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Tajik Rule, January-October 1929

Bacha-i SaqaoThe man who seized Kabul from Amanullah is usually described by historians as a Tajik bandit. A native of Kala Khan, a village thirty kilometers north of Kabul, the new Afghan ruler dubbed himself Habibullah Khan, but others called him Bacha-i Saqao or Bacha-i Saqqao (Son of the Water Carrier). His attack on Kabul was shrewdly timed to follow the Shinwari rebellion and the defection of much of the army. Habibullah was probably the first Tajik to rule this region since before the Greeks arrived (although some historians believe the Ghorids of the twelfth century to have been Tajiks).

Underlying the predominant Afghan and Ghilzai elements in Afghan ethnography is the Tajik, representing the original Persian possessor of the soil, who still speaks his mother tongue. There are pure Persians in Afghanistan, such as the Kizzilbashes of Kabul, and the Naoshinvanis of Kharan; but tho name Tajik appears to be applied only to an admixture of original Arab and Persian stock (such as tho Dehwars), who were the slaves of the community bowers of wood and drawers of water. Everywhere the Tajiks were the cultivators in rural districts, and the shopkeepers and clerks in the towns. The Tajik was as much the slave of the Pathan in Afghanistan as was the Hindki (whose origin was similar) in the plains of the Indus. Yet the Tajik population of the richly-cultivated districts north of Kabul proved themselves to be of good fighting material in the Afghan war of 1S79-80, and the few Kizzilbashes that were to be found in the ranks of the British Indian army were good soldiers.

The anti-Soviet Basmachi insurgency in Soviet Central Asia was staffed by peasants; but some elements of the commercial classes of Central Asia, motivated by the Soviets' attacks on institutions as much as by economic devastation and were also Pro-Russian land and water poUcy, raids organizations, and policies that facilitated the death by of 1,000,000 Muslims, facilitated the revolt. It began 1918 and lasted until 1931. Pro-Russian land and water poUcy, cavalry raids against religious organizations, and policies that facilitated the death by of 1,000,000 Muslims, facilitated the revolt. From 1925 to 1930, the Basmachi continued raids on Soviet Central Asia from Afghanistan where they enjoyed a carte blanche to move around and organize. But from 1925, the Soviets offered neutrality in return for cessation of Afghan support to the Basmachi and simultaneously conducted raids into Afghan territories.

Bacha i Sagao was Staunchly anti-Soviet. This led to a Basmachi renaissance. Moscow now sent large troop contingents to Central Asia. They fought a brutal counterinsurgency war; and they deported 270,000 Central Asians. Dushanbe, Namangan, Andizhan, and Margelan were burned to the ground another 1,200 villages were destroyed, and other cities were severely damaged. Nevertheless, the fighting raged on. Moscow then decided to invade Afghanistan to establish a local Communist party which could proclaim a Soviet regime and then invite assistance.

Little is written of Habibullah Khan's nine-month reign, but most historians agree that he could not have held onto power for very long under any conditions. The powerful Pashtun tribes, including the Ghilzai, who had initially supported him against Amanullah, chafed under rule by a non-Pashtun. When Amanullah's last feeble attempt to regain his throne failed, those next in line were the Musahiban brothers, who were also Muhammadzai Barakzai and whose great-grandfather was an older brother of Dost Mohammad.

The five prominent Musahiban brothers included Nadir Khan, the eldest, who had been Amanullah's former minister of war. They were permitted to cross through the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) to enter Afghanistan and take up arms. Once on the other side, however, they were not allowed back and forth across the border to use British territory as a sanctuary, nor were they allowed to gather together a tribal army on the British side of the Durand Line. However, the Musahiban brothers and the tribes successfully ignored these restrictions.

After several unsuccessful attempts, Nadir and his brothers finally raised a sufficiently large force--mostly from the British side of the Durand Line--to take Kabul on October 10, 1929. Six days later, Nadir Shah, the eldest of the Musahiban brothers, was proclaimed monarch. Habibullah fled Kabul, was captured in Kohistan, and executed on November 3, 1929.

In 1930, Moscow adopted a policy of hot pursuit, thus abrogating the 1926 neutrality treaty. Now, the Afghan army acted; it chased the Basmachi into the Soviet Union where, after several months of bitter fighting in 1931, Basmachi leader Ibrahim Bek was captured, tried, and executed. A new treaty with Kabul sealed the border and led to the speedy termination of the revolt.

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Page last modified: 08-10-2012 19:53:10 ZULU