Khan believed that the rivalry between the two superpowers for regional clients or allies created the conditions in which he could play one off against the other in his search for aid and development assistance.
Relations between Afghanistan and the Soviet Union in the 1953-63 period began on a high note with a Soviet development loan equivalent to US$3.5 million in January 1954. Mohammad Daud Khan's desire for improved bilateral relations became a necessity when the Pakistani-Afghan border was closed for five months in 1955. When the Iranian and American governments declared that they were unable to create an alternate Afghan trade access route of nearly 5,800 kilometers to the Persian Gulf or the Arabian Sea, the Afghans had no choice but to request a renewal of the 1950 transit agreement. The renewal was ratified in June 1955 and followed by a new bilateral barter agreement: Soviet petroleum, building materials, and metals in exchange for Afghan raw materials. After a December 1955 visit to Kabul by Soviet leaders Nikolay Bulganin and Nikita Khrushchev, the Soviet Union announced a US$100 million development loan for projects to be mutually agreed upon. Before the end of the year the Afghans also announced a 10-year extension of the Soviet-Afghan Treaty of Neutrality and Non-Aggression, originally signed in 1931 by Nadir Shah. Afghan-Soviet ties grew throughout this period, as did Afghan links with the Soviet Union's East European allies, especially Czechoslovakia and Poland.
Despite these strengthened ties to the Soviet Union, the Mohammad Daud Khan regime sought to maintain good relations with the United States, which began to be more interested in Afghanistan as a result of the efforts by Dwight D. Eisenhower's administration to solidify an alliance in the "Northern Tier" (Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan). Adhering to its nonaligned stance, the Afghan government refused to join the American-sponsored Baghdad Pact, although Eisenhower's personal representative was courteously welcomed when he came to discuss regional issues in 1957. These rebuffs did not deter the United States from continuing its relatively low-level aid program in Afghanistan. Its other projects in the 1953-63 period included the Qandahar International Airport (which became obsolete with the advent of jet aircraft), assistance to Ariana Afghan Airlines, and continuation of the Helmand Valley Project.
The United States was reluctant to provide Afghanistan with military aid, and the Mohammad Daud Khan government successfully sought it from the Soviet Union and its allies. These nations agreed to provide Afghanistan with the equivalent of US$25 million worth of military materiel in 1955 and also undertook the construction of military airfields in Mazar-a Sharif, Shindand, and Bagrami. Although the United States did provide military training for Afghan officers, it made no attempt to match Soviet arms transfers. Dupree points out that eventually the United States and Soviet aid programs were bound to overlap, and when they did there developed a quiet, de facto cooperation between the two powers.
All other foreign policy issues faded in importance, given Mohammad Daud Khan's virtual obsession with the Pashtunistan issue. His policy disrupted Kabul's important relationship with Pakistan and-because Pakistan was landlocked Afghanistan's main trade route-the dispute virtually cut off development aid, except from the Soviet Union, and sharply diminished Afghanistan's external trade for several years.
In 1953 and 1954 Mohammad Daud Khan simply applied more of the same techniques used in the past to press the Pashtunistan issue, i.e., hostile propaganda and payments to tribesmen (on both sides of the border) to subvert the Pakistani government. In 1955, however, the situation became more critical from Mohammad Daud Khan's point of view. Pakistan, for reasons of internal politics, abolished the four provincial governments of West Pakistan and formed one provincial unit (like East Pakistan). The Afghan government protested the abolition of the NWFP (excluding the Tribal Agencies), and in March 1955 a mob in Kabul attacked the Pakistani embassy and consulate and tore down their flags. Retaliatory mobs attacked the Afghan consulate in Peshawar, and soon both nations recalled their officials from the neighboring state. Despite the failure of mediation by a group of Islamic states, tempers eventually cooled, and flags were rehoisted above the diplomatic establishments in both countries. This incident left great bitterness in Afghanistan, however, where interest in the Pashtunistan issue remained high, and the closure of the border during the spring and fall of 1955 again underlined to the Kabul government the need for good relations with the Soviets to provide assured transit routes for Afghan trade.
Although the Afghan side was not resigned to accepting the status quo on the Pashtunistan issue, the conflict remained dormant for several years, during which relations improved slightly between the two nations. Nor did the 1958 coup that brought General Mohammad Ayub Khan to power in Pakistan bring on any immediate change in the situation. In 1960, however, Mohammad Daud Khan sent Afghan troops across the border into Bajaur in an unsuccessful and foolhardy attempt to manipulate events in that area and to press the Pashtunistan issue. The Afghan forces were routed by the Pakistan military, but military skirmishes along the border continued at a low level in 1961, often between Pakistani Pashtun (armed by the Afghans) and Pakistani regular and paramilitary forces. The propaganda war, carried out by radio, was more vicious than ever during this period.
