Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Last King of Afghanistan ~ Mohammad Zahir Shah

Mohammed Zahir Shah
October 15, 1914 ~ July 23, 2007

Mohammed Zahir Shah, the last King of Afghanistan, is dead at the age of 92.

Zahir Shah wass proclaimed monarch in 1933, at age 19, within hours after his father, Muhammad Nadir Shah, had been assissinated in front of him. He ruled for 40 years, until a cousin took over the government while he was out of the country in 1973, plunging the country back into bloody warfare.

Though he was not a dynamic ruler, he did have a neutral foreign policy with gave peace to the country that has been ravaged by war - before and after - his reign. He was a patron of the arts, funded music festivals and theatre companies. He brought development and education to the country. Zahir Shah ended the absolute rule of the Monarchy when he made Afghanistan a Constitutional Monarchy in 1964.

Zahir Shah returned to Afghanistan in 2002 to participate in the loya jirga to establish a new government. Even though he was asked, he said repeatedly he had no ambition to dust off the throne, insisting that he wanted only to help revive and reunify his country.

An honor guard lowered the body of Afghanistan's last king into a bullet-riddled hillside tomb Tuesday, as dignitaries, lawmakers and relatives said goodbye to the man they call the "Father of the Nation."

His coffin — wrapped in Afghanistan's black, red and green flag — traveled from the presidential palace to one of Kabul's main mosques and then to the hillside tomb on a gun carriage pulled by an armored military vehicle. He was buried beside his wife who died in 2002.

Afghan officials and dignitaries, including President Hamid Karzai, walked behind the coffin much of the way amid heavy security.

Zahir Shah's wooden coffin was first placed under the shade of pine trees at the presidential palace grounds, where Afghan politicians, tribal elders, former President Burhanuddin Rabbani and international dignitaries paid their respects.

The coffin was then taken to a Kabul mosque where a short prayer was read. Then it was pulled to the top of Maranjan Hill, where dozens of ornate, red carpets had been laid on the ground and the bullet-pocked shrine was covered in black. Karzai and a small entourage descended into the tomb to see Zahir Shah's final resting place.

Named the "Father of the Nation" in the nation's new constitution, Zahir Shah died Monday after a long illness at age 92.

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