Babrak Karmal

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Babrak Karmal (6 January 1929 – 1 or 3 December 1996) was the third President of Afghanistan (1979–1986) during the period of the communist Democratic Republic of Afghanistan. He is the best known of the Marxist leadership.

Having been restored to power with the support of the Soviet Union, he was unable to consolidate his power and, in 1986, he was replaced by Dr. Mohammad Najibullah. He left Afghanistan for Moscow, where he died in 1996.


Early years

The son of a well-connected army general and governor (Muhammad Hussein Hashimi), although born into a wealthy family in the village of Kamari (east of Kabul), Babrak Karmal lived in hardship following the death of his mother.

He was an indifferent student in high school and in the law school of Kabul 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, and was imprisoned for five years as a result.

In prison, Karmal was befriended by a fellow inmate, Mir Akbar Khyber. 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 (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. 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. 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.

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