Finally, in August 1961 Pakistan used another weapon on Afghanistan: It informed the Afghan government that its subversion made normal diplomatic relations impossible and that Pakistan was closing its consulates in Afghanistan, requesting that Afghanistan follow suit. The Afghan government, its pride severely stung, responded that the Pakistanis had one week to rescind this policy, or Afghanistan would cut diplomatic relations. When the Pakistanis failed to respond to this, Afghanistan severed relations on September 6, 1961. Traffic between the two countries came to a halt, just as two of Afghanistan's major export crops were ready to be shipped to India. The grape and pomegranate crops, grown in traditionally rebellious areas, were bought by the government to avoid trouble. The Soviet Union stepped in, offering to buy the crops and airlift them from Afghanistan. What the Soviets did not ship, Ariana Afghan Airlines airlifted to India, so that in both 1961 and 1962 the fruit crop was exported successfully. Dupree notes that although the loss of this crop would not have been as disastrous to the average Afghan as observers generally suggest, the situation did provide the opportunity for a fine public relations gesture by the Soviets. At the same time, although the United States attempted to mediate the dispute, it was clearly linked closely to Pakistan.
More than the fruit crop was jeopardized by the closure of Afghanistan's main trade route. Much of the equipment and material provided by foreign aid programs and needed for development projects was held up in Pakistan. Another outgrowth of the dispute was Pakistan's decision to close the border to nomads (members of the Ghilzai, variously known as Powindahs or Suleiman Khel), who had been spending winters in Pakistan and India and summers in Afghanistan as long as anyone could remember. Although the Pakistani government denied that the decision was owing to the impasse with Afghanistan, this claim appeared disingenuous, and the issue added weight to the growing conflict between the two countries. Afghanistan's economic situation continued to deteriorate. The nation was heavily dependent upon customs revenues, which fell dramatically; trade suffered, and foreign exchange reserves were seriously depleted.
It became clear by 1963 that the two stubborn leaders, Mohammad Daud Khan of Afghanistan and Ayub Khan of Pakistan, would not yield and that one of them would have to be removed from power to resolve the issue. Despite growing criticism of Ayub among some Pakistanis, his position was strong internally, and it was Afghanistan's economy that was suffering most. In March 1963 King Zahir Shah, with the backing of the royal family, asked Mohammad Daud Khan for his resignation on the basis that the country's economy was deteriorating because of Mohammad Daud Khan's Pashtunistan policy. During the decade that Mohammad Daud Khan was prime minister, the king, who was his peer in age, had become better known by the public and more influential in the royal family and the political elite. Because he controlled the armed forces, Mohammad Daud Khan almost certainly had the power to resist the king's request for his resignation, but he did not do so. Mohammad Daud Khan bowed out, as did his brother Naim, and Zahir Shah named as the new prime minister Muhammad Yousuf, a non-Pashtun, Germaneducated technocrat who had been serving as the minister of mines and industries.
Mohammad Daud Khan's Republic
The welcome Mohammad 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. Mohammad Daud Khan's comeback was a return to traditional strongman rule and he was a particularly appealing figure to military officers. As prime minister, Mohammad 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.
Mohammad 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 Mohammad 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 Mohammad Daud Khan and Karmal had been in touch for many years and that Mohammad 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 Mohammad 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 Mohammad 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 Mohammad 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 Mohammad Daud Khan had purged the leftist officers by the end of 1975.
The next year, Mohammad 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 Mohammad 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 Mohammad 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 Mohammad Daud Khan before the 1973 coup, Parcham used its advantage to recruit on an unprecedented scale immediately following the coup. Mohammad 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 , Mohammad 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 Mohammad Daud Khan that "honest" Khalqis replace corrupt Parchamis. Mohammad Daud Khan, wary of ideologues, ignored this offer.
Mohammad 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. Mohammad Daud Khan's shift to the right and realignment made the Soviets anxious but western observers noted that Mohammad 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 .
Mohammad Daud 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, Mohammad 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. Mohammad 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 Mohammad 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 Mohammad Daud Khan withdrawing support for these groups and expelling Pashtun and Baloch militants taking refuge in Afghanistan .
Mohammad Daud Khan's initial visit to the Soviet Union in 1974 was friendly, despite disagreement on the Pashtunistan issue. By the time of Mohammad 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 Mohammad 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, Mohammad Daud Khan was friendly with Iran and Saudi Arabia , and he had scheduled a visit to Washington for the spring of 1978.
President Mohammad Daud Khan met Brezhnev on a state visit to Moscow from April 12 to 15, 1977.
Pres. Mohammad Daud Khan 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. Mohammad Daud Khan, 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 Mohammad Daud Khan 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 Mohammad Daud Khan. 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 Mohammad Daud Khan 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.
A chill fell on the room. Some of the Russians seemed visibly embarrassed, and the Afghans appeared greatly displeased. I looked at Mohammad Daud Khan, 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 Mohammad Daud Khan 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. Mohammad Daud Khan 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, Mohammad Daud Khan abruptly stood up. All the Afghans did the same. Mohammad Daud Khan 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 Mohammad Daud Khan. 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 Mohammad Daud Khan 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." Mohammad Daud Khan 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 Mohammad Daud Khan met Brezhnev. The interruped meeting between the two delegations was never resumed, and the Russians' presentation remained unfinished.
By 1978 Mohammad 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 Mohammad 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 Mohammad 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 Mohammad 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, Mohammad 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 Mohammad Daud Khan's repressive and suspicious mood, officers known to have differed with Mohammad 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 Mohammad Daud Khan in and around the capital. Mohammad 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.
- Hassan Kakar
- Louis Dupree