Mohammed Daoud Khan

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Mohammed Daoud Khan
Daoud Khan in 1974
President of Afghanistan
In office
17 July 1973 – 28 April 1978
Vice PresidentSayyid Abdullah[1]
Preceded byPosition established (Zahir Shah
as King of Afghanistan)
Succeeded byAbdul Qadir (acting)
Prime Minister of Afghanistan
In office
7 September 1953 – 10 March 1963
MonarchZahir Shah
Preceded byShah Mahmud Khan
Succeeded byMohammad Yusuf
Personal details
Born(1909-07-18)18 July 1909
Kabul, Afghanistan
Died28 April 1978(1978-04-28) (aged 68)
Kabul, Afghanistan
Political partyAfghan National Revolutionary Party
Spouse(s)Princess Zamina Begum, sister of King Zahir Shah

Mohammed Daoud Khan (Pashto: محمد داود خان‎), also romanized as Daud Khan or Dawood Khan[2][3][4] (18 July 1909 – 28 April 1978), was an Afghan politician and General who served as Prime Minister of Afghanistan from 1953 to 1963 and, as leader of the 1973 Afghan coup d'état which overthrew the monarchy, became the first President of Afghanistan in 1973, establishing an autocratic one-party system. Born into the Afghan royal family, Khan started as a provincial governor and later a military commander before being appointed as Prime Minister by his cousin, King Mohammed Zahir Shah. Having failed to persuade the King to implement a one-party system, Khan overthrew the monarchy with the backing of Afghan Army officers, and proclaimed himself the first President of the Republic of Afghanistan.

Khan was known for his autocratic rule,[5] and for his educational and progressive[6] social reforms.[7] Under his regime, he headed a purge of communists in the government, and many of his policies also displeased the religious conservatives, the liberals who were in favor of restituting the multiparty system that existed under the monarchy, and ethnic minorities who resented what they perceived as a favoritism towards Pashtuns.[8] Social and economic reforms implemented under his ruling were thought to be relatively successful, but his foreign policy led to tense relations with neighbouring countries. In 1978, he was deposed and assassinated during the Saur Revolution, led by the Afghan military and the communist People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA).[9][10] His body was discovered 30 years later, identified by a small golden Koran he always carried; he received a state funeral.[11][12]

Early life[edit]

Khan was born in Kabul, Emirate of Afghanistan, the eldest son of the diplomat Prince Mohammed Aziz Khan [de] (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 Prince Naim Khan (1911–1978) then came under the tutelage of their uncle Prince Hashim Khan (1884–1953). Daoud proved to be an apt student of politics.

Educated in France, he served as a senior administrator in the Kingdom of Afghanistan, serving as Governor of the Eastern Province in 1934-35 and in 1938–39, and was Governor of Kandahar Province from 1935 to 1938. His father died when Daoud was 24.[citation needed] In 1939, Khan was promoted to Commander of the Central Forces.[13] As commander, he led Afghan forces against the Safi during the Afghan tribal revolts of 1944–1947.[13] From 1946 to 1948, he served as Defense Minister, then Interior Minister from 1949 to 1951. In 1948, he served as Afghan Ambassador to France.

In 1951, he was promoted to General and served in that capacity as Commander of the Central Corps of the Afghan Armed Forces[14] in Kabul from 1951 to 1953.[15]

Royal Prime Minister[edit]

Khan was appointed Prime Minister in September 1953 through an intra-family transfer of power, replacing Shah Mahmud Khan. 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, as well as tentative steps towards the emancipation of women, giving women a higher public presence[16][17] which led to significant amounts of freedom and educational opportunities for them.[18]

With the creation of the Dominion of Pakistan, an independent state, in August 1947, Prime Minister Daoud Khan had rejected the Durand Line, which was accepted as international border by successive Afghan governments for over a half a century.[19] Khan supported a nationalistic reunification of the Pakistani 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 opposition to an older plan of the 1940s whereby a confederation between the two countries was proposed. The move further worried the non-Pashtun populations of Afghanistan such as the minority Hazara, Tajik, and Uzbek, who suspected his intention was to increase the Pashtuns' disproportionate hold on political power.[5]

Abdul Ghaffar Khan (founder of Khudai Khidmatgar movement) stated "that Daoud Khan only exploited the idea of reunification of Pashtun people to meet his own political ends. The idea of reunification of Pashtun people never helped Pashtuns and it only caused trouble for Pakistan. In fact it was never a reality".[20] Moreover, Daoud Khan policy of reunification of Pashtun people failed to gain any support from Pashtuns in Pakistan. Baloch tribe in Pakistan also wondered why Daoud Khan had included Balochistan as part of his idea without their approval.[5]

In 1960, Khan sent troops across the poorly-marked Durand Line into the Bajaur Agency of Pakistan in an attempt to manipulate events in that area and to press the Pashtunistan issue, but the Afghan forces were defeated by the Pakistani Tribals. During this period, the propaganda war from Afghanistan, carried on by radio, was relentless.[21] In 1961, Daoud Khan made another attempt to invade Bajaur with larger Afghan army this time. However, Pakistan employed F-86 Sabres jets which inflicted heavy casualties against the Afghan army unit and the tribesmen from Kunar province which were supporting the Afghan army. Several Afghan soldiers were also captured and they were paraded in front of international media which in turn caused embarrassment for Daoud Khan.[5]

