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King Habibullah Kalakani (Dari: حبیب‌الله کلکانی‎), (19 January 1891 – 1 November 1929), was King of Afghanistan from 17 January 1929[note 1] to 13 October 1929. During the Afghan Civil War (1928–1929), he contested the Afghan throne with Amanullah Khan.[4] After defeating Amanullah, he was eventually defeated by Mohammed Nadir Shah.[4] Khalilullah Khalili, a Kohistani poet laureate, depicts King Habibullah Kalakani as a best king of Afghanistan, "and best manager of govermental imports and exports."[5] Kalakani was nicknamed Bacha-e Saqaw (literally son of the water carrier) and bandit king.[6]

Habibullah Kalakani
حبیب‌الله کلکانی
List of monarchs of Afghanistan
Habibullah Kalakani.jpg
King of Afghanistan
Reign17 January 1929[note 1] – 13 October 1929
Coronation17 January 1929
PredecessorInayatullah Khan
SuccessorMohammed Nadir Shah
Born19 January 1891
Kalakan, Kabul Province
Died1 November 1929(1929-11-01) (aged 38)
Kabul, Kabul Province
Full name
Habibullah Kalakani
FatherAminullah Kalakani


Early yearsEdit

Amir Habibullah Kalakani was born in 1891 in the village of Kalakan, north of Kabul. An ethnic Tajik, his father was called Aminullah who delivered water to people's homes.

During his adolescence, Kalakani ventured out of his village and traveled to the city of Kabul. Later, he joined King Amanullah Khan's army.

Habibullāh Kalakāni also fought in the Khost rebellion of 1924. At the time, he served as officer with the Royal Army's "Model Battalion" and served with distinction during the suppression of the insurgents.[7] Nevertheless, he deserted the unit at some unspecified time, and after working in Peshawar moved to Parachinar (on the Afghan border) where he was arrested and sentenced to eleven months imprisonment.[8]

Thereafter, Kalakani began a life of Banditry, since he considered the occupations common among the Kuhdamanis, like viticulture and selling firewood, to be beneath him, reasoning that these could hardly ever provide wheat bread for his table. Instead, he began to rob caravans and nearby villages. He was joined by Sayyid Husayn and Malik Muhsin, as well as others, totaling 24 in all. For three years, they lived in mountain caves, venturing out during the day to rob and hiding out at night, all the time fearful of government retaliation. Sometime later, Kalakani fled to Peshawar where he was a tea seller and a petty thief.[8]

After British police arrested and jailed an accomplice of his, he fled to Peshawar where he stayed a while, supporting himself by petty theft. Kalakani and his bandit group also murdered Ghulam Ghaws Khan, Governor of Charikar.[8]


While the Afghan National Army was engulfed in battle with Pashtun outlaw tribes in Laghman and Nangarhar in the east of the country, Kalakani his friends began to attack the unprotected Kabul from the north in 1928. The revolt caught steam and the country was thrown into a civil war. Wild tribesmen from Waziristan had the southern areas of Kabul surrounded, and Kalakāni's forces were moving into the heart of Kabul from the north.

In the middle of the night, on 14 January 1929, Amanullah Khan handed over his kingdom to his brother Inayatullah Khan and escaped from Kabul towards Kandahar in the south, fearing people's wrath. Two days later, on 16 January 1929, Kalakani wrote a letter to King Inayatullah Khan to either surrender or prepare to fight. Inayatullah Khan responded by explaining that he never wished to become king, and agreed to abdicate.


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. They were also from the Mohammedzai and Barakzai family trees, and whose great-grandfather was an older brother of Dost Mohammad.

The five prominent Musahiban brothers included Nadir Shah, the eldest, who had been Amānullāh's minister of war. They were permitted to cross through the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa 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-Indian 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.

During this period anti-Soviet rebels from Central Asia known as Basmachi utilized the period of instability in Afghanistan to launch raids into the Soviet Union. The Basmachi had taken refuge in Afghanistan earlier in the decade after they were expelled from Soviet Central Asia by the Soviet military and they swore allegiance to the Emir of Bukhara, who lived in exile in Kabul. One of these raids was led by Faizal Maksum, who operated under the command of Basmachi commander Ibrahim Bek. Faizal Maksum's forces briefly captured the town of Gharm until they were expelled by Soviet forces.[9][10] The Basmachi operated in Afghanistan due to their alliance with Habibullah Ghazi and after his fall from power they were expelled from Afghanistan.[11]

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 Khan, the eldest of the Musahiban brothers, was proclaimed King Nadir Shah. Habibullah Ghazi fled Kabul but was later captured in Kohistan, and executed on October 13, 1929.[12] Nadir also looted and plundered Kabul because the treasury was empty.[citation needed]

