Sunday, July 23, 2017

Former Afghan King Mohammad Zahir Shah

By Adam Bernstein
Washington Post Staff Writer 
Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Mohammad Zahir Shah, 92, the king of Afghanistan who emerged from forced exile in 2002 to become the ceremonial "father of the nation" after the Taliban's retreat, died July 23 in Kabul. He had been ill, but the cause of death was not disclosed.

His four-decade rule began in 1933, when he succeeded his slain father as leader of an isolated and desperately poor country. King Zahir enjoyed one of the longest periods on a world throne, but more-powerful uncles and cousins exerted military and political authority in his country.

Nevertheless, King Zahir used his stature as royalty to win development aid from both the United States and the Soviet Union -- a remarkable achievement during the Cold War struggle for influence at the strategic Asian crossroads.

In 1973, King Zahir was overthrown by his brother-in-law, who was also his former prime minister and a top general. The coup was a backlash against the king's new constitution, which had made it illegal for the king's family to hold Cabinet-level jobs. 

The future King Zahir was educated at the Pasteur Institute and the University of Montpellier in France, where his father spent a period of exile during a family feud. In the late 1920s, Nadir was back in Afghanistan with several brothers, and they united to form an army that eliminated a fanatic who had sacked Kabul during a year-long reign of terror. Nadir was then "elected" king by the military.

Much like his son in later years, Nadir hoped to stabilize the country by establishing friendly relations with Russia and England, the two powers that had struggled for control over the arid region since the 19th-century geopolitical match known as the Great Game.

After his studies in France, the future King Zahir returned to Kabul in 1930, finished his education at Kabul's Infantry College and received postings in the Afghan defense and education ministries.

On Nov. 8, 1933, he witnessed the slaying of his father by a young gunman. The death occurred, by various accounts, either at a school celebration on palace grounds or while his father was leaving a royal harem.

By nightfall, the 19-year-old heir had become king. He spent more than a decade under the sway of powerful uncles. At the time, schoolmates reported to Time magazine that King Zahir was mostly known as "a good fellow and a good horseman."

While head of state, King Zahir avoided taking sides during World War II; the Germans had started air service and hydroelectric plants in his country before the war. After hostilities ended, he turned to the United States and the Soviet Union for aid.

In 1973, while the king was seeking medical treatment abroad for lumbago, Daud led a bloodless coup. He warned King Zahir against coming back and provided him a monthly allowance. Daud was killed during a Communist uprising in 1978, shortly before the Soviet invasion.

The late former queen, Homaira, a cousin whom King Zahir had married in 1931, died in 2002. Two sons also died. Survivors include three sons and two daughters. - Read More

Former Afghan King Mohammad Zahir Shah - The Washington Post


Post a Comment

<< Home