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Babrak Karmal

Babrak Karmal

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Babrak Karmal was the third President of Afghanistan
Afghanistan
Afghanistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country located in the centre of Asia, forming South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. With a population of about 29 million, it has an area of , making it the 42nd most populous and 41st largest nation in the world...

 (1979–1986) during the period of the communist Democratic Republic of Afghanistan
Democratic Republic of Afghanistan
The Democratic Republic of Afghanistan was a government of Afghanistan between 1978 and 1992. It was both ideologically close to and economically dependent on the Soviet Union, and was a major belligerent of the Afghan Civil War.- Saur Revolution :...

. He is the best known of the Marxist leadership.

Having been restored to power with the support of the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

, he was unable to consolidate his power and, in 1986, he was replaced by Dr. Mohammad Najibullah
Mohammad Najibullah
Mohammad Najibullah Ahmadzai , originally merely Najibullah, was the fourth and last President of the Soviet-backed Democratic Republic of Afghanistan. He is also considered the second President of the Republic of Afghanistan.-Early years:Najibullah was born in August 1947 to the Ahmadzai...

. He left Afghanistan
Afghanistan
Afghanistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country located in the centre of Asia, forming South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. With a population of about 29 million, it has an area of , making it the 42nd most populous and 41st largest nation in the world...

 for Moscow
Moscow
Moscow is the capital, the most populous city, and the most populous federal subject of Russia. The city is a major political, economic, cultural, scientific, religious, financial, educational, and transportation centre of Russia and the continent...

, where he died in 1996.

Early years


Babrak Karmal (born Babrak Hashemi) was the son of Muhammad Hussein Hashemi, a four stars army
Afghan National Army
The Afghan National Army is a service branch of the military of Afghanistan, which is currently trained by the coalition forces to ultimately take the role in land-based military operations in Afghanistan. , the Afghan National Army is divided into seven regional Corps. The strength of the Afghan...

 general and former governor of the province of Paktia and Herat. Although born into a wealthy family in the village of Kamari (east of Kabul
Kabul
Kabul , spelt Caubul in some classic literatures, is the capital and largest city of Afghanistan. It is also the capital of the Kabul Province, located in the eastern section of Afghanistan...

), Babrak Karmal lived in hardship following the death of his mother. His ethnic background is disputed, some claim that he was Tajik who represented himself as a Pashtun
Pashtun people
Pashtuns or Pathans , also known as ethnic Afghans , are an Eastern Iranic ethnic group with populations primarily between the Hindu Kush mountains in Afghanistan and the Indus River in Pakistan...

 but others claim that he descended from Hindu
Hindu
Hindu refers to an identity associated with the philosophical, religious and cultural systems that are indigenous to the Indian subcontinent. As used in the Constitution of India, the word "Hindu" is also attributed to all persons professing any Indian religion...

 ancestors of Kashmir
Kashmir
Kashmir is the northwestern region of the Indian subcontinent. Until the mid-19th century, the term Kashmir geographically denoted only the valley between the Great Himalayas and the Pir Panjal mountain range...

.

He was an indifferent student in high school and in the law school of Kabul University
Kabul University
Kabul University is located in Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan. It was founded in 1931 but officially opened for classes in 1932. Kabul University is currently attended by approximately 7,000 students, of which 1,700 are women. As of 2008, Hamidullah Amin is the chancellor of the university...

, quickly gained a reputation as an orator and activist in the university’s student union in 1951. He became involved in Marxist political activities while a student at Kabul University
Kabul University
Kabul University is located in Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan. It was founded in 1931 but officially opened for classes in 1932. Kabul University is currently attended by approximately 7,000 students, of which 1,700 are women. As of 2008, Hamidullah Amin is the chancellor of the university...

, and was imprisoned for five years as a result.

In prison, Karmal was befriended by a fellow inmate, Mir Akbar Khyber
Mir Akbar Khyber
Mir Akbar Khyber was an Afghan intellectual and a leader of the Parcham faction of the communist People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan...

. A third inmate, Mier Mohammad Siddiq Farhang, initiated both to pro-Moscow leftist views. After graduation he entered the Ministry of Planning, keeping in close touch with those who had special knowledge on communism, among them Mier Mohammad Siddiq Farhang and Ali Mohammad Zahma, a professor at Kabul University.

