Mohammed Daoud Khan

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Mohammed Daoud Khan
Daoud Khan in the 1960s
1st President of Afghanistan
In office
17 July 1973 – 28 April 1978
Preceded by Mohammed Zahir Shah (as the King of Afghanistan)
Succeeded by Abdul Qadir Dagarwal (acting)
Nur Muhammad Taraki
Prime Minister of Afghanistan
In office
7 September 1953 – 10 March 1963
Monarch Mohammed Zahir Shah
Preceded by Shah Mahmud Khan
Succeeded by Mohammad Yusuf
Personal details
Born (1909-07-18)18 July 1909
Kabul, Afghanistan
Died 28 April 1978(1978-04-28) (aged 68)
Kabul, Afghanistan
Political party National Revolutionary Party
Religion Sunni Islam

Sardar Mohammed Daoud Khan or Daud Khan (July 18, 1909 – April 28, 1978) was Prime Minister of Afghanistan from 1953 to 1963, and later became the first President of Afghanistan. He overthrew the monarchy of his first cousin Mohammed Zahir Shah and declared himself as the first President of Afghanistan from 1973 until his assassination in 1978 as a result of the Saur Revolution led by the Communist People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA). Daoud Khan was known for his progressive policies, especially in relation to the rights of women and for initiating two five-year modernization plans which increased the labor force by about 50 percent.[1]

Early life[edit]

Prince Mohammed Daoud was born in Kabul, the eldest son of the diplomat HRH Prince Mohammed Aziz Khan (1877–1933) (an older half-brother of King Mohammed Nadir Shah) and his wife, Khurshid Begum. He lost his father to an assassination in Berlin in 1933, while his father was serving as the Afghan Ambassador to Germany. He and his brother Naim Khan (1911–1978) then came under the tutelage of their uncle HRH Prince Hashim Khan (1884–1953). Daoud proved to be an apt student of politics. Educated in France, he served as the Governor of the Eastern Province from 1934–35 and in 1938–39, and was Governor of Kandahar from 1935–38.

In 1939, Daoud Khan was promoted to Lieutenant-General and commander of the important Kabul Army Corps until 1946. From 1946 to 1948, he served as Minister of Defense, then Minister of the Interior from 1949 to 1951. In 1948, he served as Ambassador to France. In 1951, he was promoted to General and served in that capacity as Commander of the Central Corps[2] in Kabul from 1951 to 1953.[3][4]

Royal Prime Minister[edit]

Further information: Prime Minister of Afghanistan

Daoud was appointed Prime Minister in September 1953 in an intra-family transfer of power that involved no violence. His ten-year tenure was noted for his foreign policy turn to the Soviet Union, the completion of the Helmand Valley project, which radically improved living conditions in southwestern Afghanistan, and tentative steps towards the emancipation of women.

Daoud supported a nationalistic and reunification of the Pashtun people with Afghanistan, but this would have involved taking a considerable amount of territory from the new nation of Pakistan and was in direct antagonism to an older plan of the 1950s whereby a confederation between the two countries was proposed. The move further worried the non-Pashtun populations of Afghanistan such as the minority Tajik and Uzbek who suspected Daoud Khan's intention was to increase the Pashtun's disproportionate hold on political power. With the creation of an independent Pakistan in 1947, the Durand line conflict with the British colonialists was inherited by the two countries.

In 1961, as a result of Daoud's policies and support to militias in areas along the Durand Line, Pakistan closed its borders with Afghanistan causing an economic crisis and greater dependence on the USSR. The USSR became Afghanistan's principal trading partner. Within a few months, the USSR had sent jet airplanes, tanks, heavy and light artillery for a heavily discounted price tag of $25 million.

In 1962, Daoud sent troops across the international border into the Bajaur region of Pakistan in an attempt to manipulate events in that area and to press the Pashtunistan issue, but the Afghan military forces were routed by Pakistani military. During this period, the propaganda war from Afghanistan, carried on by radio, was relentless.[5]

The crisis was finally resolved with the forced resignation of Daoud Khan in March 1963 and the re-opening of the border in May. Pakistan has continued to remain suspicious of Afghan intentions and Daoud's policy has left a negative impression in the eyes of many Tajiks who felt they were being disenfranchised for the sake of Pashtun Nationalism.

In 1964, King Zahir introduced a new constitution, for the first time excluding all members of the royal family from the council of ministers. Daoud had already stepped down. In addition to having been prime minister, Daoud had also held the portfolios of Minister of Defense and Minister of Planning until 1963.[6]

President of the Republic[edit]

Further information: President of Afghanistan
Daoud Khan with Mohammed Asif Safi and other senior officers of the military of Afghanistan.