The national flag under Kalakani's brief rule


After nine months in power, Nadir Shah's troops surrounded Kabul and took over. Kalakani and his brother and aides were shot by a firing squad on November 1, 1929.[13]

His remains were laid below a hilltop mausoleum at an undisclosed location for 87 years, until a campaign in 2016 by some Tajiks and scholars who wanted him to be reburied in a better place.[14] This caused days of political and slight sectarian tensions in Kabul - Tajiks and religious scholars, who consider Kalakani to have been a devout Muslim, wanted him to be buried at the Shahrara hill and asked President Ashraf Ghani to plan a state burial. Opponents to Kalakani, mostly Pashtuns and secularists, were against this plan, including vice-president Abdul Rashid Dostum who claimed that he could not be buried at a hilltop important to Uzbek heritage.[15] He was eventually buried at the hill on September 2, with four injuries and one death in clashes between his supporters and pro-Dostum soldiers.[16]


  1. ^ a b Most sources list 17 January 1929, the day that Kalakani captured Kabul, as the date that his reign began.[1][2] However, he had been formally claiming the title of emir since 14 December 1928.[3]

Further readingEdit

  • Habibulah, Amir (April 1990). My Life: From Brigand to King. Octagon Press. ISBN 9780863040474. - An autobiography of Habibullah Kalakani.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Qassem, Dr Ahmad Shayeq (2013-03-28). Afghanistan's Political Stability: A Dream Unrealised. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. p. 175. ISBN 9781409499428.
  2. ^ Wazir, Azmatullah Khan (2002). The immediate solution of Afghan crisis. A.K. Wazir. p. 8.
  3. ^ Muḥammad, Fayz̤; McChesney, R. D. (1999). Kabul under siege: Fayz Muhammad's account of the 1929 Uprising. Markus Wiener Publishers. p. 37. ISBN 9781558761544.
  4. ^ a b Muḥammad, Fayz̤; Hazārah, Fayz̤ Muḥammad Kātib (1999). Kabul Under Siege: Fayz Muhammad's Account of the 1929 Uprising. Markus Wiener Publishers. ISBN 9781558761551.
  5. ^ Adamec, Ludwig W. (2011). Historical Dictionary of Afghanistan. Scarecrow Press. p. 183. ISBN 0-8108-7957-3. Retrieved 2012-08-28.
  6. ^ "Afghans Still Dispute Legacy Of Former 'Bandit King'". RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty. Retrieved 26 May 2019.
  7. ^ Shahrani, M. Nazif (1986). "State Building and Social Fragmentation in Afghanistan: A Social Perspective". In Ali Banuazizi; Myron Weiner (eds.). The State, Religion, and Ethnic Politics: Afghanistan, Iran, and Pakistan. Syracuse, New York: Syracuse University Press. p. 57.
  8. ^ a b c Muḥammad, Fayz̤; Hazārah, Fayz̤ Muḥammad Kātib (1999). Kabul Under Siege: Fayz Muhammad's Account of the 1929 Uprising. Markus Wiener Publishers. p. 32. ISBN 9781558761551.
  9. ^ Ritter, William S (1990). "Revolt in the Mountains: Fuzail Maksum and the Occupation of Garm, Spring 1929". Journal of Contemporary History. 25: 547. doi:10.1177/002200949002500408.
  10. ^ Ritter, William S (1985). "The Final Phase in the Liquidation of Anti-Soviet Resistance in Tadzhikistan: Ibrahim Bek and the Basmachi, 1924-31". Soviet Studies. 37 (4). doi:10.1080/09668138508411604.
  11. ^ Fayz Muhammad, R. D. McChesney. Kabul Under Siege: Fayz Muhammad's Account of the 1929 Uprising. (Princeton: Markus Wiener Publishers, 1999.)
  12. ^ Dr Ahmad Shayeq Qassem (28 March 2013). Afghanistan's Political Stability: A Dream Unrealised. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. pp. 175–. ISBN 978-1-4094-9942-8.
  13. ^ " » 1929: Habibullah Kalakani, Tajik bandit-king". Retrieved 26 May 2019.
  14. ^ Constable, Pamela; Salahuddin, Sayed (20 August 2016). "The Fight Over a Shrine for a Tyrannical Afghan King". The Washington Post.
  15. ^ Moslih, Hashmat. "Kabul burial of Tajik King Kalakani stirs tension". Retrieved 26 May 2019.
  16. ^

External linksEdit

Regnal titles
Preceded by
Inayatullah Khan
King of Afghanistan
14 December 1928 – 13 October 1929
Succeeded by
Mohammed Nadir Shah