Mohammed Zahir Shah

Mohammed Zahir Shah

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Mohammed Zahir Shah was the last King (Shah
Shah
Shāh is the title of the ruler of certain Southwest Asian and Central Asian countries, especially Persia , and derives from the Persian word shah, meaning "king".-History:...

) of Afghanistan
Afghanistan
Afghanistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country located in the centre of Asia, forming South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. With a population of about 29 million, it has an area of , making it the 42nd most populous and 41st largest nation in the world...

, reigning for four decades, from 1933 until he was ousted by a coup in 1973. Following his return from exile he was given the title 'Father of the Nation
Father of the Nation
Father of the Nation is an honorific title given to a man considered the driving force behind the establishment of their country, state or nation...

' in 2002 which he held until his death.

Family background and early life


Zahir Shah was an ethnic Pashtun who was born on October 15, 1914, in Kabul
Kabul
Kabul , spelt Caubul in some classic literatures, is the capital and largest city of Afghanistan. It is also the capital of the Kabul Province, located in the eastern section of Afghanistan...

, Afghanistan
Afghanistan
Afghanistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country located in the centre of Asia, forming South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. With a population of about 29 million, it has an area of , making it the 42nd most populous and 41st largest nation in the world...

. He was the son of Mohammed Nadir Shah
Mohammed Nadir Shah
Mohammed Nadir Shah was King of Afghanistan from 15 October 1929 until his assassination in 1933. Previously, he served as Minister of War, Afghan Ambassador to France, and as a general in the military of Afghanistan...

, a senior member of the Barakzai royal family
Barakzai dynasty
The Barakzai dynasty ruled Afghanistan from 1826 until 1929 or 1973 when the monarchy rule finally ended under Mohammad Zahir Shah. The Barakzai dynasty was established by Dost Mohammad Khan after the Durrani dynasty of Ahmad Shah Durrani was removed from power...

 and commander in chief of the Afghan army under former king Amanullah Khan
Amanullah Khan
Amanullah Khan was the King of the Emirate of Afghanistan from 1919 to 1929, first as Amir and after 1926 as Shah. He led Afghanistan to independence over its foreign affairs from the United Kingdom, and his rule was marked by dramatic political and social change...

. Nadir Shah assumed the throne after the execution of Habibullah Ghazi
Habibullah Ghazi
Habībullāh Kalakānī , also known as Habībullāh Ghāzī, was Emir of Afghanistan from January to October 1929 after deposing Amānullāh Khān with the help of various Ghilzai tribes who opposed modernization of Afghanistan...

 on 10 October 1929. Mohammed Zahir's father, son of Sardar Mohammad Yusuf Khan, was born in Dehradun
Dehradun
- Geography :The Dehradun district has various types of physical geography from Himalayan mountains to Plains. Raiwala is the lowest point at 315 meters above sea level, and the highest points are within the Tiuni hills, rising to 3700 m above sea level...

, British India, his family having been exiled following the second Anglo-Afghan war
Second Anglo-Afghan War
The Second Anglo-Afghan War was fought between the United Kingdom and Afghanistan from 1878 to 1880, when the nation was ruled by Sher Ali Khan of the Barakzai dynasty, the son of former Emir Dost Mohammad Khan. This was the second time British India invaded Afghanistan. The war ended in a manner...

. Nadir Shah was a descendant of Sardar Sultan Mohammed Khan Telai, half-brother of Amir Dost Mohammad Khan
Dost Mohammad Khan
Dost Mohammad Khan was the Emir of Afghanistan between 1826 and 1863. He first ruled from 1826 to 1839 and then from 1843 to 1863. He was the 11th son of Sardar Pāyendah Khan who was killed by Zaman Shah Durrani in 1799...

. His grandfather Mohammad Yahya Khan (father in law of Amir Yaqub Khan) was in charge of the negotiations with the British leading to the Treaty of Gandamak
Treaty of Gandamak
The Treaty of Gandamak officially ended the first phase of the Second Anglo-Afghan War. Afghanistan ceded various frontier areas to Britain to prevent invasion of further areas of the country....

. After the British invasion following the killing of Sir Louis Cavagnari in 1879, Yaqub Khan, Yahya Khan and his sons, Princes Mohammad Yusuf Khan and Mohammad Asef Khan, were seized by the British and transferred under custody to the British Raj, where they forcibly remained until the two princes were invited back to Afghanistan by Emir
Emir
Emir , meaning "commander", "general", or "prince"; also transliterated as Amir, Aamir or Ameer) is a title of high office, used throughout the Muslim world...

