MOHAMMED ZAHIR SHAH (
Pashto : محمد ظاهرشاه, Persian :
محمد ظاهر شاه; 16 October 1914 – 23 July 2007) was
King of Afghanistan , reigning from 8 November 1933 until he
was deposed on 17 July 1973. He established friendly relations with
many countries and tried to modernize his country.
While staying in
Italy for medical treatment, Zahir Shah was
overthrown in a surprise coup in 1973 by his cousin and former prime
Mohammed Daoud Khan . He remained in exile near
2002, returning to
Afghanistan after the end of the
Taliban . He was
given the title
Father of the Nation , which he held until his death
* 1 Family background and early life
* 2 The last king of
* 3 Exile
* 4 Return to Afghan politics
* 5 Death
* 6 Family
* 7 See also
* 8 References
* 9 External links
FAMILY BACKGROUND AND EARLY LIFE
Zahir Shah was born on 15 October 1914, in
Afghanistan . He
was the son of
Mohammed Nadir Shah , a senior member of the Muhamadzai
Royal family and commander in chief of the
Afghan army for former king
Amanullah Khan . Nadir Shah assumed the throne after the execution of
Habibullah Ghazi on 10 October 1929. Mohammed Zahir's father, son of
Sardar Mohammad Yusuf Khan, was born in
British India , his
family having been exiled after the
Second Anglo-Afghan War . Nadir
Shah was a descendant of Sardar
Sultan Mohammed Khan Telai,
half-brother of Amir
Dost Mohammad Khan . His grandfather Mohammad
Yahya Khan (father in law of Amir Yaqub Khan) was in charge of the
negotiations with the British resulting in the
Treaty of Gandamak .
After the British invasion after the killing of Sir Louis Cavagnari
Yaqub Khan , Yahya Khan and his sons, Princes Mohammad
Yusuf Khan and Mohammad Asef Khan, were seized by the British and
transferred to the British Raj, where they remained forcibly until the
two princes were invited back to
Emir Abdur Rahman Khan
during the last year of his reign (1901). During the reign of Amir
Habibullah they received the title of Companions of the King
Zahir Shah was educated in a special class for princes at Habibia
High School in Kabul. He continued his education in France where his
father had served as a diplomatic envoy, studying at the Pasteur
Institute and the
University of Montpellier . 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 , and French.
THE LAST KING OF AFGHANISTAN
Studio photograph of Zahir Shah in military uniform, seated in a
heavy, carved armchair. (1930s)
Zahir Khan was proclaimed King (Shah) on 8 November 1933 at the age
of 19, after the assassination of his father
Mohammed Nadir Shah .
After 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,
Mohammad Hashim Khan and
Shah Mahmud Khan .
This period fostered a growth in Afghanistan's relations with the
international community as during 1934,
Afghanistan joined the League
of Nations while also receiving formal recognition from the United
States. By the end of the 1930s, agreements on foreign assistance and
trade had been reached with many countries, most notably with the
Axis powers ';
Italy , and
Zahir Shah provided aid, weapons and Afghan fighters to the Uighur
and Kirghiz Muslim rebels who had established the First East Turkestan
Republic . The aid was not capable of saving the First East Turkestan
Republic, as the Afghan, Uighur and Kirghiz forces were defeated
during 1934 by the Chinese Muslim 36th Division (National
Revolutionary Army) commanded by General
Ma Zhancang at the Battle of
Battle of Yarkand . 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
Despite close relations to the Axis powers, Zahir Shah refused to
take sides during
World War II
World War II and
Afghanistan remained one of the few
countries in the world to remain neutral. After 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 and political
infighting. He also requested financial aid from both the United
States and the
Soviet Union .
Zahir Shah was able to govern on his own during 1963 and despite the
factionalism and political infighting a new constitution was
introduced during 1964 which made
Afghanistan a modern democratic
state by introducing free elections , a parliament, civil rights ,
women\'s rights and universal suffrage .
At least 5 of Afghani little Pul coins during his reign bore the
Arabic title: المتوكل على الله محمد ظاهر شاه,
"AlMutawakkil 'ala Allah Muhammad Zhahir Shah" which means "The
leaner on Allah, Muhammad Zhahir Shah". The title "AlMutawakkil 'ala
Allah", "The leaner on Allah" is taken from the
Sura 8 , verse
By the time he returned to
Afghanistan in 2002, his rule was
characterized by a lengthy span of peace, but with no significant
In 1973, while Zahir Shah was in Italy, undergoing eye surgery and
therapy for lumbago , his cousin and former Prime Minister Mohammed
Daoud Khan staged a coup d\'état and established a republican
government. As a former prime minister, Daoud Khan had been forced to
resign by Zahir Shah a decade earlier. During August 1974, Zahir Shah
abdicated rather than risk a civil war.
Zahir Shah lived in exile in
Italy for twenty-nine years in a villa
in the affluent community of Olgiata on
Via Cassia , north of Rome
where he spent his time playing golf and chess, as well as tending to
his garden. He was prohibited from returning to
the late 1970s by the Soviet-assisted Communist government. In 1983
during the Soviet war in
Afghanistan , Zahir Shah was cautiously
involved with plans to develop a government in exile. Ultimately these
plans failed because he could not reach a consensus with the powerful
Islamist factions. It has also been reported Afghanistan, the USSR
and India had all tried to persuade Zahir Shah to return as chief of a
neutral, possibly interim, administration in Kabul.
In 1991, Zahir Shah survived an attempt on his life by a
knife-wielding assassin masquerading as a Portuguese journalist.