On July 17, 1973, Daoud seized power from his cousin (and brother-in-law) King Zahir in a bloodless coup. Departing from tradition, and for the first time in Afghan history, Daoud did not proclaim himself Shah, establishing instead a republic with himself as President.

In 1974, Daoud signed one of two economic packages that would enable Afghanistan to have a far more capable military because of increasing fears of lacking an up-to-date modern army when compared to the militaries of Iran and Pakistan.

Zahir Shah's democratic constitution with elected members and the separation of powers was replaced by a now largely nominated Loya Jirga (meaning "large meeting" or "assembly"). A new constitution backed by a Loya Jirga was promulgated in February 1977, but failed to satisfy all political factions.

In 1976, under pressure from the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) and to increase domestic Pashtun support, he took a stronger line on the Pashtunistan issue and promoted a proxy war in Pakistan. Trade and transit agreements with Pakistan were subsequently severely affected.[7] Soon after Daoud's army and police faced a growing Islamic fundamentalist movement, the Islamic fundamentalist movement's leaders fled to Pakistan. There, they were supported by Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and encouraged to continue the fight against Daoud. Daoud was successful in suppressing the movement, however. Later in 1978, when Daoud was promoting his new foreign policy doctrine, he came to a tentative agreement on a solution to the Pashtunistan problem with Ali Bhutto.

In 1977, Daoud Khan presented a new constitution to the National Assembly, which wrote in several new articles and amended others. He also began to moderate his socialist policies.

In 1978, there was a rift with the PDPA. Internally, Daoud attempted to distance himself from the communist elements within the coup. He was concerned about the tenor of many communists in his government and Afghanistan's growing dependency on the Soviet Union. These moves were highly criticized by Moscow, which feared that Afghanistan would soon become closer to the West, especially the United States; the Soviets had always feared that the United States could find a way to influence the government in Kabul.

A coup against Daoud, which may have been planned before he took power, was repressed shortly after his seizure of power. In October 1973, Mohammad Hashim Maiwandwal, a former prime minister and a highly respected former diplomat, was arrested in a coup plot and died in prison. This was at a time when Parchamis controlled the Ministry of Interior under circumstances corroborating the widespread belief that he had been tortured to death. One of the Army generals arrested under suspicion of this plot with Maiwandwal was Mohammed Asif Safi, who was later released. Daoud personally apologized to him for the arrest.

Daoud wanted to lessen the country's dependence on the Soviet Union and attempted to promote a new foreign policy. He went to Egypt, India, Saudi Arabia, and Iran for aid. Surprisingly, he did not renew the Pashtunistan agitation; relations with Pakistan improved thanks to interventions from the US and Iran.

The following year, he established his own political party, the National Revolutionary Party, which became the focus of all political activity. In January 1977, a Loya Jirga approved the constitution establishing a presidential one-party system of government.

Diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union[edit]

President Daoud met Leonid Brezhnev on a state visit to Moscow from April 12 to 15, 1977. Daoud had asked for a private meeting with the Soviet leader to discuss with him the increased pattern of Soviet actions in Afghanistan. In particular, he discussed the intensified Soviet attempt to unite the two factions of the Afghan communist parties, Parcham and Khalq.[8] Brezhnev described Afghanistan's non-alignment as important to the USSR and essential to the promotion of peace in Asia, but warned him about the presence of experts from NATO countries stationed in the northern parts of Afghanistan. Daoud bluntly replied that Afghanistan would remain free, and that the Soviet Union would never be allowed to dictate how the country should be governed.[9]

After returning to Afghanistan, Daoud made plans that his government would diminish its relationships with the Soviet Union, and instead forge closer contacts with the West as well as the oil-rich Saudi Arabia and Iran. Afghanistan signed a co-operative military treaty with Egypt and by 1977, the Afghan military and police force were being trained by Egyptian Armed forces. This angered the Soviet Union because Egypt took the same route in 1974 and distanced itself from the Soviets.

Communist coup and assassination[edit]

Further information: Saur Revolution

The April 19, 1978 funeral of Mir Akbar Khyber, the prominent Parchami ideologue who had been murdered, served as a rallying point for the Afghan communists. An estimated 1,000 to 3,000 people gathered to hear speeches by PDPA leaders such as Nur Muhammad Taraki, Hafizullah Amin and Babrak Karmal.[citation needed]

Shocked by this demonstration of communist unity, Daoud ordered the arrest of the PDPA leaders, but he reacted too slowly. It took him a week to arrest Taraki, Karmal managed to escape to the USSR, and Amin was merely placed under house arrest. According to PDPA documents, 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. 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 Khan in and around the capital.