 Abdur Rahman Khan
Abdur Rahman Khan
Abdur Rahman Khan was Emir of Afghanistan from 1880 to 1901.The third son of Mohammad Afzal Khan, and grandson of Dost Mohammad Khan, Abdur Rahman Khan was considered a strong ruler who re-established the writ of the Afghan government in Kabul after the disarray that followed the second...

 in the last year of his reign (1901). Durign the reign of Amir Habibullah they received the title of Companions of the King (Musahiban).

Zahir Shah was educated in a special class for princes at Habibia High School
Habibia High School
Habibia High School is a school in Kabul, Afghanistan, which has educated many of the former and current Afghan elite, including President Hamid Karzai and the country's most famous musician Ahmad Zahir. It was founded by King Habibullah Khan in 1903....

 in Kabul. He continued his education in France where his father had been sent as a diplomatic envoy, studying at the Pasteur Institute
Pasteur Institute
The Pasteur Institute is a French non-profit private foundation dedicated to the study of biology, micro-organisms, diseases, and vaccines. It is named after Louis Pasteur, who made some of the greatest breakthroughs in modern medicine at the time, including pasteurization and vaccines for anthrax...

 and the University of Montpellier
University of Montpellier
The University of Montpellier was a French university in Montpellier in the Languedoc-Roussillon région of the south of France. Its present-day successor universities are the University of Montpellier 1, Montpellier 2 University and Paul Valéry University, Montpellier III.-History:The university...

. When he returned to Afghanistan he helped his father and uncles restore order and reassert government control during a period of lawlessness in the country. He was later enrolled at an Infantry School and appointed a privy counsellor. Zahir Shah served in the government positions of deputy war minister and minister of education. Zahir Shah was fluent in Pashto, Persian
Persian language
Persian is an Iranian language within the Indo-Iranian branch of the Indo-European languages. It is primarily spoken in Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and countries which historically came under Persian influence...

, and French.

The last king of Afghanistan



Zahir Khan was proclaimed King (Shah) on 8 November 1933 at the age of 19, after the assassination of his father Mohammed Nadir Shah
Mohammed Nadir Shah
Mohammed Nadir Shah was King of Afghanistan from 15 October 1929 until his assassination in 1933. Previously, he served as Minister of War, Afghan Ambassador to France, and as a general in the military of Afghanistan...

. Following his ascension to the throne he was given the regnal title "He who puts his trust in God, follower of the firm religion of Islam". For the first thirty years he did not effectively rule, ceding power to his paternal uncles, Sardar Mohammad Hashim Khan
Sardar Mohammad Hashim Khan
Sardar Mohammad Hashim Khan was a political figure in Afghanistan.He was the uncle of Mohammad Zahir Shah and the elder brother of Sardar Shah Mahmud Khan and Sardar Shah Wali Khan. Hashim put into effect the policies already orchestrated by his brothers...

 and Sardar Shah Mahmud Khan
Sardar Shah Mahmud Khan
Sardar Shah Mahmud Khan was the Prime Minister of Afghanistan from May 1946 to 7 September 1953. He was from the Pashtun tribe of Mohammedzai. He was a brother of Nadir Khan, who ousted Habibullah Kalakani , and uncle of Zahir Shah, the King of Afghanistan, from 1933 to 1973, and uncle of...

. This period fostered a growth in Afghanistan's relations with the international community as in 1934, Afghanistan joined the League of Nations
League of Nations
The League of Nations was an intergovernmental organization founded as a result of the Paris Peace Conference that ended the First World War. It was the first permanent international organization whose principal mission was to maintain world peace...

 while also receiving formal recognition from the United States. Throughout the 1930s, agreements on foreign assistance and trade had been reached with many countries, most notably Germany, Italy, and Japan.

Zahir Shah provided aid, weapons and Afghan fighters to the Uighur and Kirghiz Muslim rebels who had established the First East Turkestan Republic
First East Turkestan Republic
The First Eastern Turkestan Republic , or Turkish Islamic Republic of East Turkestan , or, Republic of Uyghurstan, was a short-lived breakaway would-be Islamic republic founded in 1933...