Political career


On 1 January 1965 the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan
People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan
The People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan was a communist party established on the 1 January 1965. While a minority, the party helped former president of Afghanistan, Mohammed Daoud Khan, to overthrow his cousin, Mohammed Zahir Shah, and established Daoud's Republic of Afghanistan...

 (PDPA) was founded in Kabul, with Karmal serving as one of its 28 founding members in its founding congress. Karmal was appointed its Secretary. As a result, he was elected and served in the quasi-democratic National Assembly of Afghanistan from 1965 until 1973 during the constitutional monarchy of King Zahir Shah
Mohammed Zahir Shah
Mohammed Zahir Shah was the last King of Afghanistan, reigning for four decades, from 1933 until he was ousted by a coup in 1973...

. Karmal is known for his revolutionary and open speeches in the parliament against the ruling classes. In most of his parliamentary speeches, Karmal urged the people of Afghanistan to unite and stand up against the ruling classes and fight the status quo. Karmal and a few of his other comrades in the National Assembly, represented the only leftist group at the time.

In 1967, when the party split into the Khalq
Khalq
Khalq was a faction of the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan. Its historical leaders were Presidents Nur Muhammad Taraki and Hafizullah Amin. It was also the name of the leftist newspaper produced by the same movement. It was supported by the USSR and was formed in 1965 when the PDPA was born...

 and the Parcham
Parcham
Parcham was the name of one of the factions of the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan. The Parcham faction seized power in the country after toppling Hafizullah Amin....

 factions, Karmal became the leader of the more moderate Parcham faction. When Mohammed Daoud Khan
Mohammed Daoud Khan
Sardar Mohammed Daoud Khan or Daud Khan was Prime Minister of Afghanistan from 1953 to 1963 and later becoming the President of Afghanistan...

 overthrew the monarchy
Monarchy
A monarchy is a form of government in which the office of head of state is usually held until death or abdication and is often hereditary and includes a royal house. In some cases, the monarch is elected...

 and instituted the Republic, Karmal was asked by President Daoud to share power with him. Karmal replied that he needed to consult his with comrades on this issue and inform Daoud later. However, he never returned and did not serve in Daoud's government, though some of the people who did serve eventually assumed important positions in Karmal's government.

The factions reunited in 1977, and in April 1978 seized control of Afghanistan through a military coup. Karmal was initially Deputy Prime Minister but, following the rise of the rival Khalq faction, he and other important members of the Parcham faction such as Mohammed Najibullah, Noor Ahmad Noor, Anahita Ratebzad
Anahita Ratebzad
Anahita Ratebzad is a female Afghan Marxist and former member of the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan and the Revolutionary Council....

, and Mahmood Baryalai, were essentially exiled by being appointed ambassadors to other countries, while others, such as Sultan Ali Keshtmand
Sultan Ali Keshtmand
Sultan Ali Keshtmand, sometimes transliterated Kishtmand, born May 22, 1935 in Kabul, was an Afghan politician. He served twice as Prime Minister during the 1980s, from 1981 to 1988 and from 1989 to 1990 in the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan....

, were put in jail.

Note may be taken of the fact that Karmal and his Parcham faction, arguing that the country was not yet ready for the socialist transformation of society, opposed any move that would result in the seizure of state power by the PDPA and did not support the military coup that resulted in the overthrow of Daoud's government. Keshtmand, one of the founding members of PDPA, emphasized this in 2002. Indeed, the initiative of the coup was taken by Hafizullah Amin himself without the knowledge of the top PDPA leadership. The "order" for the launching of the coup against the Daoud regime was delivered by Amin's son to Amin's military group in the army.

The PDPA attempted to modernize the country in line with socialist programs, but there was major unrest. In December 1979 the Soviets invaded Afghanistan and Soviet commandos killed the then leader Hafizullah Amin
Hafizullah Amin
Hafizullah Amin was the second President of Afghanistan during the period of the communist Democratic Republic of Afghanistan....

. The Soviets brought Karmal back to be President of the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan. Babrak Karmal, exiled leader of the Parcham faction of the PDPA was installed by the Soviets as Afghanistan's new head of government.