RETURN TO AFGHAN POLITICS
After the Soviet withdrawal from
Afghanistan and the defeat of
Najibullah's Soviet client government a majority of the various
Mujaheddin groups favored a return of King Zahir Shah. However, the
Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) of Pakistan feared Zahir Shah's
opinion of on the
Durand Line issue. Official ISI policy was to
endorse one of the most violent Mujaheddin commanders, Gulbuddin
Hekmatyar , as the new commander of a radical Islamist government.
This proved to be damaging to
Afghanistan and it began a brutal civil
war. Zahir Shah would not return to the country for another decade.
Zahir Shah is seated at the far right during the oath ceremony of
Hamid Karzai on 7 December 2004.
In April 2002, 4 months after the end of
Taliban rule, Zahir Shah
Afghanistan to initiate the Loya
Jirga , which met during
June 2002. After the end of the Taliban, there were proposals for a
return to the monarchy. Zahir Shah himself let it be known that he
would accept whatever responsibility was given him by the Loya Jirga.
However he was obliged to publicly renounce at the behest of the
United States as many of the 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 chief 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 and I prefer this title." He was given
the title "Father of the Nation" in the current Constitution of
Afghanistan symbolizing his role in Afghanistan's history as a
symbol of national unity. The title of the 'Father of the Nation'
ended with his death.
Hamid Karzai , from the Pashtun Popalzai clan, became the president
Afghanistan and Zahir Shah's relatives and endorsers were provided
with major jobs in the transitional government. Zahir Shah relocated
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 .
On 3 February 2004, Zahir was flown from
New Delhi , India,
for medical treatment after complaining of an intestinal problem. He
was hospitalized for two weeks and remained in
New Delhi under
observation. On 18 May 2004, he was brought to a hospital in the
United Arab Emirates
United Arab Emirates because of nose bleeding caused by heat.
Zahir Shah attended the 7 December 2004 swearing-in of Hamid Karzai
as President of Afghanistan. During his final years, he was frail and
required a microphone pinned to his collar so that his faint voice
could be heard. During January 2007, Zahir was reported to be
seriously ill and bedridden.
On 23 July 2007, he died in the compound of the presidential palace
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 politicians
and dignitaries paid their respects; his coffin was then taken to a
mosque before being moved to the royal mausoleum on Maranjan Hill.
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He married his first cousin
Humaira Begum (1918–2002) on 7 November
Kabul . They had six sons and two daughters:
Princess Bilqis Begum
(1932-04-17) 17 April 1932 (age 85)
'Abdu'l Wali Khan
HH Princess Humaira Begum
HH Princess Wana Begum
HH Princess Mayana Khanum
Crown Prince Muhammed Akbar Khan
4 August 1933
26 November 1942(1942-11-26) (aged 9)
Crown Prince Ahmad Shah Khan
(1934-09-23) 23 September 1934 (age 82)
Princess Maryam Begum
(1936-11-02) 2 November 1936 (age 80)
Muhammed Nadir Khan
(1941-05-21) 21 May 1941 (age 76)
6 February 1964
HRH Prince Mustapha Zahir Khan
HRH Prince Muhammad Daud Jan
Prince Shah Mahmoud Khan
15 November 1946
7 December 2002(2002-12-07) (aged 56)
18 April 1966
HRH Princess Bilqis Khanum
HRH Princess Ariane Khanum
Muhammed Daoud Pashtunyar Khan
(1949-04-14) 14 April 1949 (age 68)
2 February 1973
HRH Prince Duran Daud Khan
HRH Princess Noal Khanum
Prince Mir Wais Khan
(1957-01-07) 7 January 1957 (age 60)
In January 2009 an article by Ahmad Majidyar of the American
Enterprise Institute included one of his grandsons, Mustafa Zahir , on
a list of fifteen possible candidates in the 2009 Afghan Presidential
election . However Mostafa Zaher did not become a candidate.
ANCESTORS OF MOHAMMED ZAHIR SHAH
16. _Sultan_ Muhammad Khan Telai, Governor of Kabul, Peshawar and
Kohat (= 24)
8. _Sardar_ Mohammad Yahya Khan, Governor of
Kabul (= 12)
17. a Popalzai lady (= 25)
4. _Sardar_ Mohammed Yusuf Khan, Governor of
18. Muhammad Akbar Khan (= 26)
9. Hamdan Sultana Begum (= 13)
19. (= 27)
Mohammed Nadir Shah
Ayub Shah Durrani
10. Ali Ahmad Mirza, Khan Bahadur
5. Sharaf Sultana Hukumat Begum
1. MOHAMMED ZAHIR SHAH
24. _Sultan_ Muhammad Khan Telai, Governor of Kabul, Peshawar and
Kohat (= 16)
12. _Sardar_ Mohammad Yahya Khan, Governor of
Kabul (= 8)
25. a Popalzai lady (= 17)
6. _Sardar_ Muhammad Asif Khan
26. Muhammad Akbar Khan (= 18)
13. Hamdan Sultana Begum (= 9)
27. (= 19)
Mah Parwar Begum
7. Murwarid Begum
* Kingdom of
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* ^ Mercuguinness
* ^ _A_ _B_ _C_ _D_ _E_ _F_ _G_ _H_ Barry Bearak, "Former King of
Afghanistan Dies at 92", _The New York Times_, 23 July 2007.
* ^ Gall, Sandy (2007-07-23). "Mohammad Zahir Shah". _The
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* ^ _Inside ISI: The Story and Involvement of the ISI, Afghan
Jihad, Taliban, Al-Qaeda, 9/11, Osama Bin Laden, 26/11 and the Future
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* ^ "The Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan".
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