HISTROY OF AFGHANISTAN
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 GeneralMohammad 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 theBanner (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.
During Daud Khan's second tenure as prime minister, he attempted to introduce socioeconomic reforms, to write a new constitution, and to effect a gradual movement away from the socialist ideals his regime initially espoused. Afghanistan broadened and intensified its relationships with other Muslim countries, trying to move away from its dependency on the Soviet Union and the United States. In addition, Daud Khan and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the prime minister of Pakistan, reached tentative agreement on a solution to the Pashtunistan problem.
Daud Khan received approval in 1977 of his new constitution from the National Assembly, which wrote in several new articles and amended others. In March 1977 Daud Khan, then president of Afghanistan, appointed a new Cabinet composed of sycophants, friends, sons of friends, and even collateral members of the royal family. The two major leftist organizations, thePeople's (Khalq) and Banner parties, then reunited against Daud Khan after a 10-year separation. There followed a series of political assassinations, massive antigovernment demonstrations, and arrests of major leftist leaders. Before his arrest Hafizullah Amin, a U.S.-educated People's Party leader, contacted party members in the armed forces and devised a makeshift but successful coup. Daud Khan and most of his family were killed, and the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan was born on April 27, 1978.