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1973 Afghan coup d'état

The 1973 Afghan coup d'etat was the somewhat bloodless overthrow of King Mohammed Zahir Shah by the then-army commander Lieutenant General Mohammed Daoud Khan on 17 July 1973. In Kabul, Afghanistan, forces led by Daoud Khan and then-Chief of Staff General Abdul Karim Mustaghni overthrew the monarchy while the King was abroad receiving eye surgery and treatment for low back pain in Ischia, Italy. Daoud Khan was assisted by leftist Afghan Army officers and civil servants from the Parcham faction of the PDPA, including Afghan Air Force colonel Abdul Qadir. Eight officers were killed. King Zahir Shah decided not to retaliate and he formally abdicated on August 24, remaining in Italy in exile. More than two centuries of royal rule (since the founding of the Durrani Empire in 1747) ended.[1]

1973 Afghan coup d'état
Date17 July 1973

Coup attempt succeeds virtually bloodless.

Casualties and losses
8 officers


The King had ruled since 1933, and his cousin Mohammed Daoud Khan had served as Afghan Prime Minister from 1953 to 1963. Daoud Khan had strained relations with the King[2] and he was also unable to hold political office after the 1964 constitution, which barred members of the royal family.[3] Some believe the King did this on purpose because of Daoud Khan's strong pro-Pashtunistan views, which he deemed too radical. Daoud Khan took the opportunity during growing discontent from the public over the failure of reforms by five successive governments since a parliamentary monarchy was formed in 1964, as well as the poor response to the famine in 1971-72 that is believed to have killed thousands in the central and north-western parts of the country, particularly Ghor Province.[4]


Despite being part of the royal family, Daoud Khan abolished the kingdom and created a new Republic instead, declaring himself as head of state, prime minister, foreign minister and head of the army. The royal Arg (palace) in Kabul became the official Presidential residence.[5] In a radio addressing, he called the coup a "national and progressive revolution", calling the King's rule “corrupt and effete” and vowed to replace it with “genuine democracy”. He pledged to continue Afghanistan's long-standing policy of neutrality.[6]

The coup was apparently popular among the population, who viewed Daoud Khan as a forceful leader.[7] Daoud Khan's links to Marxism, and the Parchamite support in his military coup's, led to some suspecting it as being a communist takeover. In order to prevent opposition, he assured continuity of religious and cultural heritage, as demonstrated in the Republican Decrees created in July 1973.[8]

Upon coming to power, Daoud Khan disbanded the parliament and the judiciary, with direct executive rule established. A loya jirga in January 1977 approved a new constitution creating a presidential one-party state, with strong powers to the head of state.[9] During his time as head of state, Daoud Khan's relations with the Soviet Union, Pakistan, and the communists, deteriorated for several social and economic reasons. Eventually he was overthrown and killed during the Saur Revolution in 1978.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Afghanistan - Daoud's Republic, July 1973 - April 1978". Retrieved 2018-03-12.
  2. ^ Edwards, David (2 April 2002). Before Taliban: Genealogies of the Afghan Jihad. University of California Press. ISBN 978-0520228610.
  3. ^ Dil, Shaheen F (June 1977). "The Cabal in Kabul: Great-Power Interaction in Afghanistan". American Political Science Review. 71 (2): 468–476. doi:10.1017/S0003055400267397.
  4. ^
  5. ^ Barfield, Thomas (March 25, 2012). Afghanistan: A Cultural and Political History (Princeton Studies in Muslim Politics). Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-0691154411.
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^ Kamali, Mohammad Hashim (January 1985). Law in Afghanistan: A Study of the Constitutions, Matrimonial Law and the Judiciary. ISBN 9004071288.
  9. ^ Kamali, Mohammad Hashim (January 1985). Law in Afghanistan: A Study of the Constitutions, Matrimonial Law and the Judiciary. ISBN 9004071288.