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

As a result of continued resentment against Daoud's autocratic rule, close ties with the USSR and economic downturn because of blockade imposed by Pakistan, Daoud Khan was asked to resign. Instead of resigning, Daoud Khan requested King Zahir Shah to approve the new 'one-party constitution' proposed by him which would in turn increase Daoud Khan's already considerable power. Upon rejection, Daoud Khan angrily resigned.[5] The crisis was finally resolved with his forced resignation in March 1963 and the re-opening of the border in May. Pakistan continued to remain suspicious of Afghan intentions and Daoud's policy left a negative impression in the eyes of many Tajiks who felt they were being disenfranchised for the sake of Pashtun nationalism. He was succeeded by Mohammad Yusuf.

In 1964, King Zahir Shah introduced a new constitution, for the first time excluding all members of the Royal Family from the Council of Ministers. Khan had already stepped down. In addition to having been Prime Minister, he had also held the portfolios of Minister of Defense and Minister of Planning until 1963.[citation needed]

President of the Republic[edit]

Daoud Khan visiting National Iranian Radio and Television in Iran, c. 1974

Khan was unsatisfied with King Zahir Shah's constitutional parliamentary system and lack of progress. He planned rebellion for more than a year[22] before he, on 17 July 1973, seized power from the King in a bloodless coup, backed by a large number of army officers who were loyal to him, facing no resistance.[23] Departing from tradition, and for the first time in Afghan history, he did not proclaim himself Shah, establishing instead a republic with himself as President. The role of pro-communist Parchamite officers in the coup led to him receiving the nickname "Red Prince" by some.[24]

King Zahir Shah's constitution with elected members and the separation of powers was replaced by a now largely nominated loya jirga (meaning "grand assembly"). The parliament was disbanded.[25] Although he was close to the Soviet Union during prime ministership, Khan continued the Afghan policy of non-alignment with the Cold War superpowers, neither did he bring drastic pro-Soviet change to the economic system.[26]

In Khan's new cabinet, many ministers were fresh faced politicians, and only Dr Abdul Majid was a ministerial carryover from Khan's Prime Minister era (1953-1963); Majid was Minister of Education from 1953 to 1957, and from 1973 was appointed Minister of Justice until 1977. Initially about half of the new cabinet were either current members, former members or sympathizers of the PDPA, but over time their influence would be eradicated by Khan.[23][27]

A coup against Khan, 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 before his trial set for December 1973. This was at a time when Parchamites controlled the Ministry of Interior under circumstances corroborating the widespread belief that he had been tortured to death by the leftists. On one account, Daoud Khan planned to appoint Maiwandwal as prime minister, leading to the Parchamite Minister of Interior, Faiz Mohammad, along with fellow communists, framing Maiwandwal of a coup plot, then torturing him to death without Daoud Khan's knowledge. Louis Dupree wrote that Maiwandwal, one of few Afghan politicians with an international reputation, could have been a leader in a democratic process and therefore a target for communists.[28] One of the army generals arrested under suspicion of this plot with Maiwandwal was Mohammed Asif Safi, who was later released. Khan personally apologized to him for the arrest.

In 1974 he signed one of two economic packages that aimed to greatly increase the capability of the Afghan military. At this time, there were increasing concerns that Afghanistan lacked a modern army comparable to the militaries of Iran and Pakistan.

In 1975, his government nationalized all banks in Afghanistan, including Da Afghanistan Bank.[29]

Khan wanted to lessen the country's dependence on the Soviet Union and attempted to promote a new foreign policy. In 1975 he visited some countries in the Middle East including Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Iran for aid,[30] all of which were anti-Soviet states,[31] and also visited India.[27] Regarding the Non-Aligned Movement summit in Havana, Khan said that Cuba "only pretends to be non-aligned."[31] Surprisingly, he did not renew the Pashtunistan agitation; relations with Pakistan improved thanks to interventions from the US and the Shah of Iran. These moves alerted the Soviets.

Constitution of 1977[edit]

In 1977, 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 a new constitution. It wrote in several new articles and amended others - one of these was the creation of a presidential one-party system of government. He also began to moderate his socialist policies, although the 1977 constitution had a nationalist bend in addition to previous socialism and Islam.[25] In 1978, there was a rift with the PDPA. Internally he 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.

During his latter years in charge, his purge of communists in his government strained his relations with them, while his desire for higher authority strained relations with the liberals that were in charge during the monarchy. Also, his persecution of religious conservatives strained relations with those people too.[8]

Relations with Pakistan[edit]

As during his time as Prime Minister, Daoud Khan again pressed on the question of Pashtunistan, again leading to sometimes tense relations with Pakistan.

