Mohammed Zahir Shah: Wikis


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Mohammed Zahir Shah
محمد ظاهر شاه
King of the God granted Kingdom of Afghanistan and its dependencies[1]
King Mohammad Zahir Shah.jpg
King Zahir Shah in his last years
Reign 8 November 1933 – 17 July 1973
Titles Father of the Nation
Born 15 October 1914[2]
Birthplace Kabul, Afghanistan
Died 23 July 2007 (aged 92)
Place of death Kabul, Afghanistan
Buried Maranjan Hill
Predecessor Mohammed Nadir Shah
Successor Monarchy abolished Mohammed Daoud Khan as President of Afghanistan
Consort Humaira Begum
Offspring Princess Bilqis Begum (born 17 April 1932)

Prince Muhammed Akbar Khan (4 August 1933 - 26 November 1942)

Crown Prince Ahmad Shah Khan (born 23 September 1934)

Princess Maryam Begum (born 2 November 1936)

Prince Muhammed Nadir Khan (born 21 May 1941)

Prince Shah Mahmoud Khan (15 November 1946 - 7 December 2002)

Prince Muhammed Daoud Pashtunyar Khan (born 14 April 1949)

Prince Mir Wais Khan (born 7 January 1957)
Royal House Barakzai
Father Mohammed Nadir Shah
Mother Mah Parwar Begum
History of Afghanistan
Emblem of Afghanistan
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Mohammed Zahir Shah (15 October 1914 – 23 July 2007) was the last King (Shah) of Afghanistan, 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' in 2002 which he held until his death.[2]


Family background and early life

Zahir Shah was born in Kabul, Afghanistan. He was the son of Mohammed Nadir Shah, a senior member of the Barakzai royal family and commander in chief of the Afghan army under former king Amanullah Khan. Nadir Shah assumed the throne after the execution of Habibullah Ghazi on 10 October 1929.[4] Mohammed Zahir's father was born in Dehradun, India, his family having been exiled following the second Anglo-Afghan war. Nadir Shah was a descendant of Sardar Sultan Mohammed Khan Telai, half-brother of Dost Mohammad Khan. His grandfather Mohammad Yahya Khan was in charge of the negotiations with the British leading to the Treaty of Gandamak. After the British invasion following the killing of Sir Louis Cavagnari in 1879, Yaqub Khan, Yahya Khan and his sons, Princes Moh.d Yusuf and Moh.d Asef, were seized by the British and transferred under custody to India, where they forcibly remained until the latter were invited back to Afghanistan by Emir Abdur Rahman Khan in the last year of his reign (1901).

Zahir Shah was educated in a special class for princes at Habibia High School in Kabul.[5] He continued his education in France where his father had been sent as a diplomatic envoy, studying at the Pasteur Institute and the University of Montpellier.[6] 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.[7] 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.[5] Zahir Shah was fluent in Pashto, Persian, and French.[8]


King Zahir Shah in 1963

Zahir Khan was proclaimed King (Shah) on 8 November 1933, after the assassination of his father Mohammed Nadir Shah. 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".[5] For the first thirty years he did not effectively rule, ceding power to his paternal uncles, Sardar Mohammad Hashim Khan and Sardar Shah Mahmud Khan.[9] This period fostered a growth in Afghanistan's relations with the international community as in 1934, Afghanistan joined the League of Nations while also receiving formal recognition from the United States.[10] Throughout the 1930s, agreements on foreign assistance and trade had been reached with many countries, most notably Germany, Italy, and Japan.[11]

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.[12] During this period Afghanistan's first modern university was founded.[12] During his reign a number of potential advances and reforms were derailed as a result of factionalism and political infighting.[13]

Zahir Shah was able to govern on his own in 1963[9] 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, liberation for women and universal suffrage.[12]

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.[14]


In 1973, while Mohammed Zahir Shah was in Italy undergoing eye surgery as well as 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.[14] In the August following this coup, Zahir Shah abdicated rather than risk an all-out civil war.[14]

Zahir Shah lived in exile in Italy for twenty-nine years in a modest four-bedroom villa[7] in the affluent community of Olgiata[8] on Via Cassia, north of the city of Rome where he spent his time playing golf and chess, and tending to his garden.[15] He was barred from returning to Afghanistan during Soviet-backed Communist rule in the late 1970s. In 1983 during the Soviet war in Afghanistan, 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.[5]

In 1991, Zahir Shah survived an attempt on his life by a knife-wielding assassin who pretended to be a Portuguese journalist.[14]


In April 2002, while the country was under NATO occupation, Zahir Shah returned to Afghanistan to open the Loya Jirga, which met in June 2002.[16] After the fall of the Taliban, there were open calls for a return to the monarchy.[14] Zahir Shah himself let it be known that he would accept whatever responsibility was placed on him by the Loya Jirga.[16] 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.[16] 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 and I prefer this title."[14] He was given the ceremonial title "Father of the Nation" in the current Constitution of Afghanistan[17] 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.[18]

Zahir Shah is seated at the far right during the oath ceremony of Hamid Karzai on December 7, 2004.

Hamid Karzai, 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.

On 3 February 2004, Zahir was flown from Kabul to 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 because of nose bleeding caused by heat.

