|King Zahir Shah|
Daoud Khan was an egotistical and extremely ambitious man who ended up being the ruination of his own country. Despite the fact that there was still a great deal of work to be done in his own country, he looked beyond Afghanistan and put progress there to the side while he pursued his dream of uniting all the Pashtun people into a larger Pashtun nation-state (the Pashtun being the dominant ethnic group of Afghanistan. However, there were a great many Pashtuns living in the still fairly young country of Pakistan and the Pashtun nationalism of Daoud Khan provided no small amount of antagonism to Pakistan. Never a wealthy country, Daoud Khan poured money into Pashtun militias on the Pakistani border and quarreled with Pakistan over where the border was. Pakistan cut off trade with Afghanistan as a result, leaving the Soviet Union as the sole source of economic support for the kingdom. The Soviets were, of course, more than happy to provide all sorts of support to Daoud Khan but at a heavy price of course with the result being the Afghanistan became more and more dependent on the Soviets and the Soviets became more demanding about having greater influence.
The communist poison was sitting there in Afghanistan, almost unnoticed but certainly deadly and Daoud Khan would be their path to power even if he was too ignorant to realize it. As has almost invariably been the case in countries around the world, from Russia to China to Cambodia, it is not the communists who overthrow monarchies and seize power (they are usually not strong enough to) but rather some other, more moderate, regime that does so first. The communists then come in, sweep away this younger, weaker regime and take absolute power for themselves. Such was the case in Afghanistan. In truly cowardly fashion, Daoud Khan plotted his revenge against his cousin but did not take action against him in person. Rather, he waited until the King was far away in Italy having eye surgery in 1973 when he launched a palace coup. Daoud Khan seized power and for the first time in Afghan history, declared himself President rather than king and the country became the Republic of Afghanistan. He thought he had won and immediately consolidated his power, killing off potential rivals and establishing a single-party state ruled by the party he established of course, the National Revolutionary Party. All political opposition was persecuted and that included his former communist “friends” of the PDPA. Relations also cooled with the Soviet Union as Daoud Khan, anxious to be his own boss, sought economic ties with India and Iran and the Middle East rather than Soviet Russia. Needless to say, the communists were soon plotting his downfall.
The exiled King Zahir Shah had been barred from the country by the PDPA and an Afghan civil war was the last thing he wanted to see. Nonetheless, during the Reagan administration he was sought out as an opposition leader and cautiously and tentatively agreed to become the leader of a government-in-exile for Afghanistan. However, this was something the most powerful rebel factions would not agree to as they were determined to have a theocratic republic rather than a monarchy and so the concept fell apart. By 1989 the last of the Soviet military forces left Afghanistan (in utter disgust and frustration) while in Afghanistan the fighting continued between the Afghans themselves. The King had little to nothing to do with Afghan politics during this time, though he was still a sufficiently contentious figure that he was nearly assassinated in 1991. Another government emerged but the country was still almost completely lawless and it was opposed by the Taliban militia that was supported by Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. In 1996 the Taliban secured control of most of the country though areas remained contested by the United Front opposition.
|"Father of the Nation"|