Men In Front And Behind The New Afghanistan – OpEd


Despite the underlying disturbance caused by the assassination in 1919 of Afghanistan’s Amir Habibullah, his son Amanullah Khan was able to merge his initiative rapidly.

Amanullah, the third son of Amir Habibullah, with the support and guidance of  Mahmud Tarzai, skillfully figured out how to quiet any prompt difficulties to Amanullah’s rule. They used a subtle policy of manipulation through royal pardons and rewards and trade-offs to avoid disturbing further the interests of the power elite of various Afghan rulers.

While designating a few notables to vital court and bureau positions, Amanullah drew principally on two sources, however to fluctuating degrees, to seek his predefined objectives of independence and radical reform.

One was the scholarly, intellectual and inventive strength of Mahmud Tarzai and various other liberal minded young Afghan supporters.

The other was the potential of those who were not necessarily in full concord with the Young Afghans, but had the capacity, through control or influence over the administrative and traditional instrumentalities of power, to help implement his policies. These most noticeably were Musahiban including General Mohammed Nadir Shah and his brothers.

Amanullah Khan was therefore rapidly ready to swing to his long-cherished objectives of national freedom and modernization.

These required quick and unconditional freedom from Britain; and between related auxiliary changes in the political and social-monetary states of Afghan small scale social orders under the specialist of an effective yet famously endorsed government. He seemed to have needed absolutely a progressive procedure of progress.

Amanullah Khan and Mahmud Tarzai had faith in optimism as conceivably constructive methods for empowering the Afghan individuals towards solidarity, independence, structural change and a participatory political and social order. They were persuaded of the commonly strengthening nature of the objectives of freedom and modernization.

The Royal Manifesto published on the day of Amanullah’s coronation (February 28, 1919) is a revealing document in this sense:

O nation, proud through the realization of its dignity! In the minute when my great people has placed this crown on my head, I announce with a loud voice to you that I shall accept the crown and throne only on the condition that you render me support in the realization of my plans and intentions. I have explained my ideas to you already, and I shall reiterate only the most important of them now.

1. Afghanistan must become free and independent, it must enjoy all rights that all other sovereign states possess.

2. You will help me with all your strength to avenge the blood of the martyr-my deceased father.

3. The nation must become free: no man should be an object of oppression and tyranny.

This was the first time ever that an Afghan ruler claimed to seek legitimacy, not so much in tribal politics, but in broad public acceptance. Nationalism, elements of populism, respect for the traditional Pashtun values undoubtedly constituted important parts of the new King’s credo.

In any case, it was independence, and, all the more particularly, freedom interlaced with modernization, that turned into the foundation of his stage. This fundamentally implied Afghanistan couldn’t modernize without above all being freed from English domination and accordingly ‘Great-Game’ obstruction, and it couldn’t safeguard its independence without being modernized. Hence, from the beginning, the Young Afghans’ domestic reforms became inseparably connected to outside strategy and the other way around; and by expansion, failure in one space would have genuine ramifications for the other.

Giving the English stalling over the subject of freedom, Amanullah Khan’s initiative immediately achieved the conclusion that the most ideal approach to secure unconditional independence was through a military confrontation. It was to pressure the British to speed up the ongoing diplomatic negotiations and to agree to Kabul’s demand for full and unconditional independence.

In late April 1919, during a mass meeting in one of Kabul’s main mosques, Masjid-e-Eidgah, Amanullah Khan appealed to the Afghan people’s religious and nationalist sentiment and honor, and declared a Jihad against Britain, launching the Afghan War of Independence or the Third Anglo-Afghan War. The war lasted only three month, from May 3 to June 1919 and an armistice was proclaimed. The treaty of Peace between the Illustrious British Government and the Independent Afghan Government signed at Rawalpindi “a city famous for the destruction of Afghanistan then and even now” on August 8, 1919. The Treaty’s wording was so ambiguous and questionable as to enable the Afghans to peruse in it tje British affirmation of their full independence; and the English to discover grounds despite everything to make ‘effective reach’ claims to the country.