. The aid was not capable of saving the First East Turkestan Republic, as the Afghan, Uighur and Kirghiz forces were defeated by the Chinese Muslim
Hui people
The Hui people are an ethnic group in China, defined as Chinese speaking people descended from foreign Muslims. They are typically distinguished by their practice of Islam, however some also practice other religions, and many are direct descendants of Silk Road travelers.In modern People's...

 36th Division (National Revolutionary Army)
36th Division (National Revolutionary Army)
The 36th Division was a cavalry division in the National Revolutionary Army. It was created in 1932 by the Kuomintang for General Ma Zhongying, who was also its first commander. It was made almost entirely out of Hui Muslim troops, all of its officers were Hui, with a few thousand Uighurs forced...

 led by General Ma Zhancang
Ma Zhancang
Ma Zhancang was a Chinese muslim general of the 36th Division , who served under Generals Ma Zhongying and Ma Hushan. At the Battle of Kashgar , he repulsed an attack of Uighurs led by the Syrian Arab Tawfiq Bay, wounding Tawfiq...

 at the Battle of Kashgar
Battle of Kashgar (1934)
The Battle of Kashgar was a military confrontation that took place in 1934 during the Xinjiang Wars. Turkic Muslim Uighur and Kirghiz fighters under Emir Abdullah Bughra and the other Turkic separatists began four separate attacks over a six-day period on Hui and Han Chinese soldiers led by General...

 and Battle of Yarkand
Battle of Yarkand
The Battle of Yarkhand was a military confrontation that took place in April 1934. Ma Zhancang's Chinese Muslim army defeated the Uighur and Afghan volunteers sent by king Mohammed Zahir Shah, and exterminated them all. The emir Abdullah Bughra was killed and beheaded, his head put on display at...

. All the Afghan volunteers were killed by the Chinese Muslim troops, who then abolished the First East Turkestan Republic, and reestablished Chinese government control over the area.

Following the end of the Second World War, Zahir Shah recognised the need for the modernisation of Afghanistan and recruited a number of foreign advisers to assist with the process. During this period Afghanistan's first modern university was founded. During his reign a number of potential advances and reforms were derailed as a result of factionalism
Political faction
A political faction is a grouping of individuals, such as a political party, a trade union, or other group with a political purpose. A faction or political party may include fragmented sub-factions, “parties within a party," which may be referred to as power blocs, or voting blocs. The individuals...

 and political infighting.

Zahir Shah was able to govern on his own in 1963 and despite the factionalism and political infighting a new constitution was introduced in 1964 which turned Afghanistan into a modern democratic state by introducing free elections, a parliament, civil rights
Civil rights
Civil and political rights are a class of rights that protect individuals' freedom from unwarranted infringement by governments and private organizations, and ensure one's ability to participate in the civil and political life of the state without discrimination or repression.Civil rights include...

, women's rights
Women's rights
Women's rights are entitlements and freedoms claimed for women and girls of all ages in many societies.In some places these rights are institutionalized or supported by law, local custom, and behaviour, whereas in others they may be ignored or suppressed...

 and universal suffrage
Universal suffrage
Universal suffrage consists of the extension of the right to vote to adult citizens as a whole, though it may also mean extending said right to minors and non-citizens...

.

By the time he returned to Afghanistan in the twenty-first century, his rule was characterized by a lengthy span of peace, but with no significant progress.

Exile


In 1973, while Mohammed Zahir Shah was in Italy
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

 undergoing eye surgery as well as therapy for lumbago, his cousin and former Prime Minister Mohammed Daoud Khan
Mohammed Daoud Khan
Sardar Mohammed Daoud Khan or Daud Khan was Prime Minister of Afghanistan from 1953 to 1963 and later becoming the President of Afghanistan...

 staged a coup d'état
Coup d'état
A coup d'état state, literally: strike/blow of state)—also known as a coup, putsch, and overthrow—is the sudden, extrajudicial deposition of a government, usually by a small group of the existing state establishment—typically the military—to replace the deposed government with another body; either...

 and established a republican government. As a former prime minister, Daoud Khan had been forced to resign by Zahir Shah a decade earlier. In the August following this coup, Zahir Shah abdicated rather than risk an all-out civil war.