Zahir Shah attended the 7 December 2004 swearing in of Hamid Karzai 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.[14] In January 2007, Shah 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.[14] 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.[19]


He married Humaira Begum (1918-2002) on 7 November 1931 and had six sons and two daughters:[1]

  1. Princess Bilqis Begum (born 17 April 1932)
  2. Prince Muhammed Akbar Khan (4 August 1933 - 26 November 1942)
  3. Prince Ahmad Shah Khan (born 23 September 1934)
  4. Princess Maryam Begum (born 2 November 1936)
  5. Prince Muhammed Nadir Khan (born 21 May 1941)
  6. Prince Shah Mahmoud Khan (15 November 1946 - 7 December 2002)
  7. Prince Muhammed Daoud Pashtunyar Khan (born 14 April 1949)
  8. Prince Mir Wais Khan (born 7 January 1957)

In January 2009 an article by Ahmad Majidyar of the American Enterprise Institute included one of his grandsons, Mostafa Zaher, on a list of fifteen possible candidates in the 2009 Afghan Presidential election.[20] However Mostafa Zaher did not become a candidate.

See also


  1. ^ a b Royal Ark
  2. ^ a b Encyclopedia Britannica, Mohammad Zahir Shah
  3. ^ Encyclopaedia Britannica
  4. ^ Encyclopedia Britannica, Afghanistan Mohammad Nader Shah (1929–33)
  5. ^ a b c d "The King of Afghanistan". Daily Telegraph. 2007-07-24. Retrieved 2008-03-18. 
  6. ^ "Mohammad Zahir Shah, 92, Last King of Afghanistan". 
  7. ^ a b Judah, Tim (2001-09-23). "Profile: Mohamed Zahir Shah". The Observer. Retrieved 2008-03-18. 
  8. ^ a b McCarthy, Michael (2001-09-24). "War On Terrorism: Opposition - Exiled king declares himself ready to return". The Independent (London) (Look Smart: Find Articles). Retrieved 2007-07-23. 
  9. ^ a b Chesterman, Simon; Michael Ignatieff, Ramesh Chandra Thakur (2005). Making States Work: State Failure And The Crisis Of Governance. United Nations University Press. pp. 400. ISBN 928081107X. 
  10. ^ Jentleson, Bruce W.; Paterson, Thomas G. (1997). The American Journal of International Law. Oxford University Press. pp. 24. ISBN 0195110552. 
  11. ^ Dupree, Louis: "Afghanistan", pages 477-478. Princeton University Press, 1980
  12. ^ a b c "Profile: Ex-king Zahir Shah". BBC. 2001-10-01. Retrieved 2008-02-01. 
  13. ^ Judah, Tim (2001-09-23). "Profile: Mohamed Zahir Shah". The Observer.,,556614,00.html. Retrieved 2008-02-01. 
  14. ^ a b c d e f g h Barry Bearak, Former King of Afghanistan Dies at 92, The New York Times, 23 July 2007.
  15. ^ Gall, Sandy (2007-07-23). "Mohammad Zahir Shah". The Guardian. Retrieved 2008-03-18. 
  16. ^ a b c Dorronsoro, Gilles. "The Return to Political Fragmentation". Afghanistan: Revolution Unending, 1979-2002. C. Hurst & Co. pp. 330. ISBN 1850656835. 
  17. ^ "The Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan". 
  18. ^ "The late King was always fondly referred to by all Afghans, cutting across ethnic boundaries, as "Baba-e-Millat" or 'Father of the Nation', a position given to him in the country's Constitution promulgated in January 2004, about two years after the collapse of Taliban rule. The title of the 'Father of the Nation' dissolves with his death." "Last King of Afghanistan dies at 92". 
  19. ^ "Afghanistan's King Mohammad Zahir Shah Laid to Rest", Associated Press (Fox News), 24 July 2007.
  20. ^ Ahmad Majidyar (2009-01). "Afghanistan's Presidential Election". American Enterprise Institute. Archived from the original on 2009-09-18. "Zaher is the grandson of the late King Muhammad Zaher Shah. He is currently head of Afghanistan’s environment preservation department and a member of the UNF. There has been speculation that the UNF will nominate Zaher as its candidate for the upcoming election. Despite being an heir to the royal family, he lacks a popular base." 

External links

Mohammed Zahir Shah
Born: 16 October 1914 Died: 23 July 2007
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Mohammed Nadir Shah
King of Afghanistan
1933 – 1973
Succeeded by
Mohammed Daoud Khan
President of Afghanistan
Titles in pretence
Loss of title
King of Afghanistan
1973 – 2007
Succeeded by
Crown Prince Ahmad Shah

Simple English

File:King Mohammad Zahir
Mohammed Zahir Shah
Mohammed Zahir Shah
King of Afghanistan
File:King Zahir Shah of
Portrait of Zahir Shah by Tapand Sahib
Reign 8 November 1933 - 17 July 1973
Born 16 October 1914
Birthplace Kabul, Afghanistan
Died July 23, 2007 (aged 92)
Place of death Kabul, Afghanistan
Buried Maranjan Hill
Predecessor Mohammed Nadir Shah
Successor Monarchy abolished Mohammed Daoud Khan as President of Afghanistan
Consort Humaira Begum (deceased 2002)
Royal House Barakzai
Father Mohammed Nadir Shah
Mother Mah Parwar Begum

Mohammed Zahir Shah (16 October 191423 July 2007) was the last King (Shah) of Afghanistan, reigning for four decades, from 1933 to 1973.

Mohammed Zahir Shah became king of Afghanistan at the age of nineteen after the assassination of his father in November 1933. Since he was so young, his uncle, Shah Mahmood Khan ran the government. Mohammed Zahir Shah took control and was able to maintain Afghanistan’s neutral position in international politics.

In July 17, 1973, Mohammed Zahir Shah was no longer king after a bloodless coup. He died on July 23, 2007 (aged 92)


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