Habibullāh Kalakāni

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Habibullāh Kalakāni
King of Afghanistan
Habibullah Kalakani.jpg
Reign 17 January 1929 – 16 October 1929
Coronation 17 January 1929
Full name Habibullāh Kalakāni
Born 1890s
Birthplace Kalakan, Kabul Province
Died 1 November 1929(1929-11-01) (aged 39)
Place of death Kabul, Kabul Province
Predecessor Inayatullah Khān
Successor Mohammed Nadir Shah
Religious beliefs Islam

Habibullāh Kalakāni, also known as Bach-e-Saqaow, (1890s – 1 November 1929), (Dari: حبیب‌الله کلکانی), was King of Afghanistan from January to October 1929 after deposing Amānullāh Khān with the help of various Afghan tribes who opposed modernization of Afghanistan.[1] After gaining power in Kabul, he named himself Habībullāh Khādem-e Dīn-e Rasūlallāh ("The servant of the religion of the messenger of God"). He was himself defeated and overthrown nine months later by General Mohammed Nadir Khān.[2][3]

Early years[edit]

Kalakāni, a Kohistani Tajik, was born in the 1890s in the village of Kalakan, north of Kabul. His father Aminullāh delivered water to people's houses, and Kalakāni became known as 'Bache Saqqaw' (Son of a Water Carrier).[2][4] It is believed that he met an old Sufi man who told him that he would one day become an emir and then handed him an amulet to keep for good luck.[5]

During his adolescence, Kalakāni ventured out of his village and travelled to the city of Kabul where he joined the Afghan National Army. It is reported that he deserted the army with his rifle and fled to Peshawar in the North-West Frontier Province in neighbouring British India (now part of Pakistan).[2] He performed odd jobs there, including selling tea on the streets. He also spent 11 months in prison at Parachinar after breaking into a house. By 1924 Kalakāni had become a highway robber and a member of a rebel group in his village. To his Kohistani Tajik followers he became some what of a Robin Hood figure, stealing mostly from wealthy highway travellers. "To his opponents, he was regarded as a bandit and a common criminal."[4]


King Amānullāh had returned from Europe in 1928 and brought with him many Western ideas, including social and cultural changes. His aim was to rapidly modernise the country. These ideas upset the ultra-conservative Shinwari tribe of eastern Afghanistan, who began calling for the banishment of Amānullāh from Afghanistan. With support from fellow Tajik forces, Kalakāni took advantage of the tribal revolt by the Shinwaris and others.

While the Afghan National Army was engulfed in severe battle in Laghman and Nangarhar, Kalakāni and his Tajik forces began to attack Kabul from the north. The revolt caught steam and right away the country was in civil war. Tribes from Waziristan had the southern areas of Kabul surrounded, and Kalakāni's rebels were moving into the heart of Kabul from the north. At first he was repelled but after taking refuge in Paghman for several days he and his forces managed to take over Kabul.[4]

In the middle of the night, on 14 January 1929, King Amānullāh Khān handed over his kingdom to his brother Prince Inayatullah Khān and escaped from Kabul towards Kandahar in the south. Two days later, on 16 January 1929, Kalakāni wrote a letter to King Inayatullah Khān to either surrender or prepare to fight. Inayatullah Khān's response was that he had never sought nor wished to be King and agreed to abdicate and proclaim Kalakāni as Malik (King) on 17 January.[citation needed]

Kingship and overthrow[edit]

After he took over the Arg (the main Royal Palace) in Kabul, during the Kabul Airlift, he discovered 750,000 British pounds and began to use that to pay the salaries of his soldiers.[2] King Habibullāh Kalakāni's first order was to remove all the flowers from the Royal grounds in Kabul and plant vegetables instead. He closed schools for women and all western education centres.

By September 1929, former King Amānullāh Khān attempted to organize a new army and recalled his top general, Nadir Khān, from Europe. General Nadir Khān's army quickly passed through western and southern Afghanistan. They had better weapons and the support of the people as many volunteers joined the army.

General Nadir Khān was furnished with thousands of troops from various parts of Pashtunistan, including southern Afghanistan. The troops fast approached Kabul and began defeating the forces of Kalakāni. By late October 1929, Kabul was surrounded by Nadir Khān's army. It included Shah Wali Khān, brother of Nadir Khān and brother-in-law of Amānullāh. The two brothers recaptured the Arg and arrested Kalakāni along with his followers.[2]


Kalakāni before his execution in 1929

King Habibullāh Kalakāni was executed by firing squad on 1 November 1929 along with his brother and ten other rebel leaders. The bodies were subsequently put on display, while already stiff, as is shown by the awkwardness of their positions.[2] His place of burial is unconfirmed but it is probably his home village, Kalakan. He had been succeeded as Malik (King) in October 1929 by General Mohammed Nadir Khān, a member of the old Bārakzai Royal Family.


  1. ^ "Habibullah Kalakani". Afghanistan Online. Retrieved 3 September 2006. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f Adamec, Ludwig W. (2011). Historical Dictionary of Afghanistan. Scarecrow Press. p. 183. ISBN 0-8108-7957-3. Retrieved 2012-08-28. 
  3. ^ Dupree, Louis: "Afghanistan", page 459. Princeton University Press, 1973
  4. ^ a b c Clements, Frank (2003). Conflict in Afghanistan: A Historical Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO. p. 377. ISBN 1-8510-9402-4. Retrieved 2012-08-28. 
  5. ^ "Habibullah Kalakani". Afghanland.com. Retrieved 3 September 2006. 

External links[edit]

Regnal titles
Preceded by
Inayatullah Khān
King of Afghanistan
17 January 1929 – 16 October 1929
Succeeded by
Mohammed Nadir Shah