Afghanland.com: Taraki, Noor Mohammad
born July 15, 1917, Ghazni province, Afghanistan
died October 9?, 1979, Kabul
Afghan politician who was president and prime minister of
Afghanistan from 1978 to 1979.
Born into a rural Pashtun family, Taraki attended night school
while working as a clerk in Bombay, India, where he learned
English. In the late 1940s he worked in the press department
of the Afghan government and in 1953 was appointed attaché at
the Afghan embassy in Washington, D.C. On returning to Kabul
he opened a business that translated materials for foreign
organizations, and his clientele included the U.S. embassy.
When Mohammad Zahir Shah introduced a more flexible home and
foreign policy in 1963,
Taraki entered politics and helped
found the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA), a
Marxist party with close ties to the Soviet Union. Personal
rivalries and disputes over policy caused a split in the PDPA
in 1967, with the Banner (“Parcham”) faction following the
party's deputy secretary,
Babrak Karmal, and the People's (“Khalq”)
faction following Taraki, the party's general secretary.
The Banner party supported the government of Mohammad Daud
Khan following his coup in 1973, but in 1977 the two PDPA
factions—possibly under Soviet pressure—reunited with Taraki
resuming his post as general secretary. The following year,
with the aid of Soviet-trained army units, Taraki helped
overthrow Daud Khan to become president and prime minister.
Once in power, however, Taraki faced numerous problems. His
Marxist land and social reforms led to violent demonstrations.
Unable to end the growing unrest, he turned to the Soviet
Union for assistance. Taraki also found himself on the losing
end of a power struggle with
Hafizullah Amin, a deputy prime
minister and fellow member of the People's faction of the PDPA.
In March 1979 Taraki was forced to name Amin prime minister
but retained his position as president and PDPA general
secretary. At the beginning
of September 1979 Taraki traveled
to Havana for a summit conference of nonaligned nations.
Returning via Moscow, he was believed to have been advised by
Soviet President Leonid I. Brezhnev to eliminate Amin, whose
anti-Islamic policy the Soviets felt was exacerbating the
political situation in Afghanistan. Taraki's attempt to have
Amin assassinated failed, and Amin seized power on September
14, 1979. Taraki was killed in the violence. Although his
death was announced on October 9, there were conflicting
reports on the actual date of his demise.