Birthday: October 15, 1914
Emperors & Kings
Died At Age: 92
Sun Sign: Libra
Also Known As: Father of the Nation
Born in: Kabul
Famous as: Former King of Afghanistan
Spouse/Ex-: Humaira Begum
father: Mohammed Nadir Shah
mother: Mah Parwar Begum
children: Ahmad Shah Khan, Crown Prince of Afghanistan, Muhammed Daoud Pashtunyar Khan, Muhammed Nadir Khan
Died on: July 23, 2007
place of death: Kabul
City: Kabul, Afghanistan
education: University of Montpellier
awards: Royal Victorian Chain
Mohammed Zahir Shah was the king of Afghanistan from 1933 to 1973 and during his time as the monarch he transformed the country in more ways than one as a result of which he is regarded as a towering figure in the country’s history. Mohammad Zahir Shah was educated in his native Kabul and in France and right from the time he was a teenager he served as a diplomatic envoy of his country to France. After returning to his native Afghanistan he served in different capacities in the government and in 1933, when he was only 19 years old he became the king after the assassination of his father. Shah proved himself to be a very able ruler as he allowed people more experienced than himself to govern the country while he gathered enough experience and in 1963 he assumed full control of the country. He ushered in a new era of democratic republic, established a parliament and did a lot to make sure that the country moved in the right direction. Shah wanted to modernise Afghanistan right from his early days as the king but in 1973 his government was overthrown and he spent nearly thirty years in exile. However, he did return to Afghanistan and helped establish a democratic government after the Taliban were overthrown.
Childhood & Early Life
Mohammed Zahir Shah was born in Kabul, Afghanistan on 15 October, 1914 to Mohammad Nadir Shah and Mah Parwar Begum. Shah’s family belonged to the Barakzai royal family of Afghanistan and his father also served as the head of the Afghan Army during the reign of Amanullah Khan.
Mohammad Zahir Shah was initially educated at the Habibia High School located in Kabul, where he studied in segregation for being a prince and after that he continued his education in France, where he was sent in the capacity of diplomatic envoy. At first he studied at the Pasteur Institute and then went on to study at the University of Montpellier.
Upon his return to Afghanistan as a teenager, Zahir Shah helped his father and family members in their quest in ensuring that the country did not spiral out of control in the 1920s when wanton lawlessness was an everyday issue. Shah served as the education minister as well as a deputy to the war minister during those years.
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In 1933, when Mohammad Zahir Shah was only 19 years old, he became the King of Afghanistan following the assassination of his father Mohammad Nadir Shah. However, Shah did not have an active role in governing the country as he played a peripheral role in governance. Mohammad Hashim Khan and Shah Mahmud Khan, his uncles were the ones who ruled the country.
Mohammad Zahir Shah was instrumental in modernising Afghanistan during his time as the king and in 1934 the country was inducted into the League of Nations. A few years later, the country also signed pacts with countries like Germany, Japan as well as Italy with regards to foreign aid. He also helped the cause of the Uighur and Kirghiz rebels in Turkestan by sending soldiers, weaponry and money but the rebellion was crushed.
Mohammad Zahir Shah was a modernist and after the conclusion of the Second World War, he employed the services of foreign advisors in order to usher in a modern Afghanistan. In 1963, Zahir Shah decided to become the primary ruler of Afghanistan and the following year he was instrumental in introducing the new constitution. The constitution brought in democracy with a constitutional monarchy, established a parliament and introduced elections.
During Zahir Shah’s reign, Afghanistan became a country that adopted a neutral stance as far as international politics was concerned and despite his efforts to reenergise the country with his reforms there was little to show for his efforts in terms of economic progress.
In 1973, his cousin Mohammad Daoud Khan overthrew Zahir Shah’s government when he had been in Italy for eye surgery and a new conservative government was established. For 29 years, Mohammed Zahir Shah lived in Italy in exile.
Zahir Shah returned to Afghanistan from exile in the year 2002 after the Taliban leadership had been ousted and helped in establishing the ‘Loya Jirga’ which was a temporary assembly. Hamid Karzai became the new president of the country and despite demands for a return to monarchy; Zahir Shah did not rise to it. During his later years in Afghanistan he became a highly respected figure in country.
Mohammed Zahir Shah tried to turn Afghanistan into a modern democratic state. He gave Afghanistan a new constitution, introduced free elections, civil rights, women's rights and universal suffrage.
Awards & Achievements
In 2002, he was given the title of 'Father of the Nation'.
Personal Life & Legacy
Mohammed Zahir Shaw married Humaira Begum, his first cousin, on 7 November, 1931. The couple had 9 children, seven sons and two daughters.
Mohammad Zahir Shah died on 23 July 2007 in his residence in Kabul at the age of 92. He had been suffering from illness for some time.