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Mohammed Zahir Shah

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Mohammed Zahir Shah (born October 16, 1914) was the King of Afghanistan from 1933 to 1973. Following a coup d'état in 1973, he lived in exile in Italy for twenty-nine years.

He instituted programs of political and economic modernization, ushering in a democratic legislature, education for women and other such changes. These reforms put him at odds with the religious militants who opposed him.

He refused to return as a puppet leader during Soviet-backed Communist rule in the late 1970s. He has remained aloof from the bloody feuds that followed the Soviet withdrawal in 1989. However, critics contend that in Afghanistan's most difficult moments, he remained comfortably secluded in Italy and refused to speak out against the Taliban.

Other criticisms include his kindness toward India and his policy toward the Durand Line, in which he has favored the break off of northwest Pakistan into a separate Afghan ethnic homeland.

In April 2002, he returned to Afghanistan to open the Loya jirga scheduled for June 2002.

From a family of Pashtuns, the dominant Afghan ethnic group, he was also educated in the elite culture of Afghanistan's Persian-speaking minority, giving him access to both groups.

See the reigns of Nadir Shah and Zahir Shah for more detailed information on his rule.

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