July 23, 2007 / 7:21 AM / 12 years ago

FACTBOX - The life and times of Afghan King Zahir Shah

(Reuters) - Former Afghan King Mohammad Zahir Shah died on Monday, aged 92, President Hamid Karzai, a distant relative of the former king, said. Here are five facts on the former king.

* Born in Kabul on October 15, 1914, Zahir Shah came from a long line of ethnic Pashtun rulers. Partly educated in France, he received military training in Afghanistan before ascending to the throne at the age of 19, after his father was assassinated.

* Seen as a symbol of unity for the highly fractious country, Shah ruled Afghanistan for four decades from 1933. He was deposed by his cousin and former Prime Minister, Muhammad Daud, in a bloodless 1973 coup that ushered in three decades of insurrection, Soviet occupation, civil war and hardline Islamic rule.

* After living in exile in Italy, Zahir Shah returned home in 2002 and was given the title “Father of the Nation” by a government-summoned grand council. Afghan publications urged him to take a leadership role in the post-Taliban government, but the reclusive, bookish, former monarch kept a low profile.

* Shah’s endorsement helped the passage of the 2001 UN-backed renewal plan for Afghanistan. The pro-democracy constitution he passed in 1964, and his support for ending purdah — the wearing of the veil — for women, were seen as landmark attempts at reform that were fiercely resisted by conservative elements.

* The last ruling monarch from a dynasty established in 1747, Zahir Shah (Shah means king,) was twice rumoured to have died in July 2003. He was reported to be bedridden and under medical care by family members in January this year.

Source: Reuters

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