Parcham (Pashto and Dari: پرچم, lit.'banner' or 'flag') was the name of one of the factions of the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan, formed in 1967 following its split and led for most of its history by Babrak Karmal and Mohammed Najibullah. The basic ideology of the Parchamites was one of a gradual move towards Islamic socialism in Afghanistan. The Parcham faction supported this idea because they felt that Afghanistan was not industrialized enough to undergo a true proletarian revolution as called for in the Communist Manifesto.

Coat of arms of the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan from 1980 to 1987

The Parcham faction had more urban based members who belonged to the lower-middle and upper middle classes.[1] Opposed to the more moderate Parchamis were the hardline Stalinist Khalq faction. The Khalq (lit.'masses' or 'people') developed a more vigorous line, advocating an immediate and violent overthrow of the government and an establishment of a Stalinist regime. Because of Parcham's links with the Kingdom of Afghanistan, initially wishing to keep the constitutional monarchy intact, it was derisively referred to as the "Royal Communist Party" by their Khalqist rivals.[2]

Many pro-Parcham military officers supported Mohammed Daoud Khan's coup against Mohammed Zahir Shah in 1973. Afterwards a high number of Parchamites held high-ranking jobs in Daoud's cabinet and the Central Committee and dominated the security forces. Parchamites, then in charge of the Ministry of Interior, were alleged to be responsible for the death of Mohammad Hashim Maiwandwal, a conservative anti-communist former Prime Minister.[3] In the next years, Parchamites were systematically purged from Khan's cabinet and then persecuted by his regime.

In 1977, Parcham managed to reconcile with the Khalq faction, and following the Saur Revolution of 1978, many Parchamites were represented in the initial government. Very soon after the revolution however, Parchamites were purged from the government by the hardline leadership of Nur Muhammad Taraki, who strictly opposed their alleged "revisionism", and the regime eventually went into a reign of terror, jailing and executing many Parchamites who were accused of deviating from Marxism-Leninism. The Parcham faction eventually gained power in the country after the overthrowing of Hafizullah Amin in December 1979 by the Soviet Union's Operation Storm-333 intervention, which supported a more moderate and pragmatic leadership. The government under Parcham leader Babrak Karmal nevertheless still struggled to win popularity after the excesses of the Khalqists, and they were now low in numbers following the mass executions committed by the Khalq regime in 1978–1979.[4]

Karmal was replaced by Mohammad Najibullah in 1986 after the Soviet Union voiced discontent about his inability to decisively defeat the Mukahideen, and in June 1990, the Parcham-led PDPA converted itself into the Watan Party of Afghanistan (Homeland Party), with all references to Marxism-Leninism removed from the party's manifesto, instead adopting a uniquely Afghan version of Islamic socialism.


  1. ^ "Ethnic Factor in Afghanistan (by Hamid Hussain) - Media Monitors Network". 9 April 2003. Archived from the original on 23 February 2017. Retrieved 29 March 2011.
  2. ^
  3. ^ Conspiracies and Atrocities in Afghanistan: 1700–2014. 12 June 2015. ISBN 9781503573000.
  4. ^ "Afghanistan".
  • Arnold, Anthony Afghanistan's Two-Party Communism: Parcham and Khalq (Histories of Ruling Communist Parties) Hoover Institution / Stanford University. 1983. (ISBN 0817977929)
  • Kakar, M. Hasan Afghanistan: The Soviet Invasion and Afghan Response, 1979-1982. University of California Press. 1997. (ISBN 9780520208933)
  • Rasanayagam, Angelo. Afghanistan: A Modern History. St. Martin's Press. 2005