Hafizullah Amin was born to a Ghilzai Pashtun family in Paghman in August 1, 1929. He graduated from Kabul University and left for the United States for graduate studies. After failing to earn his graduate degree, he returned to Afghanistan and became a teacher.
He quickly joined the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA), becoming a prominent member of the Marxist Khalq (People) faction.
President Mohammed Daoud Khan in 1978 was still in the besieged palace when Amin took command of the coup, after he and his comrades were released from the prison.
The PDPA seized power after Daoud's death, with Nur Mohammad Taraki becoming President of the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan and secretary general of the PDPA, while Amin and Babrak Karmal became deputy prime ministers. An attempt to institute Marxist-Leninist reforms provoked widespread resistance and a number of violent revolts.
In February 1979 the U.S. Ambassador Adolph Dubs was killed. The Khalq faction was gaining political power over the Parcham faction, with Karmal exiled to Europe. Amin had gained considerable control by March 1979 and was named Prime Minister although Taraki retained his other posts. The unrest continued however and the regime was forced to seek more Soviet aid. It was in that meeting between Taraki and Leonid Breznev that the decision to remove Amin took place.