The Info List - Zahir Shah

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MOHAMMED ZAHIR SHAH ( Pashto : محمد ظاهرشاه‎, Persian : محمد ظاهر شاه‎‎; 16 October 1914 – 23 July 2007) was the last 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 minister , Mohammed Daoud Khan . He remained in exile near Rome
until 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 in 2007.


* 1 Family background and early life * 2 The last king of Afghanistan
* 3 Exile * 4 Return to Afghan politics * 5 Death * 6 Family * 7 See also * 8 References * 9 External links


Zahir Shah was born on 15 October 1914, in Kabul
, 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 Dehradun , 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 during 1879, 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 Afghanistan
by 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 ( Musahiban ).

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.


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 '; 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 . 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 Kashgar and 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 the area.

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
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 Quran
, Sura 8 , verse 61.

By the time he returned to Afghanistan
in 2002, his rule was characterized by a lengthy span of peace, but with no significant progress.


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 Afghanistan
during 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.


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
Hamid Karzai
on 7 December 2004.

In April 2002, 4 months after the end of Taliban rule, Zahir Shah returned to 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
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
Hamid Karzai
, from the Pashtun Popalzai clan, became the president of 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 Kabul
to New Delhi
New Delhi
, India, for medical treatment after complaining of an intestinal problem. He was hospitalized for two weeks and remained in New Delhi
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 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 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 1931 in Kabul
. They had six sons and two daughters:



Princess Bilqis Begum (1932-04-17) 17 April 1932 (age 85)

1951 '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)

Prince Muhammed Nadir Khan (1941-05-21) 21 May 1941 (age 76)

6 February 1964 Lailuma Begum 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 Safura Begum HRH Princess Bilqis Khanum

HRH Princess Ariane Khanum

Prince Muhammed Daoud Pashtunyar Khan (1949-04-14) 14 April 1949 (age 68)

2 February 1973 Fatima Begum 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.


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 Herat

18. Muhammad Akbar Khan (= 26)

9. Hamdan Sultana Begum (= 13)

19. (= 27)

2. Mohammed Nadir Shah

20. Ayub Shah Durrani

10. Ali Ahmad Mirza, Khan Bahadur

5. Sharaf Sultana Hukumat Begum


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)

3. Mah Parwar Begum

7. Murwarid Begum


* Kingdom of Afghanistan


* ^ _A_ _B_ Royal Ark * ^ _A_ _B_ _C_ _ Encyclopædia Britannica _, "Mohammad Zahir Shah" * ^ _Encyclopædia Britannica_, "