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Modern Afghanistan.

'Abdor Rahman Khan (1880-1901).
The British finally withdrew from Qandahar in April 1881. In 1880 'Abdor Rahman Khan, a cousin of Shir 'Ali, had returned from exile in Central Asia and proclaimed himself amir of Kabul. During the reign of 'Abdor Rahman, the boundaries of modern Afghanistan were drawn by the British and the Russians. The Durand Line of 1893 divided zones of responsibility for the maintenance of law and order between British India and the kingdom of Afghanistan; it was never intended as a de jure international boundary. Afghanistan, therefore, although never dominated by a European imperial government, became a buffer between Tsarist Russia and British India.
'Abdor Rahman exerted his influence, if not actual control, over the various ethnolinguistic groups inside Afghanistan, fighting some 20 small wars to convince them that a strong central government existed in Kabul. 'Abdor Rahman was so successful that, at his death, his designated successor and eldest son, Habibollah Khan, succeeded to the throne as Habibollah I without the usual fratricidal fighting. 'Abdor Rahman can be considered the founder of modern Afghanistan.
Habibollah Khan (1901-1919).
The introduction of modern European technology begun by 'Abdor Rahman was furthered by Habibollah. Western ideals and styles penetrated the Afghan royal court and upper classes. An Afghan nationalist, Mahmud Beg Tarzi, published (1911-18) the periodical Seraj ol-Akbar ("Torch of the News"), which had political influence far beyond the boundaries of Afghanistan.
Habibollah Khan visited British India in 1907 as guest of the viceroy of India, Gilbert Elliot, 4th earl of Minto. Impressed with British power, Habibollah resisted pressures from Tarzi, Amanollah (Habibollah's third son, who had married Soraya, a daughter of Tarzi), and others to enter World War I on the side of the Central Powers (Germany, Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman Empire, and Bulgaria). The peace ending World War I brought death to Habibollah; he was murdered on Feb. 20, 1919, by persons associated with the anti-British movement, and Amanollah seized power.
Amanollah (1919-29).
Amanollah launched the inconclusive Third Anglo-Afghan War in May 1919. The month-long war gained the Afghans the conduct of their own foreign affairs. The Treaty of Rawalpindi was signed on Aug. 8, 1919, and amended in 1921. Before signing the final document with the British, the Afghans concluded a treaty of friendship with the new Bolshevik regime in the Soviet Union; Afghanistan thereby became one of the first nations to recognize the Soviet government, and a "special relationship" evolved between the two governments and lasted until December 1979, when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan.
Amanollah changed his title from amir to padshah ("king") in 1923 and inaugurated a decade of reforms--including constitutional and administrative changes, removal of the veil from women, and coeducational schools--that offended conservative religious and tribal leaders.
Civil war broke out in November 1928, and a Tadzhik folk hero called Baccheh Saqow (Bacha Saqqao; "Son of a Water Carrier") occupied Kabul. Amanollah abdicated on Jan. 14, 1929, in favour of his elder brother, Inayatollah, but Baccheh Saqow proclaimed himself Habibollah Ghazi (or Habibollah II), amir of Afghanistan. Amanollah failed to retrieve his throne and went into exile in Italy. He died in 1960 in Zürich.
Mohammad Nader Shah (1929-33).
Habibollah II was driven from the throne by Mohammad Nader Khan and his brothers, distant cousins of Amanollah. On Oct. 10, 1929, Habibollah II was executed along with 17 of his followers. A tribal assembly elected Nader Khan as shah, and the opposition was bloodily persecuted.
Nader Shah produced a new constitution in 1931 that was modeled on Amanollah's constitution of 1923 but was more conservatively oriented to appease Islamic religious leaders. The national economy developed in the 1930s under the leadership of several entrepreneurs who began small-scale industrial projects. Nader Shah was assassinated on Nov. 8, 1933, and the 19-year-old crown prince, Zahir, succeeded his father.
Mohammad Zahir Shah (1933-73).
The first 20 years of Zahir Shah's reign were characterized by cautious policies of national consolidation, an expansion of foreign relations, and internal development using Afghan funds alone. World War II brought about a slowdown in development processes, but Afghanistan maintained its traditional neutrality. The "Pashtunistan" problem regarding the political status of those Pashtun living on the British (Pakistani) side of the Durand Line developed after the independence of Pakistan in 1947.
Shah Mahmud, prime minister from 1946 to 1953, sanctioned free elections and a relatively free press, and the so-called Liberal Parliament functioned from 1949 to 1952. Conservatives in government, however, encouraged by religious leaders, supported the seizure of power in 1953 by Lieutenant General Mohammad Daud Khan.
Prime Minister Daud Khan (1953-63) took a stronger line on Pashtunistan, and, to the surprise of many, turned to the Soviet Union for economic and military assistance. The Soviets ultimately became Afghanistan's major aid-and-trade partner. The Afghans refused to take sides in the Cold War, and Afghanistan became an "economic Korea," testing the Western (particularly U.S.) will and capability to compete with the Soviet bloc in a nonaligned country. Daud Khan successfully introduced several far-reaching educational and social reforms, such as the voluntary removal of the veil from women and the abolition of purdah (the practice of secluding women from public view), which theoretically increased the labour force by about 50 percent. The regime remained politically repressive, however, and tolerated no direct opposition.
The Pashtunistan issue precipitated Daud Khan's downfall. In retaliation for Afghan agitation, Pakistan closed the border with Afghanistan in August 1961. A prolongation of the closure led to Afghan dependence on the Soviet Union for trade and in-transit facilities. To reverse the trend, Daud Khan resigned in March 1963, and the border was reopened in May. The Pashtunistan problem still existed, however.
Zahir Shah and his advisers instituted an experiment in constitutional monarchy. In 1964 the National Assembly approved a new constitution, under which the House of the People was to have 216 elected members, and the House of the Elders was to have 84 members, one-third elected by the people, one-third appointed by the king, and one-third elected indirectly by new provincial assemblies.
Elections for both houses of the legislature were held in 1965 and 1969. Several unofficial parties ran candidates with beliefs ranging from fundamentalist Islam to the extreme left. National politics became increasingly polarized, a situation reflected in the appointment by the King of five successive prime ministers between September 1965 and December 1972. The King refused to promulgate the Political Parties Act, the Provincial Councils Act, and the Municipal Councils Act, thereby effectively blocking the institutionalization of the political processes guaranteed in the constitution. Struggles for power developed between the legislative and the executive branches, and an independent Supreme Court, as called for in the 1964 constitution, was never appointed.
Mohammad Daud Khan, the former prime minister and a brother-in-law and first cousin of Zahir Shah, sensed the stagnation of the constitutional processes and seized power on July 17, 1973, in a virtually bloodless coup. Leftist military officers and civil servants of the Banner (Parcham) Party assisted in the overthrow. Daud Khan abolished the constitution of 1964 and established the Republic of Afghanistan, with himself as chairman of the Central Committee of the Republic and prime minister. 

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