Daoud hosted General Secretary of the National Awami Party Khan Abdul Wali Khan, Ajmal Khattak, Juma Khan Sufi, Baluch guerrillas, and others. Khan's government and forces also commenced training Pakhtun Zalmay and young Baluchs to conduct militant action and sabotage in Pakistan. The campaign was significant enough that even one of Bhutto's senior colleagues, minister of interior and head of the provincial branch of Bhutto's party of/in the then-North-West Frontier Province (renamed Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in 2010), Hayat Sherpao, was killed, ostensibly on the orders of the later-acquitted Awami Party. As a result, Afghanistan's already strained relationship with Pakistan further dipped and Pakistan likewise started similar kinds of cross-border interference.

By 1975, Pakistani Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, through its Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), had begun to engage in promoting a proxy war in Afghanistan.

In 1976, under pressure from the 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. Soon after Khan'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 Khan. He was successful in suppressing the movement, however. Later in 1978, while promoting his new foreign policy doctrine, he came to a tentative agreement on a solution to the Pashtunistan problem with Ali Bhutto. By August 1976 relations with Pakistan had improved to a high degree.[23]

Diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union[edit]

Khan met Leonid Brezhnev on a state visit to Moscow from 12 to 15 April 1977. He 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.[32] 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.[33]

"All of his life experience is evidence that Sardar Mohammad Daoud Khan would not bow to foreigners, regardless of their nationality. Particularly, in his last meeting with [Soviet leader] Leonid Brezhnev, he proved his bravery and patriotism. But KGB deceptions and the games that they played could have benefited from Daoud Khan's influence in the armed forces. So Daoud Khan, indirectly and with total unawareness, could have been manipulated by the KGB."

Sayed Makhdoom Raheen in 2003[3]

After returning to Afghanistan, he 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 Soviet Union.[citation needed]

Communist coup and assassination[edit]

Outside the front gates of the Arg (the Presidential palace, formerly the chief Royal palace) in Kabul, the day after the Saur Revolution (28 April 1978)

After the murder of Mir Akbar Khyber, the prominent Parchami ideologue, his funeral on 19 April 1978 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][34]

Shocked by this demonstration of communist unity, Khan ordered the arrest of the PDPA leaders, but he acted 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. Khan had misjudged the situation and believed that Karmal's Parcham faction was the main communist threat. In fact, according to PDPA documents, Amin's Khalq faction had extensively infiltrated the military, and they outnumbered Parcham cells by a factor of 2 to 3. 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 26 April because of a presumed coup. On 27 April 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.

Khan and most of his family were assassinated during a coup by members of the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA). The coup happened in the Arg, the former chief Royal palace, on 28 April 1978, involving heavy fighting and many deaths.[35] Shortly afterwards, the new military leaders announced that Khan was killed for refusing to pledge allegiance.[36]

Body and state funeral[edit]

On 28 June 2008, his body and those of his family were found in two separate mass graves outside the walls of Pul-e-Charkhi prison, District 12 of Kabul city. Initial reports indicate that sixteen corpses were in one grave and twelve others were in the second.[11] On 4 December 2008, the Afghan Health Ministry announced that the body 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.[37] On 17 March 2009, General Daoud was given a state funeral.[11] His only surviving child, Dorkhanai, attended the funeral.[12]

Public image[edit]

News sources in the 1970s claimed that General Daoud Khan said he was happiest when he could "light his American cigarettes with Soviet matches."[38][30]

Mohammad Daoud Khan was retrospectively described as an "old-fashioned statesman, compassionate yet reserved and authoritarian" by The Guardian's Nushin Arbabzadeh.[24] Then-President Hamid Karzai hailed Khan's courage and patriotism in comments after his 2009 state funeral, saying he was "always thinking of the advancement and prosperity of the country."[39] Some Afghans fondly consider him to be the best leader their country has had in modern times.[40]

During his time as prime minister and president, Khan was highly unpopular among the non-Pashtun minorities in Afghanistan because of his alleged Pashtun favouritism.[41] During his regime, controlling positions in the government, army and educational institutions were largely dominated by Pashtuns.[42] Afghan armed forces were allied with Daoud Khan and supported his goal of promoting Pashtuns to higher posts in Afghan armed forces. In 1963, Afghan Uzbeks were not allowed to become high-ranking officers in Afghan armed forces. Similarly only few Tajiks were allowed to hold the position of officer in Afghan army, while other ethnicities were prohibited to do so. Daoud Khan viewed Afghan armed forces as crucial vector in the Pashtunisation of Afghan state.[43] The Panjshir uprising in 1975 is also believed to be result of anti-Pashtun frustration which had been building up in Panjshir valley as result of Daoud Khan's policies.[44]

Personal life[edit]

In September 1934, Daoud Khan married Princess Zamina Begum (11 January 1917 – 28 April 1978), sister of King Zahir (15 October 1914 – 23 July 2007). 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). Had two daughters:
    • Ariane Heila Khanum Ghazi (1961-)
    • Hawa Khanum Ghazi (1963-)
  • 8. Torpekay Begum. Had three children:
    • Shah Mahmud Khan Ghazi
    • Daud Khan Ghazi
    • Zahra Khanum Ghazi



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  35. ^ "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, 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
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External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Prime Minister of Afghanistan
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Heads of State of Afghanistan
Succeeded by