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Babrak Karmal:

Although born into a wealthy Tajikid family of Kashmir origin in the village of Kamari east of Kabul, Babrak Karmal lived in hardship following the death of his mother. After graduation from the Nejat High School, Karmal enrolled at the College of Law and Political Sciences in 1951. The next year he was arrested for holding rallies in support of Abdul Rahman Mahmudi, the well-known revolutionary figure of the 1950s. In prison Karmal was befriended by a fellow inmate, Mier Akbar Khybar. A third inmate, Mier Mohammad Siddiq Farhang, initiated both to pro-Moscow leftist views. Karmal then broke off relations with the imprisoned Mahmudi because the latter had turned pro-Beijing. Following his release in 1955, Karmal resumed his studies at the university. 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; in the 1960s Karmal addressed Farhang as ustad (master). Farhang then introduced him to the royal court. Both played a leading role in influencing the youth in adhering to communism (Sharq, Memoirs, 234). After he was raised to power, Karmal appointed Farhang as his adviser, promising him that the Soviet troops would leave Afghanistan within months and that “as economic adviser Farhang would have real power” (Hyman, Afghanistan under Soviet Domination, 194).

On 1 January 1965 the PDPA was founded in Kabul, with Karmal serving as one of its twenty-eight founding members in its founding congress. Karmal was appointed its secretary. In 1967, when the PDPA split into the rival Parcham and Khalq factions, Karmal headed the smaller, and more cosmopolitan, Parcham faction. When Daoud overthrew the monarchy and instituted a republic, Karmal’s faction shared power with him, although Karmal himself did not hold an official position. But the honeymoon did not last long. After he felt secure in his position, President Daoud dismissed Parchamis from the presidential cabinet and tried to distance Afghanistan from the Soviet Union. Under pressure from Moscow the Parcham and Khalq factions reunited in 1977, but the alliance was superficial. After the PDPA usurped power, Karmal held the posts of vice president of the Revolutionary Council and deputy premier, but he had no real power. Soon he was demoted to the post of ambassador to Czechoslovakia. Afterward the Khalqi government implicated him in a conspiracy, expelling him and his associates (who were at the time abroad as ambassadors from the PDPA) and depriving them of Afghan citizenship. The outcasts took refuge in Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union. The Soviets resurrected them after the invasion of Afghanistan and promoted Karmal to the posts of president of the Revolutionary Council, prime minister, supreme commander of the armed forces of Afghanistan, and general secretary of the PDPA. The Soviets let him assume the lofty titles but denied him the power that went with them. They let him serve only as a figurehead.


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