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Habibullah Kalakani
Reign 17 January 1929 – 13 October 1929
Born c. 1890
Birthplace Kalakan District, Kabul Province
Died 13 October 1929 (aged 39)
Predecessor Inayatullah Khan
Successor Mohammed Nadir Shah
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Habībullāh Kalakānī (c. 1890 – 13 October 1929), (حبیب‌الله کلکانی) also known as Habībullāh Ghāzī and Bacha-ye Saqqā, was Emir of Afghanistan from 17 January to 13 October 1929. He named himself Habībullāh Khādem-e Dīn-e Rasūlallāh ("The servant of the religion of the messenger of God"). He became emir for a few months in 1929 by deposing Amānullāh Khān with the help of various Pashtun tribes who opposed the King's rapid modernization plans.[1] He was himself overthrown and executed on 17 October 1929 by the army of Mohammed Nadir Khan.[2]

As an ethnic Tajik, he was and is considered a usurper by the Pashtuns of Afghanistan, since he interrupted the Pashtun Barakzai Dynasty (which resumed upon his death). Among the Pashtuns, he is commonly referred to by a derogatory term as Bacha-ye Saqqow (in Persian "son of the water-carrier") because his father was at one point a water-carrier in the Afghan army.[3] Among the Tajiks, however, he is still remembered and respected as a rightful king. Additionally, he is also celebrated by the famous poet Khalīlallāh Khalīlī in his masterpiece Hero of Khorasan ("Ayyār-e az Khorāsān").


Early years

Habībullāh Kalakānī was born north of Kabul in the 1890s. His father was a gardener who sent him to a local madrasa to study the Qur'an and receive a modern education.

During his adolescence, Habībullāh ventured out of his village and traveled to Kabul and later to Jalalabad and Peshawar, where he performed odd jobs to sustain himself. In the south, he ran into an old Sufi who told him that he would become Amir one day and then handed him an amulet to keep for good luck.[4]

In 1919, he returned to Kabul and joined Amanullah Khan's army. Habībullāh became disillusioned by his income from the army, and compounded with his disobedience and unwillingness to follow orders, he decided to return back to his village in Kalakān.


By 1928, Amanullah Khan had returned from Europe and brought with him vast social and cultural changes. This act, as well as pictures of the Queen of Afghanistan in western attire—without a headscarf—had upset the ultra-conservative Shinwari tribe of and they called for the banishment of the King and the Queen from Afghanistan.

A civil revolt broke out in Laghman, as Habībullāh used his Gurrellas Fighters. With a change of plans, he decided to resist the government officials in the north and, thus, a $10,000 bounty was placed on him.

With Amanullah's army engulfed in severe battle in Laghman and Jalalabad, Habībullāh began to attack Kabul from the north. The revolt caught steam and by then the country was in full revolt. Kabul was surrounded by the FATA tribes in the south and Habībullāh's militias to the north.

In the middle of the night, Amanullah Khan handed over his Kingdom to his brother Amir Enayatullah Khan and escaped from Kabul towards Kandahar.

In January 1929, with the King gone, Habībullāh wrote a letter to Amir Enayatullah Khan to either surrender or prepare to fight. Amir Enayatullah Khan response was that he had never sought nor wished to be king and agreed to abdicate and proclaim Habībullāh as Amir.


His first order was to change the western attire back to traditional clothing and to remove all the flowers from the presidential grounds and plant vegetables instead. He closed down women schools and all Western Education centre.

By September 1929, Amanullah Khan had stopped in Kandahar to regroup his followers and recalled his top general, Mohammad Nadir Khan, from Europe. General Nadir Khan's army breezed through the west and southern Afghanistan. They had British weapons as well as money to pay volunteers to join the army.

Furthermore, the British furnished Nadir Khan with troops consisting of 1000 young people from tribal Waziristan and southern parts of Afghanistan. The troops fast approached Kabul.

The only man whom Habībullāh feared was coming for him. By October 1929, Kabul was surrounded by the forces of Nadir Khan, and he escaped from Kabul towards his village in Kalakān as a fugitive fearing for his life.

Overthrow and execution

It is said that in Jabulsaraj, Nadir Shah sent a message to Habībullāh Ghazi sealed in a Q'uran, that read: "Come to the government. The government regards you and your friends, you receive general forgiveness from the Royal government of Afghanistan".

The mediator between Habībullāh and Nadir Shah was the Hazrati Shourbazari Kabul, a clergyman well-regarded by Afghanistan's citizens.

Habībullāh again gathered his friends and displayed the Quran and Nadir Shah's letter to them and waited to hear their reply. Their answer was negative because they did not trust Nadir Shah, whom they considered to be treacherous.

When Habībullāh came in front of Nadir Khan, he took the Royal position and pulled out the Royal seal from his pocket and said: "Oh God you are witness I kept and used this deposit honestly, while I was in power in Afghanistan. Now Nadir Khan is in my place. Oh God, you are witness, I return this deposit safe to him. I hope Nadir Khan is able to keep it safe and use it to the sake of the people of Afghanistan." Then Habībullāh turned his face to Nadir Khan and said: "I do not fear for myself, but do not be cruel to my friends."

He was later taken to the execution ground and executed on 13 October 1929. While he prepared for the execution, he knelt down and prayed. Habībullāh looked up to the sky and said "Oh God, I have nothing to ask from you, you have given me everything that, I have wanted, you made me Amir...". He was then executed by firing squad.


  1. ^ "Habibullah Kalakani". Afghanistan Online. Retrieved 3 September 2006.  
  2. ^ Dupree, Louis: "Afghanistan", page 459. Princeton University Press, 1973
  3. ^ Balland, Daniel. "BAČČA-YE SAQQĀ". Encyclopædia Iranica (Online Edition ed.). United States: Columbia University.  
  4. ^ "Habibullah Kalakani". Retrieved 3 September 2006.  

External links

Regnal titles
Preceded by
Inayatullah Shah
King of Afghanistan
Emir of Afghanistan
Succeeded by
Mohammed Nadir Shah
King of Afghanistan


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