That great constitutional monarch, the former King of Afghanistan, Zahir Shah, died on 23 July, 2007 at the age of 92. Such was the honour and respect that he still enjoyed that the President, Hamid Karzai, immediately announced three days of mourning. During his reign, the country lived at peace, and economic and political reforms were introduced. Afghanistan developed into a constitutional monarchy, with women being granted the vote. The guidance he gave concerning the conduct of the nation’s foreign policy ensured that Afghanistan remained at peace with the world, including with her sometimes menacing neighbour, the USSR. His reign gave Afghanistan the longest period of stability that this country has ever known. But while overseas in 1973 for an operation, his brother-in-law and former prime minister, Sardar Daoud Khan, launched a coup and declared a republic. He in turn was overthrown, and with his family, he was murdered in 1978 by communist insurgents who declared a peoples’ republic.
This unfortunate country was to experience not only increasingly brutal dictatorships, but also an insurgency, a Soviet invasion, a civil war, as well as a truly appalling fundamentalist regime, before the country was liberated by an American led invasion as a reprisal for 9/11. The King returned to Afghanistan in 2002 and although not restored as monarch, was officially declared “Father of the Nation”.
He remained popular among the Afghan people who remember his reign as a golden age, a time of peace, progress and stability. A full obituary was posted on the BBC website, together with a detailed report on his passing. His second surviving son, HRH Ahmed Shah Khan, Crown Prince of Afghanistan becomes the pretender to the throne of Afghanistan.