New Premier and President Nur Muhammed Taraki said yesterday that "only 72 or 73" persons were killed in last week's coup and he blamed "imperialist propaganda" for reports that up to 10,000 had died.
In his first press conference since the April 27 military takeover, the leftist political party leader added that "about five were taken to hospital."
The government clearly is angered by Western press reports citing diplomatic sources saying that from 4,000 to 10,000 persons were killed in the military takeover.
From what can be determined here, those figures seem exaggerated but Taraki's figure seems too low. Despite the official anger, correspondents have been allowed to stay on - subject to strict censorship.
"We do not want to censor your reports," said Taraki, "but I am afraid if you start writing about how the Communists are butchering people on all sides, we cannot let that go out."
Taraki promised friendly relations with countries that "offer political and economic support for our revolutionary government," adding that "we will maintain friendly relations with the United States."
The United States, Britian and Iran yesterday joined India, Pakistan and several Communist countries that earlier had announced continuation of diplomatic relations in Kabul.
Taraki, a largely self-taught son of a shepherd, answered questions for an hour at the prime minister's residence, flanked by four soldiers and his police chief.
The new chief still wore the uniform of an air force major and carried a submachine gun. He and the heavily armed soldiers gave the clearly intended impression that the rather mild-sounding Taraki remains under the influence of the armed forces.
Taraki, asked if his People's Democratic Party is Communist, said: "We did not mention Marx in our manifesto. But in the West it seems that if any party starts talking about the workers, the peasants or the middleclass 'bourgeoisie,' you say it is a Communist regime.
"We make no secret of our commitment to the oppressed people of Afghanistan, and the developments of last week were to rid Afghanistan of the aristocracy who have been running the country since independence. But what the imperialist press describe us as is a matter for them."
Supreme authority of the new government will rest with the Central Committee of Taraki's party, he said, and day-to-day policymaking will be handled by a 35-member National Revolutionary Council. Five of the 35 are to be military.
Taraki's 21-member Cabinet is to administer the country of 20 million persons. In addition to being president and premier, Taraki is "father of the revolution," chairman and secretary of the Central Committee and chairman of the Revolutionary Committee.
Elections will be held when conditions are suitable, he said, adding that other political parties might be allowed to operate.
Plans for the remote and landlocked, but potentially important nation remain unclear. Taraki said he will implement land reform, bring down prices, raise wages and nationalize anything worth the effort.
On the theme of international relations, Taraki stressed the desire for "peace and understanding" with neighboring Iran and Pakistan. He said the issue that has complicated ties with Pakistan - Afghanistan's effort to create an independent "Pushtunistan" in Pakistan's Northwest Frontier Province - will be "closely studied."
On the question of U.S. economic relations, he said: "Give us aid, help us in projects." (The Associated Press noted that the Soviet Union has provided Afghanistan with $1 billion in assistance since World War II, and the United States $500 million. Under the Foreign Assistance Act, the U.S. aid would have to be halted if Taraki's government were judged to be Communist.)
Taraki obviously is proud of his peasant origins in the southern desert. Almost entirely self-taught, he worked in Bombay as clerk for an Afghan fruit exporter, then joined the Afghan government and spent six months as press attache in the Washington embassy. He was dismissed for writing a 1953 attack on the Afghan king and he then set up a translating firm.
In 1965 Taraki established his party and formalized his views on ridding the country of the "corrupt aristocracy." Then came "political instruction of the army," culminating with the "people's revolution" last week.