The former King of Afghanistan, Zahir Shah, has died at the age of 93

Former Afghan monarch and Father of the Nation Muhammad Zahir Shah passed away Monday morning ( 5:45 A.M ) after protracted illness, he was 93.
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Muhammad Zahir Shah returned to Afghanistan after the overthrow of Taliban in late 2001.
He was given the title of the 'Father of the Nation' during the Emergency Loya Jirga held in Kabul in 2002 to decide the future of the conflict-torn Central Asian country.
Following his homecoming, the former king maintained a neutral posture and always preached peace and unity among the people for reconstructing a country ravaged by decades of war and internecine strife.
He eschewed supporting any candidate during the presidential election of 2004, urging the masses to keep the national interest supreme while exercising their democratic right to vote.
Born on October 16, 1914, Zahir Shah was proclaimed king after the assassination of his father Nadir Shah in 1933.
During his 40-year rule, the last ruler of the Pashtun dynasty introduced reforms, including modernisation of the political structure and economic system of the country, introduction of a democratic legislature, education for women and other changes previously deemed taboo.
In the year 1973, when Zahir Shah was in Italy for an eye operation, his cousin and then prime minister Muhammad Daoud Khan staged a coup, announcing the establishment of a republican government. The coup marked the end of the Barakzay dynasty in Afghanistan.
Living in exile for three decades, he was barred from returning to his homeland by the Soviet-backed Communist regime in the late 1970s.
In the turbulent years of Afghanistan's history under the fundamentalist Taliban government, the epoch-making man remained in Italy. However, he avoided speaking out against the hardline regime.
On his return to Afghanistan in April 2002, he moved into his old palace in Kabul. He was denied the throne by the Loya Jirag that bestowed on him the title of Baba-i-Millat or the Father of the Nation.
On June 21, when he was in France for medical check-up, rumours of his death spread in Afghanistan and neighbouring Pakistan.
Zahir Shah was flown on February 3, 2004 for medical treatment to New Delhi, where he stayed hospitalised for nearly two weeks.
He was later flown to the United Arab Emirates and France for treatment . On Juanuary 2, 2007, he was reported seriously ill and had since been bedridden

Bilal Basharat


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