President of the Republic


In his first radio broadcasts (Listen to the radio broadcast at http://www.afghanland.com/history/karmal.html) Karmal gave hopeful promises. He said that henceforth there would be no executions and that a new constitution
Constitution
A constitution is a set of fundamental principles or established precedents according to which a state or other organization is governed. These rules together make up, i.e. constitute, what the entity is...

 would be drawn up providing for the democratic
Democracy
Democracy is generally defined as a form of government in which all adult citizens have an equal say in the decisions that affect their lives. Ideally, this includes equal participation in the proposal, development and passage of legislation into law...

 election of national and local assemblies. He also promised that political parties would function freely and that both personal property and individual freedom
Freedom (political)
Political freedom is a central philosophy in Western history and political thought, and one of the most important features of democratic societies...

 would be safeguarded. In particular, he stressed that soon a government representing a united national front would be set up and that it would not pursue socialism.

He managed to fulfill some of his promises: the release of some political prisoners; the promulgation of the Fundamental Principles of the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan
Democratic Republic of Afghanistan
The Democratic Republic of Afghanistan was a government of Afghanistan between 1978 and 1992. It was both ideologically close to and economically dependent on the Soviet Union, and was a major belligerent of the Afghan Civil War.- Saur Revolution :...

; the change of the red, Soviet-style banner of the Khalq
Khalq
Khalq was a faction of the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan. Its historical leaders were Presidents Nur Muhammad Taraki and Hafizullah Amin. It was also the name of the leftist newspaper produced by the same movement. It was supported by the USSR and was formed in 1965 when the PDPA was born...

 period to the more orthodox one of black, red, and green; the granting of concessions to religious leaders; and the conditional restoration of confiscated property.

However, from the beginning, his government did not enjoy international support. The United Nations
United Nations
The United Nations is an international organization whose stated aims are facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace...

 General Assembly voted by 104 to 18 with 18 abstentions for a resolution which "strongly deplored" the "recent armed intervention" in Afghanistan
Afghanistan
Afghanistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country located in the centre of Asia, forming South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. With a population of about 29 million, it has an area of , making it the 42nd most populous and 41st largest nation in the world...

 and called for the "total withdrawal of foreign troops" from the country.

There were also immediate problems within the party. Karmal was the chosen man of the Kremlin
Kremlin
A kremlin , same root as in kremen is a major fortified central complex found in historic Russian cities. This word is often used to refer to the best-known one, the Moscow Kremlin, or metonymically to the government that is based there...

, and no one within the party could openly oppose him. No attempt was made to televise the process by which the official party and the Revolutionary Council elected him head of the party and of the state.

Karmal’s poor performance in interviews with foreign journalists also failed to help his public image. In the first and last televised interview of his life, held before a large number of foreign and Afghan journalists after he was raised to power, Karmal divided the journalists on the basis of the Cold War
Cold War
The Cold War was the continuing state from roughly 1946 to 1991 of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, and economic competition between the Communist World—primarily the Soviet Union and its satellite states and allies—and the powers of the Western world, primarily the United States...

 line distinguishing between the Western bloc and the socialist bloc countries.

Thus, the civil war in Afghanistan started. This was a different type of war, however, since it involved guerrilla warfare and a war of attrition between the PDPA-Communist controlled regime and the Mujahideen
Mujahideen
Mujahideen are Muslims who struggle in the path of God. The word is from the same Arabic triliteral as jihad .Mujahideen is also transliterated from Arabic as mujahedin, mujahedeen, mudžahedin, mudžahidin, mujahidīn, mujaheddīn and more.-Origin of the concept:The beginnings of Jihad are traced...

; it cost both sides a great deal. Many Afghans, perhaps as many as five million, or one-quarter of the country's population, fled to Pakistan
Pakistan
Pakistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a sovereign state in South Asia. It has a coastline along the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman in the south and is bordered by Afghanistan and Iran in the west, India in the east and China in the far northeast. In the north, Tajikistan...

 and Iran
Iran
Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

 where they organized into guerrilla groups to strike Soviet and government forces inside Afghanistan.

Others remained in Afghanistan and also formed fighting groups. These various groups were supplied with funds to purchase arms, principally from the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia , commonly known in British English as Saudi Arabia and in Arabic as as-Sa‘ūdiyyah , is the largest state in Western Asia by land area, constituting the bulk of the Arabian Peninsula, and the second-largest in the Arab World...

, the People's Republic of China
People's Republic of China
China , officially the People's Republic of China , is the most populous country in the world, with over 1.3 billion citizens. Located in East Asia, the country covers approximately 9.6 million square kilometres...

, and Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

.