When King Amanullah Khan and Mahmud Tarzai demanded to reestablish transactions to illuminate a portion of the terms of the Treaty, and further settle the issues related with the Durand Line, the British showed great reluctance. They sought not only to sabotage or prolong such negotiations, but also to undermine Amanullah Khan’s rule, engaging in a barrage of anti-Amanullah propaganda and using Mullahs to encourage Durand line tribal uprisings against him to moderate his position on the question of total independence.

Soviet Russia was the first to recognize Afghanistan’s sovereignty, make friendly overtures and establishing diplomatic relations in 1919; Turkey, Iran, France and Germany followed suit. To balance foreign relations and haunted by continued British pressure, and cautioned by historical Russian ambition, Amanullah Khan and Mahmud Tarzai desperately wanted to forge closes ties with the USA, for two important reasons. First, the USA was a physically distant great power, capable of helping a country like Afghanistan without acquiring the geographical leverage that had enabled British India and Tsarist Russain to intimidate it. Second, the USA had a generally unblemished colonial record, which shielded Kabul from criticism for managing a ‘colonial power’. Unfortunately for the USA, it lost its chance to only came back with a thousand times more investment only 50 year later in 1970s with the Cyclone Project.

As mentioned earlier, Amanullah Khand and Tarzai saw independence and modernization as indissolubly linked and mutually reinforcing. As soon as the Treaty of Rawalpindi was signed, they set out on what proved to be a very difficult and complex course of modernization in a traditional, Islamic ethno-tribal society, where in most areas the clergy espoused ideas in line with the ultra-conservative so called Deobandi school of Islam set by British. On the whole the reform program had its origins in the ideological vision that Amanullah Khan and Mahmud Tarzai had come to share by the time they came to power.

Amid the underlying phases of reform, up to 1924, a number of important steps were taken in all areas. In the realm of political reforms, for the first time in the history of Afghanistan a well-structured Cabinet, the Council of Ministers, headed by the King himself, was established. A number or urgent measures were adopted to reform and reorganize the administration in order to make governmental functions more responsible and efficient at central, provincial and local levels. New rules and regulations, defining ministerial administrative structures, duties and responsibilities were enacted.

These reforms were envisaged as laying the bases for developing a modern bureaucratic system along what could be described as Weberian Council (Mahfal-e-Qanun), partly appointed and partly elected, was set up, and steps were taken to establish provincial councils in the same vein. The first Legislative Council was the pressure of a more representative legislative body, called National Council (Shura-e-Melli), which came into existence under the first Afghan Constitution promulgated in 1923 by Amanullah Khan and Mahmd Tarzai.

Although, there were many reformative measures Mahmud Tarzai and King Amanullah Khan had taken,  the very prominent and key reformation was related to women rights and gender equality in a time when today’s USA ‘the most women right’s and gender equality defender’ had no clue of women rights and/or gender equality. With the suggestion or advice of Mahmud Tarzai, King Amanullah Khan banned polygamy in the royal and later in the administrative institutions.

Briefly, Mahmud Tarzai and King Amanullah Khan ‘a student of Tarzai School of Thought’ brought the political and governmental structure into the system that today in 2017 is practiced in developing countries, women rights and gender equality, education for all, reformative laws, government taxes, custom and traditional law into international law and patriotism.

However, Britian at that time did its best to over throw King Amanullah’s throne via the majority and decision making Pashtuns, yet, for many traditional norms the Pashtun with their conscience did not help the British and instead they chose the prominent Tajik,  ‘known as Bacha Saqaow’, Kalakani to collapse the most developed, reformed, political and patriotic government of King Amanullah Khan.

In conclusion, there are uncountable motives to pen on King Amanullah Khan, but this article has been written in order to clarify that yes, King Amanullah Khan is the Hero, but like many other countries’ heroes there are always people behind their success and they do mention and pass them honor, i.e Bacha Khan and Nehru behind Gandhi, Che Guevara behind Fidel Castro and Allama Iqaba behind the so called Jinah. Thus, any  celebrations of Afghanistan Independence Day without a huge tribute to Mahmud Tarzai makes the day colorless. Mahmud Tarzai was the man who along with great King Amanullah Khan put an end to Security Dilemma, Prisoner Dilemma and the Two Level Game in Afghanistan.

*Najibullah Azad is an advocate, consultant, writer, author, poet, researcher, analyst and translator. He can be reached at: [email protected] and

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