|Biographical detail : ||King of Afghanistan who after 29-year of exile returned to his country as an ordinary citizen.
Zahir Shah succeeded the throne in 1933 after the assassination of his father Nadir Shah. Although never a dynamic ruler, his neutral foreign policy fostered a lengthy period of peace – sometime seen today as a golden age.
His reign, one of the longest in Afghanistan’s history, saw the founding of democratic institutions, including parliament, elections and a new constitution. But economic development remained largely confined to Kabul. This led to discontent and paved the way for a coup in 1973.
Fifty years after Amanullah Khan who came to Afghanistan’s throne (1919 – 29), history repeated itself with a grimmer outcome when Zahir Shah was overthrown by his cousin General Daud Khan while he was receiving medical treatment in Italy in 1973. Daud Khan declared Afghanistan a republic with the support of the local communists and financial aid from the Soviet Union.
For a while Afghanistan was a cold-war battleground, but when Soviet troops eventually left after being defeated by Mujahideen fighters there followed a period of bloody, internecine conflict.
The Taleban movement took over, until they were weakened following American invasion, in 2001, and many Afghans clamoured for Zahir Shah to return. Having lived in exile in Rome since 1973 he got the opportunity to go back to Afghanistan in 2002 but only as an ordinary citizen of the country he ruled before now descended into a period of extraordinary tumult.
Initially educated in Kabul, Zahir Shah, a Persian-speaking Pashtun, was further educated in Montpellier in Southern France. Returning to Afghanistan he was trained as an army officer.
Zahir Shah, “king of a nation that, in the minds of many, does not really exist,” passed away in Kabul.