Fall from power



The regime ruled only the city of Kabul, the provincial capitals, and those strategic areas where the Soviets and the Afghan Military had stationed military contingents and militia units, which were mainly in the north of the country. Despite high casualties on both sides, pressure continued to mount on the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

, especially after the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 brought in Stinger
FIM-92 Stinger
The FIM-92 Stinger is a personal portable infrared homing surface-to-air missile , which can be adapted to fire from ground vehicles and helicopters , developed in the United States and entered into service in 1981. Used by the militaries of the U.S...

 anti-aircraft missiles which severely reduced the effectiveness of Soviet air cover.

Moscow
Moscow
Moscow is the capital, the most populous city, and the most populous federal subject of Russia. The city is a major political, economic, cultural, scientific, religious, financial, educational, and transportation centre of Russia and the continent...

 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
Mikhail Gorbachev
Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev is a former Soviet statesman, having served as General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1985 until 1991, and as the last head of state of the USSR, having served from 1988 until its dissolution in 1991...

, then General Secretary of the Soviet Communist Party, said, "The main reason that there has been no national consolidation so far is that Comrade Karmal is hoping to continue sitting in Kabul with our help."

Additionally, some Afghan troops who had fought for the Communist Government began to defect. In May 1986 he was replaced as party leader by Mohammad Najibullah
Mohammad Najibullah
Mohammad Najibullah Ahmadzai , originally merely Najibullah, was the fourth and last President of the Soviet-backed Democratic Republic of Afghanistan. He is also considered the second President of the Republic of Afghanistan.-Early years:Najibullah was born in August 1947 to the Ahmadzai...

. Despite his failures as a leader, in order to prevent a power struggle or revealing the decaying state of Afghan politics (more specifically, that the leaders were "puppets"), he was not killed like his predecessor rather, in November 1986, under increasing pressure from Moscow, he stepped down from the presidency saying that he had heart trouble. then moved to Moscow, reportedly for medical treatment. He returned to Kabul in 1991 and then spent a few years in Hayratan (Afghanistan). He eventually died in Moscow in 1996.

Death


In early December 1996, Karmal died in Moscow's Central Clinical Hospital
Central Clinical Hospital
The Central Clinical Hospital of the Presidential Administration of the Russian Federation is a heavily-guarded facility seven miles northwest of the Kremlin in an exclusive, wooded suburban area known as Kuntsevo. It's considered to be the best hospital in Russia and one of the best hospitals in...

 from liver cancer
Hepatocellular carcinoma
Hepatocellular carcinoma is the most common type of liver cancer. Most cases of HCC are secondary to either a viral hepatitide infection or cirrhosis .Compared to other cancers, HCC is quite a rare tumor in the United States...

. The date of his death was reported by some sources as 1 December and by others as December 3. On 5 December about 200 members of the Afghan community in Moscow attended a memorial service at the Hospital. Most of those in attendance had served in Karmal's Afghan government.

Karmal's body was flown the following day from Moscow to Termez
Termez
Termez is a city in southern Uzbekistan near the border with Afghanistan.Some link the name of the city to thermos, "hot" in Greek, tracing its name back to Alexander the Great. Others suggest that it came from Sanskrit taramato, meaning "on the river bank". It is the hottest point of Uzbekistan...

, a city in Uzbekistan that borders Afghanistan. From there it was carried in an ambulance via the "Friendship Bridge
Friendship Bridge
Friendship Bridge is a name for bridges linking countries separated by rivers or straits:* Friendship Bridge , linking Paraguay and Brazil* Afghanistan–Uzbekistan Friendship Bridge, linking Afghanistan and Uzbekistan...

" to Hayratan, the border city on the Afghan side near Termez. Nearly a thousand people from different parts of Afghanistan and from different walks of life were waiting in a very long line to welcome Karmal's body back to Afghanistan. His body was first taken to Hayratan General Hospital where it was put on display for hundreds of people who came to pay their last respects to the man who once was their President. Karmal's body was buried in the Hayratan common graveyard beside the grave of his life-long comrade Imtiaz Hassan, who had earlier died in Moscow and was buried in the Hayratan Graveyard. Films of Karmal's funeral and burial are available.

When the Taliban captured Hayratan for a second time in August 1998, Babrak Karmal's body was exhumed from his grave but was soon re-buried in the same grave in presence of some residents (one of whom was a loyal member of Karmal's Parcham faction of the PDPA) of Hayratan contrary to the false belief that his body was thrown into Amu Darya. After the Taliban re-buried Babrak Karmal, some of his comrades residing in Hayratan city went to his grave, opened it and made sure he was there, and then closed it again. Pictures are available.

External links