Zahir Shah lived in exile
Exile
Exile means to be away from one's home , while either being explicitly refused permission to return and/or being threatened with imprisonment or death upon return...

 in Italy for twenty-nine years in a modest four-bedroom villa
Villa
A villa was originally an ancient Roman upper-class country house. Since its origins in the Roman villa, the idea and function of a villa have evolved considerably. After the fall of the Roman Republic, villas became small farming compounds, which were increasingly fortified in Late Antiquity,...

 in the affluent community of Olgiata on Via Cassia
Via Cassia
The Via Cassia was an important Roman road striking out of the Via Flaminia near the Milvian Bridge in the immediate vicinity of Rome and, passing not far from Veii traversed Etruria...

, north of the city of Rome
Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

 where he spent his time playing golf and chess, and tending to his garden. He was barred from returning to Afghanistan during Soviet-backed Communist rule in the late 1970s. In 1983 during the Soviet war in Afghanistan
Soviet war in Afghanistan
The Soviet war in Afghanistan was a nine-year conflict involving the Soviet Union, supporting the Marxist-Leninist government of the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan against the Afghan Mujahideen and foreign "Arab–Afghan" volunteers...

, Zahir Shah was cautiously involved in plans to head a government in exile. Ultimately these plans failed because he could not reach a consensus with the powerful Islamist factions.

In 1991, Zahir Shah survived an attempt on his life by a knife-wielding assassin who pretended to be a Portuguese journalist.

Return to Afghan politics



In April 2002, while the country was under NATO occupation, Zahir Shah returned to Afghanistan
Afghanistan
Afghanistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country located in the centre of Asia, forming South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. With a population of about 29 million, it has an area of , making it the 42nd most populous and 41st largest nation in the world...

 to open the Loya Jirga
2002 loya jirga
An Emergency "Loya Jirga" was held in Kabul, Afghanistan between 11th and 19th June 2002 to elect a transitional administration in Kabul, Afghanistan. The Emergency Loya Jirga was called for by the Bonn Agreement. The agreement was drawn up in December 2001, in Bonn, Germany...

, which met in June 2002. After the fall of the Taliban, there were open calls for a return to the monarchy. Zahir Shah himself let it be known that he would accept whatever responsibility was placed on him by the Loya Jirga. However he was obliged to publicly step aside at the behest of the United States as many of delegates to the Loya Jirga were prepared to vote for Zahir Shah and block the US-backed Hamid Karzai. While he was prepared to become head of state he made it known that it would not necessarily be as monarch: "I will accept the responsibility of head of state if that is what the Loya Jirga demands of me, but I have no intention to restore the monarchy. I do not care about the title of king. The people call me Baba
Baba (honorific)
Baba is a Persian honorific term used in several Middle Eastern and South Asian cultures. It is used as a mark of respect to refer to Sufi saints....

 and I prefer this title." He was given the ceremonial title "Father of the Nation" in the current Constitution of Afghanistan
Constitution of Afghanistan
The Constitution of Afghanistan is the supreme law of the state Afghanistan, which serves as the legal framework between the Afghan government and the Afghan citizens...

 symbolizing his role in Afghanistan's history as a nonpolitical symbol of national unity. The title of the 'Father of the Nation' dissolved with his death.

Hamid Karzai
Hamid Karzai
Hamid Karzai, GCMG is the 12th and current President of Afghanistan, taking office on 7 December 2004. He became a dominant political figure after the removal of the Taliban regime in late 2001...

, a prominent figure from the Popalzai clan, became the president of Afghanistan and Zahir Shah's relatives and supporters were provided with key posts in the transitional government. Zahir Shah moved back into his old palace. In an October 2002 visit to France, he slipped in a bathroom, bruising his ribs, and on 21 June 2003, while in France for a medical check-up, he broke his femur
Femur
The femur , or thigh bone, is the most proximal bone of the leg in tetrapod vertebrates capable of walking or jumping, such as most land mammals, birds, many reptiles such as lizards, and amphibians such as frogs. In vertebrates with four legs such as dogs and horses, the femur is found only in...

.

On 3 February 2004, Zahir was flown from Kabul to New Delhi
New Delhi
New Delhi is the capital city of India. It serves as the centre of the Government of India and the Government of the National Capital Territory of Delhi. New Delhi is situated within the metropolis of Delhi. It is one of the nine districts of Delhi Union Territory. The total area of the city is...

