The emergence of political Parties (1965-1978)
With the growth in higher education from the 1950s, a sizeable group of young intelligentsia emerged. As restrictions on political activity were lifted in the 1960s, they engaged in establishing a number of political parties. Here I will focus on the coming rulers, and on groups with substantial Hazara involvement. The parties can be divided into two categories. First were Islamist movements, in which the sheikh were dominant. Second were the secular radicals, nationalist or leftist in orientation. These new parties had much in common. Being largely elitist, they remained distant from the average person. They also shared the attempt to build modern organization, and the ambition to bring about radical social and political reform.
The Jawanan-e Musulman, Muslim Youth, became the major Islamist group in the country. Ideologically it was in line with the international Muslim Brotherhood. The movement was originally cross sectarian, but a number of prominent Shia members split off in 1969/1970. Another Islamistic intellectual group, Madrasah-y- Quran, was built up by Mawlana Faizani. Originally set up as a sufi order, it later turned into a political group, and had followers of both Shia and Sunni belief. In 1973, the group joined a larger alliance, the Madrasah-i- Tauhid in 1973, and after an alleged plot, Faizani and several others were arrested. In 1978 these groups split along sectarian lines, and the Shia faction under Asadullah Naktadan’s leadership settled in Iran after Khomeini took power. Additionally, there were numerous small groups set up by the students at different madrasa, religious schools. A prominent example is the Sobh-e Danesh, a cultural organization linked to Sheikh Asif Mohseni’s school in Kandahar.
The same period saw the emergence of several Hazara nationalist organizations. These groups did not take any particular political ideology as their starting point; they were “militantly committed to advancing the rights of minorities and the independent cultural traditions of the ‘Mongol’ peoples of Afghanistan..” Two such groups were Jawanan-e Mughal, the Mongol Youth, and Tanzim-e Nazl-e Nau Hazara, Organization of the New generation of Hazara. Most important was the Tanzim, which was well integrated in the exile community in Quetta. This organization was supported by the Bhutto government in Pakistan, who saw it as instrumental for countering Daud’s Pashtunistan policy.
Several leftist groups emerged in the same period. The coming ruling party, PDPA, was established in 1965. It consisted of two factions, in constant conflict. In reality they operated as independent groups, although allied under the heading of PDPA for limited periods. The Khalq was most doctrinaire, consisting primarily o Pashtun intellectuals with a rural background. Parcham was relatively pragmatic, recruited among children of established Kabul families of different ethnic backgrounds. Parcham joined Daud’s government after 1973. Both factions gave priority to recruitment among students, and infiltration of the army. It is estimated that by 1978 Khalq outnumbered Parcham by three to one. Among Hazara intellectuals however, few were Parcham and almost none were Khalq. The Maoist-oriented Shula-e Jawid had a larger membership than Khalq and Parcham combined around 1970. It grew out of confrontations within PDPA, which led to a split in 1967. The motivation for those who established Shula was as much the fear of Pashtun hegemony a differences of political ideology. Shula was largely dominated by Hazara, with considerable support from other ethnic minorities as well. The party emphasized minority, rather than class discrimination, in their propaganda. Shula published a paper under the same name, and arranged numerous strikes in the late 1960s and 1970s. Another initiative in the pro-Maoist camp was Sitam-e Milli, set up by Taher Badakshi, a former PDPA activist, in 1968. Badakshi, Shia Tajik from the remote northeastern province of Badakshan, presented himself as a Tajik nationalist, rather than a strict Maoist. The Sitam group was more practically oriented than Shula, and ran armed campaigns in Badakshan during Daud’s period in the 1970s.
Most of these groups had little importance outside the Kabul arena of politics. To the extent that they enjoyed broader support, this was a result of traditional ties. The example of the Akram Yari brothers, Hazara from Jaghori in Ghazni, is illustrative. Being among the leaders of Shula, they also had a large local following, based on locality and family ties. It is further noteworthy that all secular parties were multi-ethnic and cross sectarian. Even within the Islamist movements, sectarian split was not a necessity.