KABUL, Afghanistan – Afghanistan is mourning our beloved king.
Mohammad Zahir Shah, the man we knew as Father of the Nation, died July 23 at the age of 92.
The only son of his father, King Nader Shah, Zahir Shah became king at the age of 19 when his father was assassinated in 1933 during a military school function.
Zahir Shah was born in Kabul on 1914 and got his educational training in Kabul and in Paris, due to his father’s cordial relationship with France.
His uncles advised and assisted the young king in the early years of his reign, until he gained political experience.
King Zahir Shah ruled Afghanistan for 40 years. They were years of peace and tranquility for our country.
Under King Zahir Shah, all ethnic groups had rights in Afghanistan, and he connected the people of the northern and southern regions of the country together through jobs.
Zahir Shah was never king for the purpose of power and governing, but accepted this post in his youth to keep Afghanistan calm and free of trouble.
In his 40 years of governing – during which most countries of the world were in crisis and wars – the people of Afghanistan lived a comfortable life in their country.
He was a democratic king, and had accelerated Afghanistan’s economy through agriculture. He was fond of farms, but had also established some major governmental factories.
His foreign policy was quite favorable with all the nations and especially with United States President John Kennedy, Britain’s Queen Elizabeth and with leaders in France and Russia.
Keeping Afghanistan away from crisis for 40 years was the biggest challenge for this national leader, given the country’s strategic geographical location and its declaration of neutrality during World War II.
Zahir Shah was king of Afghanistan until 1973 when he was replaced in a coup by his cousin, Sardar Dawood Khan, when the king was on an official visit to Europe.
King Zahir Shah lived in exile in Italy for many years until he returned to Afghanistan in 2002 and was named Father of the Nation in a Grand Council Loya Jirga’s Decision which is also mentioned in the Afghan Constitution.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai declared the demise of Zahir Shah an extreme loss for the nation. He called the former king a serious symbol of peace and unity for the ethnic groups and political people in Afghanistan.
Karzai and some other political leaders also praised the king’s efforts in the holy war to expel forces from the Soviet Union out of Afghanistan.
Dignitaries and high level government officials from North America, Europe, the Middle East and neighboring countries arrived on the day of his burial.
There were many in attendance from the royal family and residents of Kabul, but due to intense security measures, ordinary people could not attend on the burying day.
Out of respect for the father of the Afghan nation, the governments of India and Pakistan declared a day of mourning for the demise of the king.
Throughout Afghanistan, the people observed three days of mourning for our king. The nation’s flag flew at half mast July 24 as the father was buried alongside his father on the hill top of Kabul.
Funeral programs were held all over Afghanistan.
King Zahir Shah governed for 40 years of tranquility, a symbol of peace and unity.
It is really a sad event for all Afghans, losing the father during such a crucial time, but especially for the elders in the country, who can remember his rule and compare it with the other governments that followed.
Edrees Kakar is a Reporter for Youth Journalism International.