, India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

, for medical treatment after complaining of an intestinal
Intestine
In human anatomy, the intestine is the segment of the alimentary canal extending from the pyloric sphincter of the stomach to the anus and, in humans and other mammals, consists of two segments, the small intestine and the large intestine...

 problem. He was hospitalized for two weeks and remained in New Delhi
New Delhi
New Delhi is the capital city of India. It serves as the centre of the Government of India and the Government of the National Capital Territory of Delhi. New Delhi is situated within the metropolis of Delhi. It is one of the nine districts of Delhi Union Territory. The total area of the city is...

 under observation. On 18 May 2004, he was brought to a hospital in the United Arab Emirates
United Arab Emirates
The United Arab Emirates, abbreviated as the UAE, or shortened to "the Emirates", is a state situated in the southeast of the Arabian Peninsula in Western Asia on the Persian Gulf, bordering Oman, and Saudi Arabia, and sharing sea borders with Iraq, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, and Iran.The UAE is a...

 because of nose bleeding caused by heat.

Zahir Shah attended the 7 December 2004 swearing in of Hamid Karzai
Hamid Karzai
Hamid Karzai, GCMG is the 12th and current President of Afghanistan, taking office on 7 December 2004. He became a dominant political figure after the removal of the Taliban regime in late 2001...

 as President of Afghanistan. In his final years, he was frail and required a microphone pinned to his collar so that his faint voice could be heard. In January 2007, Zahir was reported to be seriously ill and bedridden.

Death


On 23 July 2007, he died in the compound of the presidential palace in Kabul after prolonged illness. His death was announced on national television by President Karzai. His funeral was held on 24 July. It began on the premises of the presidential palace, where political figures and dignitaries paid their respects; his coffin was then taken to a mosque before being moved to the royal mausoleum on Maranjan Hill.

Family


He married Humaira Begum
Humaira Begum
Humaira Begum was the wife of Mohammed Zahir Shah and the last Queen consort of Afghanistan-Marriage:Humaira Begum was the daughter of Sardar Ahmad Shah Khan and his first wife Zarin Begum. She married her cousin the Crown Prince of Afghanistan Mohammed Zahir on 7 November 1931...

 (1918–2002) on 7 November 1931 and had six sons and two daughters:
Name|DeathAhmad Shah Khan
Ahmad Shah Khan
Ahmad Shah, Crown Prince of Afghanistan the second son of Mohammed Zahir Shah, the former King of Afghanistan, and current pretender to the throne of Afghanistan.-Biography:...

23 September 1934 (age 77)
Princess Maryam Begum 2 November 1936 (age 75)
Prince Muhammed Nadir Khan 21 May 1941 (age 70)
Prince Shah Mahmoud Khan 15 November 1946
Prince Muhammed Daoud Pashtunyar Khan 14 April 1949 (age 62)
Prince Mir Wais Khan 7 January 1957 (age 55)


In January 2009 an article by Ahmad Majidyar of the American Enterprise Institute
American Enterprise Institute
The American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research is a conservative think tank founded in 1943. Its stated mission is "to defend the principles and improve the institutions of American freedom and democratic capitalism—limited government, private enterprise, individual liberty and...

 included one of his grandsons, Mostafa Zaher,
on a list of fifteen possible candidates in the 2009 Afghan Presidential election.
However Mostafa Zaher did not become a candidate.

External links


  • Mohammad Zahir Shah at the Encyclopedia Britannica
  • Zahir Shah: The last king of Afghanistan, Robert Fisk
    Robert Fisk
    Robert Fisk is an English writer and journalist from Maidstone, Kent. As Middle East correspondent of The Independent, he has primarily been based in Beirut for more than 30 years. He has published a number of books and has reported on the United States's war in Afghanistan and the same country's...

    , The Independent
    The Independent
    The Independent is a British national morning newspaper published in London by Independent Print Limited, owned by Alexander Lebedev since 2010. It is nicknamed the Indy, while the Sunday edition, The Independent on Sunday, is the Sindy. Launched in 1986, it is one of the youngest UK national daily...

  • Profile, The Observer
    The Observer
    The Observer is a British newspaper, published on Sundays. In the same place on the political spectrum as its daily sister paper The Guardian, which acquired it in 1993, it takes a liberal or social democratic line on most issues. It is the world's oldest Sunday newspaper.-Origins:The first issue,...

  • Genealogy of Mohammed Zahir Shah


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