Daoud and most of his family were assassinated during a coup by the communist People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan. The coup happened in the presidential palace on April 28, 1978.[10] His death was not publicly announced after the coup. Instead, the new government declared that President Daoud had "resigned for health reasons." (In 1979, Taraki was killed by Amin, who, in turn, was killed by the KGB; Karmal died in 1996 of cancer in Moscow).

On June 28, 2008, the body of President Daoud and those of his family were found in two separate mass graves in the Pul-e-Charkhi area, District 12 of Kabul city. Initial reports indicate that sixteen corpses were in one grave and twelve others were in the second. (Source: Azadi Radio/BBC News). On December 4, 2008, the Afghan Health Ministry announced that the body of Daoud had been identified on the basis of teeth molds and a small golden Quran found near the body. The Quran was a present he had received from the king of Saudi Arabia.[11] On March 17, 2009 Daoud was given a state funeral.[12]

Personal life[edit]

In 1934, Daoud married HRH Princess Zamina Begum (1917 — 26 April 1978), sister of King Zahir Shah. The couple had four sons and four daughters:

  • 1. Zarlasht Daoud Khan
  • 2. Khalid Daoud Khan (1947–1978). Had a son:
    • Tariq Daoud Khan
  • 3. Wais Daoud Khan (1947–1978). Had four children
    • Turan Daoud Khan (1972-)
    • Ares Daoud Khan (1973 – k. 1978)
    • Waygal Daoud Khan (1975 – k. 1978)
    • Zahra Khanum (1970-).
  • 4. Muhammad 'Umar Daoud Khan (k. 1978). Had two daughters:
    • Hila Khanum (1961 – k. 1978)
    • Ghazala Khanum (1964 – k. 1978)
  • 5. Dorkhanai Begum
  • 6. Zarlasht Khanum (k. 1978)
  • 7. Shinkay Begum (k. 1978)
  • 8. Torpekay Begum[13]


  1. ^ Rubin, Barnett. "DĀWŪD KHAN, MOḤAMMAD". In Ehsan Yarshater. Encyclopædia Iranica (Online ed.). United States: Columbia University. Retrieved January 2008. 
  2. ^ Tomsen, Wars of Afghanistan,' 90.
  3. ^ Dupree, Louis (1980). Afghanistan. Princeton University Press. pp. 475, 498. 
  4. ^ "The Royal Ark". 
  5. ^ "Afghanistan - Daoud as Prime Minister, 1953-63". 1961-09-06. Retrieved 2013-07-29. 
  6. ^ "The Royal Ark". The Royal Ark. Retrieved 2013-07-29. 
  7. ^ Harrison. In Afghanistan’s Shadow. 
  8. ^ Wolny, Philip (2007). Hamid Karzai: President of Afghanistan. The Rosen Publishing Group. p. 8. ISBN 1-4042-1902-1. 
  9. ^ Pazira, Nelofer (2005). A Bed of Red Flowers: In Search of My Afghanistan. Simon and Schuster. p. 70. ISBN 0-7432-9000-3. 
  10. ^ "There was, therefore, little to hinder the assault mounted by the rebel 4th Armored Brigade, led by Major Mohammed Aslam Watanjar, who had also been prominent in Daoud's own coup five years before. Watanjar first secured the airport, where the other coup leader, Colonel Abdul Qadir Dagarwal, left by helicopter for the Bagram air base. There he took charge and organized air strikes on the royal palace, where Daoud and the presidential guard were conducting a desperate defense. Fighting continued the whole day and into the night, when the defenders were finally overwhelmed. Daoud and almost all of his family members, including women and children, died in the fighting. Altogether there were possibly as many as two thousand fatalities, both military and civilian." p. 88 of Ewans, Martin (2002) Afghanistan: A Short History of Its People and Politics HarperCollins, New York, Page 88 ISBN 0-06-050507-9
  11. ^ "Body of Afghan leader identified". BBC News. December 4, 2008. 
  12. ^ "South Asia | Remains of Afghan leader buried". BBC News. 2009-03-17. Retrieved 2013-07-29. 
  13. ^ The Royal Ark

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Shah Mahmud Khan
Prime Minister of Afghanistan
Succeeded by
Mohammad Yusuf
Preceded by
Mohammed Zahir Shah
President of Afghanistan
Succeeded by
Abdul Qadir Dagarwal